Tech limits Georgia Southern’s run game

Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison (4) gets tackled by Georgia Tech defensive lineman Kyle Cerge-Henderson (left) in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 15, 2016. Georgia Tech won 35-24 over the Georgia Southern. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Georgia Southern’s nationally ranked run game was limited to 167 rushing yards on Saturday in the Georgia Tech’s 35-24 win over the Eagles.

The Eagles averaged 286.6 rushing yards per game entering Bobby Dodd Stadium, but totaled 167 rushing yards against Tech. The Eagles are 0-6 in games when their opponent out-run them.

Tech safety Corey Griffin led the Jackets on defense with 10 tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss against the Eagles. Griffin attributed Tech’s success against the Eagles’ nationally ranked run game because each Jacket stuck to their job.

“If you’ve got quarterback, stay on quarterback. If you’ve got the dive, take the dive, and (the same thing with) pitch. I think we did fairly well. There was a couple misreads. We went to the sideline, adjusted and made those adjustments,” Griffin said.

The Jackets allowed an average of 135.5 rushing yards per game entering Saturday’s game.

Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida (36) is taken down by Georgia Tech linebacker Chase Alford (left), Georgia Tech defensive end Rod Rook-Chungong (center) and Georgia Tech linebacker Brant Mitchell (51) in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 15, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Senior running back Matt Breida was the Eagles’ leading rusher with 58 yards and three receptions for 18 yards on Saturday against Tech.

“Like every team, they’re going to pack guys in the box,” Breida said of Tech’s defense. “For the last two years, we led the nation in rushing and that’s what every team’s going to do against us. They’re going to pack guys in the box so we can block and they did a good job of doing that today.”

Along with running backs Wesley Fields and LA Ramsby and quarterbacks Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison, Breida is one of five Eagles that averaged at least 50 rushing yards per game entering Saturday’s matchup.

Ramsby, who averaged 52 rushing yards per game, scored both of the Eagles’ rushing touchdowns on 1-yard runs in the first quarter and in the fourth quarter. Ramsby rushed for nine yards against Tech.

Southern’s alternating quarterbacks Ellison and Upshaw both played against Tech and totaled 59 combined rushing yards. Upshaw, a senior, threw 8-for-16 for 66 yards and rushing for 21 rush yards against the Jackets, the lowest rush total of any game Upshaw started this season. Redshirt senior quarterback Ellison threw 10-for 17 for 102 yards and one touchdown.

“We didn’t come out here and play the game that we know how to play,” Ellison said. “(Tech’s defense was) very tough, physical. They play their assignments. They did their jobs, filled all the holes. Shout out to Georgia Tech’s defense.”

Coach Tyson Summers emphasized post-game how he was proud he was of the Eagles improvements since their 27-26 loss to Arkansas State on Oct. 5, especially on offense. With their run game not as productive as usual, the Eagles were able to focus on improving their passing game. The Eagles’ targeted seven different receivers against Tech.

“From a passing standpoint, we (need to) continue to do a pretty good job with our efficiency there and we got to do a little better job making sure we get up after we get the ball caught and were able to move the ball at field and add some things,” Summers said.

The most noticeable improvement in Saturday’s game for Breida was in the Eagles’ the offensive line learning to open up lanes. Like his coach, Breida still wants his team to work on the power of their passing game.

“We’re definitely trying to throw it more,” Breida said. “Not just trying to be a straight running team, definitely trying to open up the box more. I feel like we did a decent job with that today.”

The Eagles finished Saturday with 168 passing yards and one touchdown reception.

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