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Inside The Chart: My #BestOfGT

By Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets) | Inside The Chart

When you’re the voice of a team, you get both a front-row view and a backstage pass.

Throughout the year, I’m fortunate to talk to Georgia Tech’s players and coaches, watch them at practice, see them behind closed doors, and catch them in more relaxed settings.  That access often leads to some great stories that we can incorporate into our game day broadcasts.

So as we celebrate the #BestOfGT, what were some of my favorite notes, quotes and anecdotes from this past year covering Tech football and men’s basketball? What were some of my favorite statistical finds?  My favorite nuggets that added a splash of color to our broadcasts? Here are just a few:

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Josh Pastner told me North Carolina State spent all summer practicing against his idiosyncratic 1-3-1 zone defense. So naturally, when the season opener rolled around at PNC Arena November 5, Pastner played mostly man-to-man against the Wolfpack.  The Jackets wound up with an 82-81 overtime win and the first of five post-game gas station raids in 2019-20.  How fitting was it that Georgia Tech’s first and last games of the season ended with a James Banks free throw followed by a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer?

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When he enrolled at Tech in January of 2019, Ahmarean Brown became roommates with quarterback James Graham. Graham had heard the stories of Brown’s blazing speed coming out of Tampa, Fla., but like most dynamic athletes, he had some skepticism. In the lead-up to spring practice, Graham gave his future wideout some good-natured ribbing.

“When I first saw him I was like, ‘You’re not fast,’” Graham told me in a radio interview. “He said, ‘You’re gonna see.’ We came out for spring and he was just doing his thing, running fly patterns past dudes. He showed me.”

And the rest of the ACC too. Brown finished his freshman season with seven touchdown catches, which tied Calvin Johnson’s school record for a freshman. The roommates-turned-teammates may terrorize defenses for years to come.

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When Georgia Tech upset No. 5 Louisville at McCamish Pavilion on January 26, the Yellow Jackets snapped the Cardinals’ 10-game win streak.  After pouring through the media guide and cross-checking with sports-reference.com, I found out that the last time Tech beat a team with a double-digit win streak was…

Oklahoma State in the 2004 Final Four.

That connection spawned a couple of other quirks:

  • Tech’s largest lead in both of those games was 11 points.
  • Will Bynum made the game-winning layup against the Cowboys with :01.5 left. Prior to coming to Tech, Bynum spent two seasons at the University of Arizona, where one of his assistant coaches was Josh Pastner. Pastner told me he still keeps in touch with the Yellow Jacket legend.

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Our best excavation from the video vault this year? Buried in a row of mismatched VHS tapes was a video of Georgia Tech’s season opener against Western Carolina on Sept. 12, 1992. The tape mainly consisted of crowd and spirit shots; we figured it was part of a feature celebrating Bill Lewis’ first game as Yellow Jackets head coach. Only about a minute of game footage existed (bear in mind, the game wasn’t televised).

Thankfully for us, two of the plays were of a Western Carolina linebacker named Geoff Collins – in full high-shoulder pad, early-90’s linebacker regalia –  making tackles against the Jackets.

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When I asked Jerry Howard to describe Jordan Mason’s running style on the #404Takeover TV show, the junior gave a colorful answer.

“Like a snake crossed with a Mack truck,” Howard replied.

That managed to get a smile out of even the stoic Mason. The all-ACC running back showed plenty of traits of both in Tech’s win over Miami October 19. Miami came in ranked seventh in the nation in rushing defense (77 ypg) and had only allowed one opponent to top 100 rushing yards in a game. Mason hammered them for 141 in the Jackets’ 28-21 overtime win.

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Erik Maday had one of the more sacred duties on Josh Pastner’s bench this year. The graduate assistant was in charge of designing, printing and updating the “Kill Board,” a laminated card with seven logos of that night’s opponent on it.

Pastner regularly says he wants his team to get seven “kills,” his term for a series of three defensive stops in a row. He didn’t choose that number at random: his data suggests that teams that get seven “kills” in a game have a far greater chance at winning. Pastner believes in it so much, he has Maday wave the kill board behind the bench during every game (he marks each kill by crossing out the opponent’s logo in black marker).

How powerful a motivator was it for Tech? In four of their last six wins – tightly-contested games against Louisville, Miami and Clemson twice – the Jackets entered the under-4:00 timeout of the second half with five kills. Pastner implored his team that if they got to seven, they’d win.

Tech finished each game with seven kills. And a victorious postgame locker room.

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Kaleb Oliver already had the celebration cued up.

On a third-and-goal from the Georgia Tech 10, the junior safety read the eyes of Temple quarterback Anthony Russo and intercepted a pass in the front corner of the end zone. Once he climbed back to his feet, Oliver cradled the ball and gazed at it lovingly, a tribute to his daughter Karter, who was born during the Yellow Jackets’ bye week.

I always enjoy seeing how far back into the record books I can go to unearth a milestone. Three of my favorite ancient milestones the Yellow Jackets reached this year:

  • when they played at Temple on September 28, it marked the first time the Yellow Jackets played a football game in Philadelphia since 1931;
  • when they played Clemson in basketball on February 25, it marked the latest the Yellow Jackets faced the Tigers for the first time in a season since 1938;
  • When they faced Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic, it marked the first time they played a game on Christmas Day since a 29-28 nailbiter against the Loraine (Ohio) Lions Club in 1926. Perhaps the Yellow Jackets were exhausted from playing the company team sponsored by Isaly Dairy the day before. Isaly is most famous for creating the Klondike Bar, which might require a change to their slogan: “What would you do for a nonconference ‘buy’ game?”

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Preparing for a broadcast is like a treasure hunt. Dig deep enough, read enough stories, and pick enough brains, and you’ll arm yourself with plenty of stories for game day. I look forward to finding plenty more stories for you again soon.  #TogetherWeSwarm

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