NCF Nation: Synjyn Days

ACC all-bowl team

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
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It wasn’t the finest bowl season for the ACC, which won just four games, but there were still some strong performances. Here’s our 2014-15 all-bowl team for the ACC.

OFFENSE

QB: Justin Thomas (Georgia Tech)

Thomas thoroughly dominated the Mississippi State defense in the Orange Bowl, accounting for 246 yards of offense and four touchdowns. Credit. though, to Clemson’s Cole Stoudt, who was pressed into action with Deshaun Watson out with injury and threw for 319 yards with four total touchdowns, too.

[+] EnlargeSynjyn Days
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsSynjyn Days scored three of Georgia Tech's seven touchdowns against Mississippi State.
RB: Synjyn Days (Georgia Tech)

His 171 yards on the ground led all ACC runners during bowl season to cap off an extraordinary second half of the year for Days. He scored three times on the ground versus Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs never stood a chance against Georgia Tech’s dominant rushing attack.

RB: J.C. Coleman (Virginia Tech)

The running game was a problem all year for Virginia Tech, but once the Hokies were down to their fourth option at tailback, things got figured out. Coleman finished up a strong final four games with his best performance of the year, carrying 25 times for 157 yards and a touchdown in Tech’s win over Cincinnati.

WR: DeVante Parker (Louisville)

Louisville’s quarterback play was dreadful against Georgia in the Belk Bowl, and it cost the Cardinals a chance to win. But Parker, as usual, was excellent. He had eight catches, six of which went for first downs, and he led all ACC receivers with 120 yards. He also had one of the most impressive touchdown grabs of the season called back because he stepped out of bounds before the catch.

WR: Mike Williams (Clemson)

There’s plenty of competition for the second receiver spot, with six players chiming in with between 96 and 114 yards through the air during bowl season, but we’ll give Williams the slight nod. He had nine catches (tied for most in the ACC) for 112 yards and a touchdown, and six of his catches went for first downs.

TE: Jack Tabb (North Carolina)

It wasn’t a sterling season for tight ends in the bowl games despite so many fine performances during the regular season. Still, Tabb hauled in five catches for 51 yards and a score, which easily set the pace at the position.

OL: T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh)

Pitt’s defense couldn’t hold a big lead in its bowl game against Houston, but no blame goes to the offensive line, which was strong. Pitt ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns and allowed just one sack on 37 attempts, with Clemmings grading out once again as the Panthers’ top blocker.

OL: Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech)

Georgia Tech ran for 52 more yards than any other team during bowl season. Credit goes to the entire offense for the strong performance, but there’s no question Mason has been the on- and off-field leader of the offensive line all season.

OL: Joe Thuney (NC State)

NC State’s 3.82 yards-per-carry average wasn’t great, but the ground-and-pound approach against UCF did the trick. The Wolfpack scored twice on the ground and had eight runs of 10 yards or more, with Thuney grading out as their top performer.

OL: Tre Jackson (Florida State)

It’s easy to dismiss Florida State’s Rose Bowl performance, but the offensive line had nothing to do with the five turnovers the offense coughed up. In fact, Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams were cruising through a stellar outing thanks to the blocking of Jackson and his linemates before the bottom fell out.

C: Andy Gallik (Boston College)

The Eagles’ problems with PATs haunted them again in bowl season, but the ground game that paced the offense all season was once again terrific. BC ran for 285 yards and two scores against a Penn State defense that had been among the best in the nation against the run. Ample credit to the whole group, but Gallik has been a star all season.

DEFENSE

DE: Tyriq McCord (Miami)

McCord had five tackles, including one sack, in the loss to South Carolina, and while his secondary couldn’t cover Pharoh Cooper, the Hurricanes’ front did manage to keep the Gamecocks’ powerful ground game in check, holding Mike Davis to just 55 yards.

[+] EnlargeGrady Jarrett
AP Photo/John RaouxGrady Jarrett's performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl helped Clemson limit the Sooners to just six points.
DT: Grady Jarrett (Clemson)

Perhaps the ACC’s best defensive player during bowl season, Jarrett was a beast in thwarting Oklahoma’s high-octane offense. Jarrett had 3.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and a forced fumble as Clemson dominated the Sooners’ through the first 3½ quarters of action.

