ATLANTA — Georgia Tech's 278 rushing yards against Virginia Tech, including 151 by quarterback Josh Nesbitt, showed the potential of Paul Johnson's spread option offense.
Nesbitt's two lost fumbles and first interception of the season showed how badly turnovers can hurt the offense.
Nesbitt threw the ball only eight times. One was a 41-yard touchdown pass to Roddy Jones. Another was an interception that set up a Virginia Tech field goal in the Hokies' 20-17 win on Saturday.
The turnovers negated the gains, according to Johnson, who graded Nesbitt's performance as "some good and some bad."
"I think he's got to learn to take care of the ball," said Johnson of Nesbitt, a sophomore in his first season as a starter. "He was involved in three turnovers. We're not going to be successful if we do that. We've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball."
Nesbitt had 28 carries, including an 18-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-18 in the fourth quarter.
"He made some big plays," Johnson said. "He's very athletic and he can do some things."
Nesbitt's 18-yard touchdown run cut Virginia Tech's lead to 17-15. Nesbitt then passed to Lucas Cox for a game-tying 2-point conversion, but the Hokies took the lead with a field goal with 4:27 left.
Nesbitt and the Yellow Jackets showed more of the triple option than in Georgia Tech's first two games.
Cox, who had five carries for 63 yards, was a surprise running threat. Roddy Jones had four carries for 28 yards as Georgia Tech showed it has more threats than Jonathan Dwyer, who was held to only 28 yards rushing on 10 carries.
The pain of the close loss was still obvious Sunday.
"I'm sure they were disappointed," said Johnson of his players. "Everybody is disappointed. It was a game we could have, should have won, but we have to move on to the next one."
Georgia Tech (2-1 overall, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will return home to play Mississippi State on Saturday.
Johnson was hired to end Georgia Tech's seven-game losing streak to state rival Georgia, but that game comes in November. This week, the Yellow Jackets will try to beat another team of Bulldogs from the Southeastern Conference.
Mississippi State (1-2) is coming off a 3-2 loss to Auburn.
"They've been pretty good on defense all year, I think," Johnson said. "They're big and physical and they run around. They're going to be tough."
Mississippi State managed only 116 yards in the loss.
"Right now I think they're struggling a little bit with consistency, but Auburn has a pretty good defense," Johnson said.