ATLANTA — Before each game, the blockers in Georgia Tech’s spread option offense sit down and map out a set of goals that only low-running, shoe-diving football minds could concoct.
They list a number, and hope as a collective to reach those targeted two digits by game’s end.
Entering last Saturday’s game against North Carolina, the number was 85.
That’s the amount of full takedowns the A-backs and linemen in the Yellow Jackets’ offense wanted to amass as they tried to open up holes and running lanes for ballcarriers. The week before, in a loss to Kansas, they only recorded about half that.
“The main emphasis was throwing. That’s the action of trying to get (defenders) to the ground,” A-back Orwin Smith said just after Georgia Tech’s 30-24 ACC-opening road win over North Carolina. “These past couple of weeks, we haven’t been throwing those guys. This game, we actually were throwing.”
While there were no knockdown numbers immediately available following the game, still the Phenix City, Ala. native wasn’t the only one who was pleased with what appeared to be improved downfield blocking from the Yellow Jackets’ (2-1, 1-0 ACC) slot backs.
“It was better I think, I’ll see the film,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “It was better to start (the game) with. I know we were putting people on their heads to start with.”
On one 14-yard first-quarter run right by A-back Embry Peeples, fellow A-back Roddy Jones laid out a crack back block on a defender that sent the Tar Heels player’s cleats into the air as Peeples raced past with the pitch. The next play, Jones was rewarded for the block with a 23-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. It was Jones’ first catch since 2008.
“Coach Johnson always tells us he expects As to make plays, and when he throws the ball, we have to be able to be there to catch the ball and get open and make people miss,” Smith said.
The sophomore began the game’s scoring with a 73-yard touchdown run on just the Yellow Jackets’ third play from the line of scrimmage. It was his first career score.
Areas of concern
There were several things that caught Johnson’s eye Sunday when he watched film of the Yellow Jackets’ win, and not all of them were good.
Among the chief areas of concern for the head coach were the punt return game and the run stopping game.
While he said it may still be too early to give credence to the five punt returns the Yellow Jackets have had this season, he added that his staff will “take a good look at the personnel” on all the special teams units this week.
Stopping the run was also an area of weakness, he said, as the Yellow Jackets allowed their third straight 100-yard rusher in Johnny White on Saturday.
“I like to say, ‘30’s more than 24,’ so a win’s a win,” Johnson said during his teleconference Sunday. “(But) it’s not like we played picture perfect. We’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
Johnson praises Heels LBs
One of the units that the A-backs and offensive linemen paid plenty of attention to entering the North Carolina game was the Tar Heels’ linebacker corps.
Featuring playmakers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant, the group was lauded all offseason and has still be lauded this year for being strong, athletic and hard tacklers.
Johnson saw that first-hand and agreed with the hype following the pair and their cohorts.
“Those linebackers are good players, they can haul tail,” Johnson said. “They’re really fast and really physical.”
Jackets remain unranked
The latest AP top 25 poll was released Sunday afternoon and for the second straight week the Yellow Jackets were on the outside looking in.
After starting the year ranked 16th in the preseason, they fell following the loss to Kansas.
Tech-N.C. State at noon on ESPN
Late Saturday night, the ACC announced revised game times and television networks for this weekend’s games. It was announced last Monday that the conference decided to exercise a six-day option on Georgia Tech’s home contest against North Carolina State.
In its latest release, the ACC said Saturday’s game at Bobby Dodd Stadium will begin at noon and will be aired on ESPN. The Yellow Jackets have also dubbed the ballgame a student-sponsored “white-out.”
Georgia Tech won its last two white-outs, when it rolled over Miami in 2008 and beat Clemson by a field goal last year.