Sept. 12, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There’s been a lot of football played by Georgia Tech, which first began playing in 1892, and Georgia Southern, which fielded its first team in 1924, yet the two schools have never faced each other — until Saturday. Kickoff for this momentous game at Bobby Dodd Stadium at historic Grant Field is set for noon.
There’s plenty of history with Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson and Georgia Southern, although it’s pretty much all good. Johnson spent four years in Statesboro as an assistant — of the defensive line and as offensive coordinator — being part of two National Champions, then came back and forged a 62-10 record in five seasons as the Eagles’ head coach, winning five straight Southern Conference championships and two more I-AA titles (it was nearly three straight, as GSU was runner-up before going the back-to-back).
“I have some great friends there. It was a great time,” he said. “This is a game against Georgia Southern that they’ve wanted for a long time and it’s finally on the schedule. So they’re going to get their opportunity and we need to be ready to play a good game because they have a good football team. They have a lot of good athletes, some good team speed and I’m sure they’re going to come in here and play very hard.”
The Jackets won a hard-fought victory last Saturday to raise their record to 2-0. They survived sweltering heat and humidity, a boisterous crowd and some loose play with the football in the first half in taking a 38-24 win over Tulane in the inaugural game at Yulman Stadium. A-Back Tony Zenon, a New Orleans native, and quarterback Tim Byerly each ran for two scores and Georgia Tech forced three turnovers, returning one interception for a touchdown, as the Jackets scored 24 unanswered points to take home the victory. Tech trailed by a touchdown on three separate occasions in the first half, but, as they did in their opener, scored 10 points in the final 3:00 of the second quarter, including another go-ahead field goal to end the half, to take the lead into the locker room. The defense posted a shut out in the second half as the Jackets pulled away. In addition to the three picks, the D also recorded three sacks and five tackles for loss.
The Eagles had a more successful opening to their newly expanded stadium, rolling up 695 yards of total offense, 599 on the ground, and tied a school record by scoring 12 touchdowns in an 83-9 demolition of Savannah State. Senior running back Brandan Thomas ran for 117 yards and his first career score, while fellow senior RB Ean Days ran for 112, also a career-best, with two scores for the Eagles, who never punted in the game and scored on their first seven possessions to take a 48-0 lead into the half.
While a lot has changed since Johnson has been in Statesboro, Tech’s head coach knows one thing has not — the intensity Georgia Southern will bring to Atlanta. “They get it. They care about football,” he said. “They want to be good. They do what it takes to be good.”
Johnson then warned his team about any temptation to look to next week’s ACC opener at Virginia Tech.
“If they’re concerned about Virginia Tech they’re going to be really sorry come Saturday afternoon,” he said. “I promise you Georgia Southern is not looking forward to South Alabama, or whoever they play. Focus on the one at hand. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about Virginia Tech. I know what’s going to happen on Saturday, the intensity and this coming in here and we need to be able to match it.”
Here are some numbers for you ratchet up your intensity for Saturday’s game.
The Series: This is the first meeting between the schools.
.328 – The percentage of all-time Georgia Southern wins accounted for by Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson and Offensive Coordinator Mike Sewak, who followed Johnson as head coach. Johnson won 62 games, Sewak 35. The program has 295 wins, including last week’s win over Savannah State.
.833 – Georgia Tech’s success rate on third down last week at Tulane. The Jackets earned a new set of downs 10 times on 12 third down attempts against the Green Wave.
.682 – Georgia Tech’s success rate on third down over the first two weeks. The Jackets are 15-for-22 on the season.
0 – The number of Yellow Jackets that have receptions in consecutive games this season. A-Backs Deon Hill and Charles Perkins and B-Back Zach Laskey caught passes from QB Justin Thomas last week. Neither Hill, Perkins, nor Laskey caught a pass in the opener. Meanwhile, WR DeAndre Smelter, AB Tony Zenon, AB Broderick Snoddy and WR Michael Summers, all caught aerials from Thomas against Wofford but were shut out last week.
2 – The number of touchdowns QB Tim Byerly scored last week at Tulane. That matched his total from last season.
3 – The number of career touchdowns by inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy following last Saturday’s interception return. Nealy recorded his second career pick six at Tulane, taking a pass back 10 yards. He previously had a 74-yard interception return in the 2011 Sun Bowl against Utah and an 18-yard fumble return last season against Syracuse.
