Oct. 31, 2013
By Jon Cooper
– Georgia Tech looks to match its longest winning streak of the season and make it four out of five at home when it takes on the University of Pittsburgh on Homecoming Weekend. Kickoff at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPNU (Tom Hart, John Congemi and Dawn Davenport on the call). The game also can be heard on WYAY, 106.7 FM, with Brandon Gaudin, Rick Strom and Randy Waters doing the honors. Tech’s broadcast also can be found on Satellite radio on Sirius channel 108 and XM channel 192.
The Yellow Jackets expect a fight this weekend with Pittsburgh, who is in its first year in the conference and sits right behind Tech in the division, with a 2-2 record. Head coach Paul Johnson expects a better and tidier effort from his team than last week in Virginia.
“We have a very formidable opponent coming in here, and I have been very impressed watching Pitt on tape,” said Johnson at his weekly press conference. “We’ve got some things to clean up from the Virginia game. I was proud of our guys in that we overcame some adversity with some self-inflicted wounds such as penalties and turnovers. But we found a way to make enough plays to win the game. That’s what it’s all about. We’re looking forward to getting better this week and having a chance to become bowl eligible on Saturday night.”
The Yellow Jackets had some sloppy moments (nine penalties, five turnovers, the latter the most in a game in the Paul Johnson era) but also did a lot of things right in taking care of Virginia, 35-25. It was only the school’s second win in Charlottesville since 1992, but also the second win in the last three trips to Scott Stadium and raised Johnson’s record to 5-1 against the Cavaliers. Georgia Tech rushed for 394 yards, and saw three different backs, B-Back Zach Laskey, A-Back Robert Godhigh and B-Back David Sims each top the century mark. The defense allowed 444 yards but only 68 on the ground and came up big, in the first half, especially at the end of the half, twice denying Virginia at the one-yard line and preserving a 14-10 lead.
The Panthers lost for the second time in their last three games last week, dropping a frustrating 24-21 decision at Navy. The Panthers led for most of the second half and held a 21-14 lead after scoring with eight minutes to play. But they could not hold off the Midshipmen, who tied the game just inside of four minutes, then ran off an 11-play drive to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired. Quarterback Tom Savage completed 20 of 27 for 203 yards and two scores. Nine of Savage’s completions went to wide receiver Devin Street, who had 96 yards receiving and a touchdown. Tailback Isaac Bennett led Pitt’s rushing attack with 77 yards.
Defensively, the Panthers limited Navy to 220 yards rushing (70 below its season average) on 47 carries, helping Pitt win time of possession, before faltering late.
The Panthers got a look at the same kind of spread offense Georgia Tech runs (Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo was Johnson’s offensive coordinator at Navy), but Johnson believes that last week’s game can be a two-edged sword.
“It’s good for us to look at having not played them,” he said. “If I’d had my rathers, I would have rather them not played Navy. It probably benefits them a little more to get the speed of the offense. It’ll give them a chance to see what they liked about it and what they didn’t; what they want to add and what they throw out.”
Given the chance to see what it likes and what it doesn’t, Sting Daily presents a statistical look at Saturday’s game.
The Series: Saturday will be the eighth meeting between the schools, but the first since 1976. Georgia Tech trails 5-2 in the series and has lost the last two games in 1974 and ’76. Both of those games were played at Bobby Dodd Stadium. In fact, Georgia Tech has never won on either team’s home field. Both Yellow Jackets wins came at neutral sites, and both came the same year, 1956, when Tech started the year with a 7-0 win in the 1956 Sugar Bowl and completed the year with a 21-14 win in Gator Bowl.
.762 – Georgia Tech’s all-time record on Homecoming, having racked up a 49-15-1 record.
.826 – The combined winning percentage of the three teams that have beaten Georgia Tech this season. No. 7 (BCS) Miami (7-0), Virginia Tech (6-2), and BYU (6-2) combine for a 19-4 record.
.890 – The percentage of Georgia Tech’s 394 rushing yards gained by the trio of Zach Laskey (133), David Sims (111), and Robert Godhigh (107). The rest of the team accounted for 43 yards on the ground.
0 – The number of times Georgia Tech had had three players rush for 100 yards in the modern era (1950) prior to last week’s outburst by Laskey, Sims and Godhigh. It was the first time in eight years that an ACC team had done it.
