Oct. 8, 2011
By Jon Cooper
A couple of weeks ago, Georgia Tech’s defense showed its solidarity for injured teammate Fred Holton by shaving their heads for the sophomore safety.
On Saturday afternoon against Maryland, the Yellow Jackets defense again banded together in a show of unity, this time on the field, for a pair of injured starters, outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu and inside linebacker Daniel Drummond.
Replacing the duo was no small task, as coming into Saturday’s game, Attaochu, was the team’s second-leading tackler (29 tackles), and the team’s leader in tackles-for-loss (5.0, for minus 33 yards) and sacks (4.0 for minus-30 yards) — he was eighth in the ACC in sacks and tied for second in TFLs. Drummond was fourth on the team in tackles (24, 10 solo). Both Attaochu and Drummond had a forced fumble and Attaochu also had a fumble recovery.
The duo came in unafraid and battled, dedicating their efforts to their injured brethren.
“We always play as brothers out there on the field,” said Nealy, who made his first career start, Sept. 10 at Middle Tennessee State and came into the game with 14 tackles (five solos), half a TFL and a fumble recovery. “When your brother goes down you want to step up and just take his role, make sure there’s no fall-off. it was great from the get-go. I just needed a little contact to make sure I could play.”
Nealy made an important play in the second quarter, intercepting Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien at the Maryland 39 and advancing it deep into Terrapins territory.
“It was a three-by-one formation and the tight end did a five-yard out,” he explained. “The defense that I ran, I was supposed to under-cut that. We knew that the quarterback does short throws. So I was just in the right place at the right time to make the play on the ball.”
He also was in the right place five other times, making five tackles, all solos, third on the team.
Munroe added a solo tackle in his first career start.
The duo, as well as freshman linebacker Nick Menocal, who made his first appearance and first collegiate tackle, drew raves from their teammates.
“Quayshawn did a very good job,” said defensive lineman Izaan Cross. “He stepped up. I didn’t feel like there was any drop-off. In my opinion we saw an improvement from the linebackers. They’ve made a conscious effort to get better every week and I feel like they did.”
That commitment in the face of adversity didn’t surprise sophomore corner Louis Young. He expected it.
“We just came into the game and said, ‘You’ve got to pick your brother up and the next guy’s up,'” he said. “That’s something [coaches] remind us every week, the next guy’s got to be ready. Quayshawn stepped in and got a pick. We made a couple of mistakes, but for the most part we held it down. It was a good job for us to step up like that.”
Johnson said that he expects Attaochu and injured LB Brandon Watts, who also missed Saturday, back when the team heads to Virginia.
Nealy will be ready to contribute when called upon. For now, he’s happy about the way the team took care of business Saturday.
“As a whole, as a team, we’re very satisfied with the win,” said Nealy. “A win is always something great. It’s better than coming out and losing. Coach Johnson always talks about how just going in the game, one after another, they get harder and harder. So we’ll prepare for the game and we just fight hard. The mindset is just keep on truckin’. Keep on going.”