Sept. 3, 2015
With sky-high expectations, 16th-ranked Georgia Tech opens its 123rd season and 102nd on Grant Field, taking on the Braves of Alcorn State. Kickoff at Bobby Dodd Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports South. The Yellow Jackets have won 14 of their last 15 home openers — 13 of their last 15 season openers — and are a perfect 6-0 under Paul Johnson in Bobby Dodd home debuts, 6-1 in season-openers.
The Jackets are riding high the momentum of their tremendous finish to 2014, which saw them win six of their final seven games, including a dramatic 30-24 overtime win at No. 9 Georgia, and a resounding 49-34 thumping of No. 7 Mississippi State in the Capital One Orange Bowl. The wins sandwiched a tremendous effort in falling 37-35 to No. 4 Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.
Redshirt junior quarterback Justin Thomas, named to both the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Award preseason watch lists, will lead an offense that must replace almost its entire stable of A- and B-Backs and both starting receivers from a year ago. The O-line returns four of its five starters — although the one loss, Shaq Mason, is a big one — and is as deep and experienced as any for an opener in the Johnson era.
The defense returns three starters up front, including senior Adam Gotsis and sensational sophomore KeShun Freeman, junior LB P.J. Davis, the leading tackler last year, and three of the four starters from last year’s secondary. Special teams will again feature PK Harrison Butker, a hero in the Georgia game, and P Ryan Rodwell. “We are excited to finally be in the game week and have a chance to start to play somebody in a different colored uniform,” said Johnson, in his weekly press conference.
“The night games here in Bobby Dodd are usually a lot of fun. So hopefully we will have a good crowd and it will be kind of an electric atmosphere.”
The opener will be the first time Georgia Tech has met Alcorn State and only the second time they’ve ever met a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). In 2013, they demolished Alabama A&M, 66-7. Johnson, expects a much tougher time with Alcorn, which won the SWAC last season, going 10-3 (7-2 in the SWAC), and returns its starting QB, John Gibbs, Jr., the Conference Offensive Player of the Year, it’s top three rushers, top two receivers and entire offensive line. Defensively, the Braves return five starters, including the entire secondary from a unit that was 19th in the FCS in total defense.
“They have got a pretty good nucleus of players returning,” said Johnson.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Twitter: @GTAthletics | @GeorgiaTechFB | @MikeDeGeorge | @Britt_McCormick
Thursday night’s Yellow Jacket Countdown, GT/Alcorn State broadcast, and post-game show will air on 1230 The Fan 2 and 98.9 FM. Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play) and Sean Bedford (analyst) will call the action for the Jackets’ season opener. The game will also be available on Sirius 158 and XM 193.
Georgia Tech’s season opener will be televised live in Georgia on FOX Sports South and ESPN3 (subject to blackout). Click here for a complete list of regional affiliates nationwide.
GEICO ALUMNI ATHLETE OF THE GAME
2014 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Joe Hamilton is Thursday’s Geico Alumni Athlete of the Game. Georgia Tech’s all-time leading passer, Hamilton was a four-year starter for the Yellow Jackets from 1996-99. He ended his career as the ACC’s leader in total offense (10,640 yards) and pass efficiency (148.2). Hamilton, who holds seven Georgia Tech records, led the Jackets to a 30-17 record and three bowl games, including wins in the 1997 Carquest Bowl and 1999 Gator Bowl. He also led Tech to a share of the 1998 ACC title.
4:30 p.m. – WrestFrest on Callaway Plaza
5:00 p.m. – Parking Lots open
5:20 p.m. – Yellow Jacket Alley
6:00 p.m. – Stadium Gates open
7:31 p.m. – Yellow Jackets take the field
7:34 p.m. – #ALCNvsGT kickoff
Fans attending Georgia Tech’s season opener Thursday night are advised to plan accordingly due to the combination of rush hour and multiple major events in downtown Atlanta. In addition to our 7:30 p.m. kickoff, two other events during the same time frame could impact traffic:
- The Atlanta Falcons will host their final preseason game at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Dome, which primarily utilizes the Northside Drive and Williams Street exits.
- Vice President Joe Biden is speaking at an event at 7:30 p.m. in Buckhead. It’s expected, though not confirmed, that his path to the venue will take his motorcade north on the I-75/I-85 connector through downtown and Midtown en route to the southern part of Buckhead.
- Campus parking lots will open at 5 p.m. (Please note that some permits may have an incorrect open time of 7 a.m.) A limited number of parking passes for on-campus lots are still available for purchase.