1 – The number of 100-yard rushers by Georgia Tech coming into the Virginia game. That was Godhigh, who hit 100 yards on the nose on Sept. 21 vs. North Carolina.
1 – The number of wins Georgia Tech needs to record the program’s 700th. The Yellow Jackets come into Saturday night with an all-time record of 699-471-43 in 121 seasons of play.
1 – The number of wins Georgia Tech needs to clinch at least a .500 season for the 17th straight year. A win also would make them bowl-eligible and allow them an opportunity to extend the school’s streak of bowl appearances to 17.
2 – Georgia Tech’s national rank in yards per pass completion. The Yellow Jackets average 18.37 yards per completion, trailing only Baylor (19.6).
5 – Georgia Tech’s national rank in third down success. The Yellow Jackets convert at 54.5 percent.
7 – The number of years tonight’s honorary captain Bill Curry coached the Yellow Jackets. Between 1980 and 86, Curry finished with a 31-43-4 record. Among his most memorable games were his first on The Flats, a 3-3 tie against top-ranked Notre Dame, and the 1984 season finale, a 35-18 rout of No. 18 Georgia in Athens, ending a six-loss series losing streak.
5 – The number of touchdowns for Laskey, coincidentally, a Pittsburgh native, over the last two weeks against Syracuse (3) and Virginia (2).
5 – The total number of touchdowns rushing and receiving Laskey had over his previous 28 games heading into the Oct. 19 game against Syracuse.
5 – The number of wins by Georgia Tech in games that kick off prior to 6:00. Johnson’s teams are 36-17 in such games, a .679 winning percentage.
0 – The number of wins this season in three tries in games that kick off after 6:00 p.m. Johnson’s team’s are 9-12 all time in those games (.429).
5 – The number of wins this season by Georgia Tech in five games when leading after three quarters. Johnson’s teams are 41-4 all time when up after three, a .911 winning percentage.
9 – The number of big plays (plays over 20 yards) by Georgia Tech against Virginia. That was seven more than the Cavaliers had, two more than their previous season-high set in the opener against Elon and one more than they had during their three-game losing streak.
14/91 – The number of big plays and points by Georgia Tech over its last two games, resounding conference victories over Syracuse and at Virginia.
8/60 – The number of big plays and points for the Yellow Jackets over the three games preceding Syracuse, all losses.
15 – The number of tackles made last week by defensive back Jemea Thomas. That’s four more than his previous career-high, set last Oct. 6 at Clemson and matched three weeks later against BYU, and was one fewer than his previous three weeks combined.
7 – The number of times in Thomas’ career he’s had two pass break-ups in a game. Last Saturday was his third such game this season.
8.4 – The improvement in points allowed by the Tech defense from last season. In 2012, Georgia Tech gave up 28.3 points, 65th in the country. In 2013, that’s down to 19.9, 21st.
11 – The lead Thomas holds in the number of tackles. He has 52 total stops, 44 of them solo. In fact, Thomas’ solo stops alone would give him a three-tackle lead over the nearest Yellow Jacket, LB Brandon Watts is next with 41 (26 solo).
13 – The number of plays of over 40 yards that Georgia Tech’s offense has produced this season. That’s ninth-best in the nation.
19 – The number of seasons Georgia Tech has had at least a .500 record in conference play. That’s the longest such streak in the nation.
22.2 – The average yards per carry last week by Godhigh, who needed just five carries to gain his 111 yards.
21 – The most points Georgia Tech has ever scored in a game against Pittsburgh. That came in the 1956 Gator Bowl, a 21-14 win. It was the team’s fifth meeting and the first time Tech scored in double figures against the Panthers.
68 – The total number of points the Yellow Jackets have scored in seven games against Pitt.
48 – The number of points Paul Johnson’s Navy team scored against Pittsburgh the only time he faced the Panthers. The Middies came away with an unforgettable 48-45 double-overtime win on Oct. 11, 2007.
27.2 – The decrease in rushing yardage allowed over last season. Tech is allowing 117.0 yards per game on the ground, 18th in the FBS. Last season they gave up 144.2, 41st.
37 – Laskey’s rank on the all-time Georgia Tech rushing list, with 1,091 yards. Coincidentally, Laskey wears No. 37.
46 – The number of wins Georgia Tech has in 70 games against the rest of the Coastal Division. The 46 wins (and .675 winning percentage) are tied with Clemson for second-most behind Virginia Tech’s 53.
