Saturday’s Georgia Tech-Vanderbilt game could look similar to the one the Yellow Jackets played in Ireland against Boston College — without the wet turf and thousands of confused fans trying to figure out the rules.
Both Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech lean heavily toward the running game, which means fewer possessions. It means more pressure on the offenses to score when they have a chance because the clock won’t stop very often due to an incomplete pass.
“If you don’t stop them, they’re going to run it every play,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said of the game that kicks off at 12:30 p.m. “Sounds like somebody else we know.”
Both teams have had similar experiences. Georgia Tech had 11 possessions against Boston College and only nine against Mercer. The Yellow Jackets have gone three-and-out six times.
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Vanderbilt had 13 possessions against South Carolina and 15 against Middle Tennessee. The Commodores had six three-and-outs against South Carolina and three against Middle Tennessee.
Center Barrett Gouger, Vanderbilt’s massive center, summed up the goal for each team when he said, “When you play a team like the triple-option, they hold on to the ball and take away possessions. When you get the ball, you have to take advantage of it and go on long drives and score. We can’t have three-and-outs. We’ve got to take advantage every time we get the ball.”
Things should be back to normal this week for the Georgia Tech offense. Quarterback Justin Thomas, who didn’t play the second half against Mercer, is fine and will start. The B-back group has been restored with freshman Dedrick Mills back in the fold after sitting out a one-game suspension for missing a team meeting. The A-back group has a defined go-to player in Qua Searcy and a pack of others hungry to get the ball.
“Coach Johnson has a tough, physical football team who is looking to do exactly what they do, which is run the football, run the football and run the football a little more,” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said.
Vanderbilt’s attack is led by junior workhorse Ralph Webb, who has 49 carries for 308 yards in two games. He rushed for 211 yards last week against Middle Tennessee, the third-most in the history of the program. Webb needs 777 yards to break the program’s career rushing record.
“I would think if we don’t stop (Webb), we will see it until our nose bleeds,” Johnson said. “It is going to be downhill with him and the big tailback (Khari Blasingame). I mean, he is physical.”
Mason admitted as much, saying, “I’m going to feed (Webb) as much as we can feed him. You’ve got to go with what works for you.”
Georgia Tech has been successful against the run. Boston College rushed for 176 yards and Mercer ran for 85. Opponents average 4.0 yards rushing per attempt against the Yellow Jackets.
“We have played the run a little better, but we have not seen a power team,” Johnson said. “They are somewhat like Boston College, but they are going to pack it in there and come and get you. They are not hard to find.”
The same can be said about Vanderbilt’s defense. The Commodores allow just 108.5 rushing yards per game, but they have yet to face a running attack like Georgia Tech’s or a quarterback like Thomas.
The only real health issue for Georgia Tech is on the offensive line. Right tackle Trey Klock hurt his ankle last week but is expected to play. Backup tackle Jake Stickler is out with an injury.