Back Jackets Get Back on Track in Big Way

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Jackets Get Back on Track in Big Way

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Though their historic performance was overshadowed over the weekend, Georgia Tech now has some much-needed momentum.

I was proud of the way our guys played. I thought we got contributions from everybody.
~Paul Johnson

On a college football weekend where the national rankings where flipped upside down and the ACC was in the Thursday and Saturday night spotlight, Georgia Tech quietly got back to what they do best. Facing Syracuse in a must-win situation after losing three in a row, the Yellow Jackets played their their most complete game in quite some time. Georgia Tech rushed for just under 400 yards, ran for seven touchdowns, did not have a single penalty and claimed their first shutout since 2008. 

It was a quintessential offensive outburst for Paul Johnson's triple-option as 14 different runners carried the football. The 394 rushing yards compiled was the most for the Yellow Jackets this season, their highest total since 461 yards last September against Virginia. The 56-point margin of victory was the largest ever in an ACC game for Georgia Tech. Saturday was the first time since 1968 that the Yellow Jackets weren't flagged. Georgia Tech is now 4-3, 3-2 in league.

"I was proud of the way our guys played. I don't think we had a penalty which was a big focus during the week. Other than the pick we threw on the trick play, we didn't have a turnover. In the past three weeks we've talked a lot about the things we had been doing that had beaten ourselves. I thought we got contributions from everybody," Paul Johnson explained. "Overall, it was a complete victory. I'm happy for the guys."

The Yellow Jackets got contributions from a multitude of playmakers. Starting quarterback Vad Lee scored three total touchdowns, two rushing and one passing. Backup quarterback Justin Thomas darted for 95 yards and a score. B-back Zach Laskey rumbled for three touchdowns on just 13 carries. Georgia Tech compiled 26 first downs and held the football for nearly 38 minutes.

"I thought that the offensive line played better. We didn't have the penalties. We didn't have the motions. We didn't have all of the things that set us back," Johnson continued. "The B-backs got it started for us. Then once we got going they were forcing the quarterback to run the ball and we were making first downs and moving the chains." 

The Georgia Tech defense recorded five tackles for loss and forced three turnovers. Syracuse was 13-of-29 passing for 133 yards and two interceptions and was 3-of-12 on third down conversions. The Yellow Jackets limited the Orange to 2.9 yards per carry and tailback Jerome Smith was held without a touchdown for the first time this season.

"We knew that they were going to try to run the ball because it was starting to rain. We just felt like they were going to try to run it down our throat and we took it as a challenge. Day one of practice last week we saw a statistic that they averaged over 300 yards (rushing the last two games) and they were going to try to run it down your throat. Guys bought into it and took the challenge head on and delivered out there today," linebacker Quayshawn Nearly recalled.

Georgia Tech also got a big play from their budding special teams star Chris Milton, who notched his second blocked punt in as many weeks.

"It was huge. I've coached for over 30 years and I can count on one hand the games you have lost when you block a kick," Johnson added.

The Yellow Jackets will round out their conference schedule with games against Virginia, Pittsburgh and Clemson before taking on Alabama A&M and Georgia to finish the year. Though their historic performance was overshadowed over the weekend, Georgia Tech now has some much-needed momentum heading into that stretch run.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports