Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech defense off to disruptive start to season

Georgia Tech linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling, left, and defensive back Jalen Johnson take down Pittsburgh tight end Chris Clark on Saturday.
Georgia Tech linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling, left, and defensive back Jalen Johnson take down Pittsburgh tight end Chris Clark on Saturday. AP

The Georgia Tech defense has been a disruptive machine the past two weeks.

That’s just the way head coach Paul Johnson likes it. He’s willing to have his defense take a chance on creating a negative play at the risk of allowing a big play.

“They generated a lot of negative plays and when you do that, you put guys behind the chains, and it gives you a chance to make some plays,” Johnson said of his defensive players.

Georgia Tech (2-1) will try the same formula Saturday to slow down North Carolina’s fast-paced offense, which has scored 138 points in its past three meetings with the Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech had seven tackles for loss against Pittsburgh and eight Jacksonville State. The Yellow Jackets had three sacks against Pittsburgh after getting five against Jacksonville State. The Pittsburgh offense converted only 1-of-13 third-downs.

“When we go out there, our goal should be three-and-out,” defensive end Anree Saint-Amour said. “Our goal should be to get the ball back. No matter if they turn the ball over on the 1, we’re going to go out there with the same intensity.”

Through the first three games, Georgia Tech has forced the opposition to go three-and-out on 16 occasions. The Yellow Jackets managed only 24 for the entire 2016 season.

“It’s much easier to play when it’s third-and-9, third-and-10,” Johnson said. “People always talk about how our offense wasn’t built for third-and-long, but the truth is none of them are built for third-and-long.”

The defense was aggressive from the opening whistle against Pittsburgh. KeShun Freeman, Saint-Amour and Antonio Simmons were firing from the ends and Desmond Branch and Kyle Cerge-Henderson were applying the push from the inside. Simmons had two sacks and was named the team’s defensive player of the week.

“Antonio and Anree are both doing a good job getting pressure from outside,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to get the guys inside to push the protection back into the pocket.”

Saint-Amour said, “It was a mixture of schemes and talent. Coach set us up well. We’ve been working on pass rush all week. (Simmons) did great, showed great speed getting around the edge.”

Freeman said, “It was one of the better performances we’ve had. We’ve been in the right place at the right time. I’m happy about what we’ve put on film, and I’m excited to see how we grow these next six games.”

The aggressive approach may play well this week against a North Carolina team (1-3) that had trouble running the ball last week against Duke. Jordon Brown and Michael Carter, the Tar Heels’ two best runners, combined for 41 yards on 16 carries, and the team managed only 118.

Hiding the signals

Last week, the assistants on the Pittsburgh sideline had a large banner they used to shield the defensive calls sent into the game. It seemed silly, especially considering the Yellow Jackets gained 484 yards.

At his weekly news conferenceTuesday, Johnson was asked about whether he would consider doing something to prevent the opposition from stealing his offensive signals.

Johnson smirked and said, “I’ll see if I can get the ideation department to come down with some towels and cover me up.”

Take that as a no.

Braun honored

Left guard Parker Braun was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his effort against Pittsburgh. Braun took 22 defenders to the ground in the team’s 74 offensive snaps, one every 3.4 plays, and the Georgia Tech offense rolled up 436 rushing yards. It was the second time he has received the honor, getting it in 2016 after the win over Virginia Tech.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech

Noon, Saturday