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Georgia Tech seeks elusive prize Friday: a road win

Nov. 26, 2016 is a significant date in the recent football histories of both Georgia and Georgia Tech. On that afternoon at Sanford Stadium, the Yellow Jackets rallied from 13 points down midway through the fourth quarter to stun the Bulldogs 28-27.

Since then, Georgia has not lost at home. Also since then, Tech has not won on the road, often losing in a manner similar to the way the Jackets defeated the Bulldogs. The Jackets will try to break their six-game road losing streak on Friday at Louisville, which is the longest active road losing streak in the ACC. They’re just one of five power-conference teams who have not won a true road game (as opposed to neutral-site) since the start of the 2017 season.

Coach Paul Johnson downplayed the streak Tuesday, calling it a distraction.

“Like I’ve said, it’s hard to win games in general, it’s hard to win on the road,” he said. “We don’t talk about that. It’s like I tell our team, and as coaches, we try to do it. Sometimes, it’s hard. You’ve just got to turn off all the noise.”

Over that time, Tech is 5-2 against FBS teams at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The average score in those games is 32-25 in the Jackets’ favor. The Jackets have outgained opponents by an average of 51 yards. On the road, the average score has been 34-25 in the home teams’ favor, with opponents outgaining Tech by 45 yards.

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The opposition has been a factor: Tech lost on the road last year to Clemson and Miami, which were a combined 22-5. This season, South Florida is 4-0. However, Tech’s road losing streak also includes defeats last season at Virginia and Duke, which were a combined 13-13, and this season at Pittsburgh, which is 2-3.

The Jackets have played more palatable opponents at home, including North Carolina and Pitt last season, neither of which made a bowl game, and Bowling Green, which dropped to 1-4 after losing to Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday.

Asked if being on the road has been a factor in the defeats, Johnson said he didn’t know. He pointed out that Tech gained 602 yards against South Florida in the 49-38 loss earlier this season.

“We just didn’t find a way to win it,” he said. “Pitt, we didn’t play particularly well on offense on the road. So go figure. Maybe one’s north and one’s south. Sometimes, it’s got a lot to do with who you play.”

Louisville would seem a favorable opponent to end the streak, and not only because it’s south of Pittsburgh and north of Tampa, Fla. The Cardinals are 2-3 and 121st nationally in total offense at 311.6 yards per game and 75th in total defense (385.8 yards per game). Louisville did record its season high for total offense (421 yards) in a loss Saturday to Florida State.

After their confidence-building win over Bowling Green, the Jackets hope to build on that result in the school’s first football meeting against Louisville. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall is OK with playing on the road.

“I actually enjoy road games, especially when the crowd’s really into it,” Marshall said. “It gives you a different energy, gives you a different feel. You just want everybody to be quiet once you get up on them.”

Getting up on opponents on the road hasn’t necessarily been the problem. In four of the six losses, the Jackets have led by 10 or more points before succumbing. One week after breaking its three-game losing streak, Tech has a chance to end a more extended slide.

More important, the Jackets can return to .500 and pick up a much-needed conference win.

“We haven’t won on the road in awhile, so I think that’ll be big for our season and for our team,” A-back Clinton Lynch said.

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