Here are five things to know before Saturday’s game:
1. Tech loses defensive lineman to injury
Tech coach Brent Key announced Thursday that Sylvain Yondjouen, a program representative at this summer’s ACC Kickoff, has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.
A 6-foot-4, 248-pound senior from Belgium, Yondjouen left the season opener against Louisville after 27 plays. Key said Yondjouen will have surgery Sept. 21 and plans to return to Tech for the 2024 season.
“Hate it for him,” Key said. “But as I told him, ‘So what, now what? What can you do about it? All you can do about it now is prepare for getting surgery, prepare for rehab.’ Excited to know Sylvain will be with us another year, and he’s made that decision with his family.
“Excited for that, excited for his future. Hate it in the meantime for him, hate him not being on the field with us. It leaves a void not only as a great player but in a leadership standpoint. So we’ll have other guys that will step up on the field, and he’ll be with us the entire time, still being the leader that he is on the sideline.”
Key said Eddie Kelly, Etinosa Reuben, Noah Collins and Josh Robinson are among the options to take over Yondjouen’s starting role this week. Kelly, a South Florida transfer, played 20 defensive snaps for the Jackets against Louisville and recorded one tackle.
“We’ve got guys that can step up and fill the void from a body standpoint,” Key said. “We’re going to miss Sylvain. He’s a really good football player, so now it’s just a challenge to those other ones to step up and take his place.”
2. Chasing 750
Should Tech leave the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium with a victory it will become the 29th college football program to win 750 games and the 21st among FBS programs to do so.
Tech, which played its first game in 1892 against Mercer, sits at 749 victories going into Saturday. The Jackets have the 29th most wins in college football history, trailing Florida’s 753 for 28th.
3. Offensive line shuffles
Tech quickly had its offensive line depth tested in the opener against Louisville. That depth passed the test and could lead to some lineup changes as early as Saturday.
Right guard Jordan Williams left the opener with an injury, and left tackle Corey Robinson was replaced. That allowed transfer Connor Scaglione and freshman Ethan Mackenny to make their respective Tech debuts. Mackenny, from Lassiter High, played 59 snaps at left tackle, while Scaglione, a Princeton graduate, played 61 snaps in Williams’ place.
“(Scaglione) stepped up and was ready to roll,” Tech center Weston Franklin said. “When something happens and he could step in and not skip a beat, that’s what was expected of him and that’s what he did. We’re proud of him for that.
“I felt like (Mackenny) did great. Obviously, there’s a couple things here and there he can work on. That’s what I told him once we knew as a group he was going into the game, I said, ‘Don’t let the moment get too big for you. It’s just another football game. Go out there and play and do what you do.’ I’ve been in that situation before, so just tried to help him as much as I can and just keep him rolling, keep him playing football like we’ve seen in practice. He did that, and we’re proud of him for that.”
4. South Carolina streak (not the good kind)
Playing opponents from the Palmetto State has not worked out for the Jackets in recent seasons.
Tech goes into Saturday’s game having lost nine in a row to teams from South Carolina. Most of those defeats have come at the hands of Clemson, who has reeled off eight consecutive victories against the Jackets, dating to 2014.
Tech also lost to The Citadel in 2019.
South Carolina State is receiving $400,000 from Tech on Saturday, a payment Tech will make gladly if it can snap the streak.
5. Pough’s swan song
The career of Oliver “Buddy” Pough is coming to a close, and what a career it has been.
South Carolina State’s coach took over the Bulldogs in 2002 and has won 146 games since. Pough has guided the Bulldogs to three outright MEAC titles and shared five others. S.C. State has been to the FCS playoffs four times under his leadership.
Pough is an Orangeburg, South Carolina, native and a former offensive lineman for the Bulldogs. He began his career in coaching in 1975. He won a state championship in 1996 coaching Fairfield-Central High (S.C.) and also served as an assistant at South Carolina before taking charge of his alma mater.
Pough will retire at the end of the 2023 season.
“Coach Pough is a legend in his conference, his division and his level of football,” Key said. “We were privileged to play them many years ago when I was at (Central Florida) and they gave us a dogfight. His teams are well-prepared, they play hard, they’ve got some good players on their team in spots that we’ll have to be aware of.
“It’s an honor to be able to coach against him on his final ride as a head coach.”
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC