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Point Blank

Aug 31, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Ted Roof made a comment the other day, a silly quip really, suggesting that Georgia Tech’s season opener would not rank on his sentimental scale.

Asked ahead of time if it would be a big deal when the Yellow Jackets took the field Saturday to lay waste to Elon, the former Tech linebacker-turned defensive coordinator (for a second time) predicted that he would not be misty-eyed upon his homecoming.

Rather, he said as if we’re all fools, Roof would, “Just thinking about the first call.”

Bunk was called fairly quickly in Bobby Dodd Stadium, where the Jackets routed the Phoenix 70-0 to set an ACC record for margin of victory.

Roof has in other interviews made it clear that a big part of his motivation in calling Paul Johnson last winter about a certain DC opening was a desire to return his family to his hometown (Lawrenceville), to be near many of his friends and – we can all assume with risk of him suing us – his alma mater.

So there he was, fairly stoic on the sideline in Bobby Dodd Stadium until middle linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days picked off that pass in the first quarter. It was quite a play, actually, and one of two on Saturday by, you guessed it, linebackers.

As Hunt-Days rumbled toward and then along the Tech sideline, Roof’s cover was blown. He is, perhaps, a bit lucky that his inner walls did not go herniatic as well because, suddenly, Roof was back on the Flats . . . and playing!

Did you see him rumble down that sideline while escorting his charge? Headset rattling, stuff in one hand jumbling, the former Black Watcher rolling southward and windmilling a back arm as a third-base coach might in sending homeward a winning run.

It was a great sight, and, bottom line, reflective of love and investment.

“He was pretty jacked up,” said outside linebacker Brandon Watts. “Probably more excited than we were.”

The Jackets had plenty to be juiced about Saturday on all sides of the ball, special teams included.

Elon was not a stiff test, obviously. But Tech did what it should have done, which was treat the Phoenix like a sacrifice.

The visitors threw a few passes around, but only threatened to score twice.

The first thrust ended when reserve linebacker Tyler Marcordes dropped into a zone – like Hunt-Days before him – and jumped in front of a pass that Elon quarterback Mike Quinn threw while thinking that because his target had beaten his man-on defender he was in the clear.

Both disguises worked brilliantly, the Marcordes pick resulting in a whopping 95-yard interception return.

“I just dropped into my zone, and . . . he threw it right too me,” Marcordes said. “I was surprised. Guys made blocks for me. At about the 30-yard-line, I was tired.”

That was such a joy to watch, even if it took 17.8 seconds.

“That was great to see Tyler get that interception,” said Johnson. “He’s worked hard, and he was a high school quarterback when we recruited him so he was re-living his quarterback days when he was going down the sideline.”

Safety Chris Milton would later add a 54-yard return to the end zone after a pick, and the Jackets had four takeaways on a day when there were no turnovers.

Pretty good ratio there.

Milton would not take a side, would not say that he’d rather make a key fourth-and-short stop – which falls within his job description – or do the pick six thing. “I think it’s all the same,” he said. “We’re just helping our offense in any way we can. Putting points on the board, that’s always good.”

Well, yes it is.

Roof was not available for media interviews (Tech assistant coaches are only available during the week) even though Saturday’s shutout was Tech’s first since the Jackets blanked Duke in 2008.

The Phoenix sank to ashes very quickly and stayed there, but there surely were no obvious signs that Tech fans should be anything but encouraged about the prospects of the Jackets being better on defense.

Tech had six tackles for lost yardage, although a very modest one sack. Elon managed just 89 rushing yards on 34 attempts. That’s all good stuff, although none of it matches four takeaways.

The man with the plan is fully invested.

If there was a disconnect before between the coordinator and the players tasked with executing, there is no early evidence of the same.

A different kind of energy is in place.

Next test: Duke, where Roof was once head coach.

“As a team, everybody progressed today and we had a fun time,” Hunt-Days said. “It felt good.”

Looked pretty good, too.

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