Oct. 28, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Homecoming weekend is a big deal for Georgia Tech, as the Yellow Jackets are playing their biggest game of the season tonight at Bobby Dodd Stadium, a nationally televised showdown against ACC rival Clemson. Kickoff is at 8:12 p.m.
The Jackets have lost two straight in the conference and needs a win to stay close to Virginia Tech in the race for the Coastal Division. Tech will host the Hokies coming out of their bye week in another nationally televised game on Nov. 10.
Head coach Paul Johnson knows this one is big, calling Clemson the most talented team he’s played in Bobby Dodd while at Tech.
“They bring in a bunch of really good players and they’re playing well, so it’ll be a heck of a challenge this week to try to bounce back and get ready to go,” he said at weekly press conference.
Tech’s offensive struggles continued last weekend in Miami, as they were held to seven points and were shut out in the second half for the first time this season in a 24-7 loss. The Jackets were held to a season-low134 rushing yards and 211 total yards by the ‘Canes, and ran only one play beyond their own 30 over their final four possessions. Quarterback Tevin Washington led Tech with 36 yards rushing and scored the lone touchdown on a one-yard plunge with 1:02 left in the first half to cut the deficit to 14-7. But special teams, which plagued Tech in the second quarter, broke down on the ensuing kickoff, allowing a big return and Miami scored with 25 seconds left in the half to take a 21-7 lead into the half. Defensively, linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu returned to action and recorded a team-high-tying five tackles and made his first career interception.
The Tigers continued their winning ways last week blitzing North Carolina, 59-38, at Memorial Stadium. On the day the school honored the 30th anniversary of the 1981 National Championship Team, the 2011 Tigers put on a performance reminiscent of that group, using a 35-point third quarter to dispose of the Tar Heels. It was the most points in a third quarter since destroying Wake Forest 82-24 on Oct. 31, 1981. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins made nine catches for a career-high 157 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 367 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes. Even the defense got into the act, forcing six turnovers and returning two of them for scores, both by defensive end Kourtnei Brown.
The Yellow Jackets hold a 49-25-2 edge in this series, the fourth-most frequently played in school history — Tech has played only Georgia (105), Auburn (92) and Duke (78) more than Clemson — and are 42-13-2 at Bobby Dodd.
Tech also has won four of the last five meetings and six of eight, including Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s debut back on Oct. 18, 2008, a 21-17 win in “Death Valley.” Clemson won last season, 27-13. The series can be unpredictable and the games are usually close, as since 1990, 16 of the 22 games (and three of the last four) have been decided by five-or-fewer points. Tech is 11-5 in such games.
Tonight’s game will be televised on ABC, with Mike Patrick and Craig James calling the action with Jenn Brown reporting from the sideline. Of course, Tech fans can listen on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, with Wes Durham and former Tech QB Rick Strom calling the action. The game can also be heard on Sirius Radio channel 93 and XM channel 192. Fans can log onto RamblinWreck.com to get live stats.
Here now some interesting info. to take into Saturday night’s annual showdown.
.586 – Georgia Tech’s third-down conversion percentage. That’s fifth-best in the nation. The Jackets’ 53.2 percent conversion rate in ACC play leads the conference. Clemson is next at 45.7.
.636 – Georgia Tech’s winning percentage under Paul Johnson in games against nationally ranked opponents. His teams are 7-4 in such contests.
3 – The number of wins by Georgia Tech in 15 games played on Oct. 29. The last such game, however, came in 2005 a home game against Clemson, resulting in a Tech 10-9 victory.
4.0 – Attaochu’s sacks total this season in six games with four games to play. Last season, ILB Brad Jefferson led the team with 4.0 sacks in 13 games.
6 – The number of consecutive games in the series (1996 through 2001) decided by a field goal. The Jackets won four of the six in, 1997 (23-20), ’98 (24-21), ’99 (45-42), and ‘2000 (31-28). Clemson book-ended the set, winning in 1996 (28-25) and in ’01 (47-44 in overtime).
