Tech closes nonconference play with win

UPDATED, 10:30 p.m. Georgia Tech guard Mfon Udofia understood the situation a little better than most. While Chattanooga did not appear to be much of a threat to the Yellow Jackets, the Mocs were doing a fair impersonation of one.

“Pretty much me being a senior, me being through a lot, I just wanted to let these guys know that this is a game where we can be beat,” Udofia said, “so we have to pick it up or we will be beaten.”

The Jackets responded, shaking out of a first-half funk to take care of Chattanooga 74-58 on Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. Tech finished its nonconference schedule at 10-2 and will play its ACC opener at home Saturday afternoon against Miami.

Tech sizzled on offense in the second half, making 17 of 28 shots while recording assists on 10 of the 17 baskets. The Jackets also out-rebounded the Mocs 21-6 in the second half.

Said Chattanooga coach John Shulman, “They kicked our tail on the glass.”

Tech won its sixth game in a row. Aside from …

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Groh tears into Tech

In an interview with the Roanoke Times, former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh left little doubt about his feelings about his 2 ½ years coaching the Yellow Jackets.

“Just to say it briefly, this circumstance here was the most unprofessional, divisive and negative environment in which I’ve ever been,” Groh said. “To say more would be unprofessional of myself. It was just a bad cultural match.”

Tech coach Paul Johnson hired Groh in Jan. 2010 after Groh had coached at Virginia for nine seasons. He made the decision to dismiss him Oct. 8, six games into the season, after the Jackets had allowed 40-plus points in three consecutive games.

“I’m sorry to hear that Al feels that way,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’m surprised he would stay here for 2 1/2 years if he felt like that it was that bad.”

A statement released from Groh at the time of his firing was decidedly more diplomatic.

“I appreciate all the help and input from (assistant defensive coaches) …

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Notes: Tech cheerleader’s effort not flagging

The unlikeliest star of the Sun Bowl?

That would be Brendan Espey, the Georgia Tech cheerleader who fought gusting winds to run the gold Tech flag out of the tunnel to lead the team on the field before the game, won by the Yellow Jackets 21-7 over USC on Monday.

Leaning forward and head down, Espey carried the flag into the teeth of winds so strong that they blew him off course and almost knocked him over. He was concerned he wouldn’t make it to the end of the field, but was motivated by pride and self-preservation.

“It was either (keep going) or the team and the (Ramblin’) Wreck is coming right behind me,” said Espey, a senior in his third year on the cheerleading team.

Espey’s adventure was on the broadcast and later made the game highlights on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Espey, a former high school football player and wrestler who can bench press 295 pounds, knew he was in trouble when he thought he had run out to the 50-yard line, only to realize he was still …

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For Jackets, Sun Bowl win means plenty

EL PASO, Texas – It was a non-New Year’s Day bowl game between teams with disappointing seasons. But for Georgia Tech, it ended up being so much more than that.

Most significantly, the Yellow Jackets’ 21-7 win over USC on Monday brought an end to their seven-game bowl losing streak, the nation’s second-longest active streak. It gave coach Paul Johnson his first bowl win at Tech. It probably ranks as Tech’s second biggest non-conference win in Johnson’s tenure, following the 2008 victory over Georgia.

Given the weight lifted from Tech’s shoulders, said offensive tackle Will Jackson, “It feels like we just won the national championship.”

The highlights were many. Quarterback Tevin Washington, maligned as unable to deliver in the clutch, came through with a touchdown drive that raised Tech’s advantage to two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter and then led two more that produced no points but swallowed up eight minutes of the fourth quarter.

Said …

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Tech notes: Golden delivers again

Georgia Tech returner Jamal Golden came through with another big special-teams play, this one a 56-yard punt return at the start of the third quarter. Golden took the punt on one hop at the Tech 43 and burst through a seam and down the right sideline, getting stopped just shy of the goal line.

Quarterback Tevin Washington scored two plays later to give Tech a 14-7 lead over USC that held up the rest of the day.

“He under-kicked his coverage,” Golden said. “I was thinking, catch it on one hop and try to make it to the end zone.”

