Tigers have held Ga. Tech to 166 combined rushing yards the last two seasons
Paul Johnson says there are two reasons why Clemson has whipped Georgia Tech the last two seasons.
“They’re good and we’ve played like garbage,” the Yellow Jackets head coach said. “Certainly we’ve got to play better, but they’ve been pretty good the last two years.”
In the last two meetings between the Tigers and Yellow Jackets, which will meet again Saturday in Death Valley for an 8:12 p.m. kick, Georgia Tech has managed just 166 rushing yards combined, while averaging just 2.1 yards per carry.
When that happens to Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, then the Yellow Jackets are in trouble. Two years ago in the Valley, Clemson held the Yellow Jackets to 71 rushing yards, a low for a Paul Johnson coached team as the Tigers routed Georgia Tech, 43-24.
Last year, Clemson got its first win in Atlanta since 2003 as the Tigers’ limited Johnson’s rushing attack to 95 yards while the offense, as a whole, managed just 124 yards, another record against a Johnson coached team.
“Negative plays, a lot of sacks, a lot of lost yardage plays,” Johnson said.
This year, the Yellow Jackets (4-2, 3-1 ACC) hope to rectify things against Clemson, thanks to a rushing attack that ranks second in the country at 372.8 yards per game.
“I think they are probably running it a little bit more than they have in the past and obviously they have been a run-heavy team,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “They are closer to 90-10 (run to pass) than they are 80-20, which I think they would like to be around 80-20.”
Leading the way for Georgia Tech is quarterback Taquon Marshall, who ranks 12th nationally in rushing, averaging 117.3 yards per game, while scoring 11 touchdowns, which is tied for 7th nationally.
“The quarterback has really made good decisions and has shown good instincts with his decision making, patients and his poise is really outstanding for a young player,” Venables said.
But can Marshall do it against the Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC)? Besides the Syracuse game, Clemson has been stingy against the run, especially its first-team defense. The Tigers are second in the ACC and 13th nationally at stopping the run, allowing just 107.9 yards per game. They are also 11th in tackles for loss, averaging 8.0 per game.
“They’re good. They’ve been good for a few years,” Johnson said. “They’ve got a lot of guys and they roll them. They’re big, fast and strong.
“We plan to do what we do every year. That’s what we do. We’re not going to change what we do. We just got to play a lot better than we’ve played against them, really last year especially. I think the year before we were somewhat limited when we played them. Last year we played a horrendous first half. Played a little better in the second half, but we were so far behind it really didn’t matter.”
Clemson won last year’s game 26-7. A late score by Tech prevented Clemson from getting the shutout.
“They’ve got really good players, but they have had that since we’ve been here,” Johnson said. “I can’t remember a year that they didn’t have a really good and big defensive line, from the time I arrived here. Now, they’ve probably got more of them.
“When I first came, there might have only been four or five, now there are eight. It’s like they roll them, keep them fresh and they’ve got a lot of erasers on defense. They can get lined up wrong and not fit right, somebody beats a block and comes to the rescue. They’ve got guys that can do that.”