ATLANTA -- There were several instances in last week's game against Pittsburgh that the Georgia Tech defense could have folded.
A bend here and a break there might have resulted in the sort of momentum shift that could have cost Georgia Tech the game.
But unlike last year when the Yellow Jackets spent all season struggling on defense, this year's group was able to respond and give the Georgia Tech offense a chance to extend the lead and put the game away in the fourth quarter. As a result, Georgia Tech has won three straight and is bowl eligible for the 17th straight season.
"It's great when you have a great defense," Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee said. "It's less pressure, because the defense is playing great now. I give them all the credit. Coach (Ted) Roof and our defense has been great."
The Georgia Tech defense has shown steady growth this year.
Other than a disappointing performance against Miami, a team that has the best athletes that Georgia Tech has faced this year, and a poor first half against BYU, the Yellow Jackets have been solid.
Georgia Tech currently ranks third in the ACC in scoring defense (18.8 points), third in total defense (329.6 yards), second in rushing defense (103.4) and ninth in passing defense.
Last week's effort against Pittsburgh was especially memorable against the run. Georgia Tech held Pitt to minus-5 yards rushing, the eighth best effort for Georgia Tech since 1960 and the first time an opponent has finished with negative rushing yards since Notre Dame in 2007. Pittsburgh's longest run was for 7 yards.
"Ted and those guys have done a good job trying to stop the run," Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. "I've said all along, if you can run the ball and you can stop the run, you usually have a good chance of winning."
Only one opponent has gained 100 yards. Miami's Duke Johnson rushed for 184 in Georgia Tech's 45-30 road loss. Pittsburgh's leading rusher last week was Isaac Bennett, who had 16 yards on six carries.
"We did a good job," defensive tackle Euclid Cummings said.
"We showed great tenacity and bowed our backs and came out on top. It was a great team effort."
The Georgia Tech defense has become more comfortable with Roof's system and has made a solid transition from the 3-4 to the more-traditional 4-3 scheme.
Cummings is playing his best football of the season, tackle Adam Gostis has shown star-type ability, and defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu has regained the aggressive style that he became known for earlier in his career
Attaochu has two sacks in each of the past two games, giving him 25 for his career. That leaves him six sacks away from tying the program record.
He ranks seventh in the ACC with six sacks this year.
"I just knew when Coach Roof came in, he was a good guy and very easy to talk to and very down to earth from player to player," Attaochu said. "I knew I was going to enjoy playing for him. I just knew my senior year I was going to be a leader. Coach Roof has made you want to get up and go to practice every day, and I appreciate that."