DE: Vic Beasley (Clemson)

Beasley’s early sack against Trevor Knight was a harbinger of a long day to come for the Oklahoma quarterback, who mustered just 2.8 yards per attempt in the game. Beasley was at the heart of the pass rush, tallying five tackles, including three for a loss.

LB: Rodman Noel (NC State)

Led NC State’s defense with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and helped hold UCF to just 2.9 yards per carry on the ground and disrupting the Knights’ passing game throughout. UCF quarterback Justin Holman completed just 43 percent of his throws.

LB: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Boulware had five tackles and a fumble recovery in the win over Oklahoma, but it was his 47-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Clemson a 17-0 lead late in the first quarter that made the biggest impact.

LB: P.J. Davis (Georgia Tech)

Davis led all players in the Orange Bowl with 11 tackles, and while Mississippi State’s offense did manage to move the ball to the tune of 605 yards, the game was never particularly close because Davis helped prevent big plays -- just three of 20 yards or more through the first three quarters -- and held Dak Prescott to just 4-of-10 passing on third down.

LB: Deon Clark (Virginia Tech)

Clark led all Virginia Tech defenders with 11 total tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, as the Hokies thwarted Cincinnati’s high-flying offense in the Military Bowl.

S: DeVon Edwards (Duke)

The Blue Devils’ defense was hardly great against Arizona State, but Edwards did lead the pack with 14 tackles, including one for a loss, a forced fumble and a sack.

S: Chris Milton (Georgia Tech)

Milton’s eight tackles and support against the run were crucial for Georgia Tech’s defense against Mississippi State, but his interception on Prescott’s second throw of the game set the tone for a dominant Yellow Jackets win.

CB: Jack Tocho (NC State)

While NC State’s defensive front tormented the UCF passing game, the defensive backs did their part, too. Tocho had three tackles and two pass breakups, while UCF’s passing game mustered just 4.85 yards per attempt through the first three quarters as the Wolfpack built a 31-13 lead.

CB: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)

Fuller had four tackles, broke up a pass and had and an interception against Cincinnati, as quarterback Gunner Kiel, one of the nation’s most dangerous passers, completed just 14 of 26 throws.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: Bradley Pinion (Clemson)

Pinion’s net punting average against Oklahoma was 43.4 yards -- just one-tenth of a yard shy of tops in the conference. He had two punts downed inside the 10, and none of his five boots were returned.

K: Joey Slye (Virginia Tech)

Slye connected on all four field goal attempts, including two outside of 40 yards, and was 3-of-3 on PATs in Virginia Tech’s win over Cincinnati.

KR/PR: Jamison Crowder (Duke)

Crowder has been a star on special teams for much of his career, and he ended it on a high note by returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown against Arizona State -- his second of the season. He accounted for 66 percent of all the punt returns in the ACC in 2014.
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MIAMI -- The cowbells stopped clanging soon after halftime, drowned out by one punishing run after another by Georgia Tech's oft-criticized but rarely slowed option. The Yellow Jackets took their punches against Mississippi State, but they kept punching back. That's what made it fun.

For years, Synjyn Days has heard opponents say his team was too soft to play against the mighty SEC.

Adam Gotsis, Tech's Australian defensive lineman, was thrust into the narrative quickly, too. Back home, no one knows the difference between the ACC and SEC, but in Georgia, it was a constant asterisk on the work the Yellow Jackets were trying to do.

[+] EnlargeGeorgia Tech celebrates
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyIn manhandling Mississippi State, Georgia Tech was fast, physical and every other adjective usually reserved for SEC teams.
Quarterback Justin Thomas is from Alabama, the heart of SEC country. He had to keep his decision to play at Georgia Tech under wraps for a while because his family didn't want to endure the jeers of their neighbors.

Even after Georgia Tech toppled a top-10 Georgia team in the regular-season finale, the SEC hype machine didn't evaporate.

"They said to wait until we played an SEC West team," tailback Zach Laskey recalled. "Well, we just dominated."

They intercepted Dak Prescott on the opening drive, scored on their first four drives of the second half and racked up 452 yards on the ground and 577 of total offense. Wednesday's Capital One Orange Bowl was an emphatic statement by the Yellow Jackets that the old narratives no longer apply.

