On Tuesday, ACC Coastal Division players provided their first-reaction thoughts about Georgia Tech. For the second installment, they gave their memories of their 2017 games against the Yellow Jackets, which included wins for Duke, Miami and Virginia and losses for North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia running back
“Honestly, the last drive that we had was the biggest thing. They just had scored and then we went down and scored right back and took the lead and held on and we beat them. That was the biggest thing.”
Tech took a 36-33 lead with 3:10 to play, only to have Virginia answer back with a five-play, 64-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead at 40-36, reaching the end zone with 1:22 left in the game.
Daniel Jones, Duke quarterback
“I remember it was a tough start for me, for our offense, but I think that was a game where we proved to ourselves we could figure it out, and we had a good second half there and that pushed us over the top. That was a big game for us to bounce back from a tough stretch there in the middle of the season. I think that helped us finish strong at Wake and then into the bowl game.”
Duke trailed 14-3 early in the second quarter before rallying to tie the score at 20-20 by halftime. The Blue Devils then outscored Tech 23-0 in the second half in a 43-20 win. It broke a six-game losing streak for Duke.
Joe Giles-Harris, Duke linebacker
“It was a slow start. It was a nervous start. They threw a touchdown on us early and they were running at will and the QB, (TaQuon) Marshall, had his way with us. I remember coming in at halftime, 20-20. (They) made a couple plays, but it was, like, all right, that was their best shot. We’re ready to go. It was kind of a ‘Settle down and regroup and let’s go get what we know we can do.’ That was the best part. And then, came out and we handled business the second half.”
> On changes at halftime:
“Nope. Just settled down.”
North Carolina defensive tackle Aaron Crawford
“Honestly, I got banged up a little bit there in last year’s game, so nothing great. But playing at Georgia Tech my first year (2015), when we were down 20 and had to come back, that was one of my best memories. So, mixed feelings playing there.”
Tech hammered North Carolina 33-7, ending a three-game losing streak to the Tar Heels. It was Tech’s most decisive win of the season. Crawford actually had three tackles, including a sack. The Jackets ran for 403 yards on 66 attempts.
> On playing at Bobby Dodd Stadium:
“I thought the way the stadium is set up is unique, just the way that it’s shaped and the fans are right at your back and the student section is right there. I enjoy playing there.”
Miami safety Jaquan Johnson
“That was a close game. That was one of the closest games. If it wasn’t for that catch, we would have lost that game. And I watch that game all the time like, that could have been one (loss) on our record.”
You probably don’t need to be reminded, but Miami converted a fourth-and-10 with less than a minute to play with a tipped pass, then went on to score the game-winning goal with four seconds left in a 25-24 win. Early in the game, Tech had success with toss plays and option plays to the perimeter, with Clinton Lynch picking up 48 yards on its first touchdown drive and Nathan Cottrell gaining 24 and Qua Searcy 14 on the next drive, which pushed Tech’s lead to 14-3.
“I remember they had the receiver cracking down on our safety, and they had pulling guards and fullback taking out our cornerbacks, so that left our edge weak. Coach (Manny) Diaz (Miami’s defensive coordinator) realized that and we had to make an adjustment, which we did and we were able to stop it.”
Pittsburgh offensive tackle Alex Bookser
“I remember we struggled in pass protection. I had to play some tackle that game. It’s just one of those (games), you think back, you don’t remember that much about it other than it didn’t go well. You went through the film and you just kind of hated what you saw. But it’s the same thing. They’re always tough.”
Tech had three sacks in that game, tying its season high against an FBS opponent, in the 35-17 win. Antonio Simmons had two, the latter when he sped around Bookser at right tackle to bring down quarterback Max Browne.
Tech fumbled five times and lost four of them, but also put together touchdown drives of 68, 79, 80, 57 and 47 yards.
Pittsburgh linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu
“A lot of turnovers, a lot of things done right, but just not enough. Just not enough. We had a good bit of confidence – at least I did. I know did personally, have a good bit of confidence coming into that game. Didn’t end up the way we wanted it to. We just needed a little more, just a little more. We’ve got to keep ’em off the field longer. That offense – got to keep that offense off the field longer. That’s really the main thing. Can’t let them chip away, chip away, chip away. Gotta make big plays.”
Virginia Tech defensive tackle Ricky Walker
“What do I remember about it? Losing. Other than that, it was down there in Atlanta, pretty physical. I just remember those guys trying to tear me and Tim’s legs off, me and Tim Settle. Those guys were just trying to take us out of the game. There were some big plays in that game, though. First play of the game, wide open and up the middle of the field, and (TaQuon) Marshall overthrew him. That was a little blessing. And then toward the end, Greg Stroman (had a) pick-six. It was just a whole bunch of big plays that were game-changing plays.”
Georgia Tech scored on touchdown pass plays of 60 and 80 yards (Brad Stewart and Ricky Jeune, respectively), gave up its only defensive touchdown of the season (Stroman’s 24-yard interception return) and won 28-22 in its only win over a ranked opponent. (Ed. note: My read on Walker was that he spoke with admiration for Georgia Tech’s line play and wasn’t making accusations of dirty play.)
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