ATLANTA -- The Georgia Tech offense, which looked overpowering in the first two weeks against a pair of overmatched opponents, has failed to show up the past two weeks.
The inability to run the ball has been especially galling to head coach Paul Johnson, who saw his team’s streak of 200-yard rushing games end at 17. Even more disappointing are the mistakes made by the team’s experienced players.
“We have to coach better, but we have got to execute better,” Johnson said. “We are getting critical mistakes on third down, third-and-short, fourth-and-short. I mean, just inexcusable stuff from guys who have played.”
Last week, Georgia Tech had 60 rushes against Duke, netting only 173 yards, an average of 2.9 yards per carry. It was the fourth-worst rushing effort in the Johnson era. You have to go all the way back to the 2011 game against Miami to find something worse, when Georgia Tech ran for 134 yards and averaged 2.7 yards per carry.
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The Yellow Jackets converted 5-of-19 third downs and 1-of-5 fourth downs. It might not be surprising, giving the lack of experience among the A-backs. But Johnson said there were deeper issues with the players up front.
“The younger guys aren’t really making the mistakes,” Johnson said. “You’ve got guys who have played who are blocking the wrong guy.”
The A-back position has been stretched by injuries. The Yellow Jackets lost Nate Cottrell to a knee injury in preseason, lost Qua Searcy to a long-term injury last week and had to move Matthew Jordan back to quarterback when Tim Byerly was injured. TaQuon Marshall was injured on his fourth play of the game against Duke and did not return, and his status won’t be known until later in the week.
That leaves Broderick Snoddy, Isiah Willis and Clinton Lynch as the healthy A-backs. As a result, Johnson said that freshman Mikell Lands-Davis “is definitely going to play this week” against North Carolina. Freshman Quaide Weimerskirch might also get a chance to play.
“This week we have to fix ourself,” Johnson said. “North Carolina will have a good team. I’m more worried about fixing ourself.”
That includes an emphasis on special teams. The Yellow Jackets had enormous blunders there -- a snap over the head of the punter, a punt return that went for a touchdown and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“We basically gave up three scores on special teams,” Johnson said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, you’d better be very good to win that game.”
Although Georgia Tech put more yards and points up against Duke than any other opponent, the special team mistakes short-circuited any chances the Yellow Jackets might have had.
“To their credit, these kids keep fighting, and they don’t give up,” Johnson said. “But they dig themselves such a hole. Seven minutes in, we’re down 19-3. You dig yourself into a pretty good hole against a good defense. That is not where you want to be.”
Of note: Kickoff for the Oct. 10 game at Clemson won’t be determined until next week. The networks decided to use their six-day option on the Georgia Tech-Clemson game and the Miami-Florida State games. The times will be announced no later than Sunday afternoon. ... Johnson said defensive end Rod Rook-Chungong (shoulder) is expected to play this week, but the status of defensive tackle Pat Gamble (head) won’t be known until later this week.