Georgia Tech began its season with a Thursday night game at Clemson. The Yellow Jackets will conclude their ACC schedule with another Thursday night contest, this one at home against N.C. State.
At 4-6, the Wolfpack need to win their final two games to gain bowl eligibility. At 2-8, the Yellow Jackets are trying to pick up a third win after getting shut out at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday.
Five things to know about Thursday night’s game:
1. Upping the energy level
Coach Geoff Collins and players have sought not to repeat the low-energy effort that was on display in the 45-0 home loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday.
“This week, that’s what we’re looking at, just looking at effort, just looking at finishing, physicality, technique, all of that,” offensive tackle Zach Quinney said.
Quinney said that leading to the Virginia Tech game, “we didn’t have a bad week of practice.” However, once the game started, the energy wasn’t there as it had been previously.
“And we started off bad, and we never really got back up and finished – that was our problem,” he said. “That’s what we plan on fixing.”
Collins recognized that his team had invested a lot in previous games, though he declined to accept it as an explanation for his team’s play. He said that playing with energy, effort and focus should be givens.
“That’s part of the process that we’re making sure our guys understand,” he said.
2. Thin numbers on both sides
N.C. State and Tech have both been beat up by injuries. The Wolfpack have lost seven scholarship players to season-ending injuries. The Jackets have lost seven scholarship players with season-ending injuries – defensive end Chico Bennett, wide receiver Jalen Camp, center Kenny Cooper, defensive back Ajani Kerr, two-way lineman Jahaziel Lee, defensive end Antwan Owens and linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling – and also had two players who were medically disqualified – defensive lineman Brad Morgan and wide receiver Tija’i Whatley.
The Wolfpack have had 45 different players start this season, third most in FBS, and one fewer than Tech at 44. With a small senior class to begin with, freshmen and sophomores have regularly logged more than 70 percent of the team’s snaps.
N.C. State has played 33 freshmen, tied for third most in the country. Tech has played 31, tied for fifth most.
3. Taking on the Atlantic on a Thursday night
Collins will be challenged to continue former coach Paul Johnson’s domination of the rotating cross-division game. In 11 seasons, the Jackets were 15-1 in the regular season against non-Clemson Atlantic Division teams. (The lone defeat was to N.C. State in 2010, then quarterbacked by future Pro Bowler Russell Wilson.)
On the other hand, Collins will try to stop the Jackets’ streak of four consecutive losses in Thursday night home games, three to Virginia Tech and one against Clemson.
Collins himself was eager for the game, saying that, in his dreams of becoming Tech’s head coach, his visions included games under the lights of Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“I think this is arguably one of the greatest backdrops for a night game in college football,” he said.
To prepare for the game on short rest, Tech players were following a program designed by Collins and his staff to maximize recovery – hot tub, cold tub, stretching, loosening muscles with a foam roller.
4. Inspecting N.C. State
The Wolfpack have an unusual statistical line. N.C. State ranks tied for 16th nationally in tackles for loss with 75 in 10 games and also tied for 16th in sacks with 32. Defensive tackle Larrell Murchison leads with 11 tackles for loss and five sacks.
However, Wolfpack opponents are completing 64.4 percent of their passes, 108th in FBS. Further, N.C. State has recorded only three interceptions while facing 362 passes. The interception total is tied for last in FBS. The Wolfpack have also forced five fumbles, tied for 107th nationally. In fact, in six ACC games, N.C. State doesn’t have a single turnover.
Tech quarterback James Graham said he took some confidence from the Wolfpack’s difficulties in gaining takeaways, “but things happen in games – turnover will happen,” he said. “It’s just how we play, executing-wise, and effort.”
5. Maximizing redshirt rule
With two games remaining in the regular season and no opportunity to play in a bowl game, Collins has three freshmen who can play one more game and still preserve their redshirts, and two who have played two games, making them available for both games.
Defensive back Kenan Johnson, cornerback Jordan Huff and defensive tackle Mike Lockhart have appeared in three games. Cornerback Wesley Walker and quarterback Jordan Yates have played in two games.
“He’s developing a lot,” defensive tackle Brentavious Glanton said of Lockhart, who played only one season of high-school football. “He definitely has a listening ear. I think he’ll be a great player here in the near future, as well.”
Yates played in the second half of the loss to Virginia Tech in place of Graham.
“I thought Jordan came in there and did some good things so we’re excited about him,” Collins said.
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