Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson talks to quarterback Vad Lee (2) during the first half against Brigham Young at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah last week.
ATLANTA— Georgia Tech (3-3,2-2) will host Syracuse this weekend for the first time as a member of the ACC with hopes of ending their current three-game losing streak.
“We’re glad to be home after two long road trips,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “We are hoping to get past the turnovers and penalties and just stop beating ourselves so we can have our best game of the year on Saturday.”
The Yellow Jackets lost on the road at BYU last week 38-20 and at Miami the week before 45-30. However, Johnson emphasized at his Tuesday press conference that he still believes a good season is in store for Georgia Tech and that his team is still improving week to week.
“If you put all your eggs in one basket at the beginning of the year and you lose those games, then the season is over,” Johnson said. “The season isn’t over. We still have six games left. We could go on a tear and win all six and 9-3 would be a pretty good year.”
In order to get things turned around the Jackets will have to stop an impressive Syracuse rushing attack that had two players, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, total over 100 yards rushing last week. The Orange rank in the top 25 in the nation in rushing yards per game at 220 yards.
“They are both different, but really good backs,” Johnson said. “(Smith) is a big back listed at 220, but looks bigger on tape. And he’s got some speed because he took one 65 yards against Clemson and we know they run really well.”
Syracuse (3-3,1-1) also made a quarterback change a few weeks ago. Terrel Hunt has taken over and with that the Orange rushing attack was further supplemented by a quarterback who can move around.
“He’s not a blazer,” Johnson said. “But he’s a hard guy to bring down. He pulls the ball down a lot on passing plays and just doesn’t make negative plays. He’s really hard to sack.”
Both teams, however, are proficient at stopping the run. Syracuse gives up just 120 yards per game on the ground while the Jackets surrender 132 yards per game, both of which are in the top 30 in the nation. Therefore, while Georgia Tech’s option game has improved over the last few weeks despite the losses, quarterback Vad Lee will need some assistance from his offense to pull out the win.
“We have got to help him out more,”Johnson said. “We can help him by catching the ball and we definitely need to pass protect better. We catch a few more passes that were on the money and his stat line looks a lot different the last few weeks.”
Defensively Georgia Tech will be hoping for another solid outing from Adam Gostis, who tied a school record against BYU with four tackles for a loss. He should be helped by the return of Grayson grad Shawn Green, who has been hindered by injuries the last few weeks, as well as Central Gwinnett grad Francis Kallon. Johnson singled Kallon out as a player who had been coming on very strong and should get more playing time moving forward.
Trying to slow down Georgia Tech’s triple option attack will be defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who leads the team with nine tackles for loss, and linebackers Cameron Lynch and Marquis Spruill.
One thing that might work to the Jacket’s advantage is an unfamiliarity with the triple option. Johnson said that he could not find any tape of Syracuse or their head coach Scott Shaffer going up against an option attack. However, Johnson admits that isn’t out of the ordinary.
“That isn’t unusual,” Johnson said. “In non-conference games you see that a lot where the other team has a scheme you haven’t seen on tape. And then at Georgia Southern it would happen a lot in the playoffs or in bowls at Navy. So teams are used to dealing with that.”
Nonetheless, the Jackets will be hoping to improve upon the mistakes which led to the three-game losing streak and defeat the Orange in their first matchup as conference opponents.