Sept. 20, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There’s always a lot at stake when Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech hook up. This Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium is no exception. Kickoff for this nationally televised ESPN game is set for noon.
The ACC opener for both schools has been crucial in the past, as between them Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have won the ACC Coastal Division eight times (Virginia Tech five times, Georgia Tech three) in the nine years of divisional play — last year was the first year that didn’t hold — and is especially important following last week’s games, when Georgia Tech barely avoided a home upset while Virginia Tech could not.
The Jackets got a scare by Georgia Southern, winning, 42-38. Tech let a 35-10 halftime lead slip away but forced a turnover and scored with 23 seconds remaining to pull out the victory. Jamal Golden broke up a pitch — a play originally ruled an incomplete pass but overturned on review – and KeShun Freeman fell on the ball get Tech possession with a little over four minutes remaining. Quarterback Justin Thomas drove the Jackets 72 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive by avoiding the rush of Southern’s blitzing MLB Edwin Jackson, rolling right and hitting A-Back Deon Hill, who took it in for the winning score. It was Thomas’ fourth touchdown pass of the game. Thomas led the Jackets with 137 yards rushing. Quayshawn Nealy led the defense with eight tackles, all solo.
The Hokies were not as lucky avoiding the upset, dropping a frustrating 28-21 decision to East Carolina, falling out of the top 25 in the process. Tech spotted ECU a 21-0 first-quarter lead, then fought all the way back to tie the game at 21 with 1:20 left to play in the game. But the kickoff following the tying score went out of bounds and the Pirates drove 65 yards in three plays to score with 16 seconds remaining. VT quarterback Michael Brewer went 30-for-56, for 298 yards and three touchdowns, including an 18-yard scoring strike to Cam Phillips to tie the game. The Hokies defense allowed 502 yards of total offense, 427 coming through the air.
Carolina scored on three of its four first-quarter drives, going 75, 70 and 58 yards. It was only the second time in the Frank Beamer era that the Hokies fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter (more on that below).
While both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech were disappointed with their performances on Saturday — obviously Virginia Tech a lot more so — both also know that today’s game, the conference opener for both teams, is an opportunity to redeem themselves and get a leg up in the race for the Coastal. Head Coach Paul Johnson knows it won’t come easy. Things never do against Virginia Tech, especially in Blacksburg.
“We’ve got a huge challenge this week going into Blacksburg. That’s a tough place to play. Not very many people go in there and come out with a win,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot we need to work on, but we’re still 3-0. I think there are 23 teams in the country that are 3-0 so we’re fortunate to be one of those. We’re going to continue to work, continue to get better and excited to open up conference play.”
Here are some numerical nuggets to get you ready for the Ramblin’ Wreck to open up ACC play.
The Series: This is the 12th meeting between the schools, with Virginia Tech holding an 8-3 edge and riding a four-game winning streak. The Yellow Jackets are 1-4 all-time in Blacksburg and have lost three straight.
.639 – Georgia Tech’s success rate on third down in 2014. The Yellow Jackets have converted 23 times on 36 attempts. That’s tops in the nation. Virginia Tech opponents have converted just 23.3 percent of the time (10-for-43).
2 – The number of third downs in 10 tries converted by Virginia Tech against Georgia Tech last season. The Jackets converted five of 14.
2 – The career-high number of tackles for loss made by WILL linebacker Paul Davis in last year’s game against Virginia Tech. Davis, who is looking to record his first TFL in 2014, made a career-high seven stops against Georgia Southern (six of them solo).
3 – The number 3-0 starts by Georgia Tech in the last four years. The Jackets have started 3-0 seven times since joining the ACC.
4 – The career-high number of tackles made by freshman DE KeShun Freeman in his first collegiate start last week against Georgia Southern. Freeman also recovered the Eagles’ fumble late in the fourth that set up the winning drive. It was the Yellow Jackets’ first fumble recovery of the season. Freeman recorded the Jackets’ first sack of 2014, a week earlier at Tulane.
6 – The career-high number of tackles made by Jamal Golden last week against Georgia Southern. He recorded his first two tackles for loss on the season, a pass break-up, and, of course, the huge forced fumble. The six stops matched Golden’s career high, set twice previously. The first time came against Virginia Tech on Sept. 3, 2012, his first career start. He’d match that total later in the season, on Sept. 29, against Middle Tennessee State.
6/153 – The number of receptions and receiving yards by Calvin Johnson on Sept. 30, 2006 in the Yellow Jackets’ 38-27 win. It’s the Jackets’ only win at Lane Stadium.
88 – The number of rushing yards senior B-Back Zach Laskey needs to jump from 30th all-time to 26th. Should Laskey, who has averaged 78.7 yards per game this season, hit 34 rushing yards he’ll pass Reggie Ball for 26th. Bobby North currently stands in sole possession of 25th place, with 1,505 yards.