5 – The number of tackles made in each of the first two games by WILL linebacker Paul Davis. Davis leads the team with 10 solo tackles and is one off the team lead held by Demond Smith, who has eight solos and three assisted stops.
6 – The number of backs averaging at least 5.7 yards per carry. Tony Zenon leads the team at 8.4, followed by Charles Perkins (7.4), Broderick Snoddy (7.3), Deon Hill (7.2), Justin Thomas and Zach Laskey (5.8).
6 – The career-high number of carries by Hill last Saturday. He ran for 43 yards, four yards off his career high, set last Oct. 13 at Miami.
11 – The number of years GT Offensive Line Coach Mike Sewak spent coaching at Georgia Southern. Sewak spent two years with Johnson as an assistant, then was Johnson’s offensive coordinator for five years before taking over as head coach for four years following Johnson’s departure for Navy.
35 – The number of wins in 49 games for Sewak in his four seasons as the Eagles’ head coach. That’s a .714 winning percentage. Southern won a pair of Southern Conference championships and reached the national semifinals in his first season at the helm. GSU never won fewer than seven games in any of those four seasons.
32 – The number of points by which Georgia Tech is outscoring the opposition in the second half. Tech has a 42-10 edge in the final 30 minutes in contrast with a 34-30 edge in the first half.
62 – The career-high number of rushing yards by A-Back Tony Zenon last week, in his homecoming at Tulane. That followed his season-high 70 yards in receiving in the opener. He also scored his first two career touchdowns against the Green Wave.
10 Things To Know About Georgia Southern (including why Saturday’s crowd could have a real Atlanta feel)
0: The number of yards Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison threw for in last year’s upset of Florida at “The Swamp.” Of course, he ran 15 times for 118 yards and two scores. So far in 2014, the sophomore QB is completing 61.1 percent of this throws (11-for-18, with two touchdown passes — 9-for-16 against NC State) and has run for 150 yards, second on the team.
1.000 – Georgia Southern’s all-time winning percentage in games played in metro Atlanta. The Eagles are 1-0, beating Middle Tennessee State, 34-26, on Sept. 9, 1995, in a game played at the Georgia Dome.
1.000 – Georgia Southern’s all-time winning percentage when wearing their home blue jerseys in a road game. They are 1-0, knocking off Samford, 31-17, on September 3, 2011, on the way to finishing as National Semifinalists.
3 – The number of points Georgia Southern allowed to NC State in the first half of its 2014 season-opener. The Eagles led 17-3 at the break and 20-10 after three before being outscored 14-3 in the fourth, falling, 24-23. The three points at halftime matched a first-half low for State under Dave Doeren. Florida State and Duke also held the Wolfpack to three.
3.77 – The number of receptions per touchdown for senior wide receiver Kentrellis Showers. Showers has 34 career receptions with nine of them resulting in scores. He helped his average last week, catching three passes, two of them for TDs. Showers, who has all three GSU touchdown receptions on the season, enters today tied for sixth all-time in Eagles history with Raja Andrews.
5.23 – Georgia Southern’s rushing yards per carry against NC State in their season-opening 24-23 loss. They gained 246 yards on 47 carries against the `pack. Of course, one carry resulted in a 61-yard TD. Take that play away and their YPC dips to 4.02.
6 – The number of successful third downs by GSU in each of their first two games. Southern was 6-for-6 last Saturday, going 5-for-5 in the first half, then converting their first attempt of the second half. They did not have another third down the remainder of the game. In the season-opener at NC State, the Eagles also had six third-down conversions, but went 6-for-14, a 42.9 percent success rate.
7 – The number of second-generation players on this year’s Georgia Southern roster. Included on that list is redshirt-freshman long-snapper Nick Sewak, Tech OC Mike Sewak’s son.
13 – The number of tackles by senior middle linebacker Edwin Jackson at NC State in Week One. Jackson had six solo tackles and assisted on seven stops. The Atlanta native (Westlake High School) led the Eagles with 92 tackles in 2013 (40 solo) and had a game-high 10 stops (eight solo) in the upset of Florida in Gainesville. Over his first two years, Jackson made a total of 26 stops (11 solos).
39 – The number of players on the Georgia Southern roster that come from the metro Atlanta area.
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