"I think we're a top-10 football team for sure," coach Paul Johnson said as his team celebrated the 49-34 win to cap an 11-3 season. "I'm proud of these guys, and for at least a week or two, we don't have to hear about the SEC."

Johnson is a coach with a chip on his shoulder, and his team has followed his lead.

The year opened with Georgia Tech picked to finish fifth in the ACC Coastal, and Johnson's future at the school seemed to be in doubt. After two losses midway through the year, the Jackets were quickly written off again.

"Same old Georgia Tech," Days said. Even after they wrapped up the year with wins over Clemson and Georgia -- both ranked in the top 20 -- and nearly toppled undefeated Florida State, the Yellow Jackets arrived in South Florida as a decided underdog.

It's old hat for a coach who's made his living proving people wrong.

"To be truthful, I was at a little bit of a loss as to what everybody was talking about [early in the year]," Johnson said. "We don't ever get picked to win the thing, so that doesn't bother me. Sometimes people want to be negative. You just go about your business."

Business was good Wednesday.

Georgia Tech set an Orange Bowl record with its 452 yards on the ground, just the second time in the last decade a team ran for more than 400 against Mississippi State, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Yellow Jackets dominated the line of scrimmage, with 12 runs in which Mississippi State didn't make first contact until at least 10 yards downfield. They were physical and fast and everything the SEC gets credit for routinely.

Some players reveled in those comparisons.

"We got no respect, but that shows the ACC can play with anyone," Gotsis said.

Others shrugged it off. "I take pleasure in beating anybody," Thomas said.

But there was significance to this game for both the team and the conference. It was the fifth time this season an ACC team beat a nonconference opponent ranked in the top 10. The rest of the country has just two such wins. For the season so far, the ACC holds a 5-3 record against the mighty SEC.

For Georgia Tech though, this also felt like a turning point. At the start of the year, the option seemed a tired relic, the defense lacked playmakers, the energy seemed dulled. Now, Georgia Tech is riding high, with Thomas at the helm of an offense that looks nearly impossible to stop when he's clicking.

The quarterback is soft-spoken, careful not to say the wrong thing, but when the Orange Bowl was over, even Thomas admitted, "it felt like it was going really easy."

Before kickoff, former Tech linebacker Derrick Morgan addressed the team. He talked about building toward something, that this year's team could be the first step toward assembling a powerhouse.

"I think we crossed that border," A-back Deon Hill said afterward, "and we have a lot of room to grow."
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MIAMI -- There’s no more sleeping on Georgia Tech. The team picked to finish sixth in the ACC Coastal to start the year ended the season with a dominant 49-34 win over No. 7 Mississippi State in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Wednesday, winning 11 games for only the second time since 1990.

How the game was won: That Georgia Tech so thoroughly dominated the game was a surprise to most, but how the Yellow Jackets did it shouldn’t be. This was the same game plan Tech employed all season en route to winning the ACC Coastal division: Run the option until the opposing defense breaks and create takeaways on defense to secure the win. In all, Tech rushed for 452 yards in the game and scored six times on the ground -- including three each by Synjyn Days and Justin Thomas -- while a Dak Prescott interception on Mississippi State’s first drive and a fumble midway through the third quarter both turned into Yellow Jackets TDs. After Mississippi State pulled to within one point on a Hail Mary to end the first half, Georgia Tech scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half to put the game away.

Game ball goes to: Thomas. While most of the pundits scoffed at Georgia Tech’s chances this season, those who understood what Thomas could bring to the offense knew better. He was the perfect addition to what Paul Johnson wants to do offensively, and it showed in spades Wednesday night. Thomas bludgeoned Mississippi State with his arm (125 yards passing, one touchdown) and with his legs (121 yards rushing and three touchdowns), becoming just the second Tech quarterback in history to top 1,000 yards rushing for the season in the process. Of course, it’s a group effort on offense for the Jackets, but it’s clear Thomas is the perfect QB to direct the option.

