ATLANTA — Through his first two starts, Josh Nesbitt has completed only 11 passes, none of them for touchdowns, but there are other reasons he’s looking like a good fit in Georgia Tech’s new spread option offense.
Nesbitt already has rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns, but he’s made a bigger impression on coach Paul Johnson with his leadership in two wins for Tech, which plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Johnson was impressed that Nesbitt kept his composure against Boston College last week, even when the Eagles’ big defensive front was beating Georgia Tech’s offensive line and disrupting plays.
“I never saw him get frustrated,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Sometimes guys will get frustrated with guys up front and he didn’t do that. He just stayed calm trying to do his job.”
Nesbitt said “it was in the back of my mind” that the game at Boston College could be a difficult setting for his first road start and first Atlantic Coast Conference game.
“Boston College has a very good defense and they’re very aggressive,” Nesbitt said Tuesday.
But Nesbitt said it wasn’t difficult for him to avoid ripping blockers after missed assignments in Georgia Tech’s 19-16 win.
“No, because you can’t do that. If you jump down a man’s throat, he may look at you like ‘I don’t want to play for you anymore,”’ Nesbitt said. “He may just go through the motions. We play for the next play, that’s the biggest play of the game. Just block the last play out.”
Nesbitt, a sophomore from Greensboro, Ga., won’t rank among the Atlantic Coast Conference passing leaders in Johnson’s run-first attack. Nesbitt is only 11-for-25 passing for 160 yards, but he has not thrown an interception.
It’s more important for Nesbitt to read defenses and make good decisions on option plays to set up running opportunities for Jonathan Dwyer, who has two 100-yard games in the Yellow Jackets’ 2-0 start.
Johnson said Nesbitt is still learning the offense.
“I thought he played with some composure,” Johnson said. “I thought he came back from his mistakes. From a technical standpoint and from a read standpoint, he didn’t play a great game. I think he’d be the first guy to tell you that. But what he did do, he made plays. When things broke down, he made some plays around him. That speaks to his competitiveness and his desire to win and do whatever it takes.”
Nesbitt rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown against Boston College while overcoming a fumble.
“I thought Josh did a very good job staying calm,” said senior offensive tackle Andrew Gardner.
“I never noticed him being flustered. There never seemed to be any doubt in his mind that we were going to get it together and we were going to win. I was impressed to see a young quarterback like that.”
Gardner said Nesbitt has remained calm during adversity.
“Even after he had the fumble, he was obviously a little upset with himself, but I don’t think he let it get to him,” Gardner said. “As a quarterback, you can’t let mistakes lead to another mistake and he did a good job of putting that behind him to lead two good drives to win the game.”
Nesbitt put the game away with a late fourth-down run that allowed the Yellow Jackets to run out the clock.
The young quarterback’s composure has a young Georgia Tech team in position to take a big early lead in the ACC’s Coastal Division. If the Yellow Jackets beat Virginia Tech for what would be a second straight road victory, they would be 2-0 in the conference for only the second time in 10 years.