Sept. 23, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech looks to remain in the top 25 this afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium when it puts its perfect 3-0 record on the line against Coastal Division rival North Carolina. Kickoff is shortly after noon.
The Yellow Jackets are ranked 24th in the USA Today/coaches poll (they’re 25 according to the AP), while North Carolina sneaks in at 25th in the coaches poll (they are unranked by AP). Today’s game is the first between two ranked teams at Bobby Dodd since Oct. 17, 2009, when No. 19/20 Georgia Tech upset No. 4/4 Virginia Tech, 28-23.
Head Coach Paul Johnson was less than overwhelmed about being back in the rankings for the first time since Sept. 7, 2010.
“Honestly I don’t even pay any attention to it,” said Johnson at his Tuesday press conference. “I think you focus on the game at hand and everything else will take care of itself, especially this early in the year. You just don’t pay much attention to it.”
He’s got all his attention on UNC. He hopes Georgia Tech’s fan base will be as well and will descend upon campus fired up about the ACC opener.
“First conference game, division game at home, national game on ESPN,” he said. “Hopefully we can get a great crowd and make this place a great atmosphere to play on Saturday at noon. I know our players feed off that a lot.”
The Yellow Jackets will look to go 4-0 for the first time under Johnson and continue their season-long yardage feast. They don’t expect another the all-you-can-eat yardage buffet like last Saturday in their 66-24 demolition of Kansas, when they set an NCAA record for yards per rush (12.1 yards), an ACC single-game record for net rushing yards (604), and a school record for total offense (768 yards). Another score on their first play from scrimmage — which would mark the fourth straight game — also would be nice, but they’re not counting on that, either.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve hit some big plays,” Johnson said. “I think we all know that’s probably coming to an end.”
North Carolina has similar hopes about their lack of success in the series, and especially in Atlanta. The Tar Heels have lost 11 of the last 13 games, and five of the last six. In Atlanta, the Heels are 0-6 since 1997, with four of the six losses coming by seven or fewer points. Carolina is 3-0 (all three wins coming at home) in Everett Withers’ debut season as head coach. He’s the first North Carolina head coach since George Barclay in 1953 to start 3-0 in his first season, and, with a win today, would become the first coach in school history to start his career 4-0. The Tar Heels won their ACC opener last Saturday, 28-17, over Virginia, led by redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard, who ran for 102 of UNC’s 222 ground yards.
If you can’t get to the game, you can watch on ESPN, with Bob Wischusen and Bob Davie calling the action, or can listen on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, with Wes Durham and Rick Strom calling the action. The game can also be heard on Sirius channel 85 or XM channel 85. Fans can log onto RamblinWreck.com to get live stats.
Here is some statistical info. to get you pumped up as you head to Bobby Dodd for today’s game.
0 – The number of losses by Georgia Tech in its three ACC openers under Paul Johnson.
0 – The number of quarters in which Georgia Tech has been shut out in 2011.
0 – The number of career sacks and interceptions against North Carolina by players on the current Yellow Jackets roster.
2 – The number of career touchdowns against North Carolina by players on the Yellow Jackets roster. Redshirt senior A-Back Roddy Jones ran for a 13-yard TD in 2009 and junior A-Back Orwin Smith ran for a 73-yard score last season.
1 – The number of games in which Georgia Tech had two touchdown passes in 2010. They have two TD passes in all three games this season.
3 – The number of wins by Georgia Tech in four previous ACC openers against North Carolina. Tech is 14-14 in conference debuts overall and 6-6 at home.
3 – The number of career runs by Orwin Smith that rank in the top 15 in Georgia Tech history. Two of those have come this season (95 last week on Tech’s first play from scrimmage against Kansas and 77 against Western Carolina). The third was a 73-yard scamper last Sept. 18 against North Carolina.
5 – The number of rushing touchdowns Georgia Tech has scored in each of its games this season.
5 – The number of solo tackles by redshirt senior defensive tackle Logan Walls. He had two solos all last year. Walls has 12 tackles, last season he was in on 23 and his career high is 25 as a sophomore.
14 – The number of Yellow Jackets touchdowns in 15 trips inside the red zone. They have a field goal on the other.
21 – The number of seasons since the Yellow Jackets last started 4-0. That was 1990, when the team finished 11-0-1 and earned a share of the National Championship. Coincidentally, the lone blemish on Tech’s record that year was a 13-13 tie against North Carolina at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Oct. 20.
27 – The number of “explosive plays,” or plays over 20 yards by Georgia Tech. They have allowed seven.
33.3 – The percentage of carries turned into touchdowns thus far by Orwin Smith. He has four touchdowns on 12 rushes. The four scores match his career total coming into 2011, all scored last season.
35 – The amount by which Georgia Tech has led heading into the fourth quarter in each of its three games. Tech led 56-21 against Western Carolina, 42-7 at Middle Tennessee State and 52-17 against Kansas.
35.4 – Georgia Tech’s yards per completed pass in three games in 2011.
38.5 – Wide receiver Stephen Hill’s yards per reception this season. His career average coming into 2011 was 20.3 yards per catch.
54 – The number of rushing yards needed by Roddy Jones to break into the top 20 in Georgia Tech career rushing yards. Jones enters today’s game with 1,523 yards. Malcolm King (1984-87) is currently 20th. Jones comes into the game with 196 career carries, while King finished with 333.
73.0 – The career rushing average for Smith against North Carolina. Smith took his lone career carry 73 yards to the house against the Tar Heels last season.
93 – The number of years since Georgia Tech last scored as many points after three games as they have this season. It’s the third most in history. Their highest-scoring totals after three games go back to 1916 (292, aided by the 222-0 game against Cumberland) and 1918 (when they scored 269, against Clemson (28-0), Furman (118-0) and the 11th Cavalry (123-0).
Five Things (and one bizarre coincidence) To Know About North Carolina
0 – The number of points allowed by the Tar Heels in the first quarter this season.
4 – The number of touchdown receptions by senior wide receiver Dwight Jones. That matches his career total coming into 2011. He has six career 100-yard receiving games and his 112 yards receiving per game rank second in the ACC and 12th in the nation.
10 – The number of sacks by North Carolina’s defense. Both senior linebacker Zach Brown and senior defensive tackle Tydreke Powell have 2.5 to lead the unit, which has spread around the sacks, as seven different players have at least one. Brown (4.0) and Powell (3.5) also lead the team in tackles for loss. Conversely, the Heels have allowed just one sack.
76.7 – The rushing yardage per game allowed by the North Carolina defense, second in the ACC and 16th in the country. The Heels limited Rutgers to one yard rushing in its week two 24-22 victory. The Scarlet Knights managed 18 yards on 21 attempts but lost 17 of those on four quarterback sacks.
81.4 – The completion percentage of sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner. That ranks eighth in the nation in efficiency. Renner set a school-record by completing 95.7 percent of his passes (22-of-23) in UNC’s 42-10 season-opening win over James Madison. Even the credited incompletion was completed to someone, as it was a second-quarter interception. Renner completed his final 15 passes of the day.
25 – The team-leading number of career starts by Tar Heels junior left guard Jonathan Cooper. Just so you can tell us apart, the Wilmington, N.C., native stands 6-3, 305 and will be wearing No. 64.