What it means: In the big picture, it’s a huge boon for the ACC. After the league went 4-0 against SEC East foes in the final week of the regular season, the knock was that the real opponents played in the SEC West. Well, Georgia Tech thoroughly dominated a team that spent a good portion of the season atop the polls from that dreaded SEC West, so the criticism of the ACC certainly loses some luster now. Moreover, it’s another reminder that Johnson’s offense is incredibly dangerous, particularly when he has a QB like Thomas running it, and that makes the Yellow Jackets the likely favorites in the Coastal heading into 2015. For Mississippi State, it’s a woeful way to end what had been a magical season. It doesn’t diminish the progress the Bulldogs made under Dan Mullen in 2014, but it is a reminder there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Best play: Is it fair to give the best play of the game to Mississippi State, despite the loss? Certainly Georgia Tech had its share of highlights, led by Days’ 69-yard touchdown run and a trio of TDs by Thomas. But for sheer ridiculousness, the most unbelievable highlight was the Bulldogs’ Hail Mary touchdown from Prescott to Fred Ross to end the first half.
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The SEC-ACC rivalries have been entertaining all season, but this one may be the biggest. Georgia Tech won the ACC Coastal and enters the Orange Bowl with one of the nation's most prolific running games. Mississippi State spent time as the nation's No. 1 team and narrowly missed winning the powerful SEC West. So which team has the edge in this matchup? Here's what to watch for ...

Pressure against Prescott: In Mississippi State's 10 wins, QB Dak Prescott had a QBR of 81.4. In its two losses, his QBR was just 34.0. That makes the job for Tech's defense clear: Rattle Prescott. That job won't be easy, of course. Prescott was a Heisman favorite for much of the season, and he's one of the nation's top QBs. Moreover, Georgia Tech has struggled to consistently get pressure on the passer, ranking 105th nationally in sack rate. When it recorded two or more sacks in a game, Tech was 6-0 and allowed just 18 points per game. When it didn't, Tech was just 2-3 vs. FBS foes, allowing an average of 36 points per game. Of course, even if the Yellow Jackets can get to Prescott, they've still got Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson to deal with.

Deep ball for Thomas: Justin Thomas was exceptional in his first season as Georgia Tech's starting QB, and he's been a perfect fit for Paul Johnson's option offense. One of the keys was Thomas' ability to complete the deep ball, and his 9.1 yards-per-attempt average ranked fifth nationally, and he led the nation in yards-per-completion (17.9). But the problem for Tech is Thomas will be without star receiver DeAndre Smelter, who was responsible for 41 percent of the Yellow Jackets' receiving yards this season.

Stopping the option: Georgia Tech's option offense can frustrate even the best defenses in the country, and the Yellow Jackets averaged 6.6 yards per play this season. Mississippi State's D, led by linebacker Benardrick McKinney, had an up-and-down year against the run, allowing just 11 rushing TDs all season, but five of them came in the team's two losses, and in their last game against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs coughed up 205 yards and three TDs on the ground. Georgia Tech clearly has options in the rushing game, with Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days turning in exceptional seasons.

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: During its five-game winning streak to close out the regular season, Georgia Tech's D collected 17 turnovers. In its ACC title game loss to Florida State, the Yellow Jackets couldn't match that production, and the Seminoles moved the ball with ease. Quayshawn Nealy & Co. will look to get back to that ball-hawking play in the Capital One Orange Bowl, and it's worth noting Mississippi State had multiple turnovers in seven games this season -- but none in its final two.

Power of the SEC West: The ACC went 4-0 against the SEC in the final weekend of the regular season, which was a nice feather in the cap of the conference that has struggled to find much national love. Of course, the answer from the SEC was simple: Those wins came against the lackluster East. The West has the real power. So now Georgia Tech gets its shot to prove the ACC can play with the big boys, and Mississippi State gets its shot to erase that ugly final weekend for its league and secure conference bragging rights.
Of all the challenges the Georgia Tech offense presents, containing B-backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days could prove to be the most problematic for the Florida State defense in the ACC title game Saturday.

Laskey and Days have been an unstoppable force in the Jackets’ five-game winning streak. In four of those games, one of the backs has gained over 100 yards. Laskey did it most recently last week in an upset over rival Georgia, rushing for 140 yards and three touchdowns -- including the game-winner in overtime.

