CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 4: Head coach Paul Johnson of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets watches a replay in the first quarter during a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Scott Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images
Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Georgia Tech’s special teams must improve ahead of Hokies

With Virginia Tech continuing its tradition of excellent special-teams play ahead of Saturday’s game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech may have picked a bad time to have its worst special-teams performance this season in Saturday’s 40-36 loss at Virginia.

The Yellow Jackets allowed a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the first they have given up this season – and botched a short kickoff that coach Paul Johnson said they had practiced all week. 

“It will be important that we improve drastically in those two areas,” he said.

The botched kickoff came after Tech took a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. 

Brenton King was supposed to hit a short, looping kickoff toward the sidelines that the Jackets were going to try to recover and get an opportunity to take a 14-3 lead. Even if the kick went out of bounds, Virginia would have received the ball on the 35-yard line. Instead, King’s kick didn’t travel 10 yards. Virginia took over on Tech’s 43-yard line and eventually kicked another field goal.

The touchdown came after Tech took a 14-6 lead on a 1-yard run by KirVonte Benson with 2:31 remaining in the first half.

Johnson on Tuesday called the kickoff coverage “abysmal” after the Cavaliers returned five kickoffs for 205 yards.

“Let’s call it what it was,” he said.

The team also and posted a season-low average in punting (36.3 yards).

Virginia Tech, as it has for more than 20 years, plays excellent special teams, particularly on the punt teams:

  • Greg Stroman is tied for second in school history in punt returns for touchdowns (4). Former Falcon DeAngelo Hall holds the school record (5). Stroman’s four touchdowns have come in the past 21 games.
  • Stroman needs just 220 more punt return yards to pass Eddie Royal for the all-time time lead (1,296) in Hokies history.
  • Stroman ranks tied for third in the ACC this season with an average of 13.1 yards per punt return.
  • Virginia Tech ranks third among teams in the Power 5 conferences in punt coverage, allowing just four return yards this season.
  • Just two teams this season have more touchbacks on kickoffs than Virginia Tech (50).
  • Lastly, the Hokies lead the ACC in net punt average (41.4 yards per punt).

For the season, Georgia Tech is averaging 43.7 yards per punt with a net of 39.2. Jackets’ opponents have returned 14 punts for 156 yards and one touchdown.

While Tech did have a season-low for average punting, some of that had to with field position. Pressley Harvin put a season-high four punts inside the 20-yard line. He has done that 15 times this season. He also tied a season-high with punts that resulted in four catches. Doing so again will be key to keeping Stroman from causing havoc.

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