Nov. 1, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Georgia Tech begins the final third of its 2014 season with a critical game for position in the Coastal Division, hosting Virginia this Saturday afternoon on Homecoming Weekend. Kickoff at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field is set for 3:30 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPNU.
The Yellow Jackets enter the game with a 3-2 record, having played one more game than the four 2-2 teams behind them, Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia. A win today would give Tech the tiebreaker edge on three of them, Miami, Pittsburgh and Virginia and could move them ahead of current Coastal Leader, Duke, which has the tiebreaker edge on Tech from three weeks ago but end up a game — two behind in the win column but even in the loss column — behind the Jackets, depending on the outcome of the Duke-Pittsburgh game at Heinz Field, where the Jackets won a record-setting victory last week.
Confused? You won’t be after this week of ACC Football.
Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson has it straight. He believes the logjam is nothing unusual and that things will eventually clear up.
“I think it’s wide open but if you look at most conferences, the divisions and the standings, they’re not that much different. At this time of the year there are three or four teams in most every division that could win,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that unusual. A lot of the teams still have four games left. I think in the next week or two it will start to sort itself out.”
The Jackets took the lead in clearing things up as well as moving themselves up last weekend in Pittsburgh. Playing in the Steel City for the first time since 1920, they stole one from the Panthers, winning 56-28, at Heinz Field. The Jackets forced and recovered an FBS-record-tying five fumbles in the first-quarter, cashing four of them in for touchdowns to take a 28-0 lead just over 5:00 in. They’d recover a sixth and cash it in later. The Panthers halved the lead by intermission, but Tech put the game away with a 21-point fourth. Redshirt junior A-Back Broderick Snoddy ran for 82 yards and scored three touchdowns, both career-highs, while redshirt senior B-Back Synjyn Days made his first start of the season, in place of injured Zach Laskey, and pounded his way to a career-high 110 yards, his first career 100-yard game.
Defensively redshirt senior strong safety Isaiah Johnson led the Jackets with a career-high-tying 14 tackles (eight solo), while junior corner D.J. White made a heroic chase-down and strip of ACC-leading rusher James Conner, which led to a touchback, and kept with the score 7-0 Tech. The Jackets responded by driving 80 yards in three plays to double the lead and Tech was on its way. Sophomore WILL Linebacker Paul Davis forced two fumbles and senior inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy fell on two.
The Cavaliers will try to snap a two-game losing streak — one to which Georgia Tech can relate — against Duke and North Carolina (in contrast to Tech, they lost at Duke and hosted UNC) after dropping a tough 28-27 decision last Saturday to the Tar Heels.
UVA led three different times, including 14-0 in the first quarter and didn’t trailed until back-up QB Mitch Trubisky, in his only play of the game, hit T.J. Thorpe with a 16-yard touchdown with 4:05 left in the game. Running back Kevin Parks had a huge day for the Cavs, rushing for 111 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown, while sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert threw for 261 yards on 20-of-40 passing, with two touchdowns. Senior middle linebacker Henry Coley led the Cavs with 10 tackles (three solo), while junior DE Eli Harold added six tackles (five solo), with 3.5 of them for loss.
Johnson expects to see the kind of urgency befitting a late-season conference game from both teams.
“Their backs are up against the wall as are ours as far as the conference race,” Johnson said. “I’m sure we’ll get their best shot here this Saturday at Bobby Dodd.”
Here are some statistics and other stuff to welcome you home as the Ramblin’ Wreck prepare for the Wahoos.
The Series: Tonight is the 37th game in the series that dates back to 1965. The Jackets lead by the slimmest of margins, 18-17-1, but have a substantial 14-7 edge at home. Tech has dominated the series of late regardless of the location, winning four of the last five overall and seven of the last nine in Atlanta. Under Paul Johnson, Tech is 4-2, having won two straight at home, including a resounding 56-20 rout in 2012.
.627/.708 – Georgia Tech’s winning percentage and home winning percentage all time vs. the Coastal Division. The Jackets are 32-19 against Coastal rivals, 17-7 at Bobby Dodd.
