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#TGW: Reversing Course

Oct. 21, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Whether Georgia Tech succeeds or not Saturday in trying to snap a pair of losing streaks — including one of its oldest and most ignominious — Zack Laskey will suffer a cruel twist of fate.

The senior B-back will not play at Pittsburgh, in the city of his birth, after suffering a right shoulder injury in last Saturday’s loss at North Carolina.

As the Yellow Jackets seek to end a two-game slide, it is not yet clear who will bear the primary burden of serving as Tech’s workhorse in the backfield. Laskey’s 120 carries lead the team and his 595 rushing yards trail only the 625 of quarterback Justin Thomas.

Senior Synjyn Days has been the primary backup at the fullback spot, although he has toggled back and forth between B-back and A-back in recent weeks.

Fifth-year senior Matt Connors, a former walk-on who has one carry for four yards this season and 25 for 169 yards and four scores in his Tech career, is also under consideration.

Freshman Christopher (C.J.) Leggett, who showed promise in the summer before injuries slowed him, may come out from under his redshirt as well.

“Synjyn will get reps at B-back this week, and we’ll evaluate and see what we’re going to do,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “Everybody is under consideration to play; we’ve got half a season left. CJ will determine whether he plays or not if he practices well and looks like he can help us win, he’ll play.”

Laskey was injured late at North Carolina, although he returned to play. The severity of his injury was not made clear. He appeared briefly after practice while media interviewed players, with his right arm in a sling, but did not field questions.

A trip to Pittsburgh did not line up as a vacation even before Laskey went down.

The Panthers (4-3, 2-1 ACC) are ranked No. 9 nationally in total defense, allowing a modest 279.8 yards per game. They are also ranked No. 14 in scoring defense (18.6), No. 25 against the run (111.1) and No. 7 against the pass (181.7 per game).

Tech (5-2, 2-2) has fared poorly in visits to Pittsburgh, losing each of its three games there — in 1918, 1919 and 1920.

Each lost stung more painfully than most.

In ’18, Tech – then the “Golden Tornado” – was a defending co-national champion after going 9-0 in ’17. Pitt had gone 10-0, and folks in those parts felt they deserved at least a share of the title.

With legendary coaches at the helm of each squad, John Heisman at Tech and Pop Warner at Pitt, The teams were not originally scheduled to play in ’18.

A shortage of players nationwide in connection with World War I led many schools to cancel or abbreviate their seasons in ’18.

The game, Tech’s only one that season away from Grant Field, was scheduled to raise money for war charities, and it did not go at all well.

The Golden Tornado entered with a 33-game unbeaten streak, and were 5-0 that season having outscored opponents 425-0 with huge wins over Furman (118-0), the 11th Calvary (123-0) and N.C. State (128-0).

They had even beaten a Camp Gordon squad comprised of older, former college stars – including former Tech All-American halfback Everett Strupper – 28-0.

Pitt won the game, 32-0.

Tech was again 5-0 and un-scored upon when visiting Pitt in ’19, and lost 16-6.

In ’20, William Alexander’s first season as head coach at Tech, the squad was 4-0 and un-scored upon and lost at Pitt 10-3.

Laskey won’t get to help the Jackets reverse courses.

“You feel for him. He’s a guy that puts so much into it, and that’s the place he’s from and I’m sure he’s got a lot of people coming,” said B-backs/quarterbacks coach Bryan Cook. “Synjyn runs . . . He’s a bigger guy so he can go through contact. He doesn’t see things [like Laskey]. Zack’s played so much.

“[Connors has] done it. He knows how plays play out, the reads that he’s got to make . . . each guy brings something to that group. [Leggett], it’s just fundamentals. He’s gotten better with knowing where to go and what to do, and now it’s just the details in how to do it . . . typical stuff for a freshman.”

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