5 things to know before Georgia Tech-Louisville

Georgia Tech will play Louisville on Friday night in their first meeting at Bobby Dodd Stadium and second all-time. After losing at Syracuse 37-20 on Sept. 26, the Yellow Jackets have been trying to fix ball-security problems and prevent the big plays that have assailed the defense.

Here are five things to know going into the game:

1. Hold on to the ball

A no-doubt point of emphasis Friday will be limiting turnovers, as Tech has thrown eight interceptions and lost four fumbles in its first three games. In FBS, only Duke has turned the ball over more often.

While unlucky bounces have betrayed him, quarterback Jeff Sims needs to learn to throw the ball away or tuck the ball and run when pressure dictates.

“We’re just going to have to be patient along the way, that there’s going to be a time where he’s going to see something for the first time that he’s never seen before,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “And he’s going have to figure it out and just stay with your base rules.”

What is also notable, though, is that the Jackets have opened the season with three consecutive games with 400 yards of offense. The Jackets didn’t reach 400 yards once last season and hadn’t had three consecutive games with 400 yards since 2016. The last time they’d opened a season with three games in a row with 400 yards of offense was 2013. As coach Geoff Collins put it, “we’ve been able to move the ball up and down the field on some good opponents.” The problem has been the red-zone turnovers and missed field-goal attempts.

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2. Protect Sims

Tech’s offensive line will be challenged to do better in pass protection than it did against Syracuse, when the Orange’s “3-3 stack” defense was able to create pressure on Sims. Tech allowed eight quarterback hurries and one sack as Sims completed 13 of 28 passes with one touchdown and four interceptions, the least effective of his three games.

Louisville plays a 3-4 defense, out of which the Cardinals like to blitz with their inside linebackers. Two of them, Dorian Etheridge and Monty Montgomery, have two sacks, most on the team. Montgomery, from Norcross High, led the team with five sacks last season.

Syracuse’s success was somewhat unexpected, as the Jackets had done an effective job protecting Sims in the first two games, giving up one sack and six hurries on 70 pass attempts by Sims.

Right guard Ryan Johnson compared offensive-line play with a musical chord, where every note has to be played correctly to achieve the right sound, just as each lineman (and back or tight end) has to do his job in combination with his teammates to create an effective pocket.

3. Connection between coaches

Collins and Louisville coach Scott Satterfield coached together for one season, in 2010 at Florida International. Collins was hired from Central Florida to be defensive coordinator, while Satterfield was hired from the Toledo coaching staff to coordinate the offense for coach Mario Cristobal, who was going into his fourth season at FIU.

Before the 2010 season, FIU had posted losing seasons every year since starting its team in 2002. In 2010, the Panthers improved from 100th to 46th in total offense and from 119th (second to last) to 61st in total defense. After an 0-4 start, FIU tied for its first Sun Belt Conference championship, went to its first bowl game and earned its first winning season.

Collins left after one season to become co-defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. Satterfield stayed another season before jumping to become offensive coordinator at Appalachian State, which led to him becoming the Mountaineers head coach, where he remained until taking the Louisville job.

On Monday, Collins said that 2010 season was “something special” in his career and called Satterfield a “dear friend.” Satterfield was also a first-year coach last year, leading the Cardinals from a 2-10 record and the disastrous end of Bobby Petrino’s tenure to an 8-5 season in 2019, despite being picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division.

“Just tremendous amount of respect for him and what he does,” Collins said.

4. Louisville’s Georgian-heavy roster

Louisville’s roster has 25 players on its roster from the state of Georgia, close to as many as it has from Kentucky, 31. Louisville has, in fact, the most Georgia residents of any team in the ACC besides Tech, according to teams' online rosters. Moreover, it’s the largest cluster of out-of-state players from any state on any ACC roster. (Tech is next with its 22 players from Florida.)

Among teams with the most players from Georgia, Clemson and Florida State are next after Louisville with 21, followed by Duke with 20.

Most were recruited by Petrino, including right guard Robbie Bell (Mill Creek High) and defensive end Tabarius Peterson (Tucker High), both in their third seasons as starters. However, Satterfield’s 2020 signing class included nine players from the state of Georgia.

5. Scouting report

Louisville offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford’s assessment of Tech’s defense:

“No. 6, their Mike linebacker (David Curry), he’s a guy that plays with a high motor. He’s all over the field going sideline to sideline. Both their defensive ends, No. 42 and No. 32 (Jordan Domineck and Sylvain Yondjouen, respectively), both those guys do a solid job of trying to keep everything inside as far as trying to collapse the pocket from the outside. I think those two guys on the inside, (Ja’Quon) Griffin and (Djimon) Brooks, they’re stout at the point of attack. I think they’re well-coached, good size and they can run.”

Louisville defensive coordinator Bryan Brown on Sims:

“He’s a young freshman that can spin the football. He makes mistakes here and there, but I tell you what – he pulls that ball down and he runs it. He kind of reminds you of (quarterback D’Eriq) King from Miami, but I think he’s faster and he covers a lot more ground than King does because he’s a little bit taller. When you’ve got a guy that that’s dynamic that can throw the football and beat you with his legs, he’s very dynamic, so you’ve got to do some things to make sure that your pass rush lanes are not past the quarterback and you’ve got to cover up some gaps so he can’t just release.”

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