Georgia Tech does just enough on third downs

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Georgia Tech does just enough on third downs

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October 15, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Southern quarterback Favian Upshaw (13) tries to hold the football as he slips in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 15, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson continued to lament his defense’s inability to consistently stop opponents on third down this season. That trend continued in Saturday’s 35-24 win over Georgia Southern at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Eagles converted 13 of 20 (65 percent) third-down plays. Tech’s opponents converted 46 percent before Saturday’s game.

As a result, the Eagles ran 83 plays to Tech’s 55. Johnson described it as a nightmare to try to call plays when he knows the offense may not get ball for as long as he wants.

“We have to find a way to get off the field,” Johnson said. “People are doing to us what we’ve done to them for 100 years. It’s not any fun.”

The difference in the impact of the third downs in the previous games compared with Saturday’s was Tech played with a lead throughout against Georgia Southern.

Georgia Southern was successful on 3 of 4 third downs on its first scoring drive. The Eagles’ Favian Upshaw ran 14 yards on third-and-11 at the 24-yard line, Matt Breida rushed for 2 yards on the third-and-1 at the 47, and Wesley Fields rushed for 5 yards on third-and-3 at Tech’s 44. Tech did stop the Eagles on third-and-goal at the 3 when Myles Campbell tried to cut up field after a short reception instead of simply running into the end zone. Georgia Southern’s L.A. Ramsby scored from one yard on the next play.

The most glaring example of Tech’s problems on third down occurred on the Eagles’ next scoring drive. On third-and-2 at the 47-yard line, Tech’s Victor Alexander, in for injured starter P.J. Davis, blitzed up the middle and tried with one arm to sack Upshaw. He spun away and attempted a long pass to Malik Henry that resulted in the Yellow Jackets’ Step Durham being called for pass interference and giving the Eagles a first down on Tech’s 39-yard line. Georgia Southern eventually kicked a field after Tech got a stop on third-and-12 on the 19-yard line when Kevin Ellison was sacked for a loss of 3 yards.

“We have to play better than that defensively in in our league or we will get killed,” Johnson said.

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