Undefeated Georgia Tech to play Thursday

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerSeptember 23, 2013 

N Carolina Georgia Tech Football

Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee (2) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Darren Waller (88) during the first half of an NCAA football game against North Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)


ATLANTA -- This isn't a usual week for Georgia Tech. Mondays become Sundays and Tuesdays become Mondays, and routines are turned every-which-way-but-up. But that's part of the deal when you're scheduled to play a nationally televised Thursday night game.

"It's going to be a tough turnaround," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson admitted after Saturday's game.

But no one at Georgia Tech is complaining about the opportunity to play on Thursday night. It's a chance to showcase the program -- the city never looks better than on Thursday night -- and a win over Virginia Tech would raise the Yellow Jackets' profile probably enough to get them a place in the Top 25.

Georgia Tech is 3-0 after Saturday's impressive 28-20 win over North Carolina. It's the second time in three years that the Yellow Jackets have won their first three games, but only the fifth time over the last 12 years. Virginia Tech is 2-1, but needed three overtimes to beat a feisty Marshall club last week. The Hokies are an impressive 70-12 in September games dating back to 1903.

"We'll come in and clean up some things," Johnson said. "We're pretty beat up physically. We may have to get to practice and see what we can do."

Georgia Tech lost both starting safeties, Chris Milton and Jamal Golden, to injuries on Saturday. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy also left the game early. The Yellow Jackets were already playing without offensive lineman Morgan Bailey and A-back Deon Hill. Golden practiced on Sunday night and should be ready for Thursday. All other availability won't be determined until later in the week.

"We played a physical game on Saturday and got a lot of people banged and bruised, so the key this week with a very physical Virginia Tech team is trying to get to the game," Johnson said. "Trying to get there as healthy as we can, trying to walk that fine line between preparing physically as much as you have to and some of the stuff that doesn't have to be as physical."

Regardless of who actually takes the field on Saturday, this a crucial game for both teams. It should help determine who gets to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game.

"Bottom line, clearly in my mind, they've been the team to beat in the Coastal Division since I've been here," Johnson said. "Until somebody beats them, that's the way I'll look at. It'll be a challenge coming in."

The lack of preparation will limit the number of new packages that are put in the game specifically for an opponent. On-time practice is extremely limited with Thursday night games.

"The biggest thing is just to get guys there physically," Johnson said. "Last time we played three games in 12 days, the last game down in Miami look like we were running in sand, so you hope that's not the case. We've got guys who will probably try to play Thursday without putting on pads all week because they've been banged up, hit and injured. At this level that's hard to do."

One player who will definitely play is guard Shaq Mason, who was named the ACC's Offensive Lineman of the Week for the second consecutive game. He is only the second Tech lineman in history to take back-to-back ACC honors; Omoregie Uzzi did it in 2011.

Mason graded out the highest on a line that enabled the Yellow Jackets to rush for 324 yards and allow only one sack.

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