Facing what may be the last five games he plays at Georgia Tech, senior defensive tackle Patrick Gamble believes the Yellow Jackets are capable of big things, starting Saturday with Duke at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“We’ve got a chance to go 9-3 and control our own destiny,” he said. “We can be right back in this thing.”
The ACC’s Coastal Division is a jumble with the Yellow Jackets (1-3) still alive, though they are sixth of seven teams with North Carolina (4-1) on top.
Tech has games remaining with three of the four teams it is chasing: at the Tar Heels on Nov. 5, at Virginia Tech (3-1) on Nov. 12 and vs. Virginia on Nov. 19.
“Still a lot out there to be played for, we just have to go and get it,” Gamble said.
Gamble has experienced the highs of winning the Orange Bowl as a redshirt sophomore, to the lows of seeing its bowl-appearance streak snapped at 18 with last season’s 3-9 record.
Through it all, he has earned the respect of his coaches and teammates.
Gamble was recruited as a three-star player out of Central Carroll High School with the possibility of making him an offensive tackle, according to Tech coach Paul Johnson. Gamble has a frame (6-foot-5, 277 pounds) similar to past Tech tackle Nick Claytor.
The staff gave Gamble a chance to play his preferred spot at defensive end until attrition forced a move to defensive tackle.
Johnson said Gamble embraced the move.
“I think Pat’s gotten better each year he’s played,” Johnson said. “He’s played through a lot of injuries, a lot of stuff that people don’t realize. He’s one of our toughest kids on the team.”
Gamble started with six tackles in eight games as a redshirt freshman, to 25 tackles in 14 games as a redshirt junior, to 38 tackles in 10 games as a redshirt junior.
This season, Gamble leads the linemen in tackles (24) and is tied for the lead with Antonio Simmons in tackles for loss (5).
“Pat’s our leader and he has made some plays for us,” line coach Mike Pelton said. “He’s one of those guys that won’t come out of the game no matter where he’s hurt. He’s our guy. He makes it go.”
Pelton said Gamble works hard off the field to improve because he wants to understand the whys of the defense.
Gamble’s play has helped make up for the loss of Adam Gotsis to the NFL. Tech’s run defense has actually improved statistically. While last season opponents averaged 4.69 yards per carry, this season they are averaging 3.95. Just one runner, Boston College’s Jon Hilliman, has rushed for more than 100 yards and that came in the opener.
Gamble’s play will be important against Duke because the past two seasons the Blue Devils have had success running up the middle in totaling 242 rushing yards in 2014 and 165 last season in two victories.
“Gamble is a steady, reliable guy,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “We know what we are going to get from Pat day in and day out. He has earned respect through his journey. He’s had to earn everything he’s gotten. Not just his teammates, but his coaches too.”
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