.353/.250 – Virginia’s all-time winning percentage and road winning percentage all time vs. the Coastal. The Cavs are 18-31 intra-division, and 6-18 away from home.
1 – The number of fumbles Georgia Tech had recovered in its first seven games prior last week’s six-FR game at Pittsburgh.
5 – The number of turnovers by Georgia Tech in last year’s game against Virginia. The Jackets fumbled three times and had two passes intercepted.
0 – The number of points Virginia scored off those turnovers. The Cavaliers lost the ball on downs one time and punted the other three times they got a set of downs off a Yellow Jacket T.O. One of the interceptions ended the half.
2 – The career-high number of tackles for loss by junior DT Adam Gotsis. The two TFLs, both sacks, were his first sacks of the season and totaled 17 lost yards. Gotsis, who has made 22 consecutive starts, has six multi-tackle games in seven played this year.
2 – The number of times in the last five games that Georgia Tech has hit the 600-yard mark in total offense. The Jackets have gone for at least 600 yards five times under Paul Johnson. That’s one more than the program had in its entire history prior to Johnson’s arrival.
99 – The number of points the Jackets have scored in the last two games (43 at North Carolina, 56 at Pittsburgh). The 43 vs. UNC are the fewest scored by a Tech team under Johnson when going for 600 yards.
5.0 – The number of yards per carry by B-Back Synjyn Days in his workmanlike effort last week at Pittsburgh. Days had 110 yards on 22 carries.
7 – The longest unbeaten streak in the series. It came early on, as Georgia Tech won the first six games, all at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The seventh game, the first played in Charlottesville, ended in a 20-20 tie. UVA’s longest winning or unbeaten streak is a 4-0 stretch from 1992 through 1995.
8 – The career-high number of PATs made by Harrison Butker last week at Pittsburgh. It’s the third time in his career he’s made eight in a game. Butker sits in ninth place for career points by a kicker, with 140. That’s 10 away from tying Ron Rice (1980-83) for eighth.
14 – The career-high-tying number of tackles made by redshirt senior strong safety Isaiah Johnson in last week’s game at Pittsburgh. The 14 stops (eight solo) matched his career-best set on Oct. 6, 2012, at Clemson and marked the fourth time in five weeks that Johnson has surpassed his season-high for tackles.
20.8 – Georgia Tech’s average margin of victory in its four wins over Virginia in the Paul Johnson Era. The Jackets won 34-9 in Charlottesville in 2008, 33-21 the next year at Bobby Dodd. Then, after a 24-21 loss in ’10, Tech trounced the Cavs, 56-20, then won last year’s game, 35-25.
23.1 – The yards per reception for senior DeAndre Smelter through seven games. Smelter has 19 receptions for 462 yards with five TDs. That’s up nearly seven yards per game over last season, when he averaged 16.4 (345 yards on 21 catches), with four scores. Smelter has already surpasses his TD total from last year and is two away from tying last year’s receptions total. He’s caught two passes in each of the last three games.
55 – The point differential in Georgia Tech’s favor in fourth-quarter scoring. The Jackets have outscored opponents 105-50 in the final 12 minutes.
66 – Georgia Tech’s differential in points off turnovers. Tech has garnered 87 points off giveaways, cashing in 13 of 16, while opponents have converted only three of Tech’s nine for 21 points.
79 – The length of the career-long touchdown play for redshirt senior A-Back Charles Perkins last week at Pittsburgh. The scoring pass came on a third-and-nine play, only three plays after Pittsburgh’s James Conner was caught from behind by D.J. White and had the ball knocked out of his hands and through the end zone for a touchback.
133 – The career-single-game-high rushing yardage by B-Back Zach Laskey in the last year’s game. Laskey needed only 16 carries to set his career-high and led GT’s trio of 100-yard rushers (Robert Godhigh had 112 and a TD and David Sims added 107 with two TDs). He also scored twice in the game. In 2012 against Virginia Laskey made his career-long 70-yard reception.
154.96 – QB Justin Thomas’ pass efficiency rating for the season. He’s 55-for-115 for 1,106 yards, with 11 touchdown passes vs. three interceptions. Thomas, who has had three games with a 200 QB rating, would rank third in the ACC and 19th in the country but….
