It’s a game that Greenard, one of 23 players from Georgia on the Cardinals roster, is anticipating.
“I actually wish we played them at Georgia Tech so I could actually get a chance to go back home,” he said. “However, I think it’s a grand opportunity. When you play against a team like Georgia Tech, known for their traditional triple option, it’s an honor to play them. You have to respect the game when you play them.”
Greenard, who played one season of youth football with Tech A-back Clinton Lynch and is also friends with defensive back Jaytlin Askew, is also motivated by the fact that Tech did not offer him a scholarship. What will that do for him?
“A lot more juice (motivation),” said Greenard, who had seven sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season, the latter total tied for fifth in the ACC. “A whole lot more juice.”
The game will also be Tech’s first regular-season Friday game since 1994, which was against Georgia the day after Thanksgiving. Louisville played two Friday-night games in 2016 as part of ESPN’s package.
“Think of it as if you’re playing a high-school game all over again, but just at that next level,” Greenard said. “It’s almost like a reunion, so that built-up emotion, the feeling of how you had it in high school, it’s just coming back and it’s perfect.”
On the subject of reunions, Johnson will match wits again with Cardinals defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who held the same position at Notre Dame in 2015 when the Fighting Irish defeated the Yellow Jackets in a meeting of top-15 teams.
“We work (the preparation of the defense) together, but the good thing is, coach VanGorder played against (Johnson’s offense) also and so he has some great beliefs in how to stop the option,” Petrino said.
In 2015, Notre Dame limited Tech to 216 rushing yards and 337 yards of total offense in the 30-22 Fighting Irish win. Asked about VanGorder on Wednesday, Johnson was ready with a reply.
“Well, we saw him at Notre Dame,” Johnson said. “We also saw him two years ago at Georgia.”
It was a more favorable result for Tech and Johnson. In 2016, after VanGorder had been fired at Notre Dame four games into the season, Georgia coach Kirby Smart hired VanGorder as a consultant, specifically to help the Bulldogs stop Tech’s spread-option offense. The Yellow Jackets gained 226 rushing yards, but moved the ball when it counted, driving for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to stun the Bulldogs 28-27.
The history doesn't end there. When VanGorder was hired at Georgia Southern as its head coach in December 2005 – following the firing of Mike Sewak, a longtime assistant to Johnson – he jettisoned the option scheme that had led the Eagles to six Division I-AA (now FCS) championships. He also apparently took potshots at Johnson's offense, words that remained lodged in Johnson's memory when he brought them up before the Notre Dame game.
There are other connections between the staffs. Petrino’s brother, Paul, is coach at Idaho, where he coached against Tech defensive coordinator Nate Woody when he was coordinator at Appalachian State. Idaho was in the Sun Belt Conference with Appalachian State until leaving after last season.
“(Paul Petrino) has got all the respect in the world for him, says they do a really good job,” Bobby Petrino said.