Sept. 19, 2013
By Jon Cooper
– For the fourth time in six seasons under Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech has started a season 2-0. They’ll try to do something they’ve only done once before, in 2011, start 3-0, when they host North Carolina this Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium at historic Grant Field. Kickoff is at 12:01 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets enter the game at the top of the Coastal Division with a 1-0 record in conference play, the only team to have won a conference game. North Carolina will be playing it’s conference opener.
The game promises to be the stiffest test of the young season for Georgia Tech.
“The competition level ratchets up a little bit,” said head coach Paul Johnson at his weekly press conference. “North Carolina was picked in the preseason to be one of the top teams in our division. They’ve got a returning quarterback (Bryn Renner) that is a great player and a good set of skill guys. Their tight ends are as good as anyone’s in the country. Defensively they seem to be playing better this year than they were a year ago. They’re running around making plays so it’ll be a big challenge for us on Saturday.”
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 38-14 win at Duke last Saturday in it’s ACC opener. It was a big game for Durham native Vad Lee, who accounted for all five touchdowns, throwing for four and running for the other. After a slow start, Lee locked in in the second quarter and was solid the rest of the way. He twice connected with junior wide receiver DeAndre Smelter for touchdowns — the first two catches and scores for the junior, who was making his ACC debut after playing his baseball his first two years. He’d also connect with A-Back Robert Godhigh and B-Back Zach Laskey for scores. A 10-yard pass play to Smelter completed a quick-hitting drive with 42 seconds left in the first half to open up a 24-7 halftime lead. Lee then opened the second half leading a 15-play, 73-yard drive to put the game away, The drive ate up 7:31 and concluded with Godhigh catching a 13-yard scoring pass. The defense stood up all day, holding Duke to 3-for-14 on third down.
The Tar Heels bounced back from an Week One 27-10 thumping at the hands of No. 12 South Carolina, evening their record at 1-1, by jumping all over Middle Tennessee State at Kenan Stadium, 40-20. Led by the passing of senior Bryn Renner (23-of-34, 339, 1 TD, 1 INT) and the running of sophomore Romar Morris (46 yards on 10 carries, 2 TDs), the Tar Heels rolled up 511 yards of offense and were never seriously challenged.
Saturday presents a showdown of two offensive juggernauts — they showed that last season, combining for an ACC-record 118 points, 51 first downs, 1,085 yards of total offense (588 by Tech, 497 by UNC), and 497 more on kickoffs. Johnson doesn’t know what to expect for an encore as far as final score, but knows UNC’s running game presents a serious challenge to Tech’s defense.
“Romar Morris is a very fast guy who we tried to recruit here,” he said. “A.J. Blue is more of a physical 215-220 pound back who breaks tackles but also has good speed. He was a high school quarterback that we tried to recruit at Navy. They complement each other well and give their team a good dimension or change-up. They’ve got another young guy in Khris Francis who’s quick, fast and maybe not quite as big as either of the other two, but more explosive.”
While the Jackets lead the nation in scoring defense (7.0 ppg) and have put up zeroes in six of the season’s first eight quarters, Johnson isn’t getting caught up in gaudy defensive numbers.
“We’ve got some gaudy offensive stats, too, and we’re probably not that good on either side. I hope we are,” he said. “I don’t think we played particularly well on offense in the first half against Duke and I went after our guys a little bit. The point I was making, maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought but I still thought we left a lot of points on the field and we could have played better in the first half. There were some plays we had a chances to put that game way out of reach and we let them hang around. Against good teams you’ve got to take advantage. When you’ve got guys behind them you’ve got to hit them. When you have a chance to make plays to score you’ve got to do it. You won’t get second or third chances.”
Sting Daily hopefully hasn’t left too many numbers on the table — or in the game notes — and offers some numbers leading into Saturday’s Coastal Division showdown.
The Series: This is the 49th meeting between the schools in a series that began in 1915, but didn’t become an annual series until 1980. The Jackets hold a 27-18-3 overall edge, and are 17-7 at Bobby Dodd. In fact, there was a 29-year hiatus from 1945 to 1974. Tech lost the first five games of the series — Carolina’s longest win streak in the series — and eight out of nine once the series resumed, but the worm turned starting in 1998, as Tech reeled off a series-high six-game winning streak. Since ’98, the Jackets have won 13 of the 15 meetings and are riding a seven-game home- and a four-game overall series win streak.
0 – The number of sacks Georgia Tech has allowed in its first two games.
0 – The number of opponents rushing plays of 17 yards or longer in the season’s first two games.
0 – The number of wins in the last four games against Georgia Tech when the opponent had more than a week to prepare, including a 3-0 mark last season, beating Duke, 42-24, UNC, 68-50, USC, 21-7, and Elon, 70-0. Defenses didn’t have much success stopping Tech’s ground game, as the Jackets rambled for 1,372 yards (343 ypg).
1.000 – Georgia Tech’s winning percentage under Paul Johnson when scoring at least 40 points. They’ve hit at least 40 points 18 times in Johnson’s tenure, and just missed last week at Duke, scoring 38.
