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The Question Is How Fast?

Sept. 18, 2011

By Jon Cooper

– Job number one of any offense is to score points, but a secondary option is to keep the defense off the field.

That’s usually not a problem with Georgia Tech’s Spread Option Offense, which has shown itself more than capable of eating up yardage — In week two, alone, against Middle Tennessee State, the offense put together two of the longest touchdown drives in the Paul Johnson era, combining for 19:06.

But in three games in 2011, the offense has mostly been anything but a ball-hogging, clock-eating machine. Six times the Yellow Jackets have taken it to the house on the first play of a drive, three of those coming on their first offensive play of the game.

Against Kansas, they scored on the first offensive play of BOTH halves and did it three times in the game.

So, what’s a defense to do?

“I’m going to go ahead and say it was bittersweet,” said senior outside linebacker Steven Sylvester, who has 10 tackles (six solos), a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble). “On one hand, we’re on the sideline, we had just fought real hard against the [Kansas] offense and we wanted to get a little break. Then you look up and you see Orwin [Smith] running down the field for 70 yards. In the back of your mind, you’re like, ‘Really?’ But that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to play defense and put them on the field. So as long as they keep going like that I don’t have any complaints.”

Opposing offenses probably have a bigger beef. The Jackets defense has risen to the occasion on five of the six drives following the one-play scores.

The exception was the drive after Smith’s record-setting 95-yarder on the first play from scrimmage against Kansas. The Jayhawks put together an 11-play, 72-yard march, that took up 5:22 seconds and saw Tech defenders guilty of several missed tackles, including two on the 10-yard touchdown run by Darrian Miller.

Other than that the ‘D’ has been stout. In the other five drives following one-play scores — one against Western Carolina, two at Middle Tennessee State and the other two against Kansas — have resulted in four punts and an interception, with the three offenses totaling 82 yards, and four first downs..

Rest? Overrated.

“We’re kind of used to it,” said junior left corner Rod Sweeting, who had six tackles (five solos) and a tackle for loss against the Jayhawks to raise his season total to 15 and 12, both second on the team. “The first two games they scored pretty quick. We just expect that from our offense so we were ready for it.”

In the third quarter against Kansas, the defense not only was ready for the scores, but used the momentum from them to raise their game and put away the Jayhawks.

Following the 63-yard Embry Peeples run to open the half, Tech forced a three-and-out, allowing three yards on two running plays then forcing an incompletion.

“It gave us momentum and got the crowd into it,” said Sweeting. “We fed off their energy.”

The vicious cycle continued as later in the quarter, Tech held Kansas to no gain on fourth-and-two to regain possession. That play was followed by quarterback Tevin Washington hooking up with A-Back Roddy Jones for a 52-yard score, to make the score 45-17. The defense then rose up, again, allowing one first down, then forcing a punt. That punt was followed by, a relatively endless scoring drive — six plays — to make the score 52-17 and capped a 28-0 third stanza.

So never mind keeping the defense off the field. The Jackets are happy just the way things are.

“It felt great,” said sophomore OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Tech’s fourth-leading tackler through three games with 14 (nine solo), with a tackle for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. “The offense is doing their thing. We have to key in on what we have to do. We have to focus in and do our thing, too. So it’s great. I’m happy the offense is doing great.”

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