It was nearly his third return for a score this season. Golden broke Tech’s 14-year drought on kickoff returns by taking back two long runs for scores this season.

Golden also played more snaps on defense than usual. With safety Isaiah Johnson out for the game with a leg injury, Chris Milton started in his place, but Milton was forced out with an undisclosed injury. Golden, who typically plays cornerback, worked at safety.

“I was not …

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Georgia Tech 21, USC 7

Game story linked here.

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LIVE BLOG: Tech vs. USC

Some thoughts and notes. Game starts 2 p.m. ET on CBS.

1. I think Tech will enjoy considerable support from the Sun Bowl crowd, which is largely made up of locals. After the 16,000 tickets allocated to the participating schools, the other 34,000 are sold to the El Paso community. As you may have read, USC stirred up controversy by showing up late for a Sun Bowl dinner and with two tweets sent by players criticizing the city of El Paso, which I’m going to guess has not sat well with residents. Further, Tech’s coaches and players have done nothing but rave about how welcome they feel and are enjoying the experience (which I think is genuine).

2. Weather: It’s sunny and very windy. The forecast calls for winds 20-30 mph, and it certainly feels like it. The wind right now (12:30 ET) is blowing briskly to the south, I think. Left to right on the television, at any rate.

Watching warmups, David Scully and Chris Tanner had trouble hitting from 45 going into the wind. Scully, at …

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Long road worth it for Tech walk-on

EL PASO, TEXAS – If Georgia Tech A-back Jamal Paige plays in the Sun Bowl today, it probably won’t be for very long, and chances are it won’t be noticed by many. It wouldn’t be unfitting; he has played in 22 career games and only two this season.

And even though it’s Paige’s final game after five seasons, the first four of which he spent as a walk-on, he’s O.K. with it. Paige, who has all of four career carries to his credit, just wants to beat USC.

“(Playing in the Sun  Bowl) doesn’t even matter to me,” he said. “I hope to, and finish my career the way that I want to, but if not, I’m all for it.”

The greatest contributions that Paige, a graduate of Woodward Academy, has made have mostly been on the practice fields with the scout team.

“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” coach Paul Johnson said. “He’s going to be successful in whatever he does.”

Paige is the rare walk-on who has stuck it out this long. Most who don’t receive playing time …

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Georgia Tech gameday

THREE STORY LINES

1. Can Georgia Tech’s defense continue its improvement?

Given that their last game was almost a month ago, it’s probably far-fetched to think the Yellow Jackets can carry over the momentum of their defensive play in the ACC Championship game, when they held Florida State scoreless in the second half. Regardless, under interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, Tech at times has shown that it can play fast, aggressive defense. As usual, the Jackets’ priorities will be stopping the run and creating a pass rush without blitz help. They’ll also need another strong game from outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, who has finished the season well.

2. Who can handle shuffled lineups?

Tech will be without safety Isaiah Johnson due to a lower-body injury and wide receiver Jeff Greene, who has left the team and will transfer. Johnson’s loss is particularly crucial, as he’ll probably be replaced by Chris Milton, a redshirt freshman with …

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Lee ready for strong finish, start to 2013

If Vad Lee’s time as Georgia Tech quarterback doesn’t start Monday in the Sun Bowl, it will begin soon after.

Upon the Yellow Jackets’ return to campus for the spring term, Lee assuredly will gather up wide receiver Darren Waller and whoever else wants to join for some throw-and-catch. Perhaps then, as his spirals pierce the still air of the Tech indoor practice building, Lee will take over. Justin Thomas will be right on his heels.

“Vad’s time’s coming really fast,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said. “Whether it’s (in the bowl) or not, I don’t know, but after that, they’re going to have to be able to run it. They’re going to have to be able to do it.”

Tech closes the 2012 season against USC in El Paso, Texas, in the Jackets’ 16th consecutive bowl game. Tech can break its seven-game bowl losing streak, even its record at .500, provide coach Paul Johnson with his first bowl win at Tech and gain a measure of satisfaction from a …

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