The stakes always seem to be high when Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech play. The winner of this matchup has claimed the ACC’s Coastal Division title nine times in the past 13 seasons.
Both teams have been eliminated from division title contention this season, but a new urgency has found its way into the matchup.
For the first time in 15 meetings, the Hokies and Yellow Jackets are coming off losses entering their matchup. They could each use a win to get their seasons back on track.
Virginia Tech (7-2, 3-2 ACC) — ranked No. 17 in the CFP rankings this week — saw its division title hopes go up in flames with a 28-10 loss to unbeaten Miami on Saturday.
“We have an opportunity to have a very accomplished season, playing a better bowl game, send our seniors out the right way,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.
Can the Hokies bounce back from big disappointment? Motivation here includes revenge from the 30-20 home loss the Hokies suffered at the hands of the Yellow Jackets last November.
“We’re going a play a team that kicked our butts last year in our own stadium on Saturday,” Fuente said. “I know it’s disappointing when you want to achieve something and you’ve come up short.
“When you have disappointments there is only one solution that I know of, whether it’s football or life, and that’s to roll your sleeves up and go back to work.”
Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-3) knows all about disappointment. The Yellow Jackets have lost twice by only one point (42-41 in double overtime against Tennessee and 25-24 at Miami) and dropped a game last week at Virginia, 40-36.
Georgia Tech squandered a big third-quarter lead to the Cavaliers and lost on a touchdown with 1:22 remaining.
“We’re disappointed. We expect better,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said. “Our expectations are to play better than we did Saturday. We just have to watch the film and be honest with what we see. Our backs are up against the wall. You come out fighting or you give up.”
Johnson said his team committed a multitude of errors in its loss to Virginia.
“We’re not going to win very many games when you have as many mistakes as we did in that game. … When I’m talking about mistakes, I’m not talking about an overthrow or a drop. I’m talking about not being lined up correctly on defense or blocking the wrong guy on offense or missed assignments,” Johnson said.
The Hokies face the unenviable task of trying to stop the Yellow Jackets’ vaunted triple-option rushing attack, led by junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who has rushed for a team-high 870 yards and 14 touchdowns and passed for 667 yards and six scores.
Georgia Tech ranks first in the ACC and third nationally in rushing yards per game (331.9). Virginia Tech ranks first in the ACC in rushing defense (122.8), but it yielded 219 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against the Hurricanes.
It was the highest rushing total allowed by the Hokies since West Virginia churned out 221 in the season opener. The two rushing touchdowns doubled the total allowed by Virginia Tech all season.
Georgia Tech’s offense not only runs off a lot of yards, but it runs off a lot of clock too, making offensive efficiency a must for opponents.
Virginia Tech hasn’t been a model of offensive efficiency lately. The Hokies have struggled during the early part of games, as evidenced by their scoreless first quarter against the Hurricanes.
“We’re not as explosive a football team as we were last year,” Fuente said. “Points will be harder to come by whether it’s the first quarter or the second quarter. I think part of that is because things have to be pretty perfect for us to have success right now.”
The Hokies are led by Josh Jackson, who leads all freshman quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 2,229 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. Jackson, who has scored a rushing touchdown in each of the last two games, struggled against the Hurricanes, however, matching his career high with two interceptions with no passing touchdowns.
Virginia Tech rushed for only 102 yards at Miami, its third-lowest total of the season. Georgia Tech has been stout against the run. It yielded only 97 ground yards against Virginia on Saturday.
“They look like what I’ve always envisioned a really well coached tough triple option team to be. Defensively, they continue to mix up their looks and give people problems,” Fuente said. “They play fewer snaps defensively in general terms because of their offense.”Let's