38 – The number of yards Gary Guyton returned a fumble for a touchdown at Virginia Tech on Sept. 30, 2006. It’s the sixth-longest such return in school history.
44 – The number of carries by Laskey without losing yardage. He and Synjyn Days are the only Georgia Tech backs with at least eight attempts to not lose yardage.
44 – The number of seconds left when Deon Hill caught his first career touchdown pass, a 10-yarder from Tevin Washington on Sept. 3, 2012 at Virginia Tech. The TD gave the Yellow Jackets a 17-14 lead, but they would fall in overtime, 20-17. Hill would get his first game-winning touchdown reception last week against Georgia Southern.
49 – The number of yards of Harrison Butker’s career-long field goal. He’s twice made field goals from 49. Both came last season, most recently last Sept. 26 against Virginia Tech.
137/188 – Justin Thomas’ rushing and passing yardage last week against Georgia Southern. It was the first 100/100 game for Thomas and the first for a Georgia Tech QB since Vad Lee ran for 112 yards and threw for 169 on Nov. 10, 2012 at North Carolina.
151/109 – The rushing and passing yardage by Joshua Nesbitt against Virginia Tech on Sept. 13, 2008. It was the first of Nesbitt’s three 100/100 games, the first by a Georgia Tech QB in five years and only the fourth ever. Tech has had eight since that game against the Hokies, with the eighth coming on Thomas’ effort last week.
10 Things To Know About Virginia Tech (including just HOW unstable the coaching business is…outside of Blacksburg)
.864 – Virginia Tech’s winning percentage in conference openers at Lane Stadium under Frank Beamer. The Hokies are 19-3 in such games.
.900 – Virginia Tech’s winning percentage in ACC openers. The Hokies have lost just once, a 23-3 loss to Clemson in 2011. VT is 3-0 against Georgia Tech in conference openers, and has emerged victorious the last two years. The total margin of victory in the three games is 13 points, with VT winning 20-17 in 2008 and 2012 and 17-10 last year. The Hokies are 5-1 in ACC openers at home.
1 – The number of times prior to last week that Virginia Tech allowed 21 points in the first quarter or trailed 21-0 in the Frank Beamer Era. The only previous time had come against Georgia Tech on Sept. 30, 2006. Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson hooked up on a pair of scores (three and 53 yards) and Tashard Choice ran five yards for a score in that game to open up the 21-0 lead. The Jackets held off the Hokies winning 38-27. It’s Tech’s only win at Lane Stadium.
8 – The number of Hokies with at least 10 tackles. That includes four players with at least 15. Sophomore corner Chuck Clark leads the team with 17 (13 solo), followed by redshirt senior linebacker Chase Williams (16, 9) and junior LB Dean Clarke (16, 8) and senior Rover Kyshoen Jarrett (15, 9).
47 – The number of defensive players that have scored touchdowns in the 248 games that Bud Foster has been defensive coordinator at Virginia Tech. Hokies defenders have returned 50 interceptions for scores, while returning 22 fumbles and recovering one in the end zone.
56 – The school-record number of pass attempts made last week by Virginia Tech redshirt junior quarterback Michael Brewer. That’s three more than the previous record first set by Don Strock against Houston in 1972 and matched by Sean Glennon in 2006 against Georgia Tech.
80 – The percentage of Virginia Tech’s points scored this season by true- or redshirt freshmen. Kicker Joey Slye (2 FGMs, 12 PATs), and split end Isaiah Ford (three TDs), both true freshmen, lead the team with 18 points, while true freshman tailback Shai McKenzie and redshirt freshman tight end Bucky Hodges are next with 12, each catching a pair of touchdown passes. VT has had eight different people score touchdowns this season, with nine of the 12 scores coming via freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
246 – The number of consecutive games in which Virginia Tech has scored. The current streak began on Sept. 23, 1995, a 13-7 win over Miami and is 180 games longer than the school’s previous mark (Sept. 19, 1970 vs. Alabama to Sept. 11, 1976 at Texas A&M).
262 – The number of interceptions by Foster’s defenses since 2000. That’s the most of any FBS school, 16 more than second-place Boise State and 27 more than Boston College, which ranks fifth overall and is the highest of any ACC school. Junior corner Donovan Riley took one of Tech’s two picks 63 yards to the house to seal the Week Two win at Ohio State.
20 – The number of power conference schools that have changed coaches at least SIX times in the 27 years Frank Beamer has been head coach at Virginia Tech. That includes five ACC schools, as Boston College, Louisville, North Carolina and Pittsburgh have made seven changes, while Miami has made six.
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