Georgia Tech’s world looks significantly different than it did three weeks ago. The Yellow Jackets had just lost to BYU, their third loss in a row. The more fickle elements of the fan base predicted the end of times.
And it may again appear differently four weeks from now, better or worse, after the Jackets complete their regular season with games against Clemson, Alabama A&M and Georgia. But, for now, the perspective isn’t too bad after Tech defeated Pittsburgh 21-10 Saturday night for its third win in a row.
“It just feels good to get (win) No. 6 and going into the bye week, we can have a great feeling about ourselves going into Clemson,” quarterback Vad Lee said.
Tech is 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC, assured of its fifth winning record in conference play in coach Paul Johnson’s six years. That’s three more than Chan Gailey achieved in his six-year term and as many as George O’Leary compiled in his seven. (Five winning ACC seasons is the most of any of Tech’s six coaches during the ACC era.)
With the win over Pitt, Tech became bowl eligible, extending its bowl eligibility streak to 17 seasons. Scouts from the Chick-fil-A, Belk, Music City, Russell Athletic and AdvoCare V100 bowls were on hand Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“That was one thing as seniors we were talking about,” offensive lineman Will Jackson said. “We were not going to be the class to let the streak stop, so that’s a big relief for us.”
Considerable relief has been provided by Tech’s defense for perhaps the first time since Johnson’s first season in 2008. Tech held Pitt to minus-five rushing yards, the best result in that category in Johnson’s tenure and a top-10 performance in Tech’s record book dating back to 1960. Tech has permitted 35 points in the past three games, the lowest three-game total against FBS opponents since the Jackets allowed 24 against Mississippi State, Duke and Clemson in 2008.
Last season, the Jackets gave up more than 35 points in a single game six different times. In Johnson’s first five seasons, in scoring defense in the ACC, Tech finished sixth, sixth, ninth, eighth and seventh. With three games to go, the Jackets are third at 18.8. The Jackets have turned the ball over eight times in the past three games, but those giveaways have not resulted in any opposition points.
“This whole year, minus probably the Miami game, the defense has been lights out,” B-back David Sims said. “We know that anytime we might take a mistake or we turn the ball over, we also have a chance of the defense getting it back for us, whether it’s a three-and-out, whether it’s a turnover.”
After losses to Virginia Tech and Miami all but wiped out any chance of winning the Coastal Division and playing for the ACC title in Charlotte, Tech now has a chance to significantly re-frame the season. A win against Clemson or Georgia – or both – would go far to remove the bitterness of the losses to Virginia Tech and Miami.
Tech will enjoy a much-needed open date after playing eight consecutive weeks, a stretch that included four consecutive Coastal matchups and the longest pair of road trips in back-to-back weeks in school history (Miami and BYU). Then it’s a road game at Clemson Nov. 14 on Thursday night.
Saturday night, Jackson was ready to celebrate, but had his eyes on the Tigers. Tech will begin practice this week on Wednesday.
“This one’s over with,” he said. “We’ve got to, in the next day, couple of days, start turning our attention to the Tigers. They’re obviously a very good football team, so we’ve got to prepare like it.”