1 – The number of wins Johnson needs to record win No. 150 for his coaching career. He currently ranks 10th among active FBS coaches in wins, and has a .696 winning percentage (149-65).
2 – The number of FBS teams averaging more points per game than Georgia Tech’s 54.0 thus far in 2013. Only Baylor (69.0) and Oregon (61.3) have scored more.
3 – The number of touchdowns A-Back Robert Godhigh scored in the third quarter of last year’s shootout against North Carolina. Godhigh came into the game with a total of three career touchdowns. He set a then-career-high for total offense, gaining 73 yards (41 rushing, 32 receiving).
2.0/14 – The number of tackles for loss and resulting negative yardage inflicted by linebacker Quayshawn Nealy in last year’s game at UNC. Nealy also had six tackles (four solo) in the game.
3.0/12 – The team-leading number of tackles for loss and resulting yardage attributable to sophomore defensive tackle Adam Gotsis. Gotsis had 1.5 TFLs for minus-5 yards in losses in 12 games (one start) last season. His 10 tackles have already doubled last season’s total.
8.5/15.5 – Godhigh’s career yards per carry and yards per catch. He helped those numbers last week at Duke, averaging 19.89 yards per rush (79 yards on four carries, a long of 44 yards) and 14.8 yards per catch (59 yards on four catches, a long of 18 yards). He leads Georgia Tech in receptions (five) and receiving yards (83) through two games and is second in all-purpose yardage (157, 78.5 per game) to David Sims (171, 85.5).
4 – The number of teams in ACC history that have scored more points in their first first two games than the 108 Georgia Tech has this season. Only Florida State teams of 2012 (124 points), 1995 and 2008 (115 points) and the 2011 Yellow Jackets (112) scored more after two games. The ’11 Jackets are the last Georgia Tech team to begin the season 3-0.
7 – The number of years since a Georgia Tech quarterback threw four touchdown passes in a game prior to Vad Lee’s four-TD day at Duke. Reggie Ball last did it on Nov. 4, 2006 against NC State, in a 31-23 win for the No. 20/20 Jackets.
10 – The number of three-and-out series Georgia Tech’s defense has forced in its first two games.
11 – The number of consecutive quarters in which Georgia Tech has scored at least seven points. The last 15-minute period in which Georgia Tech was kept out of the end zone was the first quarter of last year’s Hyundai Sun Bowl against USC.
12 – The number of miles Johnson’s Yellow Jackets offenses have rolled up on the ground since his arrival on The Flats in 2008. That’s 21,074 yards in 69 games, an average 305.42 yards per game, the most in the FBS in that span.
16 – The number of wins in Georgia Tech’s 18 games in the Paul Johnson Era in against teams from Johnson’s home state of North Carolina. For his career, Johnson is 34-8 against teams from the Tar Heel State.
21 – The number of points the Yellow Jackets have allowed in the last 14 quarters.
27 – The number of wins by the Yellow Jackets in 32 games under Paul Johnson in which they’ve led after the first quarter.
43 – The number of years since the last time a Georgia Tech-North Carolina game didn’t have at least one member of the Durham family in the broadcast booth.
63 – The team-leading total of receiving yards from wide receiver Darren Waller in last year’s game at North Carolina. They came on one big play from Lee and set up a go-ahead score late in the first half.
66 – The length of Sean Poole’s career-best punt last week at Duke. It was the longest by a Yellow Jacket since 2007, when Durant Brooks boomed a 66-harder against Army on Oct. 20. Brooks went on to win the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter. Poole enters Saturday with 99 career punts good for 3, 952 yards.
66 – The total number of points Georgia Tech and North Carolina scored in the first two meetings in the Paul Johnson Era. Carolina won the first meeting 24-7 in Chapel Hill, while Tech bounced the Heels 28-7 the next year in Atlanta.
102 – The number of points the losing team has scored in the last three meetings. Carolina has scored 24, 28 and 50 in dropping 30-24, 35-28 and 68-50 decisions to the Georgia Tech.
100 – The number of yards Jamal Golden took the second half’s opening kickoff for a touchdown in last year’s game. It was Golden’s second touchdown off a KOR for the season and gave Tech a short-lived 34-29 lead.
112/169 – Lee’s rushing and passing totals in last year’s game against North Carolina. It marked the last time a Yellow Jacket ran and passed for 100 yards in the same game.
131 – The career-high receiving yards for Damarius Bilbo on Sept. 10, 2005 game against North Carolina. Bilbo, who had caught six passes the previous two seasons, pulled in eight passes, including a 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter, as the 17th-ranked Yellow Jackets won the game, 27-21, at Bobby Dodd. Bilbo also completed a 33-yard pass to quarterback Reggie Ball to set up the go-ahead field goal early in the third quarter. Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 114 yards for Tech. The game was the last one in which Georgia Tech had two 100-yard receivers.
151 – Stephen Hill’s receiving totals in the 2011 victory over UNC. It marked the last 100-yard receiving game by a Tech receiver. Hill had six catches, including a 59-yard TD connection with Tevin Washington midway through the second quarter to give the Yellow Jackets the lead for good. They wouldn’t trail again, although they would be tied late in the fourth before eventually pulling out a 35-28 win.
