The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
College Football: Jackets to stay grounded
JOHNSON WANTS TO EAT UP YARDS, TIME IN HOME GAME WITH CAVALIERS
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
The University of Virginia scout team received a lot of credit for the way it prepared the Cavaliers’ defense in an upset win over Georgia Tech last season.
But Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said Virginia’s best defense may have been its offense.
VIRGINIA (2–0) at GA. TECH (1–1)
WHEN: Today, 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
RADIO: WGRQ–FM 95.9
Since Johnson’s second season at Georgia Tech (2009), the Yellow Jackets have consistently been one of the top teams in the nation in rushing yards per game and time of possession.
But Virginia outrushed them 274–272 and held the ball a bit longer.
The Cavaliers (2–0) hope to repeat the formula today at Bobby Dodd Stadium when they visit the Yellow Jackets (1–1, 0–1 Atlantic Coast Conference) in their ACC opener.
“Our big problem is last year they ran flat over us,” said Johnson whose team was 6–0 and ranked No. 12 in the nation at the time of the 24–21 defeat. “They rushed for 270 yards and kept the ball most of the time. We’re used to winning time of possession pretty handily and they did a good job of holding onto the ball and staying on the field. So that will be a challenge [today].”
Johnson noted the Cavaliers have three returning starting linemen from last year and running backs Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are also back.
Still, Virginia hasn’t had much success rushing this season.
The Cavaliers amassed 32 yards on the ground and committed four turnovers in last week’s 17–16 victory over Penn State. Johnson said that may have had more to do with the Nittany Lions than the Cavaliers.
“I think Penn State’s probably pretty good up front, defensively,” Johnson said. “They look to be pretty good on tape. It was just one of those games. The other thing is they turned the ball over a lot. I’d like to think they’ll do that again, but I’m not going to kid myself.”
The Cavaliers aren’t kidding themselves, either.
They expect today’s game to be more difficult than last season’s. Virginia was playing at home in 2011. And it had two weeks to prepare for the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offensive attack.
Defensive coordinator Jim Reid said it’s a tough task for Virginia’s scout team to simulate Georgia Tech’s speed, so more time to prepare for the unique offense is “a terrific advantage.” Johnson is just 2–6 in bowl games in his career.
Also, Virginia Tech defeated the Yellow Jackets 20–17 in the season-opener on Sept. 3 after having all of fall camp to get ready.
“Without having that extra week, we’re really going to have to up our focus and understand that in order to win, we’re going to have to be mentally prepared to do our job,” Virginia senior linebacker Steve Greer said.
Georgia Tech once again leads the ACC in rushing yards per game (330.5). The Yellow Jackets are ranked 11th out of 12 teams in passing yards per contest (169.5). However, Georgia Tech has been known to mix in a few deep passes in its offense, and the Cavaliers are wary of that.
“This offense presents a challenge because they run the ball so much that they just try to lull you to sleep, and then out of nowhere they could just take a shot and go deep,” Virginia sophomore cornerback Demetrious Nicholson said. “So you’ve definitely got to read your keys and know your assignment each snap.”
Virginia left guard Cody Wallace will miss his second-straight game with a lower-extremity injury. Wide receiver Tim Smith (lower extremity) is doubtful. Defensive end Bill Schautz (lower extremity) is questionable, while tight end Paul Freedman (upper extremity) is probable. Georgia Tech standout running back David Sims is questionable with a shin injury.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526