COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu called it emotional and exciting to play at Maryland, five minutes away from where he grew up.
Emotion and excitement suit him well. Playing in front of family and friends, Attaochu played one of the best games of his career, sacking Maryland quarterback Shawn Petty three times. One of the sacks forced a fumble. He also recovered a fumble caused by nose tackle Shawn Green and was second for Tech with six total tackles.
It was just the third game this season in which Attaochu, expected to produce this season in the pass rush, has recorded a sack. He now has five for the season. The three sacks matched his career high, set against North Carolina last September.
“I’m sure coming home for him, it was a big deal to play in front of the (home) crowd,” coach Paul Johnson said.
Tech might want to look into bringing his parents to more games. The last time they saw Attaochu in person was the Virginia Tech game, when he led the Yellow Jackets with 10 total tackles and had a half-tackle for loss.
2. Tech’s kicking struggles continued. Kicker David Scully missed two of his five extra-point attempts. One went off an upright, the other was blocked at the line. In the three games prior to Saturday, Scully and kicker Justin Moore made three of nine field-goal attempts.
Saturday was the first time that Tech missed two point-after tries in one game since the Duke game in 1993.
Maryland, with help from explosive returner Stefon Diggs and a couple subpar kickoffs, had an average start point on its six kickoff returns just past the 32-yard line. The long return came back to its 43-yard line.
“He’s a better kicker than that,” Johnson said of Scully. “David can be a very talented kicker. I’ve seen him in practice. I’ve seen him do it. We’ve got to help him get squared away.”
3. Quarterbacks Tevin Washington and Vad Lee each attempted two passes and completed one, for a combined 31 yards. It tied for the fewest pass attempts in Johnson’s tenure. Tech tried four passes in its 30-24 win over North Carolina in 2010, completing three. The Jackets last completed just two passes in their 24-21 loss to Virginia last season.
“The way the game was going, there was no need to throw it,” Johnson said. “They weren’t supporting hard out of the secondary for the most part. When we got the ball across midfield, I knew I was going for it on fourth down, so 3rd and 6 wasn’t a big deal. If you run and get four (yards), you’re in a manageable 4th and 2 or 4th and whatever.”
Johnson called other passes that turned into scrambles. The other two passes, to wide receiver Jeff Greene and A-back Orwin Smith, were dropped. Greene’s opened a second-quarter drive and likely would have been a 49-yard touchdown pass.
4. A-backs Synjyn Days and Smith broke out with big plays. Smith had a 25-yard run, a 26-yard reception and a five-yard touchdown run. Days, getting his first touches since the third game of the season, ran six times for 66 yards, including a tackle-breaking 41-yard run down the sideline.
“He’s been practicing better, focused,” Johnson said of Days. “I was proud of him. He came out and played really well.”
With his 89 rushing yards, Smith increased his career total to 1,680 and passed Jimmy Lincoln for 20th all-time on Tech’s career rushing list. With 127 all-purpose yards, Smith now has 4,033, which surpasses Jonathan Dwyer for fifth place in Tech history in that category.
“This game, we happened to get key blocks and get guys on the perimeter going,” Smith said.
5. Maryland defensive end Joe Vellano, who piled up 20 tackles against Tech last season, managed only one assisted tackle Saturday. Tech often ran left away from Vellano or ran to the perimeter on runs to the right. Offensive tackle Morgan Bailey was often successful steering him clear of the action.
“They went away from stuff that they usually do, so we had to kind of adjust on the fly,” Vellano said.
6. Washington scored his 16th rushing touchdown of the season, the third-most rushing touchdowns scored in a season by a Tech player. It was also his 34th career rushing touchdown, leaving him one shy of Joshua Nesbitt’s Tech and ACC record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
7. Outside linebacker Brandon Watts left the game with an upper-extremity injury and did not return. Johnson said “we think he’ll be O.K.” Washington and Attaochu both did not participate in post-game interviews because they were receiving medical treatment. Johnson said that Washington “got dinged a little bit” and did not have a report on Attaochu.
8. Acting athletic director Paul Griffin accompanied the team. Griffin, who happens to be a Maryland grad, is now 1-0 as athletic director. … ESPN has until noon Sunday to determine the kickoff time for the Tech-North Carolina game Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog