Alford makes most of rare chance to run the ball

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson stands on the sideline Saturday in the first half against Mercer in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson stands on the sideline Saturday in the first half against Mercer in Atlanta. Associated Press

Chase Alford is a linebacker by trade and rarely gets to touch the ball. But for the second straight year the Conyers native made good on a faked punt and Saturday it led to a touchdown and a lot of breathing room.

With the Yellow Jackets holding a 21-10 lead in the third quarter, the Mercer defense was on the verge of forcing Georgia Tech to go three-and-out. Georgia Tech called timeout to discuss the fourth-and-1 at its own 31 — a situation that coach Paul Johnson will sometimes go for.

This time Johnson sent in the punt team and appeared to be willing to play for field position.

Ryan Rodwell dropped back into punt formation, but the ball was snapped directly to Alford, who was the upback on the play. Alford secured the ball and rambled 21 yards for a first down. Nine plays later the Yellow Jackets scored to make it 28-10 and essentially put the game away.

“We knew we needed another possession,” Alford said. “Coach said, ‘run it,’ so we made some really good blocks to know we got another first down.”

Alford said the Yellow Jackets run the fake punt drill almost every day in practice. Johnson said the play is an automatic call when specific criteria are met. That happened Saturday afternoon and Alford made it work.

Alford got a chance to do the same thing last year and picked up 9 yards for a first down.

Klock leaves with injury

Georgia Tech lost starting right tackle Trey Klock with a right ankle injury in the first quarter. Klock had to be helped off the field and spent the rest of the quarter on the trainer’s table with an ice pack strapped to his ankle. He walked on his own strength to the locker room with about nine minutes left in the game. Klock was replaced by Brad Morgan, who slid over from left guard.

Punter still in question

Grant Aasen won the job as starting punter this week, but it may be a short-lived thing. His only punt traveled 42 yards, but was shaky at best. When Georgia Tech lined up for a second punt, it was Ryan Rodwell in the game. But he never kicked when the Yellow Jackets faked it.

Georgia Tech changes

There were several changes to the Georgia Tech starting lineup, as expected. Andrew Marshall overtook Eason Fromayan to get the start at left tackle and Grant Aasen claimed the starting punter’s job from incumbent Ryan Rodwell. Marcus Marshall started at B-back in place of the suspended Dedrick Mills.

The other battles were claimed by the starters from the first game. Shamire Devine held on at right guard, Will Bryan retained his spot at left guard and J.J. Green got the nod again at A-back.

Mercer changes

Starting left tackle Thomas Marchman missed the game. The junior had made 24 consecutive starts. Backup Jae Flath was also out, meaning Bret Niederreither had to move over from starting right tackle. Mitch Payne moved up to start at right tackle.

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