Oct. 4, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
The stakes continue to rise for Georgia Tech tonight when the Yellow Jackets take on the University of Miami in their ACC Home Opener. Kickoff at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field for this Whiteout Game, which will be televised on ESPN2, is set for 7:30 p.m.
Tonight’s game is pivotal within the Coastal Division, as with a win, the Jackets have a chance to emerge as one of only two unbeaten in Conference play with either Pittsburgh or Virginia (they play each other at the same time as Georgia Tech-Miami in Charlottesville), and also have an opportunity to distance themselves from the one-loss Hurricanes, who would have two conference losses. Head Coach Paul Johnson expects an extra level of desperation from the ‘Canes and expects his players will match that intensity.
“Hopefully they understand the magnitude that it’s a conference game and a division game,” said Johnson at his weekly press conference. “They understand the ramifications when you play a division game and a home conference game that it’s imperative that you win these games. It means that we could be 2-0 in the league against two teams that we’ve struggled against the last couple of years in our division. It’s a great challenge. Miami already has a loss so we are going to get their best shot. We better be ready to give them ours.”
The Jackets are coming off a bye week but believe they can carry momentum over from their 27-24 win at Virginia Tech two weeks ago. Tech, which had lost three straight times at Lane Stadium and four in a row overall to the Hokies, dug themselves out of a 10-point first-half hole then overcame a late seven-point deficit, scoring 10 points in the final 2:03 to earn an emotional road win. Harrison Butker’s 24-yard field goal as time expired completed the comeback. Quarterback Justin Thomas ran for a game-high 165 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and threw for 122 more, 31 of those going to wide receiver DeAndre Smelter for a touchdown with 2:03 left to tie the game at 24. On the ensuing possession, junior corner D.J. White recorded his second career interception at the Hokies’ 40, setting up the winning score. Smelter’s 19-yard reception on third and seven set up Butker’s game-winner. White had 10 tackles (seven solo) and sophomore linebacker Paul Davis added nine (four solo) in addition to returning an interception for his first career touchdown to lead a Jackets defense that held Virginia Tech to 144 rushing yards on 33 carries.
The Hurricanes, who fell behind in the ACC on opening day by losing at Louisville, evened their ACC ledger last week by knocking off defending Coastal Division champion Duke, 22-10, at Sun Life Stadium. Junior running back Duke Johnson did in Duke, rushing for a 155 yards, the most by any ACC back last week, and a touchdown on 25 carries. True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 20 of 34 passes for 223 yards and two scores, despite a driving rain in the second half, as the Hurricanes took care of the Blue Devils. The defense stood tall, limiting Duke to 264 total yards, 115 on the ground, and snapping the Blue Devils’ 12-game regular-season winning streak.
The Yellow Jackets have had double-digit leads in each of the last two games against the Hurricanes, but lost both games. White has a strong opinion on what it will take for the Jackets to once again get and keep a lead against the ‘Canes.
“Starting strong and finishing strong,” he said. “I feel like if we do that we have a really good chance to win.”
Here is some statistical stuff to get you ready for the Ramblin’ Wreck’s Whiteout!
The Series: This is the 20th meeting between the schools in a series that dates back to 1955. Georgia Tech holds a 10-9 overall edge, but is 4-6 as ACC rivals and has lost five in a row in the series — the most consecutive losses by either team in the series. They are 8-4 against the U in games played in Atlanta.
.563 – Georgia Tech’s ACC-leading third-down conversion rate. The Yellow Jackets have converted 27 times on 48 attempts. That’s fifth in the nation. Miami is last in the conference, earning a fresh set of downs 24.1 percent of the time (14-for-58).
1 – The number of punts out of 12 by redshirt sophomore punter Ryan Rodwell this season that have been returned for as much as 10 yards. That was an 11-yarder against Georgia Southern back on Sept. 13. Eight times Rodwell has forced opponents to start inside the 20. Against Virginia Tech, he averaged a single-game career-high 46.8 yards per kick, including a career-best 55-yarder.