5 – The number of pass attempts short Thomas is for officially qualifying according to the NCAA. The minimum is 15 passes per game.
193 – The number seconds it took Georgia Tech to go from up 7-0 to up 28-0 last week against the Panthers.
10 Things To Know About Virginia (and why some in the crowd may not be “Booing” but going “Gooch”)
.679 – The completion percentage of Virginia sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert on third down. Lambert has completed 36 of his 53 passes and has earned 26 first downs.
2 – The number of teams in the nation with three players ranking in the top 60 in sacks. Virginia is one of those teams (Washington is the other), as junior defensive end Eli Harold, senior middle linebacker Henry Coley and sophomore strongside linebacker Max Valles all qualify. Harold has 7.0 (15th), Coley is one behind at 6.0 (25th), while Valles has 5.0 (49th). The trio has combined for a full football field in losses, Harold’s sacks total 42 yards, Coley 32, Valles, 26. The trio also ranks in the top six in the ACC (Harold second, Coley tied for third and Valles tied for sixth).
4 – Freshman free safety Quin Blanding’s rank in the ACC in tackles. Blanding has made 76 stops (35 solo), an average of 9.5 per game. He is one of two freshmen in the nation to lead his team in tackles. Coincidentally, the Yellow Jackets will see the other, NC State’s redshirt freshman Jerod Fernandez, next week.
6 – The total number of sacks allowed by Virginia in its first eight games. That’s sixth in the nation. The Cavs have allowed a sack once every 48.8 passing attempts (second only to Duke in the ACC). Three of those came in one game, against Louisville and a fourth was credited to Pittsburgh on an intentional grounding call.
11 – The number of career 100-yard rushing games by senior running back Kevin Parks. That’s the most among any active player. His 3,086 rushing yards also lead all active players, 184 more yards than Miami’s Duke Johnson, who ranks second.
29/33 – The number of career rushing and total touchdowns scored by Parks. Parks is two rushing TDs away from tying Tiki Barber (1993-96) for third in school history and is two scores away from tying Barber and (Frank Quayle (1966-68) for third in total touchdowns. Should Parks accumulate 159 yards of offense he would tie Barber for third all-time in total yards (4,869).
7/100 – The number of receptions and receiving yards senior wide receiver Darius Jennings needs break into the school’s all-time top five in receptions and tie for No. 9 in receiving yards. Jennings has 123 catches and 1,491 yards. With seven catches he would pass Perry Jones (2009-12), while 100 yards would tie him for ninth with Tim Smith (2009-13). He would need 88 yards to pass Dave Sullivan (1970-72) and move into the top 10.
18 – The number of big plays (plays of 20-or-more yards) made this season by Jennings. Of those 18, nine have come on kick returns, eight on receptions and one on a run. Jennings has made 70 such plays in his career at UVA and has accounted for 23.6 percent of the Cavs’ plays since he’s been on campus. Jennings had a huge game against Georgia Tech last season making 13 catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
20 – The number of takeaways Virginia has made this season. They have 10 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions. The 10 FRs tie for second in the ACC, while the 10 INTs rank third. The Cavs are plus-3 in turnover margin, tied for fifth. Georgia Tech is third at plus-6.
13 – Virginia’s rank out of 14 ACC teams in red zone defense. The Cavaliers have allowed scores on 88.0 percent of opponents’ trips into the red zone (22 of 25). Opponents have scored 13 touchdowns (five rushing, eight passing) and are 9-for-9 on field goals. The Cavs have had created two turnovers. Only Duke (90.9 percent) is worse.
19 – The number of catches out of 24 this season that redshirt senior wide receiver, and Decatur, Ga., native Miles Gooch has made that have resulted in a first down. Gooch is averaging 18.1 ypc on such receptions.
Get The Good Word in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.
For the latest information on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, follow us on Twitter (@GeorgiaTechFB), Facebook (facebook.com/GTAthletics), and Instagram (@GTAthletics) or visit us at www.ramblinwreck.com.