Georgia Tech offensive linemen Phil Smith, right, and Tyler Kidney go through drills Tuesday Dec. 27, 2011 at Burges High School in El Paso, Texas. Georgia Tech is preparing for its Dec. 31 showdown with Utah in the Sun Bowl. (AP Photo/El Paso Times, Victor Calzada)
EL PASO, Texas -- Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham faces a difficult challenge in Saturday's Sun Bowl as the Utes must find a way to stop Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.
"Fortunately we have a little background in it having come from the Mountain West and playing Air Force every year for many years," Whittingham said Tuesday. "But in all those years, you never truly stop an option offense; you just try to slow it down."
Whittingham was blunt: "The best way to do that is to try to control the ball with your own offense and keep theirs on the sideline."
Georgia Tech enters the game with the third-ranked rushing offense in the country (316.8 yards per game). The Yellow Jackets led the ACC in rushing offense, scoring offense (34.92 points per game) and total offense (459.58 ypg).
Georgia Tech junior quarterback Tevin Washington gained 890 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns during the season.
Even though the Yellow Jackets have not thrown a touchdown pass since Oct. 1, Washington has an efficiency rating of 153.5 on the season and connected with Stephen Hill four times in the end zone. Hill boasts a reception average of just over 30 yards on 26 receptions.
"They don't throw it a lot, 12 to 15 times a game, but they get exactly what they need out of the throw game efficiency wise," Whittingham said.
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, too, is fully aware of the challenges his Yellow Jackets will face.
"I think the defensive line is as good as we've played against or better or possibly better than anyone we've played, so that will be a challenge for us," Johnson said.
Much of the defensive pressure upfront has come as a result of the efforts of defensive linemen Star Lotulelei and Derrick Shelby, who combined for 83 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
"Lotulelei is certainly a good player," Johnson said. "(Derrick) Shelby, (Dave) Kruger up front, they are all good players. Anytime you start naming individual guys, you're going to leave somebody out, and I think you have to give them credit as a whole. They play really good together as a defensive unit, but these guys upfront certainly stick out."