By Jeff Hansen
Coming off another disappointing loss against Notre Dame, BYU is looking to rebound on the road against Georgia Tech. The Cougars and the Yellow Jackets have a lot in common; both teams have running quarterbacks, both teams feature great linebacker play, and both teams are better than their records show. Unfortunately for both teams, your record is the only thing that matters.
When the ball is kicked in Atlanta, it will mark the start of just the third game in history featuring these two teams. The series is currently split at 1-1 where the home team has won both games.
Georgia Tech is athletic. Their four losses on the season have come against Virginia Tech, Miami, Middle Tennessee State (yes, the same one on BYU’s schedule next year) and Clemson. Their losses have come against good, athletic teams. On offense, the Yellow Jackets will run the ball, and then run it again and finally run it some more–and they have just the players to do that.
QB Tevin Washington: The senior quarterback is exactly the type of player that has historically given BYU defenses fits. He’s got a good enough arm and runs like a runningback. In fact, Washington has run for more touchdowns, 15, than BYU’s entire team, 13. Washington’s 67.3 yards per game average isn’t overwhelming, but then you remember he’s a quarterback. His legs are his biggest weapon, and he uses them well in red zone situations. Washington will undoubtedly look to have a big game on the ground against a BYU run defense that looked quite susceptible last week.
AB Orwin Smith: Smith does it all for the Georgia Tech. The dynamic all-purpose back returns kicks and punts, lines up in the slot and takes the ball on options and from the backfield also. There isn’t much I can say about Smith that his numbers can’t say better so here they are:
Rushing: 38 attempts, 403 yards, 10.6 yards per carry
Receiving: 11 receptions, 155 yards, 14.1 yards per catch
All-purpose: 403 rush yards, 155 receiving yards, 247 kick return yards, 115 yards per game.
S Jemea Thomas: Thomas is a difference maker. In my opinion, he’s the most important player to watch on the Georgia Tech defense. The junior safety has two interceptions this year, and five in his career. He has four pass break ups on the season and 35 tackles. The way he plays is impressive. Thomas finds the ball and hits hard. Playing against the throwing-inept arm of Riley Nelson, I expect Thomas to have a big game from the safety position
LB Jeremiah Attaochu: Attaochu was All-ACC as a sophomore and his isn’t disappointing anyone so far during his junior campaign. He has 34 tackles on the year including two sacks. Attaochu has speed and size and is a tough match up for any BYU blocking scheme. Along with his football talent, Attaochu brings an interesting story with him to this game. Born in Nigeria, Attaochu didn’t start playing football until high school. In a matter of just a few seasons on the field, he’s become an all-conference player in Division 1 college football. Ziggy Ansah, anyone?
At this point for Cougar faithful, there really aren’t any surprises. BYU features a great defense that has proven to be vulnerable at times to big plays. Last week, Notre Dame ran wild over BYU but managed only 17 points. Bronco Mendenhall’s famous “bend, don’t break” defense is the best it has been under his tenure. Obviously, when playing Georgia Tech, the focus will be stopping the run. The Yellow Jackets average just over 339 yards per game on the ground, so only giving up 200 would be a huge win for BYU.
Offensively it’s the same story, different week. Jamaal Williams again proved to be effective in the first half against Notre Dame, but was unable to do much as the Irish defense started to focus on stopping him in the second half. Riley Nelson struggled.
This week, the key for BYU to move the ball is Nelson. BYU doesn’t need a Ty Detmer-esque performance, but rather, ball security and a threat. BYU doesn’t have to have 400 yards through the air to be effective, but rather, just a threat to throw the ball deep. Right now, defenses know that Nelson is not capable of throwing the ball deep and therefore they can focus on stopping other aspects of the Cougar offense. A play that runs through every Cougar fan’s mind is Nelson missing Cody Hoffman over the middle for what would have surely been a go-ahead touchdown. Nelson said after the game that it was just an unfortunate miscommunication in a broken play, but regardless of the reasoning, a game winning touchdown pass was missed by 10 yards. Nelson has to throw it deep in order to be effective.
Call me what a hater, a pessimist or whatever else you can think of, but I don’t see BYU winning this game. In games against quality opponents on the road, BYU’s defense has stepped up, the receivers and running backs have stepped up but the quarterback position has let us down immensely. Against Utah, Boise State and Notre Dame, Nelson has turned the ball over eight times. My heart wants to say he snaps out of it this week, but history and my brain say no. Georgia Tech wins a close one this week, 24-20.