Georgia Tech’s game against FCS-foe Elon on Saturday was a tuneup for the ACC schedule and the first chance for Yellow Jackets supporters to see Ted Roof’s defense.
After lackluster defense cost Tech in 2012, the team’s new defensive coordinator promised to field an energized unit. Apparently that’s going to include Roof storming the sidelines as if he were still playing linebacker for the Jackets.
“He was pretty jacked up,” linebacker Brandon Watts said. “He was probably more excited than we were.”
Tech assistant coaches aren’t available to news media on game days, but it’s doubtful Roof could find much fault with his unit after Tech’s 70-0 victory.
The Jackets earned their first shutout victory since defeating Duke 27-0 in 2008. Tech forced four turnovers, including two interception returns for touchdowns, and set a school record with 173 yards on interception returns while holding Elon to 164 passing yards.
The competition will stiffen starting with the ACC opener at Duke in two weeks, but the Jackets were pleased to hold any opponent to zero points after last season’s struggles.
“It’s a confidence boost for us definitely coming off last year,” Tech linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days said. “I’m just excited to see what we can do now. We’ve got a conference game coming up next. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Elon never got in the game, thanks to Tech’s defense.
Safety Jamal Golden forced a fumble that Jemea Thomas recovered on the second play of the game, and Tech scored five plays later. The Jackets scored again after the defense forced a three-and-out, and Chris Milton blocked a punt to set up Tech at the Elon 35-yard line.
Elon gained 163 of their 253 yards on four drives. The Jackets snuffed out all four with key stops, including a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tyler Marcordes in the second quarter and Milton’s 54-yard score on an interception in the third period.
Tech’s reserve defenders preserved the shutout in the second half.
“It meant a lot,” Watts said. “That’s the first one we’ve had since I’ve been here. When the (backups) went in, we were cheering them on.”
That includes Roof, who played for Bill Curry at Tech from 1982-85 and was an assistant on George O’Leary’s staff.
“Everything he does, we try to imitate it,” Hunt-Days said. “He shows a lot of enthusiasm. He’s a rough guy, but he’s cool. He’s a players’ coach. We enjoy playing for him. We have a lot of trust in him and all the coaches on the defensive staff.”