Georgia Tech faces tough road game

The Yellow Jackets must travel 2,000 miles across country to face BYU and its talented defense

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerOctober 11, 2013 

ATLANTA -- Provo, Utah, is a long way to go to try and get your season back on track.

But that's where Georgia Tech will attempt to get the train back on the rails on Saturday when they play Brigham Young. A win would be a salve to help smooth the sting of two consecutive ACC losses, keep the Yellow Jackets over .500 and slow down the yammering on message boards and talk shows.

A loss? Well, suffice to say that the 2,000-mile trip back to Atlanta will be a lot quieter.

"It's hard to take long trips back-to-back, especially when your change time zones," said coach Paul Johnson, whose team played at Miami last week. "But that's what up. You can't worry about what you can't control. We've got to get ready to play a football game and get ready for their physicality."

A year ago BYU came to Atlanta and dominated Tech in a 41-17 victory. The Cougars beat Tech at their own game, outrushing the Yellow Jackets and holding nearly a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession.

"They got after us pretty good," Johnson said. "We were 0-for-10 on third downs, and we had one third down that was less than five yards. They did a good job staying on the field and converting third downs. You've got to give them credit for making plays, but we're not going to survive if it's third-and-10 every time, nobody is. Contrary to popular opinion, there aren't a lot of teams that make a lot of third-and-10s, so you've got to stay out of that."

It won't be easy this year, either. BYU's defense has allowed only two rushing touchdowns. The defense is ranked 18th in the nation for scoring defense (16.8 points) and is tied for seventh in fewest plays allowed over 10 plays (45). All-American candidate Kyle Van Noy (33 tackles, seven tackles for loss) and Uani Unga (45 tackles) anchor the team at linebacker. Linebacker Spencer Hadley had a five-game suspension reduced to three games and could play this week.

"Kyle Van Noy, the outside linebacker, is probably a first-round draft pick, I would think," Johnson said. "They're talented. They're good."

Given BYU's ability on defense, the heat will be on the Tech offense to retain possession, move the ball and avoid mistakes. Over the last two games Tech has lost two fumbles and thrown four interceptions.

That means increased scrutiny for quarterback Vad Lee, who looked invincible for nearly two quarters last week against Miami before an untimely fumble changed the momentum of the game. Lee has thrown for 625 yards and seven touchdowns, but completed only 44.7 percent of his throws, and has run for 241 yards and three touchdowns.

B-back David Sims has proven to be the team's workhorse. He's carried 66 times, more than twice that of any other running back, for a team-leading 325 yards and six touchdowns.

The Tech defense will be asked to stop the run-oriented BYU attack that's led by quarterback Taysom Hill (579 yards, six touchdowns) and running back Jamaal Williams (457 yards). Hill ranks 15th in the nation in rushing per game (115.8). Williams, who ran for 182 yards in the Cougars' signature win over Texas, missed the Middle Tennessee game and had a limited role against Utah State because of a concussion suffered against Utah.

Cody Hoffman, who had seven catches against Tech last year, needs six receptions and three touchdowns to become the school's all-time record holder in both categories. Hoffman has only played three games; he missed the Virginia game with an injury and was suspended against Middle Tennessee for violating team rules.

Johnson has said repeatedly that it's too early to panic. But a loss would like cause fans to do just that. A loss would leave Tech at 3-3, with top-10 opponents Clemson and Georgia remaining on the schedule and put them in a difficult situation.

"We have to play our best game of the year," Johnson said. "It will take a great game. We haven't played our best game yet, so I hope it's this week."

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