Nesbitt looking to improve passing game

September, 17, 2009
9/17/09
10:18
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


It’s not a secret, and Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt will be the first to admit it -- he didn’t throw the ball well last Thursday night against Clemson.

“I kept on telling myself, ‘I gotta do better’ during the game,” he said, “but at the same time I didn’t want to outdo myself and try to be the hero.”
 
 Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
 Georgia Tech hopes Josh Nesbitt can improve his completion percentage when throwing the ball.


There are enough skill players surrounding Nesbitt in the Jackets’ run-based spread-option offense that he certainly shouldn’t have to be, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that Georgia Tech would still like to be more efficient in its passing game, starting tonight against Miami. It’s another nationally televised game, another gritty defensive opponent, and another chance for Nesbitt and the offense to execute better than they did a week ago in a 30-27 win over the Tigers.

“I didn’t play as well as I should have, but a win is a win,” Nesbitt said. “I’ve just got to come out this game and perform a whole lot better. I didn’t place the ball where it needed to be on the cover throws, and on some chances I had to run I didn’t take the chance. I just have to be more effective this game.”

It was hardly a complete disaster. Nesbitt completed 3 of 14 passes for 83 yards and two interceptions in last week’s win over the Tigers, (including an interception with the score tied at 24 in the fourth quarter), but he also came up with the big plays when the Jackets needed them.

On Georgia Tech’s second possession in the fourth quarter, Nesbitt completed a 24-yard pass to Anthony Allen on third-and-9. He followed that with 41 rushing yards on five carries, sustaining a drive that help set up the game-tying field goal. Then with the scored tied at 27 and Georgia Tech facing third-and-11, Nesbitt connected with receiver Demaryius Thomas on a clutch 39-yard first-down conversion. That helped set up the game-winning field goal by Scott Blair.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Thomas said of the passing game. “I’m guessing we could’ve ran our routes different or something like that, gave the quarterback a little more time. I’m sure we can get a lot out of the passing game. We’re open a lot, we’ve just got to connect. Once we connect, we’ll be fine. I know it’s a lot better than last year, I can say that.”

Georgia Tech will continue to throw the ball to keep defenses honest, but the staff never goes into a game with a set number of intended passes. The defense helps dictate that. Ideally, though, they’d like to throw it 10 to 15 times per game and aim for 60 percent or better completion rate.

“The thing we need to do when we throw the ball, we need to make it count when we throw,” said quarterbacks coach Brian Bohannon. “They need to be very productive throws that hits them a little hard.”

The staff continually asked Nesbitt to thrown the ball downfield against Clemson, but he struggled to do it. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, Nesbitt completed 2 of 10 passes over 10 yards, and 1 of 8 passes over 20 yards. He threw two interceptions and no touchdowns when aiming for more than 10 yards, but that’s only in one ACC game.

“He’s actually thrown the ball well in camp, and Josh can throw the football,” coach Paul Johnson said. “I think it was just one of those deals where he got off to a bad start and it just kind of compounded. The thing people forget is, in the fourth quarter, when we had to have two third-down conversions, he made really good throws and converted. He’s very capable of throwing the ball. If people want to crowd the line, we’re going to play the way we play. We’re not going to change anything because he struggled the other night.”

They are, however, expecting fewer struggles.

“He’ll be better,” Bohannon said of Nesbitt. “He’s going to get better. He wants to be good. It was not his best game. On the flip, he probably read the option and did that better than he’s done in a while. If we could put it all together, we’d be alright.”

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