7 – Inside linebacker Julian Burnett’s rank among ACC players in tackles. He has made 73 stops (39 solo) on the year. The closest Yellow Jacket to Burnett is sophomore safety Isaiah Johnson, who has 41 tackles (27 solo).
8 – The number of one-play scoring drives by Georgia Tech this season. That’s eight more than they had last season.
9 – Georgia Tech’s national rank in fewest penalties per game (4.38). Last week at Miami the Jackets committed two infractions. Clemson is fourth nationally at 3.75 flags per game.
9 – The number of interceptions by Georgia Tech this season through the first six games. Tech had eight all of 2010.
11 – The differential in sacks between Georgia Tech (16) and its opponents (5). Last season, Tech was plus-1 in that category.
5, 12, 22 – The current BCS rankings for Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia, Georgia Tech’s remaining home opponents. The Tigers, Hokies and Bulldogs are a combined 23-7 (a .767 winning percentage). The lone road game remaining is at Duke on Nov. 19.
14 – The number of points Georgia Tech has allowed in five third quarters in ACC games. Tech hasn’t allowed a point in a third quarter in the last three games.
14/262 – The season-low number of first downs and yards of total offense Tech allowed Miami in the second half last week.
20 – The number of scoring plays in Tech’s touchdown drive a week ago. It matched the longest in school history over the last 30 years and was the longest touchdown drive in the Paul Johnson era, surpassing the 19-play touchdown drive against Virginia, the previous week.
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2 – The number of ACC teams to score 50 points in back-to-back weeks prior to Clemson doing it over the last two — routing Maryland 56-45 then steamrolling North Carolina 59-38. The only other teams to do it were 1990 Virginia (which did it in three straight weeks) and 1992 Florida State. Neither of them did it in ACC play.
5/35/1 – The number of receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches needed by wide receiver Sammy Watkins to set ACC freshman records. Watkins begins play with 54 catches for 819 yards with nine scores. In addition, he is 25 all-purpose yards away from breaking C.J. Spiller’s school freshman record of 1,415 yards set in 2006 and is three TDs way from passing Spiller’s freshman touchdown mark of 12. Watkins’ 45 all-purpose yards against Maryland on Oct. 15 are fourth in school history and his 207 yards on kickoff returns rank second.
51 – The number of years since Clemson has been ranked as high as their current rank when visiting Bobby Dodd. In 1959, the Tigers were No. 6 and topped Tech, 16-6. The No. 5 ranking also is their highest heading into a game with Georgia Tech since hosting the Jackets on Oct. 28, 2000. Tech won that game, 31-28.
57 – The number of years since a Clemson defensive player scored two defensive touchdowns in one game as Brown did last week against North Carolina. Walt Larraway, a two-way player, returned an interception and a blocked punt for scores against The Citadel on Nov. 27, 1954. Brown, last week’s Walter Camp Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week, returned a interception 20 yards in the second quarter then took a fumble 26 yards to the house as part of the big 35-point, third-quarter explosion.
198.28 – Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd’s passing efficiency in the second half. He is 76-for-110 passing (a 69.1 percent completion percentage) for 1,181 yards, with 13 touchdowns. He has yet to throw a second-half interception. Boyd’s first half efficiency is 135.08, with a 57.1 percent completion rate (96-for-168), and 11 touchdowns against three picks. His 24 touchdown passes are four shy of breaking the school’s single-season record set in 2007 by Cullen Harper. He’s also four scores rushing or passing away from passing Woody Dantzler’s single season mark of 31 set in 2001.
225 – The number of pushups Christopher “Kit” Southwick, Clemson’s mascot, did during the third quarter of last week’s game against North Carolina, as the Tigers extended their 24-17 halftime lead to 59-24. The previous record of 210 pushups had been set Oct. 20, 2007 by Dan Licata, against Central Michigan.