Georgia Tech defense looks strong against Alcorn State

Alcorn State did distinguish itself last season at its level of competition. The Braves were No. 2 in scoring in FCS at 44 points per game, No. 5 nationally in rushing yards per game (285.2) and also won the SWAC championship.

Even with 10 returning starters on offense, the Braves could not make headway against the Georgia Tech defense. Seeking improvement from last season, when they were among the weakest teams in the nation at stopping third-down conversions, the Yellow Jackets took a commendable first step in their season opener Thursday night. They thwarted Alcorn State at almost every turn of the 69-6 win until third- and fourth-stringers took the stage in the second half.

Tech didn’t allow a first down until Alcorn State’s sixth series of the game. The Jackets didn’t permit the Braves to convert a third down until their ninth attempt, in the third quarter. In the first half, Alcorn State averaged 2.6 yards on its 31 offensive snaps.

The Jackets also ended two first-half possessions with takeaways, an opening-series interception by cornerback Chris Milton and a second-quarter strip by defensive end KeShun Freeman that was recovered by safety A.J. Gray. Both turnovers handed the Tech offense the ball in advantageous positions, which led to touchdowns.

“It was real big because it was our first series in the game, so we were trying to go out and make a statement for ourselves and just go out there and get better,” Milton said of his interception.

Other playmakers included tackle Adam Gotsis, who set up Milton’s interception with a tackle for loss on the previous play, linebacker P.J. Davis, whose third-down blitz forced a throwaway to end the second series, and first-year freshman defensive end Anree Saint-Amour, whose pressure forced Alcorn State quarterback John Gibbs Jr. out of the pocket and into a third-down incompletion in the second quarter.

The defense’s play fed into the Jackets scoring touchdowns on their first seven possessions, which in turn enabled both offense and defense to sub in second stringers early in the game and provide valuable game experience.

“It was good to get my first game under my belt,” said Gray, a first-year freshman who had four tackles. “I’ve got a lot to work on.”