[+] EnlargeZach Laskey
AP Photo/David GoldmanZach Laskey is averaging 5.0 yards a carry and has eight rushing TDs this season.
He seemed to have extra drive against the Bulldogs, taking over the game when it was on the line. As right guard Shaq Mason said, “As I watched film, I was just seeing the things he was doing. I mean, I never saw him run that hard. He's always been a hard runner, but he just had the will to get it done.

“I have confidence in him that he's going to bring that again this week.”

Laskey humbly admitted, “Probably one of my best games I’ve ever had since I’ve been at Tech. I give a lot of credit to the guys up front. They were blowing guys off the ball all time. Every guy on the team, you could tell we all had that extra fire in our eyes, and we came out and it helped us tremendously.”

Laskey began the year as the starter, patiently waiting his turn behind David Sims. Davis joined the B-back group this season after shuffling around different positions in the offense. His size and athleticism made him the perfect fit.

The two became close, and started calling each other Ebony and Ivory. Their playing styles suit the B-back position, where a hard-nosed temperament is a must. Laskey is 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds; Days is 6-2, 231 pounds. Try bringing those guys down on first contact when they are running right up the middle.

“We have a pretty big D-line up front. We're going to need them to perform really well this game, get their people on the ground, keep them from gaining yards,” Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith said. “We faced a couple big backs this year, Boston College, to Florida, teams like that. It just comes down to tackling. You're going to have to man up, get them on the ground.”

That is something teams have had a tough time doing this year, whether Laskey or Days got the carries. Initially, it was only Laskey. But when he hurt his shoulder against North Carolina, Days stepped in and had three consecutive 100-yard games.

Last week against Georgia, both were particularly effective running up the middle. A combined 26 of their 42 carries went that direction, and they got stronger as the game went on.

“Me and Synjyn both bring a lot of power to the position,” Laskey said. “When we’re driving down the field having 10-, 12-play drives and we’re running right up the middle on the defense, they’re going to get worn out. It really helps wear down some defenses.”

Laskey and Days combined for 236 of the team’s 399 yards rushing against Georgia.

“Me and Zach, we definitely have similar running styles,” Days said. “We’re always falling forward, we’re always going to keep our feet moving to try to get the extra yards. We're definitely hard workers on and off the field, trying to be leaders. Being seniors, me and him, we wanted to go out there our last go-around, leave everything out on the field, to have no regrets.”

Beyond the 100-yard games Laskey has had, there is one stat the best illustrates how effective he is with the ball in his hands. On 150 carries this year, Laskey has lost a total of 2 yards.

“For me, I always just tell myself if I can fall forward and that’s going to be a couple yards right there,” Laskey said. “Really, I just try to win the one-on-one battles with the linebackers and soft shoulder them for a few yards.”

He and Days will try to do that again against the Seminoles. If they are as successful as they have been over the past five games, Georgia Tech will improve its chances at the upset.

Season of redemption for Paul Johnson

December, 2, 2014
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Paul JohnsonAP Photo/David TulisLast Saturday, coach Paul Johnson got Georgia Tech its first win over rival Georgia since 2008.

As Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson startED piling up the wins this season, you could imagine him reclining in his office chair, arms behind his head, legs propped on his desk, smoking a cigar.

Having a good ol' laugh.

Because everybody was wrong about Johnson.

Again.

And everybody was wrong about Georgia Tech.

Again.

The team nobody thought stood a chance in the Coastal Division finds itself ranked No. 12 in the country, with a spot opposite No. 3 Florida State in the ACC championship game on Saturday. Johnson, under intense scrutiny before the season began, won his third ACC Coach of the Year award while his agent works on getting him a contract extension.

The tenor in Atlanta has changed dramatically in 12 months. Going 28-25 between 2010 and 2013, with one bowl win and zero wins against Georgia, gave critics plenty of fodder and had some wondering how much longer Johnson could keep his job. But in that span, Georgia Tech played in one ACC championship game and posted winning conference records every season.

What was missing was a quarterback capable of running his preferred offensive style, the one met with groans still today. But quarterback Justin Thomas has been the catalyst for dramatic improvement in the triple-option offense, and an opportunistic defense has come into its own to lead Georgia Tech to its best season since 2009.

