Aug 30, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech kicks off its 121st season and 100th on Grant Field when it takes on the Phoenix of Elon. Kickoff is at noon.
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 7-7 season in 2012 that ended with a 21-7 win over USC in the Sun Bowl and the schools’ third berth in the ACC Championship, where it nearly upset No. 13/12 Florida State, losing, 21-15. While the Jackets will try to carry over some momentum, this is a new team in a lot of ways.
There’s a new starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Vad Lee, and his receiving corps is relatively new. Maybe the biggest change is on defense, where former Yellow Jacket legend, defensive coordinator Ted Roof, has implemented his attacking 4-3 defense.
“We’d be hard-press not to be better I think. I hope we are,” said head coach Paul Johnson earlier this week. “I have no reason to doubt that we are better from what I’ve seen in practice and that kind of thing. But you’ve still got to do it on the field.”
Johnson is interested to see how the pieces come together in the opener and certainly is not overlooking Elon, even though the Phoenix were picked for eighth in the nine-team Southern Conference by both the coaches and the media.
“All you have to do is look back at the (2007) Appalachian State-Michigan game,” he said. “I know from having coached at Georgia Southern those kids are going to come in excited thinking they can win. It’s not a best-of-seven. It’s a one-game deal.”
Elon begins a difficult schedule, as four of its opponents qualified for the FCS Playoffs last season. The polar opposite of Georgia Tech, the Phoenix prefer to attack via the air. Head coach Jason Swepson’s attack has been effective, as it ranked 12th nationally last year, gaining 296.7 yards per game. They’ll have their work cut out, however, as they return only four starters and are breaking in a new quarterback. On the defensive side they return nine from last year’s powerful defense.
“They play hard. If you do that you always have a chance,” said Johnson. “Their middle linebacker (Jonathan Spain) could play on this level. He’s a really good player. Their strong safety (Chandler Wrightenberry) has been pretty productive, they’ve got two 300-pound tackles inside. So it’ll be a challenge. It’s not like you’re lining up against somebody that doesn’t have any players.”
Today’s game will be the first time the schools have lined up against one another on the gridiron.
Here are some numbers to get you ready for the season-opener — as if you weren’t already fired up…
The Series: This is the first meeting between the schools.
.710 – Georgia Tech’s all-time winning percentage in season-opening games. The Jackets are 83-13-3 in the season’s first game. They are 4-1 in the Paul Johnson Era.
.821 – The Yellow Jackets all-time winning percentage in home openers. They boast a 65-13-3 record.
.800 – The Yellow Jackets winning percentage in openers under Paul Johnson. Tech is 4-1, with a perfect 4-0 record at home. The lone loss came last season, a heart-breaking 20-17 overtime decision at Virginia Tech.
45.5 – The average number of points Johnson’s Yellow Jackets are averaging in their four home-opening wins. They beat Jacksonville State 41-14 in 2008, and 37-17 in 2009, topped South Carolina State, 41-10, in 2010 and unloaded on Western Carolina, 63-21, in 2011.
.946 – Georgia Tech’s all-time record against the Southern Conference. The Jackets are 42-1-3 against the SoCon.
106.7 – Dial position of the flagship FM radio station on which all Yellow Jackets games can now be heard. Brandon Gaudin makes his debut as “Voice of the Yellow Jackets” today, replacing the legendary Wes Durham. Interestingly, Taylor Durham, Wes’ younger brother, handles color on the Elon radio broadcasts.
2 – The number of times in Johnson’s five years that the Jackets have scored on their first offensive play from scrimmage. In 2009, Jonathan Dwyer broke off a 74-yard run. Two years later Orwin Smith took it to the house from five yards away, following a Brandon Watts sack and forced fumble, which was recovered by Quayshawn Nealy.
2 – The number of halves in which Georgia Tech has failed to score a point since 2009. Both were second halves on the road, coming on Dec. 27, 2010 against Air Force in the Independence Bowl, in Shreveport, La., and the other Oct. 22, 2011 at Miami. Tech takes a streak of 198 straight games scoring a point, the second-longest in ACC history, into today’s game.
7 – The number of times in the last 10 seasons that Georgia Tech’s first offensive play was a run. The three times Tech opened with a pass — none in the Paul Johnson Era — have resulted in one completed pass and a pair of incompletes. The only completion came in 2006, when Reggie Ball hit Calvin Johnson for a six-yard gain.
6 – The number of consecutive home-openers won by Georgia Tech. The last loss came in 2006, a 14-10 defeat to Notre Dame. That loss snapped a streak of seven-straight home-opening wins, giving the Yellow Jackets 13 home-opening wins in their last 14.
4 – Georgia Tech’s ranking for its 16 consecutive bowl appearances. Only Florida State (31), Florida (22), and Virginia Tech (20) have longer streaks.
4 – DE Jeremiah Attaochu’s rank among active players in sacks. The senior’s 19 1/2 rank him eighth all-time in school history and are 11 1/2 off Greg Gathers’ school record, set from 1999 through 2002. Last season, playing at OLB, Attaochu recorded 10.0 sacks. The school record for sacks in a season is 15, set by Pat Swilling in 1985.