1.0/-2 – The number of tackles for loss, and loss yardage senior ILB Quayshawn Nealy needs to set career-single-season highs for TFLs and lost yardage. Nealy, who has 3.0 stops behind the line this year, made 3.5 each of the last two seasons after recording 3.0 as a freshman. His tackles for loss this season have amounted to minus-14 yards. His best season came as a sophomore in 2012, when he accumulated minus-16 yards in losses. Nealy had a pair of TFLs for minus-10 yards among his eight stops at Virginia Tech.
1.5 – The number of tackles for loss by junior corner D.J. White in four games this season. White had 1.0 career TFLs in 23 career games (nine starts) heading into this season.
3 – Quarterback Justin Thomas’ rank among FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards per carry. Thomas’ 6.82 ypc (443 yards on 65 carries) trails only Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong (8.40) and Boston College’s Tyler Murphy. Thomas ranks 17th among all players.
7.4 – Armstrong’s yards per carry against Miami in Nebraska’s 41-31 win over the Hurricanes on Sept. 20 at Memorial Stadium. The ‘Huskers’ QB ran for 96 yards on 13 carries as part of NU’s 343 rushing yards and 17 rushing first downs.
4 – The number of Yellow Jackets averaging at least 6.0 yards per rush. A-Backs Charles Perkins (12.4), Tony Zenon (6.9), QB Justin Thomas (6.8) and A-Back Deon Hill (6.1) all bring in a YPC average of better than 6.0. Duke Johnson (6.1) is the lone Hurricane north of 6.0 yards per attempt.
5 – The number of wins in seven games in the Paul Johnson era that the Jackets have passed for more yards than they’ve run. Unfortunately, the first of the two losses came against Miami on Sept. 17, 2009, at Miami, when the No. 14/13 Yellow Jackets fell, 33-17, at the No. 22/20 ‘Canes.
6 – The number of receiving yards senior DeAndre Smelter needs to match last year’s total. Smelter enters the game with 339 yards. He has three 100-yard receiving games this season, having at least 100 yards in receptions in back-to-back games. He has four TD catches in those games. Smelter, playing his first collegiate season, caught four TD passes all season and did not have a 100-yard receiving game.
6 – The number of turnovers out of seven turned into touchdowns by the Yellow Jackets. That includes a pair of ‘pick-six’s. Tech turned three Virginia Tech giveaways into points, including an interception that Paul Davis took to the house, and White’s that led to the game-winning field goal.
6 – The career-high number of tackles made by junior free safety Jamal Golden at Virginia Tech. Two of the six were solo stops.
9 – The career-high number of tackles made by sophomore WILL linebacker Paul Davis against Virginia Tech. The career-high (four of them solo stops), plus his pick-six led to Davis being named ACC Linebacker of the Week, two weeks back.
38 – The difference in Georgia Tech’s favor in points off turnovers. The Yellow Jackets have turned seven turnovers into 45 points, while opponents have managed only seven points off four turnovers and none since early in the first quarter against Tulane on Sept. 6.
1 – The number of turnovers by Georgia Tech over its last nine quarters. The lone miscue, a lost fumble by Justin Thomas in the third quarter at Virginia Tech, didn’t hurt, as the Hokies missed a field goal attempt.
11 – The difference in passing efficiency points between Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas and Miami’s Brad Kaaya. Thomas carries a 160.5 into the game, while Kaaya is at 149.5.
6 – The difference in the number of interceptions thrown by Thomas and Kaaya. Thomas has thrown one pick in 65 attempts (in the third quarter against Tulane) while Kaaya has thrown seven in 151.
19.06 – Thomas’s nation-leading yardage per completion.
75 – The consecutive number of carries by B-Back Zach Laskey before he was stopped for negative yardage in the second quarter against Virginia Tech. Laskey has lost yardage on only three carries in 278 career rushes.