The Redemption of Paul Johnson, it seems, has been written.

"You're never going to please everybody," Johnson said in a recent phone interview with ESPN.com. "As soon as you lose a game or lose a couple games, they come back out. They don't go away. That's the same for everybody. I've been doing this for a long time, and there's a long track record, and I'm proud of it. I figure when it's not good enough, they'll get somebody else."

[+] EnlargeGeorgia Tech's Paul Johnson and Justin Thomas
Michael Shroyer/Getty ImagesPaul Johnson found a quarterback to run his system in Justin Thomas, who will guide Georgia Tech against Florida State in the ACC title game.
Johnson never forgot how to coach, even when he took shots from the naysayers. He ranks No. 9 among all active coaches and four behind Oklahoma's Bob Stoops in total wins (164). Since he arrived at Georgia Tech in 2008, the Jackets rank No. 4 in the ACC in conference wins and have never posted a losing record in conference play.

But he needed a season such as this to get his critics off his back and prove his offensive system still works -- because that offensive system has contributed to the way some view Johnson and, in turn, Georgia Tech. The Jackets were picked to finish fifth in the Coastal after two straight seven-win seasons.

Georgia Tech has never finished fifth in the Coastal, mind you.

"There have been so many misperceptions promoted for so long about, well, people catch up to the offense, and it's this, and it's that. Once you play it, you figure it out," Johnson said. "It's like anything. When people say it long enough, they want it to be true. A broken clock's right twice a day. … We beat Clemson 28-6. You're not going to see any headlines that say, ‘Well, they figured out the hurry-up offense. It's through now. That's the blueprint, they'll never score again.' Now if that's us, you get the, ‘Well, they figured it out, and that's it for that offense.'"

But even before Johnson arrived, Georgia Tech seemed to be routinely dismissed. The Jackets have gone to 18 straight bowl games and finished .500 or better in conference play for 20 straight years. Since the ACC established divisions in 2005, Georgia Tech has finished first or tied for first in the Coastal five times and is now playing in its fourth ACC title game.

Yet Georgia Tech has never been the preseason choice to win the Coastal.

"I do believe the best thing that might have happened to us this year is when we got picked so low in the preseason," athletic director Mike Bobinski said. "We were already well on our way to having a good offseason and having a better locker room, having a group of guys that are more together and honestly care about each other, play for each other and push each other harder more than we had in recent years. Adding that extra impetus of, ‘Hey, we're not getting a whole lot of respect from folks' was a nice little addition to the mix."

What happened in the offseason set the stage for where Georgia Tech is now. The Jackets had a mass exodus of players for a variety of reasons. But the players remaining grew tighter, and leadership from the seniors grew stronger. Safety Jamal Golden said in the past, players would not push as hard when adversity hit.

But now?

"This team is different than any team I've been on since I've been at Tech," Golden said. "Everybody's a lot closer. This team plays for each other, and it shows on the field."

They have taken their cues from Johnson and his no-nonsense approach. Johnson helped sell running back Synjyn Days on Georgia Tech because he was honest and upfront. Johnson was one of the few coaches who told Days he could play quarterback. But he willingly moved positions twice in his career when asked.

Now at B-back, Days has flourished in his senior season.

"I support Coach Johnson 100 percent, and I believe in him," Days said. "Obviously, things have been working out pretty good for us right now, so hopefully that [negative] stuff isn't going to be said this upcoming year."

Even if it is, Johnson will do what he has always done.

Win.
In Georgia, they call the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” because of the mutual dislike between the two schools.

The dislike remains as strong as ever, but the rivalry has lost some of its luster since Mark Richt became Georgia’s coach in 2001. The Bulldogs (9-2) are 12-1 against the Yellow Jackets (9-2) under Richt, and it will be an upset if they lose this week. Richt’s tenure is full of close games, however, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see another hotly contested matchup between the two rivals.

