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#STINGDAILY: Looking forward to a Night on Techwood

Oct. 31, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– The atmosphere is shaping up. Georgia Tech’s next game will be a night-time affair, and evenings spent in Bobby Dodd Stadium are sweet. Then, there’s the fact that a win over Pitt would provide the Yellow Jackets with something special. It’s even on the mind of head coach Paul Johnson.

“There’s always a great atmosphere and a lot of electricity in the air when you play on Saturday night here in Atlanta,” Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to getting better this week and having a chance to become bowl eligible on Saturday night.”

The Panthers (4-3, 2-2 ACC) may prove pesky, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald and middle linebacker Shane Gordon seem to concern Tech’s head coach.

Yet Johnson has to believe the Jackets (5-3, 4-2) have improved in recent weeks. There are reasons to have a good feeling going into this one.

There was the mess of five turnovers last week at Virginia, which was no improvement, and the Jackets committed a few penalties that rankled. But they overcame all that to win on the road in a place where they haven’t often done that.

And a week earlier, Tech thrashed Syracuse 56-0.

Moving beyond those turnovers, the offense appears to have reached hum level the past two weeks, and the defense – now ranked No. 17 in the nation – is, “clearly improved from last year.”

Tracing the Jackets’ improvements is not difficult.

The running game has become more effective. That would be difficult to argue after Zach Laskey (133), Robbie Godhigh (111) and David Sims (107) each rushed for more than 100 yards, the play-action passing game hit a few big ones and there were several defensive standouts.

“Both of the B-backs (Laskey and Sims) have been productive each of the past two weeks,” the coach said. “David had two scores last week as well as Zach. Zach’s running the ball well. His vision is good and he’s breaking tackles, but we have to work on the other things so we can make him a complete player.”

The passing game, particularly in play-action, was timely. Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter and Michael Summers are evolving.

“When they packed everybody up there to stop the run, we saw what happens when the secondary gets involved and the corner runs across the line,” the coach explained of the big hitters.

“[Smelter]’s a talented guy and I think he’s going to do nothing but get better the more he plays,” Johnson said. “He’s got a lot of tools, and the longer he plays, the more he’s out there, the better he is going to get.”

With all those turnovers, to give up just 25 points on the road, the defense had to be standing up. Defensive ends Jeremiah Attaochu and Emmanuel Dieke were menaces.

“Attaochu had somewhere around seven quarterback pressures and two sacks,” Johnson said. “And Dieke played his best game since he’s been here.”

Defensive back Jemea Thomas keeps making plays.

“He’s just a really good football player. Jemea would be a good player if he was playing A-back. He ran quarterback on the scout team out there in the past one time,” the coach gushed. “He just loves to play. He gives the defense flexibility because he can move around.

“You would love to have a bunch of Jemea Thomases running around. Football is important to him. He loves the game. He likes to compete. He is a heck of a competitor.”

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