201 – Lee’s total offense last week against Duke. He passed for 125 yards and ran for 76 more and was responsible for all five of Tech’s touchdowns (four passing, one rushing). For his efforts he earned ACC Offensive Back of the Week.
243.61 – Lee’s passing efficiency in his first two starts. Lee, who is 15-for-27 with six TDs vs. one INT, would rank second in the nation (behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty) but averages only 13.5 attempts per game — the minimum is 15.
915 – The combined total offense of the two teams heading into Saturday. Georgia Tech has amassed 513.0 total yards in its two games, while North Carolina has gained 402.0 yards in its two games.
10 Things To Know About North Carolina (plus a potentially good omen for Tech’s offense)
1 – The number of times since 2001 that North Carolina has won its ACC opener. Georgia Tech has been the main tormentor, as the Yellow Jackets have tripped up UNC four times in its conference opener, beating them in 2002, ’05, ’09 and ’10. Virginia (’04 and ’07) and Virginia Tech (’06 and ’08) also have beaten the Heels twice, while Maryland (’01), Florida State (’03) and Wake Forest (’12) each topped the Heels once. Five of those losses have been on the road, including two at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Both of those came by six points.
152.16/.664 – Renner’s career pass efficiency and completion percentage. He holds the ACC career lead in the former and ranks fourth in the latter. For the season, he has a .636 completion percentage and a 127.76 pass efficiency. Renner has thrived in Larry Fedora’s spread offense, having thrown for at least 300 yards in five of the last six games. No. 5 came last week against Middle Tennessee State, when he threw for 339 yards, completing 23 of 34 passes with a TD and a pick. In the first two games of 2013 he’s completed 49 of 77 with only one interception against two TDs. Renner also ranks third in school history in career passing yards (6,989 entering play Saturday), passing touchdowns (56), completions (565), and attempts (851).
115/4.6/2 – The number of rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns by sophomore tailback Romar Morris, the Tar Heels’ leading rusher. The 5-10, 185-pound Morris leads a three-headed monster at tailback, which also includes 6-2, 215-pound senior battering ram A.J. Blue and 5-9, 195-pound true freshman Khris Francis, that has responded to the departure of Giovani Bernard. The trio combines to average 140.0 yards per game with each averaging over 4.0 yards per carry, with Morris leading at 4.6 ypc, then Blue at 4.5 and Francis at 4.2.
6-4, 245 – The size of junior tight end Eric Ebron. North Carolina’s leading receiver, with seven catches for 92 catches (13. 1 yards per catch). Included on the preseason Mackey Award Watch List, Ebron is coming off a superb sophomore season that saw him pull in 40 passes, setting a school-record for tight ends. The old mark of 36 had been set by Ryan Taylor in 2010. The 40 catches were 30 more than he had his freshman season.
4/-23 – The team-leading number of tackles for loss and lost yardage totals for junior Bandit linebacker Norkeithus Otis. The 6-1, 240-pound Otis has 10 tackles, tied for fourth on the team, with eight of them solo and half of those resulting in TFLs. He has three of the team’s five sacks, which account for minus-21 yards, has a team-high three QB hits and has the lone forced fumble. Playing next to Otis at Will Linebacker is junior Travis Hughes, the team’s leading tackler (17, 6 solo), who is tied for seventh in the ACC.
9 – The number of big plays (plays over 20 yards) through the air. The Tar Heels have gotten big plays from seven different receivers, with Ebron and junior Sean Tapley each accounting for two. Eight of the nine have come off the arm of Renner, while Blue also has a completion to his credit, a 23-harder to Marquise Williams. Eight of the nine also came against Middle Tennessee. Opponents have made six big plays — three by South Carolina, three by MTSU.
11 – The number of seniors on the Tar Heels roster. North Carolina is one of the youngest teams in the country as only four schools have fewer seniors — South Carolina (5), Central Florida (7), Virginia (8), and Indiana (10).
13 – The number of times in 14 games under Larry Fedora that North Carolina has gained at least 400 yards. Against MTSU last week the Tar Heels rambled for 511 yards, which was the fifth time under Fedora that they gained at least 500 yards. Last season, the first under Fedora, the Heels gained 485.6 yards per game, blowing away the previous single-season school mark of 441.8, set in 1983.
21.6 – The difference in points scored by North Carolina at home and on the road last season. While the Tar Heels scored 48.7 points at Kenan Stadium last season — twice besting 60 and hitting 50 against Georgia Tech — they managed but 26.0 per game on the road.
74.8 – The number of plays UNC ran in Year One under Fedora, including getting off 86 snaps against North Carolina State, the most in nearly a decade. In the year prior to Fedora’s arrival the Heels averaged 63.4 plays.
4 – The number of times North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora referred to preparing for the triple option, as opposed to the spread option. Since the triple option is but one play within the spread option, that means the Tar Heels are spending a lot of time preparing for only one play. Last season Georgia Tech’s offense scored touchdowns on eight drives and got field goals on two others — all, evidently on the triple option.
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