Oct. 10, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Among the Yellow Jackets, Quayshawn Nealy is easily among the best at fielding questions from those pests in the media. The junior linebacker comes off like a pro.
He looked like he swallowed a big, crunchy bug the other day, however, when asked whether he and his Georgia Tech teammates will draw any unusual motivation to play at Brigham Young Saturday from what happened against those cats last season.
The expression on Nealy’s face – which is normally stoic or alight when he takes queries from the ink stains and mic toters – went sour. Not by a lot, but his brow furrowed slightly and his gaze tightened just enough to make him look like somebody had just dredged up a bill that remains overdue.
“What they did to us, in our home … they made us look real, real bad,” Nealy said.
The Cougars did not use switches, whips or belt in the woodshed. The Jackets fell to blunt force trauma with heavy objects; the walls were rattling and the ceiling slumped.
BYU (3-2) held the Jackets (3-2) to 117 rushing yards and 157 yards total. The Tech offense scored but three points, as the first tally for the home team came on an interception return by safety Isaiah Johnson and the second on a kickoff return by Jamal Golden. Johnson and Golden, by the way, are out for the season with injuries.
On the flip side, the Cougars were methodical with the ball. They passed for 228 yards and rushed for another 183 while converting 9-of-16 third downs and their lone fourth-down try.
The visitors held the ball for 38:59 to Tech’s 21:01. BYU hogged the log for 11:47 in the fourth quarter.
Tech did not convert a single third down: 0-for-10.
It was an awful day at the office, the kind you want forget. The Jackets haven’t, though, because that’s not how this works.
“We did not play very well against them here,” Johnson said the other day. “They kind of physically got after us and took us to the woodshed probably as good as any team since I’ve been here.”
Generally, the Jackets got what you often get from a team coached by a man known as Bronco. They were bullied.
Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall has relieved himself of defensive coordinator duties, and a younger man named Nick Howell is handling that now.
It’s going well. BYU is forcing 6.4 three-and-outs per game, ranked No. 9 in the nation. Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy is an All-America candidate, and the young men from Provo have allowed just two rushing touchdowns this season.
Mendenhall is straight CEO of the program now, and he has a different offense working for him.
The Cougars are more option-based, and sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill is 15th in the nation in rushing (115.8 yards per game) and running back Jamaal Williams is 19th (114.25).
BYU rushed for 550 yards in a win over Texas. Seriously. They don’t throw it much, nor particularly well – at least not usually.
Here’s another thing: the Cougars are not just going no-huddle, they’re going no-conscience. They go really, really fast.
Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof suggested that BYU’s goal might be to run 100 plays. He’s planning on playing quite a few defenders, all the more likely to be required because of the thin air in Provo’s high elevation.
It will be a much different feeling and look than what the Jackets faced last Saturday in Miami. Some of Roof’s most significant experience working against that came in 2010 when he helmed the defense for national champion Auburn. Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator.
“The more familiar you are with something the better you should be [against it], but the bottom line is we need to be able to execute,” Roof said in referencing both the Cougars’ tempo and new predilection toward the option. “We need to play with great emotion, great energy and be physical.”
The Jackets have to play with their eyes in the right place, as Johnson so often likes to say, and be ready to run. BYU will run wide, wide, wide and then boom! Up the gut or throw when you’re expecting more wide action.
Hill and that offense can be a menace. Brigham Young coordinator Robert Anae, who was an offensive graduate assistant at Hawaii in 1987, Johnson’s first year as offensive coordinator there, pushes buttons like mad.
And Hill and Co. make them work.
“He’s runs a great option,” Nealy said, “and he definitely is good at getting outside.”
BYU’s option may look a little different than Tech’s version, but it offers many of the same dangers to a defense with the quarterback being a home run threat as a runner.
Here’s hoping the Jackets remember so well as to win.
“It’s like I told our football team: we’ve still got more than half the season to go,” Johnson said. “We’re disappointed that we lost two games in the league, but also the two teams that beat us are a combined 9-1 with the one loss coming to the No. 1 team in the country. We can still have a pretty good season if we can get the corner turned.”
And don’t let the Cougars keep turning the corner.
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