The changes to Georgia Tech’s defensive plan largely worked for the Yellow Jackets. Tech moved backup defensive tackle Patrick Gamble to defensive end, in place of Kyle Travis, who started the previous four games. Gamble responded with two tackles and a pass batted down at the line.
Coaches had tried ot different players in recent weeks in practice, searching for a solution to create more pass-rush pressure and better run stopping.
“He lost contain a couple times, but he made some plays, especially helped us in the running game some,” coach Paul Johnson said of Gamble.
On third-and-long situations, defensive coordinator Ted Roof used a three-man front instead of the standard four, with Adam Gotsis and KeShun Freeman on the ends and Shawn Green in the middle. Put in the game plan this week, it gave Tech added flexibility with blitz packages and also enabled Gotsis to rush off the edge. The Jackets blitzed often on third down.
Coaches also chose to start Corey Griffin at free safety in place of Jamal Golden, who started the first eight games. Johnson called it a move to “shake it up” in the secondary and “let guys know that if you don’t play well, you don’t get just to play all the time.”
Golden, who ended up playing much of the game, came up with one of the plays of the game, a third-quarter end-zone interception of Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert on a fourth-and-8 play from the Tech 10-yard line.
“Whether I play 50 plays or I play four plays, whenever I get in there, I’m going to just do what I need to do,” Golden said. “It didn’t really bother me that much.”
Gamble left the game in the fourth quarter with a left-leg injury. Johnson said that an X-ray was negative, though he declined to say which part of the leg was examined.
Windy day: The winds that blew out of the northwest not only put a damper on the afternoon for the fans in the south end zone, but they were a clear factor for both teams, particularly as their offenses were going toward the north end zone. Facing a fourth-and-11 on the Virginia 27-yard line in the second quarter, Johnson chose go for it rather than try a 44-yard field goal by Harrison Butker. Johnson said he would have felt comfortable if the offense had reached the 20. Butker’s usual range without wind is roughly 55 yards.
Returner Jamal Golden said he was standing about 30 yards downfield for the second punt of the game and retreated when he saw the ball come off punter Alec Vozenilek’s foot, expecting a big kick. However, the wind knocked the ball down, and he was unable to catch it, and the punt ended up going 51 yards.
The wind “going one way was pretty difficult,” he said.
Surprise: Tech added a wrinkle for its second touchdown of the game. On a third-and-7 from the Virginia 18-yard line, quarterback Justin Thomas faked a triple-option mesh with B-back Synjyn Days to the left, then wheeled to the right and hit wide receiver DeAndre Smelter in front of the goal line. Smelter made the catch and drove past cornerback Maurice Canady for the touchdown. It was the first time Tech has run the play this season, Smelter said.
Johnson said the play was added to the game plan to take advantage of Virginia’s committing both safeties to defending the option, which left Smelter one-on-one on his side of the field.
Missed opportunity: A play that Virginia will bemoan was an incomplete pass on a third-and-goal play from the Tech 4-yard line in the second quarter. Wide receiver Keeon Johnson was open in the back of the end zone, but let the pass from Lambert go through his hands. A touchdown and extra point would have cut the lead to 21-14, but Virginia settled for a field goal and a 21-10 score.
“The guy feels bad about it, but you have to have those plays if you’re going to keep yourself in the football game,” coach Mike London said.
Etc.: Tech’s game Saturday at N.C. State will be broadcast on WUPA at 12:30 p.m. … ACC commissioner John Swofford attended Saturday’s game. Swofford was in Atlanta as a guest of former Tech athletic director Homer Rice. … Attendance was announced at 46,657. The game-time temperature was 49 degrees, with winds measuring at 24 mph.
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