ATLANTA — Georgia Tech used its lopsided win over Vanderbilt to show future opponents — including No. 5 Clemson — it can do more than just run out of its option attack.
Justin Thomas threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Marshall on the first play of the game, Dedrick Mills ran for three touchdowns and Georgia Tech beat Vanderbilt 38-7 on Saturday, holding the Commodores scoreless in the final three quarters.
The Yellow Jackets (3-0) gained momentum for Thursday night’s visit from No. 5 Clemson as they moved to 12-0-1 against the Commodores since 1941, including six straight wins.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson couldn’t have asked for a better warmup for the key Atlantic Coast Conference game against Clemson on short rest.
Vanderbilt was held to 275 total yards, including 69 yards rushing on 18 carries by Ralph Webb, who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing through two games.
Georgia Tech produced a surprising 222 yards passing, including a late 77-yarder from backup Matthew Jordan to Clinton Lynch.
The Commodores were held to 85 yards rushing while averaging only 2.8 yards per carry.
“We were pretty efficient offensively, and we wanted to gear up to stop the run,” Johnson said, adding his run defense played “pretty good.”
Mills ran for 58 yards with touchdown runs of 15, 4 and 5 yards. His last two scoring runs came in the third quarter, when Georgia Tech extended a 17-7 halftime lead.
Thomas threw for 136 yards and ran for 84 yards before sitting out the final quarter.
“Today was our day,” Thomas said.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason gave credit to Georgia Tech defenders for looking “sort of like popcorn” as they shed blockers.
“A guy was on a block and all of a sudden got off a block and our back would have to change direction,” Mason said.
Kyle Shurmur capped Vanderbilt’s opening drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kalija Lipscomb.
“We weren’t expecting that big play out the gate for them, but they scored fast and we had to come back and score fast,” Lipscomb said.
Vanderbilt was held scoreless on its final 12 possessions. Georgia Tech scored the final 31 points.
Mason said momentum changed when backup running back Khari Blasingame was stopped on a fourth-and-1 run from the Georgia Tech 28, ending an eight-play drive to open the second half.
BACK IN GOOD GRACES
Mills, a freshman, had the game-winning touchdown in Georgia Tech’s season-opening win over Boston College but was held out of last week’s win over Mercer as punishment for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“Sitting out last week made me think a lot,” Mills said. “It hurt my team.”
Georgia Tech, which finished 3-9 in 2015, could break into the Top 25 following its fourth 3-0 start in the last six years.
VANDERBILT: The Commodores were held to one touchdown for the second time in three games. Vanderbilt opened with a 13-10 loss to South Carolina before beating Middle Tennessee 47-24. Webb was effective at times but had too little help as Shurmur threw for only 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Vanderbilt’s defense was fooled too often on late option pitches by Thomas.
GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets already have matched their win total from 2015, when they finished 3-9. The offense struggled at times in a 17-14 win over Boston College to open the season but has since gained momentum. It was no surprise to see the spread option attack produce 289 yards rushing.
VANDERBILT: Linebacker Nigel Bowden was helped off the field with a possible left knee injury after being blocked by Mills. There was no immediate update from Vanderbilt on his status. Bowden also was helped off the field following a third-quarter collision with cornerback Torren McGaster. Trainers examined McGaster’s head on the sideline.
GEORGIA TECH: Cornerback Step Durham left the game with a thigh injury in the third quarter and did not return.
VANDERBILT: The Commodores will be looking to make up for last year’s 14-12 home loss to Western Kentucky when they face the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
GEORGIA TECH: Clemson has won three of the last four in the series, including a 43-24 win at Clemson last season. Georgia Tech took a 28-6 win in 2014, the last time the game was played at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org