- Campus and city authorities have developed a new postgame traffic plan. Please check your pass for guidance on the most efficient route. Click here from complete parking information.
- For those without a parking pass, MARTA is the best option. Bobby Dodd Stadium is just a few blocks west of the North Avenue station, and service will be extended later in the evening to assist postgame riders.
#ALCNvsGT BY THE NUMBERS
The Series: This is the first meeting ever between the schools.
48.3 – The average number of points Johnson’s Yellow Jackets are averaging in their six season-opening home wins. That average actually took a dip last year, when they only scored 38 in their 38-19 win over Wofford. Tech has never scored fewer than 37 in a season-opening home game, with a high of 70 against Elon in 2013. The six wins have come by an average margin of 34.8 points.
0 – The number of Georgia Tech All-ACC First-Teamers in 2014. The 2014 Jackets became the first team to win a BCS bowl without an All-Conference First-Team player.
2 – The number of consecutive years that the Yellow Jackets have passed the ball on their first offensive play. Two years ago Micheal Summers caught a seven-yard pass from Vad Lee and last year Thomas hit DeAndre Smelter for a 21-yard gain.
5 – The number of 100-yard rushing games by quarterback Justin Thomas, as well as his rank on the school career rushing yards by a QB list. Thomas begins 2015 with 1,320 yards on the ground on 223 carries. Next up is Reggie Ball, who is 131 yards ahead of Thomas, requiring 495 carries to get there, Thomas is 1,486 behind career leader Josh Nesbitt, who carried 653 times.
7 – The number of catches by redshirt junior Micheal Summers in 2014. That’s the most among any returning Jackets.
28/100 – The number of rushing and receiving yards last year by redshirt senior Broderick Snoddy. Both are the most of any returning Yellow Jacket.
8 – The number of returnees of Georgia Tech’s record 14 All-ACC selections.
28 – The team-high number of starts and consecutive starts by senior DT Adam Gotsis. Senior corner D.J. White is second in both categories, with 23.
63 – The combined number of career starts by returning starting offensive linemen Bryan Chamberlain (21) and Trey Braun (21), Freddie Burden (14) and Errin Joe (7). Burden and Braun started all 14 games last season.
65 – The school-record number of PATs converted by junior kicker Harrison Butker in 2014. That’s nine more than Justin Moore’s previous record, set in 2011.
72.4 – The percentage of turnovers created by Georgia Tech’s defense last season that were converted into points. The Jackets scored 19 touchdowns and added two field goals following their 28 forced turnovers.
26.1 – The percentage of opponents’ possessions that resulted in a turnover. That was best in the FBS.
82 – The number of solo tackles made last season by Yellow Jackets’ leading tackler P.J. Davis, who had 119 overall. That’s only 10 fewer than the total number of stops made by Quayshawn Nealy, Tech’s second-leading tackler.
18-8 – Georgia Tech’s all-time record in September under Paul Johnson. That’s a .692 winning percentage. The Jackets were 3-0 in 2014.
2,443 – The number of yards by which Georgia Tech’s opponents were out-rushed in 2014. That’s more than Tech’s 14 opponents could muster on the ground (2,346).
Six Things To Know About Alcorn State
1 – Alcorn State’s predicted 2015 finish in the SWAC East.
58.3/2,482/77.38 – The completion percentage and per game passing and rushing yardage for Alcorn State quarterback John Gibbs Jr., the 2014 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year. Gibbs completed 189 of 324 passes with seven picks. He threw for 2,482 yards and ran for a team-high 1,006 more. He had a 139.75 efficiency rating.
4 – The number of Braves to rush for at least 650 yards in 2014. That’s one more than Georgia Tech had. Three of those four, Gibbs (1,008 yards), redshirt sophomore running back Arron Baker (725) and senior Darryan Ragsdale (625) return. That’s two more returnees than Georgia Tech, who brings back Thomas.
5/2 – Alcorn State’s final ranking in the FCS in rushing (285.2 yards per game) and scoring (44.0 points per game, 572 points, total).
6 – The number of games in which Alcorn State scored at least 50 points in 2014. That included a 77-point outburst at Prairie View A&M. They scored at least 30 points in all but two of their games.
10 – The number of wins Alcorn State had in 2014 in winning the SWAC under fourth-year coach Jay Hopson (23-13). The Braves totaled 10 wins the three previous seasons prior to Hopson’s arrival, and only two the year before his hiring.