76 – The number of rushing yards Laskey needs to jump from 26th all-time into a tie for 24th with Malcolm King (1984-87). Laskey has averaged 76.0 yards per game this season but hasn’t rushed for fewer than 80 yards since the season-opener, when he had 70.
10 Things To Know About Miami (and why Duke of Miami could be King of New York…or at least an NFL player there)
.952 – Miami’s winning percentage under Al Golden when leading at the half. Miami is 20-1 when taking a lead into intermission.
0 – The number of overtime losses on the road by Miami all-time. The Hurricanes are 4-0, including a 42-36 win at Bobby Dodd Stadium in their last visit, on Sept. 22, 2012, also was their most recent OT game. Oddly, they are 1-4 in home overtime tilts.
2 – The rank in the ACC of true freshman QB Brad Kaaya in passing yards (1,275), and TD passes (12). Kaaya also is in the top five in the conference in passing yards per game (255.0, third) and pass efficiency (149.5, fifth). He’s on a PYPG pace that would place him second all-time amongst ACC freshman quarterbacks, behind only FSU’s Jameis Winston (289.8) last year. Kaaya is only five TD passes behind former NC State freshman Russell Wilson (2008). Last week against Duke was his first week without throwing an interception.
2 – The number of times in the last two years the Hurricanes scored at least 40 points against Georgia Tech. Prior to 2012 the Hurricanes hit 40 once in the series, back in 1967, a 49-7 win, the third game of the series.
4 – The number of sacks by senior linebacker Thurston Armbrister. That ties for seventh in the ACC. Armbrister, who also ranks second on the team in tackles (30, 20 solo, 4.0 for loss), had a total of two career sacks entering this season.
5 – The number of Miami receivers that rank among the ACC active career leaders in yards per reception (minimum 30 catches). Senior Phillip Dorsett leads the group averaging 16.7 ypc (second), followed by Herb Waters (15.6, fourth), Stacy Coley (15.3, fifth), Rashawn Scott (14.2, tied for seventh) and Clive Walford (13.9, 11th). GT’s DeAndre Smelter leads the group with 19.5 ypc.
6.46/95.68 – Duke Johnson’s current ACC career yards per carry and rushing yards per game. The former would rank seventh, right behind Florida State’s Warrick Dunn (6.46), while the latter puts him on the heels of B.C.’s Montel Harris (95.68), for 13th. The all-time career leader in YPC is Georgia Tech A-Back Orwin Smith (9.28 from 2009 through 2012). UNC’s Giovani Bernard (107.9 from 2011-12) leads in career rushing yards per game.
14 – The Miami defense’s rank nationally in defense (299.8 yards per game), passing yards allowed (823 yards, 164.6 per game) and turnovers gained (11 — seven fumble recoveries, four interceptions). The ‘Canes are third in the ACC in all three categories.
35 – The difference in the number of points Miami has allowed in their two road (72) and three home games (37). In going 0-2, the Hurricanes have been outscored 72-43 at Louisville (31-13) and Nebraska (41-31), while outscoring Florida A&M (41-7), Arkansas State (41-20) and Duke (22-10), 104-37 in home games.
401 – The difference in rushing yards for Miami in its three home games and two away games. The ‘Canes have rolled up 547 yards on the ground in three games at home (182.3 yards per game), but have managed 146 yards total in the two games away from South Beach (73.0 ypg).
4,000 – The all-purpose yards mark passed by Johnson in the first quarter of last week’s game against Duke. Johnson, who became only the third player in school history to reach 4,000 yards, joining Santana Moss (4,394 from 1997-2000) and Ottis Anderson (4,265 from 1975-78), enters today’s game with 4,102 all-purpose yards. Both Moss and Anderson spent time in the NFL in New York. Anderson played half of 1986 through 1992 with the New York Giants, winning Super Bowl XXV MVP in 1991, while Moss spent 2001 through 2004 with the New York Jets.
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