Aug. 30, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Thursday night is an exciting night for Georgia Tech football and its fans. It’s one they’ve anticipated since last Dec. 28, the day after the 2010 season concluded in Shreveport, La.
It’s so big that even though it’s coming two days earlier than the majority of the college football world — there are 19 other games on Thursday and two more on Friday — it still wasn’t early enough for devoted fans like Susan Johnson, wife of Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson.
“I woke up this morning and my wife actually said, ‘It’s game week!’ She was excited about it,” said Johnson at his Monday press conference. “We’re excited to get the season started, looking forward to seeing how much progress we’ve made in the spring and in camp.”
Playing for real is a big deal for the 2011 Yellow Jackets, who are determined to begin their quest to restore some luster to the program following 2010’s 6-7 finish — the school’s first non-winning season since 1996.
In their the way stands Western Carolina — Johnson’s alma mater (he is class of ’79). The Catamounts have a mission similar to Georgia Tech’s. They were 2-9 a year ago and actually were better on the road than at home, earning both of their wins away from the comforts of Cullowhee, N.C.
Sting Daily is as excited to hit you with some numbers as Tech is to put some numbers up on Western.
Welcome back, Yellow Jackets football!
0 – The number of losses in nine games that Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson have combined all-time against Western Carolina. Tech is 4-0, with the last win coming in 1994 (all four games have been played at Bobby Dodd Stadium). Johnson is 5-0 against his alma mater, with all five W’s coming when he coached at Southern Conference rival Georgia Southern.
0 – The number of senior starters on Georgia Tech’s offensive line, making the Yellow Jackets one of six teams in the FBS to do that, according to University of Florida Sports Information.
.652 – Georgia Tech’s all-time winning percentage in season openers. The Jackets are riding a four-game season-opening winning streak.
.831 – Georgia Tech’s winning percentage in season home openers. Tech is riding a four-game streak here as well.
1 – The number of losses Georgia Tech has sustained in 45 match-ups against the Southern Conference. Tech is 41-1-3 all-time, and after tonight, will meet SoCon teams in three of the next four years. For the record, the lone loss and all three ties have come against Furman, which is not one of those three teams.
3 – The number of new starters on Tech’s offensive line.
4 – The number of new starters in the Jackets’ secondary.
5 – The most season-opener wins over any school. Tech is 5-0 against Gordon College and 5-1 against Clemson.
7 – The record for most home-opener victories over any one school. The Jackets have beaten Clemson seven times in eight tries in home openers.
11 – The combined number of starters returning from last years team, six on offense, five on defense.
56.9 – The percentage of tackles for loss returning from last year’s team.
64.7 – The percentage of sacks back from last year (11 of 17).
74/15 – The number of combined games and starts heading into the opener for Georgia Tech’s starting backfield of quarterback Tevin Washington (9/4), A-Backs Embry Peeples (34/5) and Orwin Smith (27/6) and B-Back David Sims (5/0).
103/68 – The number of combined games and starts heading into the opener for last season’s starting backfield of quarterback Joshua Nesbitt (36-25), B-Back Anthony Allen (39/16) and A-Backs Roddy Jones (26/26) and Embry Peeples (21/1).
140-16 – The total score by which Tech has outscored Western in the first four meetings. The closest game was 24-17, in the schools’ first meeting in 1985. Since then, Tech has won by 27, 18 and 19 points.
323.3 – Georgia Tech’s per-game rushing total last season, tops in the nation and an ACC season record. Should Tech repeat in leading the nation in rushing, the Jackets would be the first school since Navy did so from 2004-2008. Johnson coached the first four of those teams.
Five Things To Know About Western Carolina
0-26 – Western Carolina’s record in games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams, including their 2010 season opener, last Sept. 4, at N. C. State, a 48-7 loss in Raleigh.
7.3 – Junior linebacker Rock Williams’ tackles per game average. It was tops on the team last season and eighth in the Southern Conference.
13 – The number of players on the Catamounts roster from Georgia, including juniors Michael Johnson, who ran for a team-high 611 yards, 4.0 per carry, 5 TDs, and Jacoby Mitchell, who had a team-high 39 receptions for 441 yards, 11.3 per catch, 5 TDs. Both are Decatur natives and teammates at Southwest Dekalb High School.
524/32/2/16.4/58.2 – The receiving yardage, catches, touchdowns, yards per catch and yards per game for redshirt sophomore wide receiver Deja Alexander, who was named to the preseason All-Southern Conference Team by Phil Steele’s 2011 College Football Preview. Alexander was a SoCon All-Freshman Team selection of the conference’s coaches last year.
6-7, 220 – The size of sophomore quarterback Brandon Pechloff (pronounced Peck-loff). Pechloff became the first true freshman to start at Western in nearly 20 years, starting two games in 2010. WCU beat Citadel but fell to Chattanooga. He completed 26 of 73 passes (36.1 percent) for 357 yards (71.4 ypg), with three touchdowns against seven interceptions. Pechloff’s completion percentage should go up in the Catamounts’ new “Pistol Offense,” which relies on shorter passes and quick-hitters.