Georgia Tech’s defense didn’t score any touchdowns in Saturday’s 56-0 victory over Syracuse, but it played a significant part in the Yellow Jackets cruising on an otherwise dreary day.
The offense capitalized on an interception, a forced fumble and another interception — all in the first three quarters — to score 21 points and take a 42-0 lead early in the second half. The special teams also blocked a punt that eventually led to one of the touchdowns.
The Jackets limited Syracuse, which had averaged 220.7 rushing yards per game after back-to-back games of at least 323 yards, to 75.
“When a team can’t run it makes it tough,” Tech coach Paul Johnson said.
The Orange didn’t get many chances to run because the Jackets grabbed a big lead quickly, thanks to the defense.
“We knew they were going to try to run it down our throats,” said linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, who had one of the interceptions. (Louis Young had the other.) “Guys bought into the challenge head-on.”
The result came after a week of physical practices in which attention to detail was the primary focus. The Jackets didn’t want to get burned by the Orange’s zone-read schemes by not being in the right gap, or blowing an assignment on which man they were supposed to take. They also renewed their commitment to playing hard for four quarters.
“That was the emphasis, to start well and play 60 minutes of football,” linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu said.
The Jackets did that, limiting Syracuse to 208 yards, despite most of the second half being garbage time, and 3-of-12 on third-down conversions. It was Tech’s largest margin of victory in ACC play.
“I thought the defense played really well,” Johnson said.
The defense’s improved play seemed to be a carryover from the second half of last week’s loss at BYU in which they gave up just seven points (an interception was returned for the other BYU touchdown in the half).
Tech has created turnovers (nine) this season, but it also has given up 24 plays of at least 20 yards, five of which went for touchdowns. Twelve of those plays occurred in the past two losses, to Miami and BYU. Syracuse’s longest drive covered 43 yards, and its longest play went 22 yards. That was the only Syracuse play that covered at least 20 yards.
Has a corner been turned under first-year defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who coached at press-box level for the first time this season?
“Hands down we are getting more comfortable in the schemes,” Nealy said. “When we don’t beat ourselves, we can do some big things. Guys are buying into that, and it is showing up on the field.”