4 – The number of major preseason award watch lists upon which Attaochu is named — the Bednarik, the Hendricks, the Lombardi and the Nagurski. Those are the only four awards for which a DL is eligible. The senior joins eight other players nationwide to be on all four lists.
30.9/14.6 – The average kickoff return yards and punt return yards for junior Jamal Golden. He ranked in the top 10 in the nation and third in the ACC in both categories. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, the first for Georgia Tech since 1998. Only Drew Hill had had multiple kickoff returns for touchdowns in a season (1978).
1/1/2/3 – The ranks within the Big Ten in sacks, red-zone defense, scoring defense and turnover margin for Ted Roof’s defense last season at Penn State.
27 – The number of combined starts for the offensive backfield and receivers. Quarterback Vad Lee has six, B-Back David Sims has seven and A-Back Robert Godhigh has 14 (all last season). A-Back Deon Hill and wide receiver Darren Waller have not made a start, nor, obviously, has freshman wideout Michael Summers.
97 – The number of combined starts by the starting offensive line. Left tackle Will Jackson leads the group with 29, followed closely by center Jay Finch (28) and left tackle Ray Beno (26). The right side isn’t as experienced, but right guard Shaq Mason has started 13 times. Right tackle Bryan Chamberlain has one career start to his credit.
42 – The number of wins in ACC games by Georgia Tech since the advent of divisional play in 2005. Only Virginia Tech (50) has more. Clemson (41), Florida State (39) and Boston College (34) round out the top five. The Jackets have never had a losing season in Coastal Division play.
100 – The number of years Georgia Tech football has played its home games on Grant Field.
447 – The number of points Georgia Tech needs to score to hit 25,000 points in school history. To get there in 2013, the Yellow Jackets must average 34.3 points over its 13 games. Last season, bolstered by an appearance in the ACC Championship Game, the Jackets averaged 33.6 points per game, scoring 470 in 14 games.
10 Things To Know About Elon (plus a celebration of their own)
0 – The number of career starts for quarterback Mike Quinn. The junior from Wayne, N.J., is an accurate passer, having completed 68.6 percent of his attempts (24-of-35), for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception.
1 – The number of wins for Elon all-time against the current ACC membership. They have a 1-24-2 record with that win coming back in 1928, a 21-18 win over Miami. The Phoenix also managed ties against Duke and Wake Forest. They are 0-1 against Clemson and North Carolina, 0-4 against NC State, 0-7-1 against Duke, 0-9-1 against Wake and 1-2 against Miami.
1 – The number of 100-yard rushing and 100-yard receiving games by the current roster. Sophomore Thuc Phan ran for 110 yards last Sept. 15 against West Virginia State, junior while wide receiver Kierre Brown had the lone 100-yard receiving game, catching 110 yards worth of passes on Sept. 22 against Georgia Southern.
45 – The number of receptions by Brown in 2012. The junior, selected to the CFPA Wide Receiver Award Watch List, likely will be Quinn’s favorite target. He’s the leading returning receiver, having gained 642 yards with his 45 catches, a 14.3 yards per catch average, with four of them resulting in touchdowns. Brown also averaged 24.6 yards on 25 kickoff returns.
4 – The number of Elon players chosen to the preseason All-Southern Conference team. Junior linebacker Jonathan Spain was the lone first-teamer, while Brown, senior offensive lineman Clay Johnson, and senior defensive back Chandler Wrightenberry were all second-team.
5 – The number of times in the last seven years that an Elon quarterback ranked in the top 10 in passing yards. Scott Riddle did it three times, leading the FCS in 2007 (347.0 yds.), finishing seventh in 2011 (277.9) and second in 2010 (323.1). Thomas Wilson followed Riddle with back-to-back 10th-place finishes (277.9, 286.3). In that time, the Phoenix also finished in the top 15 in passing six times and in the top 10 twice — finishing as runner-up in 2007 (357.0 ypg) and 2010 (322.4).
9 – The number of starters the Phoenix return from last year’s defense that ranked fifth in the FCS, in pass defense, allowing 156.9 yards per game. That includes its entire secondary.
33 – The number of one-point games in Elon program history. The Phoenix have been pretty good in those games, however, going 21-12 (a .636 winning percentage). The last one-point game came in 2011, a 23-22 victory over North Carolina Central. Elon has been good in close games as, since moving to FCS in 1991, it has played 42 games decided by eight-or-fewer points, going 23-19 (.548) and they’re 12-6 (.667) in games decided by three-or-fewer points.
72.7 – Elon’s red-zone success rate last season. The Phoenix scored on 32 of their 44 trips to the red-zone, reaching the end zone 19 times.
157 – The number of tackles made by Jonathan Spain in his first two seasons at Elon. The 6-2, 242-pound middle linebacker made a team-high 120 stops in 2012 (51 solo), including a team-best 20 on Nov. 10 against Samford.
125 – Elon has an anniversary of its own that it is celebrating this year. The school will celebrate its 125th anniversary — its quasquicentennial — of being chartered. The official date of the charter is March 11, 1889.
Get Sting Daily in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.