It seems as though the ACC Coastal has been up for grabs for a few seasons now, so it should be little surprise to see Georgia Tech once again looking to grab hold of the division coming down the stretch. It should also be no surprise how Georgia Tech has been put into this situation. Everybody knows what Georgia Tech will do on offense with Paul Johnson’s triple option schemes, but the defense is coming off another impressive performance in a win over Clemson. It could not have come at a better time.
Georgia Tech may not be typically known for its defense, but helped set the tone Saturday against Clemson. The Tigers lost their quarterback, which certainly had an impact on the outcome of the game, but credit Georgia Tech for seizing the opportunity to take advantage. Georgia Tech’s defense was relentless in holding Clemson to just 190 yards of total offense. It was the first time this season Georgia Tech held an opponent under 283 yards. Once Clemson had to go with Cole Stoudt under center, Georgia Tech pounced in a big way.
Jamal Golden gave Georgia Tech a lead late in the first half when he picked off a pass from Stoudt and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown. Later in the third quarter, Chris Milton picked off another pass from Stoudt. This one was returned 62 yards for a score as well as Georgia Tech padded its lead to 25-6 late in the third quarter.
Once Georgia Tech’s defense gets its hands on a pass, anything can happen. The Yellow Jackets now lead the nation in interceptions returned for a touchdown with five, and five different players (Jamal Golden, D.J. White, Quayshawn Nealy, Chris Milton, Paul Davis) have contributed to that total. Georgia Tech has the luxury of knowing any one player on the field can score at any time, on offense or defense. Only one team in the ACC has picked off more passes (Louisville). Any team facing Georgia Tech has to be careful protecting the football. Just ask any team that has played Georgia Tech over last month. In the last four games, Georgia Tech has forced 14 turnovers. In that same span, Georgia Tech’s offense has six turnovers. Turnover margin is significant, especially in a tight division race. Georgia Tech has had a plus turnover margin in all but four games this season.
Georgia Tech’s defense also got off the field often. Clemson only managed to convert three of 13 third-down plays for first downs. There have been a number of games this season when that was not the case. The only time this season when Georgia Tech’s defense performed better on third downs was in a win against Miami, when the Hurricanes converted just one of five third-down plays.
By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)