Georgia Tech

Yellow Jackets run defense struggles at a bad time

Duke’s Brittain Brown (22) carries the ball as Georgia Tech’s A.J. Gray (5) attempts a tackle during the first half their game Saturday.
Duke’s Brittain Brown (22) carries the ball as Georgia Tech’s A.J. Gray (5) attempts a tackle during the first half their game Saturday. AP

The Georgia Tech run defense has been at both ends of the spectrum the last two weeks, leaving fans to wonder which version will be on display for Saturday’s regular-season finale against Georgia.

The Yellow Jackets were stout against the run two weeks ago against Virginia Tech, allowing the Hokies to rush for only 105 yards. But Saturday in the 43-20 loss to Duke, the Yellow Jackets were sieve-like, allowing 318 yards on the ground.

It’s the most rushing yard allowed by the team all season and can’t be comforting, especially with Georgia’s mighty running game on the horizon. The Bulldogs have two probable NFL backs in Nick Chubb (1,045 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Sony Michel (818 yards, 12 touchdowns) and average 267 yards per game on the ground.

In fact, the last team to rush for 300 yards against the Yellow Jackets was Georgia, which went for 339 yards in 2009. Georgia ran for 263 yards against Georgia Tech last year, but the Yellow Jackets won the game 28-27.

“We made some adjustments, but we didn’t do our jobs,” senior Lawrence Austin explained after the Duke loss. “They just outplayed us.”

Part of the problem was fatigue. The Georgia Tech offense couldn’t stay on the field long enough in the second half against Duke to give the defense a rest. The Yellow Jackets ran only six offensive plays in the third quarter, keeping the ball for just 2:36. Duke had the ball for 12:24 in the third quarter, took a 10-point lead, and set up an early fourth-quarter touchdown.

“They just outplayed us,” Austin said.

Duke averaged 6.3 yards per carry and kept the ball for 32:04. It’s the sort of plan that Georgia Tech usually follows when it wins.

“That was a pretty thorough butt-whipping,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “They went through us like we weren’t even there.”

The results against Duke are an anomaly. The Blue Devils had 500 total yards, the third time the Yellow Jackets have allowed 400-plus yards this season. They gave up 481 yards to Miami and 428 yards to Clemson, both road losses. Duke had 559 total yards against Georgia Tech last year, but the Yellow Jackets won the game.

Toy drive on Saturday

Fans attending Saturday’s game against Georgia are urged to bring a new, unwrapped toy for the 17th annual Michael Isenhour Toy Drive. Student-athletes from other sports will be stationed at all Bobby Dodd Stadium gates to college the toys.

Fans who prefer to make a monetary donation are asked to make a check payable to the Georgia Tech Athletic Association.

This year’s goals are 2,500 toys and $10,000 in monetary donations.

All toys and money will be delivered to local children’s charities on Dec. 10, with the Atlanta Children’s Shelter being the primary beneficiary.

The toy drive began in 2001 in the member of former Georgia Tech basketball player Michael Isenhour. It was later named in his honor after he lost a battle with leukemia in 2002.

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