ESPN football writers Matt Fortuna and David Ching break down the classic ACC-SEC rivalry below:

[+] EnlargeJustin Thomas
Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesWhile Justin Thomas has shown an ability to throw the ball, Georgia Tech's offensive gameplan still involves pounding its opposition on the ground.
Key to victory for Georgia Tech:There is nothing fancy on the agenda of the Yellow Jackets entering Athens: They must win the turnover battle. Georgia Tech is tied for No. 9 nationally in turnover margin (plus-10); Georgia is No. 2 (plus-16). The difference between the two teams is that the Bulldogs have a pretty good defense, one that is ranked No. 13 nationally. The same cannot exactly be said for the Jackets (61st nationally), who have made up for that by regularly taking the ball away. The triple-option offense, of course, is only painful for the opposition to defend when it's efficient, as Georgia Tech can shorten the game and limit the other offense's scoring opportunities.

Key to victory for Georgia: Sure, Tech is more versatile on offense this season, but the No. 1 task in beating the Jackets is slowing down its option rushing game. Tech ranks third nationally with 327.9 rushing yards per game. Tech is better at passing -- Georgia learned that lesson the hard way last season -- but the Jackets won’t bother putting the ball in the air if their running game is moving the chains and eating clock. Georgia has to keep Justin Thomas, Synjyn Days and Zach Laskey on the sidelines as long as possible.

X-factor for Georgia Tech:Georgia Tech's offense is typically capable of beating you with its arm when you least expect it, but this year's outfit can do some serious damage in the passing game. Thomas has surprised everyone under center, and a big key to that has been his favorite target: DeAndre Smelter, a 6-foot-3, 222-pounder who is second in the ACC in yards per catch (21.0).

X-Factor for Georgia: It’s not only on the defensive front to slow down Tech’s running game and keep the Jackets’ offense on the sidelines. If the Bulldogs’ offensive line gives freshman sensation Nick Chubb (161 carries, 1,152 yards, 11 TDs) room to run and quarterback Hutson Mason can put together some long scoring drives, that would be another way to neutralize what Tech does best.

Fortuna’s favorite moment from the rivalry:It's not every day you lose the passing game battle by a 407-19 margin and still win, but that's exactly what happened to Georgia Tech in its 2008 trip to Sanford Stadium. The Jackets beat Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the following spring's NFL Draft, 45-42 behind 409 yards on the ground. It was coach Paul Johnson's first game in the rivalry, and his team came back from 16 down at the half to pull off the upset and break a seven-game losing streak in the series. It is Georgia Tech's only win in the rivalry in the last 13 years.

Ching’s favorite moment from the rivalry: I covered this game nine times and there were plenty of memorable moments on the field: Tony Taylor, Paul Oliver and Mohamed Massaquoi’s heroics in Georgia’s 2006 comeback win; the “We Run This State” game where Georgia backs Caleb King and Washaun Ealey combined for 349 rushing yards in 2009; a wild 2010 contest that Georgia eventually won 42-34; last year’s double-overtime classic where Tech broke out to a 20-0 lead and the Bulldogs rallied back to win 41-34. But the moment I remember most probably also came in the 2008 game. It was when beloved radio announcer Larry Munson -- who had retired earlier that season -- made his final appearance at Sanford Stadium and Georgia’s fans chanted the 86-year-old legend’s name during an in-game ceremony honoring his four decades as the Bulldogs’ play-by-play man. It was cool to see the fans show their appreciation to a man who had enriched their lives for so many years.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 11

November, 9, 2014
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Here are the players who stood out the most from Week 11 of ACC action:

Georgia Tech running back Synjyn Days. Days has continued to make the most of his opportunities, tallying a career-high rushing total for the third straight week since Zach Laskey went down with a shoulder injury. Days rushed 19 times Saturday for 157 yards and a touchdown, keying a 56-23 Georgia Tech win at NC State. Days has now rushed for 414 yards over the past three games.

Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene. Mr. Reliable came through once again for Florida State, hauling in a career-high 13 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown on a night the Seminoles tallied just 376 yards of offense. Greene is five catches shy of last season's total, and 11 yards shy of 1,000. As our David Hale notes, Greene is now also 16 catches shy of breaking Ron Sellers' single-season FSU record, from 1968.

Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards. How can you not be impressed with Edwards' stat line from Saturday? The junior had nine total tackles, including four for loss -- which included one sack -- while forcing one fumble. Edwards forced a loose ball on a Kevin Parks run on Virginia's first drive, setting up the first score of the game for the Noles three plays later.

