ATLANTA — There could be a quarterback controversy brewing at Georgia Tech: Jaybo or Josh?
Freshman Jaybo Shaw from Flowery Branch played most of Georgia Tech’s 38-7 rout of Mississippi State on Sept. 20 and then made his first start Saturday in the Yellow Jackets’ 27-0 win over Duke.
Shaw showed for the first time the passing potential in the spread option as he threw for 230 yards — all to Demaryius Thomas — and a touchdown.
One game after Georgia Tech delivered what Johnson said was its best offensive showing against Mississippi State, the Yellow Jackets (4-1 overall, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) came back with their most balanced showing of the season against Duke.
After the win over Duke, Johnson said sophomore Josh Nesbitt could return to practice this week but still may miss his second straight start with a strained right hamstring he suffered on the opening series against Mississippi State.
If Nesbitt misses next Saturday’s home game against Gardner-Webb, Shaw could have another game to build his already impressive case to be considered as more than a fill-in for Nesbitt.
Johnson laughed when asked if he could soon face a difficult decision at quarterback, but he stopped short of saying the decision is obvious.
“I don’t know about that,” Johnson said when asked if Shaw has proved he deserves to start.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I was proud of him but we’ll be very happy when we have Josh back out there and we have both of them to work. Josh is a pretty good player himself.”
Shaw finished 9-for-13 passing for 230 yards, a school record for the yards passing by a quarterback making his first start. He had a 2-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter and completed an 88-yard touchdown pass to Thomas later in the period.
Before the win over Duke, Georgia Tech’s season high was 135 yards passing in its opening win over Jacksonville State. Nesbitt and Shaw split time in that game. The previous high for yards passing by one quarterback was a modest 109 yards by Nesbitt in the Yellow Jackets’ loss at Virginia Tech on Sept. 13.
Shaw’s passing day was unique because each of his nine completions were to the 6-foot-3 Thomas, who took advantage of Duke’s man coverages.
Thomas, whose nickname is Bay Bay, was a mismatch against Duke’s smaller defensive backs, but Johnson said his talented sophomore receiver did not make the plays alone.
“I thought he played good,” said Johnson of Shaw. “I’m proud of him. There’s not a lot of teams that are going to take a guy who showed up in August and have (454) yards and 27 points. He did some good things. I mean, somebody was throwing the ball to Bay Bay, too. He didn’t throw it and catch it himself.”
Shaw lost a fumble on Georgia Tech’s opening drive, but that was the Yellow Jackets’ only turnover after their first turnover-free game of the year against Mississippi State.
“Duke is a very tough team,” Shaw said. “They did everything we thought they were going to do, but they still disrupted us some in the first half. They hit very hard and fly around, but as a quarterback I’ve learned in high school and now to have a short-term memory.
“You may fumble like I did in the first half, the first drive, we were driving it down the field and boom, I fumble. You have to get over it and just get things going back.”
Georgia Tech’s defense held Duke to 132 yards. The Blue Devils didn’t cross the Georgia Tech 40 until the fourth quarter.
“It’s very easy to be a quarterback in this offense when you’ve got a defense like we do,” Shaw said.
Johnson said Nesbitt “was running around out there on Thursday.” Even so, Nesbitt was not in uniform on Saturday.
“Quite honestly I kind of have a deal if you don’t practice during the week we don’t play you,” Johnson said. “It’s not fair to the guys who practice.”
Johnson said Nesbitt “should be back” in practice this week but may miss another game.
“I don’t know if we play him in the next game,” Johnson said. “I want to make sure he’s healed before we bring him back. If you come back too early with those hamstrings it can really be a lingering problem, so I want to make sure he’s 100 percent healed before we bring him back.”