Following a disastrous defensive effort last week against rival Georgia, Georgia Tech’s defense returns to action this Saturday with redemption on its collective mind. The Yellow Jackets allowed the Bulldogs to rush for 339 yards. As a Georgia Tech leader, senior linebacker Sedric Griffin not only wants to prevent that from happening again during the final two games of his career, but he also hopes to exact some personal revenge on a team that overlooked him during his recruitment. The Blair, S.C., native played the last time the Yellow Jackets reached the ACC championship and wants to make up for the 9-6 loss. The Telegraph’s Coley Harvey caught up with Griffin earlier this week:
QUESTION: First, I have to ask. Were you a Clemson guy or a South Carolina guy growing up?
ANSWER: Well, I’m going to say, in my younger years I was a Gamecocks fan, but as recruiting started picking up and Clemson began giving me some interest, I was more of a Clemson guy during the recruiting process.
QUESTION: What was it about the Gamecocks?
ANSWER: I don’t know, I was pretty familiar with the players, I guess. It was just a good team. And they’re close by. Columbia (S.C.) is only about 30 or 40 miles from my house, and they came on TV most of the time. So I just sat around and watched the Gamecocks the majority of the time.
QUESTION: I know you said during your recruitment Clemson was where you would have liked to go, and I know the Tigers kind of backed off of you before Georgia Tech came in late. That said, how important would a win over Clemson be for you on a stage this big?
ANSWER: Big, big, big. I have a lot of classmates that went to Clemson. It just would almost feel like an, “I told you so; I should have been one of the players on your squad.” But I really just want to get this win. It would be really huge for me. I’ve got a few friends on the team, too, like (defensive end) Ricky Sapp. He and I got real close during our All-Star trip (in high school). Just to be able to mess with him on the phone or Facebook or something like that would be good.
QUESTION: OK, switching gears some. I have to ask about the Georgia loss. How do you build, defensively, from the miscues that happened Saturday night?
ANSWER: Scheme-wise, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. One player out of position, and they win. So we want to win this game on the defensive side. We really want a shutout, because we’ve got a lot to play for.
QUESTION: What are some of the things you have to fix from last week in order to put the Georgia loss completely in the past?
ANSWER: Like I said last week, No. 1 priority, we have to stop the run. We obviously didn’t do a great job of that last week. Stopping the run is always our No. 1 priority. If we don’t stay in our gaps like we did last week or overrun plays, it could be a long day for us. But we’ve got some good things in this week, and we’ve corrected our mistakes, so it’s going to be a better week this week.
QUESTION: So the biggest problem was not filling the gaps?
ANSWER: You know, we’re fast linebackers, and we like to play fast. We tended to play a little too fast Saturday and they cut the ball back a lot on us and went to the house with it.
QUESTION: Obviously Georgia Tech fans are still licking their wounds from the loss, but how quickly did you guys move on from it?
ANSWER: Yeah, it hurt that night, but this is a championship. Georgia, yeah, that’s bragging rights for a year, but a championship lasts forever. So that’s the way we’re focusing on it now.
QUESTION: Speaking of championships, the last time you were in the ACC title game, things didn’t go so well (a 9-6 loss to Wake Forest that followed a loss to Georgia). What have you told your younger teammates to prevent history from repeating?
ANSWER: Yeah, I stood up and told them (Monday in meetings) that one of the worst feelings I had that year — one of the worst feelings you could get in a championship game such as the ACC championship — is seeing the visiting team throw oranges onto the field after the game. That was terrible right there. Just to realize that you worked so hard in the offseason and this is what you hope for and you finally make it, but you still don’t get a chance to go to the Orange Bowl. It’s tough. Seeing fans throw oranges to Wake Forests’ sideline really put a knot in your stomach.
QUESTION: Following that loss, you also dropped your bowl game to West Virginia. How can you veterans use that experience of three straight losses four seasons ago to get the team to focus on its last two games this year?
ANSWER: Three games by three points (each), that’s not a good feeling. It’s just get your mind right. That’s been the biggest focus. Get your mind right because even though we beat Clemson (in September), it was a close game. Just stay mentality focused because it’s going to be a grind, it’s going to be a war out there, but we feel we can get it done.