Maryland linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty was forced to throw 18 times.
That goes a long way toward explaining why the Yellow Jackets cruised to a 33-13 victory Saturday.
Georgia Tech (4-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) ran the ball too effectively to give Petty and the Terrapins a chance to pull off an upset. Orwin Smith rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown, and the Yellow Jackets amassed 370 yards on the ground against the nation’s fourth-ranked defense against the run.
After building a 20-0 lead at halftime, Georgia Tech attempted only one pass over the final 30 minutes.
“The way the game was going, there wasn’t any need to throw,” coach Paul Johnson said.
It was 27-0 late in the third quarter before Maryland finally scored on a 16-yard pass from Petty to Stefon Diggs. Petty also threw a 23-yard TD pass to Diggs on the game’s final play, but the injury-depleted Terrapins (4-5, 2-3) dropped their third straight.
Maryland has lost four quarterbacks for the season with injuries, so coach Randy Edsall turned to Petty, a true freshman recruited as a linebacker.
Petty, who played quarterback in high school, said, “I always thought that I could play (quarterback) at the D-I level. Now I have my chance and I have to go prove it.”
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound left-hander ran for 24 yards on 17 carries and was 9-of-18 passing for 115 yards. He also fumbled twice and threw an interception.
“I started feeling more comfortable in the second half,” Petty said. “In the first half I was a bit antsy and the speed of the game was much faster. I calmed down and played faster and let the game come to me.”
Given Petty’s limited credentials, the Terrapins weren’t counting on him to win the game alone.
“We knew it was going to be tough going into the game. We also knew that we were going to have to play great on defense to keep it a very low-scoring game,” Edsall said. “We weren’t able to do that.”
The Yellow Jackets finished with a 401-259 advantage in total yardage, including 205-61 in the decisive first half. All but 31 of Georgia Tech’s yards came on the ground.
“This game we happened to get key blocks and got the guys on the perimeter going,” Smith said. “The offense has to do well. Last week (in a 41-17 loss to Brigham Young) we didn’t do well. We knew coming in that we had to step it up. That was the game plan, and we executed.”
The Yellow Jackets lost three of four coming in, so they desperately needed a win. Still, they could sympathize with Maryland’s plight at the most important position on the field.
“My best wishes to those guys. I know they’re like on their fifth quarterback,” Smith said. “That’s got to be tough.”
Johnson said: “There was no tape on the quarterback, but they stayed pretty much within their scheme. We knew the guy would run the ball. In the first half, we did a better job defending it than in the second half.”
Georgia Tech backup quarterback Vad Lee ran for a pair of 2-yard touchdowns and starter Tevin Washington also rushed for a score, the 34th of his career — one short of the school and ACC record for quarterbacks held by Joshua Nesbitt.
Lee and Washington both went 1-for-2 through the air.
Georgia Tech took a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter when Washington capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive with a 1-yard run. Smith kept the march alive with a 17-yard run on a fourth-and-3 from the Maryland 35.
The Yellow Jackets capitalized on a Petty fumble to make it 13-0 early in the second quarter. After Jeremiah Attaochu recovered the loose ball at the Maryland 33, Smith scored from the 5.
Another three-and-out by the Terrapins followed, and a 17-yard punt provided Georgia Tech the ball at the Maryland 49. Seven plays later, Lee scored for a 20-0 lead.
At that juncture, the Yellow Jackets had a 170-22 advantage in total yardage and Maryland still had not yet picked up a first down.
The Terrapins finally moved the chains for the first time with 6:38 left in the half when Georgia Tech was called for roughing the kicker on a punt.