Only two more games, Wahoo fans. Hang in there. This week, the Hoos head on the road to face Paul Johnson and the triple-optioning Yellow Jackets. To better understand our friends down south, I chatted with Josh Brundage (@joshbrundage) of From the Rumble Seat (@FTRSblog).
Streaking the Lawn (STL): Georgia Tech became bowl eligible last week with a big win over the other Tech (thanks, by the way!). Has this team under-performed, over-performed, or just performed in your eyes?
From the Rumble Seat (FTRS): You’re welcome! And I would say slightly under-performed. We’re super close to being 8-2, but we’re 6-4. The loss to Pitt was especially fluky – one of our safeties tipped a prayer pass into a Pitt receiver’s hands that went for a late touchdown to tie the game, and then they made a last second field goal for the win that bounced off the upright and through. If the team wins this Saturday and then beats Georgia in Athens next week, we’ll all be very content with 8-4, though. It’s definitely been a nice rebound season from the 3-9 disaster last year. I think we’re all collectively withholding judgment on this team until after Thanksgiving.
STL: Coach Mendenhall is known to have teams that are prepared for the option. What will be the biggest key for Virginia defensively to cut down on y'all's offense?
FTRS: He has certainly seen it several times and had success against it. I think the biggest key for Virginia this week will be to be aggressive against the option. Don’t let Paul Johnson go on one of his famous Death Marches for a 12-play, 8-minute drive. UVA needs to attack the option instead of reacting to it. The death marches are usually a bad sign for the opposing team, as opposed to Tech popping a couple big plays. Mendenhall’s success against the option at BYU was with a dominating D-line who was very disruptive, albeit made up of like 22-25 year olds. I’ll be curious to see how he does with the Wahoo D against the flexbone.
STL: You guys have had some big injuries, namely to QB Justin Thomas who didn't play last week when you upset Virginia Tech (haha, again, thanks). HC Paul Johnson expects the Jackets to be pretty healthy...what's your outlook on the lineup for this game?
FTRS: As far as I know, Tech is as healthy as they were opening day coming into this game. We were down a couple offensive linemen as well against VT last week, and had to start 3 true freshmen. Tech still somehow pushed their defense around, so I’m excited to see what the offense can do back at full strength this week.
The only player we’ll be without is our starting B-Back, Dedrick Mills who is suspended for this game due to a violation of team rules. Fortunately, his backup Marcus Marshall, looked like a stud last week in Blacksburg, so there shouldn’t be much of a difference
STL: Defensively, who are some Yellow Jackets to know?
FTRS: Perhaps the biggest surprise this season has been Antonio Simmons at DE. He hasn’t started every game, but he rotates in and is easily our most disruptive lineman. He tackled a lead blocker and the running back at once earlier this season.
At linebacker, Brant Mitchell has been all over the field this year. He’s a stud at stopping the run and blitzing, but often struggles in pass coverage. UVA would do well to throw to the tight ends and slot receivers he sometimes gets mismatched against in coverage.
STL: Virginia is starting Matt Johns after Mendenhall decided to bench Kurt Benkert. How does that change your outlook on the game?
FTRS: Not much, honestly. Benkert obviously had his confidence shaken throughout the season, but he also appears to be more talented than Johns. Against Tech’s defense, if Johns can complete short passes against soft coverage, he can pick us apart all day. My outlook on the game will be very much determined by UVA’s offensive success, I’m not worried about the Tech offense. If Johns stays steady and doesn’t try to press and can hit his receivers, it could very easily be a long day for the Tech defense.
STL: Predictions for the game?
FTRS: In true Georgia Tech fashion, I think the Yellow Jackets jump out to an early lead, blow it in the second and third quarters, and then pull away in the 4th. I would say a final score of something like 35-24 with Tech notching win number seven at home.
Thanks for your time, Josh! Go Hoos!