By Will Vandervort
Quietly Georgia Tech has become one of the better defenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
When the Yellow Jackets visit sixth-ranked Clemson this Thursday night in Death Valley, they will bring with them the conference’s second best rushing defense (103.4 yards per game), third best total defense (329.6) and the third best scoring defense (18.8)
“They are one of the top defenses we have seen this year and one of the top defenses in the country. I think they are ranked 12th or 13th nationally,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Monday. “They have been really impressive. They have been playing extremely hard and they have some playmakers on that side of the ball, too.”
When people talk about Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2 ACC) they talk about Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack that once against leads the ACC with 311.2 yards per game on the ground. But defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who used to be the head coach at Duke, has turned some heads in his first year as the Yellow Jackets defensive guru, has Tech in position to at least claim a share of the ACC’s Coastal Division Crown with a win against the Tigers.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Morris said. “They are very talented. They have some pass rushers (Jeremiah Attaochu and Emmanuel Dieke) that can get after you. They don’t play that many snaps in a game. The highest we have seen them play is around seventy snaps.
“But from what we have seen, when they are out there, they do a very good job. Coach Roof has done a great job with them, especially with this just being his first year.”
Roof’s defense should make for an interesting storyline going against Morris’ high-flying offense. The Tigers are second in the ACC in total and scoring offense at 507 yards and 39.8 points per game, while their 332.7 passing per game leads conference.
“We have been clicking,” Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas said.
Against Virginia, the Tigers (8-1, 6-1) showed just how well it can play when things are clicking on offense. Clemson racked up a season-high 610 yards against the Cavaliers, which included an 8-play, 86-yard scoring drive at the end of the first half that took only 42 seconds to complete.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd capped the drive with a one-yard run with 13 seconds left in the second quarter. Clemson went onto win the game, 59-10.
“That drive was Clemson football,” Thomas said. “That’s how our offense is supposed to play. We look at that drive as an example of how we should play all the time, and that’ what we are working for.”
Morris just wants to see his offense continue to get better which has been the case in each of the Tigers last two victories. Clemson racked 540 yards in 98 plays in a 40-27 victory at Maryland on Oct. 26.
The Tigers want to continue that trend Thursday night, especially considering in their last home of the season second-ranked Florida State held them to 14 points and 326 total yards, both season lows.
“We are going to come into this game and do what we have to do,” Morris said.