Jackets need sustained urgency

ATLANTA -- Though still not "playing up to our potential," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said the Yellow Jackets have reason to feel better about the team's direction heading into Saturday's game with Virginia at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

But staying in that direction will mean giving an effort similar to the one the Jackets (3-2, 2-1) gave in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's 24-20 win at Wake Forest -- when they rallied from a 17-6 deficit -- for the entire 60 minutes.

"The last nine minutes we played with a little urgency," Johnson said. "You'd like to go out and play better to begin with. ... We did enough on defense to kind of hang around until we had a chance in the fourth quarter, but truthfully, ... it wasn't like that was all stellar either. Let's not break our arms patting ourselves on the back for that one either.

"I think we can play better all the way around, and we need to."

Still, the two areas of Tech's team that have been most maligned by media and fans alike this season -- the defense and the passing game -- were perhaps the two biggest keys in last Saturday's win.

The Jackets gave up a season-low 268 yards of total offense and just 20 points (second lowest on the season), while Joshua Nesbitt had his best passing day of the season, completing 11 of 21 passes to eight different receivers for 130 yards, including the game-winning, 9-yard pass to Correy Earls with 15 seconds left.

But as well as Nesbitt threw the ball -- his completion rate could've been even higher if not for a few dropped passes -- Johnson said that doesn't change the Jackets' game plan Saturday against Virginia.

"We're going to do what we do," Johnson said. "If the opportunity presents itself, we'll throw. But (passing more) just kind of happened in (last week's) game. We also got behind. It's a lot better when it works. ... All you've got to do is win. If you win, it's OK."

Winning against ACC Coastal Division foe Virginia (2-2, 0-1) will mean doing a better job on the ground against a defense that has given up an average of just 143.2 rushing yards per game, led by outside linebacker Ausar Walcott (22 tackles) and defensive end Cam Johnson (20 tackles, 41/2 sacks).

The Tech defense will also be challenged by a Virginia offense, led by quarterback Marc Verica (71-124-3, 908 yards, 6 TDs) and receiver Kris Burd (22 rec., 378 yards, 4 TDs), that should be familiar to the 3-4 alignment run by Jackets defensive coordinator Al Groh -- a system the Cavaliers ran when Groh coached them the past nine seasons and continue to run to this day.

But Johnson looks at Saturday's game more as a chance for Tech to reestablish itself at Bobby Dodd Stadium after dropping its initial ACC home game against N.C. State two weeks ago.

"We're happy to be back home," Johnson said after the Jackets have played three of their last four games on the road. "The last time we had a chance to play in our home stadium, we didn't play particularly well. Anytime that happens, you're always anxious to get a chance play in front of the home crowd again."