Revenge tasted sweet Saturday for Georgia Tech. Did the Yellow Jackets leave enough room for dessert?
After meting out a historic walloping to Virginia as payback for a crushing loss to the Cavaliers in 2011, Tech has the opportunity to take vengeance upon Miami, which has had the audacity to beat the Jackets three years in a row.
“We like to say we’re taking it one game at a time,” offensive lineman Will Jackson said Saturday after Tech’s 56-20 win over Virginia. “But we definitely kind of have a chip on our shoulder, knowing that we haven’t had much success on any side of the ball the past few times we’ve played [the Hurricanes].”
Tech plays Miami in its third Coastal Division game of the season Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium in a 3 p.m. kickoff. If Tech can re-capture the ferocity that it unleashed on the Cavaliers, the Hurricanes may have less control over their fate than they would prefer.
“I thought that both, offensively and defensively, we played really well, especially from the start,” said coach Paul Johnson, who is rarely that effusive about his team.
Of the Jackets’ 62 plays Saturday, eight broke for 20 yards or more. Those eight alone covered 350 yards, which is 53 more than the Cavaliers in their 61 plays. The 36-point margin of victory was the fifth largest by Tech in an ACC game. It was the most points the Jackets had ever scored against Virginia in their 35-game series.
“It’s a great steppingstone,” said inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, who led a hard-hitting performance by the Tech defense.
Drawing conclusions from a three-game stretch is an exercise of questionable wisdom. It was only last year, after all, that Tech conjured up dreams of the Orange Bowl with its 6-0 start before faltering. That said, Tech does appear to be improving on both sides. Tech has improved in its pass rush. Its blocking, on the line and particularly on the perimeter, created running lanes on its litany of big plays.
“I’ve been waiting all year just for something like this to happen,” A-back Orwin Smith said.
Tech’s A-backs, who typically require downfield blocks for big gains, ran 15 times for 200 yards against Virginia. Two Saturdays ago against Presbyterian, easily the weakest team Tech will face this season, they had 13 carries for 103 yards, after which Johnson took the perimeter blocking to task. Even without Smith’s 77-yard touchdown run on an option play, Tech still had 14 runs for 123 yards. On that run, Smith was sprung by blocks from A-back Robbie Godhigh and wide receiver Jeff Greene. After the play, Johnson enthusiastically corralled Greene upon his return to the sideline.
“I said, ‘That’s your touchdown, because you’re the guy who just rolled the corner,’” Johnson said. “I mean, he rolled him, too. He almost had him out of bounds.”
Curiously, Tech’s performance did not seem to be appreciated by voters in the Associated Press poll. The Jackets were 35th with 15 points after beating Presbyterian, then fell to 40th with three points in the poll released Sunday.