“I’ll say this, I think Paul Johnson did a really great job tonight,” Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “He was one step ahead of me.”
A week after giving up 636 yards of offense to North Carolina in a 48-20 defeat, Georgia Tech played its defensive best game of the season. Entering the game ranked 124th in FBS with eight sacks, the Jackets employed effective blitz pressure and sacked quarterback Jerod Evans five times. Defensive tackle Patrick Gamble was particularly successful in collapsing the pocket. Evans threw two interceptions, both to cornerback Lawrence Austin, matching Evans’ season total from the Hokies’ first nine games.
Tech played without starters Thomas, Burden, Andrew Marshall, A-back J.J. Green, and B-back Dedrick Mills, all of whom except Mills were out with injuries. Mills served the first half of a two-game suspension for breaking team rules. Thomas, Burden and Marshall dressed but did not play.
That’s the team’s best player (Thomas), probably the most consistent offensive lineman (Burden), most important running back (Mills), best blocking A-back (Green) and Marshall, perhaps the most consistent offensive tackle. The Jackets started three first-year freshmen on the offensive line, which Johnson said he could not remember happening in his career.
Before Saturday, Georgia Tech’s largest upset by measure of point spread in Johnson’s tenure was its 2014 win over Georgia, when the Jackets were 10.5-point favorites. By ESPN’s metrics, the Hokies had a 73.9 percent probability of winning.
“We were able to find enough ways,” Johnson said. “We hit some big plays and found a way to get it done.”