83.3 – Georgia Tech’s touchdown percentage in the red zone. The Yellow Jackets have hit pay dirt on 25 of their 30 red zone trips and have scored 26 times. The 83.3 percent TD efficiency is second in the FBS to Wyoming (87.8), while the 86.0 percent scoring ranks fourth.
10 Things To Know About Pittsburgh (plus An Unfortunate and Inaccurate Name for a Pretty Accurate Kicker)
1 – The rank for receptions of senior wide receiver Devin Street in University of Pittsburgh record books. Street’s nine catches last week against Navy gave him 186. That’s eight more than former leader, Latef Grim (1998-2000). Street also is catching up on Antonio Bryant’s school-record for receiving yards, as his 2,692 rank third, 369 away from first and 311 out of second (Dietrich Jells, 1991-95).
2/5 – The rank of Street and freshman Tyler Boyd in the ACC in receiving. Street averages 107.5 yards per game and his 5.8 catches per game rank fifth. Boyd is 10th in receiving yards (75.1 per game) and is tied for eighth in receptions (4.9). Street and Boyd are the only teammate tandem of receivers ranked in the ACC’s top 10. Street has nine career 100-yard receiving games, while Boyd already has three.
26.5 – The career number of sacks for senior DT Aaron Donald. That’s fourth all-time in school history and leads all current players (1/2 a sack better than BYU’s Kyle Van Noy). His 1.9 TFLs per game currently lead the ACC and are second in the nation. Donald is only the fourth interior defensive lineman to rank in the school’s top 10 in sacks and is tied for second in that group with Keith Hamilton (1989-91). Donald was recently named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award for national defensive player of the Year.
4 – The number of statistical categories led by true freshmen. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd leads the team in all-purpose yards (855), and kick return yards (223, 20.3 per return), PK Chris Blewitt leads Pitt in scoring (41 points), and DB Terrish Webb is tied for the team lead in fumble recoveries (1, vs. New Mexico on Sept.14). Pittsburgh has seen 12 freshmen take the field for them this season.
5 – The Pittsburgh defense’s rank in the ACC in total defense, allowing 366.9 yards per game. That’s good for 34th nationally. The Panthers have picked it up on the defensive side of the ball, as they had been 10th in the ACC and 54th overall after four weeks, allowing 380.8 ypg.
5 – The number of times Pittsburgh’s offense has hit the 500-yard mark under Head Coach Paul Chryst. Two of those games came this season, including a near 600-yard explosion against Duke (598). The Panthers won that shootout, 58-55, and are 5-0 in games when hitting 500 yards.
56 – The length of junior Kevin Weatherspoon’s game-changing punt return on Oct. 19 against Old Dominion. The return, with Pitt trailing 10-7, led to the go-ahead score and the Panthers never trailed again on the way to a 35-24 triumph. “Spoon” is averaging 11.6 yards per return (81 yards in seven attempts). The return against ODU is the longest for a Panther since Darrelle Revis went 73 yards for a touchdown on Nov. 16, 2006 in that year’s Backyard Brawl.
14.31 – Quarterback Tom Savage’s yards per completion. That’s fifth in the ACC and 11th in the nation. Savage has completed nearly 60 percent of his attempts (108 of 182), for 1,546 yards with a better than 2:1 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio (13 TDs vs. 6 INTs). On Sept. 21, he threw for 424 yards against Duke, the fourth-highest single-game total in school history.
23 – The number of starts by senior offensive guard Cory King. That’s the MOST of any Panther lineman. The Panthers have started 10 different linemen this season, three of them making their collegiate debut. Five others had seven or fewer starts coming into the season. King missed the previous two games with back problems and his status for Saturday is still to be determined.
27/113/3 – The carries, yards and touchdowns by running back Tony Dorsett in Pittsburgh’s last visit to Grant Field, on Sept. 18, 1976. Dorsett would lead the Panthers to a 42-14 win on their way to the National Championship and his way to the Heisman Trophy. Ironically, the winning points didn’t come via Dorsett but on a third-quarter, four-yard run by QB Matt Cavanaugh.
23/6 – The number of successful extra points in 24 attempts and true field goals in eight tries by freshman kicker Chris Blewitt. Blewitt, who has a long of 41 yards, is only the sixth true freshman kicker in Panthers history and the first since David Abdul in 2002.
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