Georgia Tech’s special teams must improve ahead of Hokies

Nov 07, 2017
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 4: Head coach Paul Johnson of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets watches a replay in the first quarter during a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Scott Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

With Virginia Tech continuing its tradition of excellent special-teams play ahead of Saturday’s game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech may have picked a bad time to have its worst special-teams performance this season in Saturday’s 40-36 loss at Virginia.

The Yellow Jackets allowed a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the first they have given up this season – and botched a short kickoff that coach Paul Johnson said they had practiced all week. 

“It will be important that we improve drastically in those two areas,” he said.

The botched kickoff came after Tech took a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. 

Brenton King was supposed to hit a short, looping kickoff toward the sidelines that the Jackets were going to try to recover and get an opportunity to take a 14-3 lead. Even if the kick went out of bounds, Virginia would have received the ball on the 35-yard line. Instead, King’s kick didn’t travel 10 yards. Virginia took over on Tech’s 43-yard line and eventually kicked another field goal.

The touchdown came after Tech took a 14-6 lead on a 1-yard run by KirVonte Benson with 2:31 remaining in the first half.

Johnson on Tuesday called the kickoff coverage “abysmal” after the Cavaliers returned five kickoffs for 205 yards.

“Let’s call it what it was,” he said.

The team also and posted a season-low average in punting (36.3 yards).

Virginia Tech, as it has for more than 20 years, plays excellent special teams, particularly on the punt teams:

For the season, Georgia Tech is averaging 43.7 yards per punt with a net of 39.2. Jackets’ opponents have returned 14 punts for 156 yards and one touchdown.

While Tech did have a season-low for average punting, some of that had to with field position. Pressley Harvin put a season-high four punts inside the 20-yard line. He has done that 15 times this season. He also tied a season-high with punts that resulted in four catches. Doing so again will be key to keeping Stroman from causing havoc.