The prospect of making history does not terribly intrigue Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu.
In his 49th and final college game, Attaochu needs half a sack to become the Yellow Jackets’ all-time sack leader. He enters the Music City Bowl tied with Greg Gathers at 31. Attaochu gobbled up Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason four times — the third highest single-game total in school history — in his final regular-season game to catch Gathers, who needed 37 games to get his 31 before a kidney ailment ended his career in 2002.
Asked what it would mean to break the record, Attaochu responded, “Right now, not that much. Ten years from now, I think I’ll care if the record is still there. I’ll be happy about it.”
Attaochu should have a decent opportunity to pass Gathers. Ole Miss has allowed one sack per 18.2 pass attempts and averages 37.8 passes per game. Further, left tackle Laremy Tunsil — who started nine games, allowed one sack and earned freshman All-American honors — will not play because of a knee injury suffered in Ole Miss’ final regular-season game. Said Attaochu, “I’m just going to play hard, and everything else will come.”
One teammate, at least, expressed more anticipation about the record than Attaochu. “I want Jeremiah to have 12 sacks,” said offensive lineman Will Jackson, who sparred with Attaochu in past preseasons and spring practices. “It helps us as a team, and he’s a guy that I’ve witnessed firsthand how hard he works and the sacrifices he makes, and so certainly I want to see him break that record.”
Close to home: Right guard Shaquille Mason said he provided tickets to 115 family members and friends for the game. Mason is from Columbia, Tenn., about 45 miles from Nashville. Each player receives six tickets, and teammates gave him theirs to help him meet demand. “The whole city of Columbia, it might be gone (to the game),” Mason said.
Ole Miss running back I’Tavius Mathers is a cousin of Mason’s, and the two grew up playing youth football together. The two actually ran into each other at a local barber shop while they were home over Christmas last week.
“I was like, if you score, I’m going to be happy for you, but I hope you lose,” Mason said.
Another connection: When he was a high school coach in Memphis, Tenn., Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze nearly was hired as a graduate assistant by Andy McCollum, then the Middle Tennessee State coach and now Tech’s linebackers coach. The two became friends through recruiting, enough so that Freeze let Middle Tennessee State practice at his school on its way to games at Arkansas State.
Freeze decided to stay for the time being in high school, ultimately going to Ole Miss as a football staff member, putting him on a path that led to him returning in 2012 as head coach.
“I know Andy well, and I think he’s a heck of a coach,” Freeze said.
Etc.: The game will be broadcast on ESPN, with Mark Jones (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analyst) and Jessica Mendoza (sideline) on the call. Huard, a former college and NFL quarterback, said one key he’ll watch is how well Tech’s secondary can defend Ole Miss’ skill players, whom Huard believes are better than Georgia’s. Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason threw for 299 yards in his first start. … Former Tech All-American defensive end Derrick Morgan, in his fourth season with the Tennessee Titans, plans to be at the game on the sidelines. … The Ramblin’ Wreck is scheduled to lead the team onto the field. It will be the final ride-out, as it’s called, for driver Barrett Ahlers, a senior from Roswell. … A forecast calls for a high of 36 degrees Monday. It would be Tech’s coldest game since the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, which kicked off at 27 degrees.