Unusual week begins for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech running back Nathan Cottrell (31) eludes a tackle by Bowling Green defensive back Torrian Hampton (10) from in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 29, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM



An unusual week began Friday for Georgia Tech and will conclude this coming Friday, when the Yellow Jackets play at Louisville.

Tech will play it first Friday regular-season game since 1994, when the Jackets played Georgia on the day after Thanksgiving. (Tech fans probably don’t want to look that one up.) It will cause a disruption to the standard weekly schedule, not ideal preparation as the Jackets prepare for a critical game that could even up their record at 3-3 after a three-game losing streak dropped them to 1-3.

Quarterback TaQuon Marshall was pointing his team toward it in the locker room following the Jackets’ 63-17 win over Bowling Green on Saturday.

“Everybody knows what this game means,” Marshall said. “I just told the guys, everybody’s always talking about a big prime-time game. You got one. Friday night – the only game that’ll probably be on. Seven o’clock, they’re wearing all black (Louisville is promoting the game as a black-out), so their stadium will be jumping. That’s what you play college football for. It’ll be rocking, so everybody’ll be ready to play.”

Tech was to begin its practice week Sunday, a day ahead of schedule. Jackets players normally have Sunday off after games and then begin practice on Monday. The team will also practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and fly to Louisville on Thursday. It will be the first-ever meeting with the Cardinals.

It will be the sixth time that Tech has played an opponent on less than a week’s rest in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure. The Jackets have won three (Clemson in 2009, Presbyterian in 2012 and Jacksonville State in 2017) and lost two (Virginia Tech in 2013 and Clemson in 2016).

It’s a week in which rest and hydration will perhaps be even more important than normal.

Last year’s Jacksonville State game followed Tech’s double-overtime loss to Tennessee on Labor Day night, when the offense ran 96 plays, the most in Johnson’s tenure. Players’ legs seemed to be affected in the 37-10 win over the Gamecocks. After the game, Johnson remarked that “it looked like we were playing in sand.”

In the lopsided win over Bowling Green on Saturday, starters were subbed out in the fourth quarter. The Tech defense was on the field for 87 snaps – the most the Jackets have played on defense since the Virginia game in 2016 – but most players were in a steady rotation. The offense took 56 snaps, well below its 2017 average of 68.3 snaps per game.

Louisville lost to Florida State 28-24 on Saturday to fall to 2-3. The Cardinals offense ran 83 snaps and the defense played 58.

Tech had to alter its preparation schedule last week because of the Friday night game. NCAA rules stipulate that athletes must be given one day off in a week, which for the team is normally on Sunday. But since the team was scheduled to practice Sunday, coaches gave players Friday off instead. Typically a day in which the team attends meetings at the team hotel to review the game plan, players were still at the hotel, but did not have any meetings. Marshall, whose Friday night routine includes playing video games with teammates, said he devoted his extra free time to his team-bonding exercise of choice.

When Johnson was at Georgia Southern, “we never met on Friday, never went to a hotel,” he said. “We managed to win 38 games in a row at home. It might be overrated.”

This is one of the weeks that raised Johnson’s concerns prior to the season about the class schedules of Marshall and others. Marshall started the semester with a 6 p.m. class on Monday evening, which required him to be excused early from practice in the first week of the semester.

In most weeks, it’s not a concern, as Monday practices aren’t as long as the Tuesday and Wednesday practices and not as critical to game preparation. But with the schedule moved up this week, Monday’s practice will include plenty of game prep for Louisville. (Tech also will be under a similar schedule before its game against Virginia Tech on Oct. 25, a Thursday night game.)

It’s why Marshall, at Johnson’s request, changed out of the class and will take it in the spring semester instead.


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