Paul Johnson isn’t one to typically belabor injuries, but he’s made an exception this year, particularly regarding his A-backs. He said this week that in his 38 years of coaching, he has never had a run of injuries like this.
“(Heck), no,” Johnson said. “I ain’t ever had six guys hurt at one position.”
One wasn't an injury, and another is something of a technicality, but the point holds. Dennis Andrews was dismissed from the team in the summer. Nathan Cottrell suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. Qua Searcy is out for the year with a broken leg. Matthew Jordan wasn’t injured, but Tim Byerly’s season-ending knee injury necessitated his return from A-back to quarterback. TaQuon Marshall missed parts of two games and then the North Carolina game altogether. Broderick Snoddy missed the past two games and is out for the third.
As a result, walk-on Austin McClellan was in for a considerable portion of the North Carolina game. first-year freshman Mikell Lands-Davis, who started out at B-back and was a redshirt candidate, played in the first game of his career Saturday against North Carolina, and yet was on the field when the Yellow Jackets were making their final attempt to tie the game. It’s hard to say that it hasn’t significantly reduced Tech’s chances of winning and will be a factor against Clemson Saturday.
“It’s, like, nobody cares, but it is what it is,” Johnson said.
Willis, at least, has taken hold of his opportunity, as did McClellan against North Carolina.
“Ike, he doesn’t have any missed assignments, he knows where to go, and he had a big catch (in the North Carolina game) and had some nice runs,” Johnson said. “I think we’re getting out of Ike about what we can get out of hm.”
Strong against the Atlantic
Johnson is 15-4 against the Atlantic Division in his tenure at Tech, which is by far the best record of any Coastal team in that span and also the best cross-division record of any ACC team. Virginia Tech, which plays N.C. State Friday night, is next best in the Coastal at 10-9.
Tech’s wins against the Atlantic: Boston College (2008, 2012), Clemson (2008, 2009, 2011, 2014), Florida State (2008, 2009), Maryland (2011, 2012), N.C. State (2011, 2014), Syracuse (2013), Wake Forest (2009, 2010)
Losses: Clemson (2010, 2012, 2013), N.C. State (2010).
Clemson is 13-6. Florida State is 14-5. Tech, meanwhile, is 20-17 against the Coastal over the same span. That disparity is one of Johnson’s favorite numbers to trot out whenever the notion that the Atlantic is the stronger half of the ACC is brought up.
I was asked on the weekly mailbag this week about comments made by quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook that he didn’t know why B-back Marcus Allen had taken himself out of the game in what I believe was his only series of play last Saturday against North Carolina.
I asked Johnson about it, and he didn’t know, either. He thought that perhaps Allen was under the impression that he was to be in the game for only that play and chalked it up to a miscommunication. Johnson was a little too occupied seeing what North Carolina was doing to inquire at the moment.
One-way border war
Clemson has done a rather effective job raiding talent inside Georgia state lines. Saturday, the Jackets will face Georgia residents in quarterback Deshaun Watson (Gainesville) and running back Wayne Gallman (Loganville). Clemson has 13 players from Georgia, compared to one Tech player from South Carolina, backup offensive lineman Jake Whitley (North Augusta).
Michael Preddy, who was a first-year freshman offensive lineman on last year’s team, was from Charleston. Prior to Preddy and Whitley, the last two Tech signees from South Carolina were David Sims and Lance Richardson in the 2009 class. Out of state, Tech has done far better recently in Alabama, Tennessee and Florida than South Carolina.
Tech will forever be able to claim a most significant player out of the Palmetto State, however.
Clemson near record for home win streak
With a win, Clemson will win its 13th consecutive game in Death Valley, which would tie a school record. Previous Clemson teams won 13 home games in a row 2011-2013 and 1927-31.
Tech’s longest winning streak at home is 23 games (1915-19). The dreaded Generals of Washington & Lee ended the streak with a 3-0 win. Interestingly, that was coach John Heisman’s final season at Tech, and he finished with three losses in his final five games. He only lost 29 games in his entire 16-year tenure at Tech. I know he left for personal reasons (he and his wife divorced), but I’m guessing there were a few Tech fans glad to see him leave after such an atrocious end to the season. It’s too bad Twitter wasn’t around.
An oddity of Tech-Clemson series
I was aware of this, but I still find it hard to believe. Between 1907 and 1974, Tech played Clemson 36 times, and every meeting was in Atlanta. Clemson made that choice to help balance the athletic department budget.
Interestingly, Grant Field wasn’t built until 1913 and capacity, according to the Tech media guide, capacity was 5,600, which makes me wonder how poorly Clemson was drawing at that point to make giving up a home game a better solution. (I realize I’m looking at this through 21st century eyes, but the information about Clemson giving up the home game for financial reasons is in the Clemson game notes.)
Grant Field expanded with west stands in 1924 and the south stands were added in 1925, bringing capacity to 30,000, which would have dwarfed Clemson’s stadium capacity.
Clemson played at Riggs Field until Memorial Stadium was opened in 1942. (Riggs is now a soccer stadium that seats 6,500.) Memorial Stadium capacity was 20,000 at the start and then increased to 38,000 in 1958 and 43,658 in 1960. In 1953, the first Tech-Clemson game for which the Tech media guide has attendance, there were 35,000, which was actually the second smallest crowd of the season that year out of six home games. (Probably a noon start)
That’s 75 percent more than what Clemson could have drawn at home if it had sold out.
It would presumably be Mike Bobinski's final act as athletic director if it ever happened, but from a pure financial standpoint, Tech might do well to make a similar arrangement and sell one of its home games in the Georgia or Clemson series in exchange for a hefty guarantee.
Northwestern did that in the early 1990’s, selling a home game to Michigan one year and holding its home game against Ohio State at Cleveland Stadium another year.
A visit to 1990
Whether by coincidence or design, the ACC scheduled two of Tech’s games close to the dates that the Jackets played Clemson and Virginia in their national championship season in 1990. Tech played Clemson on Oct. 13, a 21-19 win at Grant Field that was memorable for Kevin Tisdel’s 87-yard kickoff return and a fourth-quarter goal-line stand by Tech to keep the score at 21-12.
The win jumped Tech from No. 18 to No. 11 and led up to two pivotal games, the tie at North Carolina and the win over No. 1 Virginia. This year’s Virginia game is Oct. 31, just three days before the anniversary of the Jackets’ 41-38 thriller over the Cavaliers.
Center Freddie Burden: “You definitely don’t expect to be 2-3, especially coming off the year we had last year. Nobody would have even thought about it. But we’re in that situation now. We can’t complain about it, we can’t pout about it, we can’t get down ourselves that we’re 2-3. We just have to go into the next game. We have a great opportunity to go into Death Valley. Clemson, they’re a pretty high-ranked team. They’re still riding high. They have all the confidence in the world. We just have to be focused and do what we do and prepare for them this week as best as we can.”
I’ve said this before, that you can only read so much into what a player says about the team’s mindset or attitude. I’m never going to hear, “We’ve got no chance and morale is in the basement.”
That said, I tend to put a little more stock in it this week. I’m not saying the Jackets are going to torch Death Valley, but I think they’ll play the best game of their season. We’ll see what that’s worth.