Georgia Tech focuses on Virginia

The Cavaliers are facing similar problems now plaguing Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerOctober 22, 2013 

ATLANTA -- The barbarians who were at the Georgia Tech gate a week ago have pulled back. They've retreated -- at least a few steps -- after last week's resounding 56-0 win against Syracuse. And this week those same hordes are beating down the door at Virginia, which happens to be Georgia Tech's opponent on Saturday.

"We'll get their best shot," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "I'm sure they've got the wagons circled."

It's gotten ugly at Virginia. The Cavs have lost four straight games and dropped a 35-22 decision to Duke last week after running out to a 22-0 lead. As a result, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage felt compelled to make a statement in support of head coach Mike London.

London, who is 18-25 in his fourth season, even spoke in his own defense. "I believe that I'm the right man for the job. I believe that the process that's going on here is one that, although painstakingly slow, is a process that will be successful."

And while Johnson may be sympathetic to the plight of his fellow coach, he understands that the seat in his office will likely warm up again in a hurry if Tech can't add to Virginia's misery. For whatever reason, Charlottesville has been a difficult venue for the Yellow Jackets; the all-time series is tied 17-17-1, with Virginia holding a 10-3-1 advantage at home. To complicate matters, this is homecoming week for the Cavs.

"Two years ago we were 6-0 and ranked and feeling pretty good about ourselves and went up there and got smacked in the mouth," Johnson said. "We've got to go up there and play a good football game or we aren't going to like the result."

A year ago Georgia Tech ran away with a 56-20 victory. Tech scored on the first offensive play, held Virginia on downs and scored again on its third offensive play. Tevin Washington ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in the romp.

But playing on the road is a different animal -- especially when the animal is backed into a corner.

"We don't worry about some mystique," Johnson said. "We're just worried about going up there and playing our game."

Georgia Tech's game has rarely been better than it was last week. The Yellow Jackets ran the ball with authority and approached the 400-yard mark for the first time this season. Starting quarterback Vad Lee didn't even attempt a pass until the third quarter and it went for an easy touchdown.

Tech didn't turn the ball over and didn't commit a penalty for the first time since 1968 against Navy. A similar effort will be helpful on Saturday against the Cavs.

"Give the players credit," Johnson said. "They were dialed in and focused."

The win last week pushed the Jackets over the .500 mark. A win this week would be helpful toward enabling the team to remain in the chase to stay bowl eligible and keep the 16-year bowl streak alive.

"After the BYU game we talked about getting ourselves in a hole and it was time to bow our backs," Johnson said. "You talk about Virginia, it's a huge difference between being 5-3 and 4-4. You just keep playing and playing and all that (bowl situation) will take care of itself. It'll work itself out one game at a time."

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