Louisville safety Gerod Holliman. What more needs to be said about Holliman? He had added three interceptions in Saturday's 38-19 win at Boston College, giving him a ridiculous 13 on the season. Through 10 games. Let that sink in. He easily leads the nation, as he is now four ahead of Ole Miss' Senquez Golson.

Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker. It's easy to wonder where this Cardinals team would be had Parker not gotten hurt during camp. The senior turned in another brilliant performance on Saturday, notching eight catches for 144 yards to go along with his first touchdown of the season. All Parker has done in his three games back is tally 25 catches for 490 yards, topping 130 yards in each of his three contests.
Paula Days was talking on speakerphone Monday night about her son's recent breakout when her husband interjected.

"Right now we're breaking down the North Carolina State-Syracuse game," Calvin Days said. "She's looking at the line. We're looking at personnel, looking at techniques, looking at a particular linebacker getting pushed off the ball. Looking at opportunities and looking at tendencies."

Synjyn Days' parents do this for fun now, as a way of staying involved in their son's career at Georgia Tech, which travels to NC State this Saturday. And as a way of possibly getting back into their part-time careers.

"Really?" Paula cracked, after her husband suggested a return to the sideline upon Synjyn's graduation.

[+] EnlargeSynjyn Days
Mike Stewart/Associated PressSynjyn Days has rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games for Georgia Tech.
Sure, many football players are the products of parents who coach. But how many grew up with two coaches in their households?

That was the situation Days was raised in, as both his father and his mother coached him at Osbourne Middle School in Hoschton, Georgia. They gave up coaching when Days got to high school, but their lessons — and their extra homework — have stuck with the redshirt senior. Days has stepped up in place of the injured Zach Laskey to tally career-best rushing efforts in each of his last two games, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in both. He ran the option as quarterback at Hillgrove (Ga.) High, served as a backup quarterback during his first two years with the Yellow Jackets and has played A-back and B-back since.

"Everyone on the team calls me the C-back because I've played A-back, B-back and quarterback," Days quipped. "So I pretty much know all the skill positions. But I just look to step in any role where the team needs me. That's the mentality I've always taken -- not really worried about myself but worried about the team's needs and other people. That's how my parents had raised me."

No kidding. His father said the only position Days has yet to play is punter.

"When we coach, the mindset is we had to understand the game," Calvin Days said. "Defensively, we wanted every defensive player to know the other players' responsibilities as well. Our guard could tell you what Cover 1 or Cover 2 or Cover 3 was, and even with Synjyn it was really important. Traditionally you get locked in a position and you just play that. But for us we thought it was important to really know and understand the game, because you never knew where they were going to be."

Calvin, whose dreams to play as a Florida State student were derailed by health issues, was coaching his son's team at Osbourne but longed for more time with his wife and family as a whole. So he invited Paula to join his staff. Her response — "I don't know anything about football" — was expected, but soon enough Calvin had his 5-foot-3, 110-pound wife in the trenches, barking orders as Osbourne's offensive and defensive line coach.

Calvin, a financial analyst, reasoned that the technical aspects of the positions would best suit Paula, an engineer. She would join the rest of the staff in film sessions and even invite players over to the house to help her get up to speed.

This was no ragtag bunch, either — pupils of the Days include current college starting quarterbacks Hutson Mason (Georgia) and Chandler Whitmer (UConn).

"In middle school, all kids are pretty much hard-heads then, but for some reason when a woman tells you to do something, you should probably listen to the woman more," Synjyn said, laughing. "It would hurt more to see my mom disappointed than my dad."

His parents are well aware.

"That's pretty accurate," Paula said. "That's not just for football, but I think life, period. It's interesting how that works out with kids. Dad was a disciplinarian in our house, but I can just give him a look and he goes to tears."

Added Calvin: "She's up at 4:30 every morning herself working out. Traditionally you would have the mom who's compassionate — 'Oh, it's OK' — and he just didn't get that break. [If] he got hurt during the game, she would always say, 'Don't let them see you hurt.' Everyone's like, Is he OK? She's like, 'You better get up.' "

Synjyn Days
Courtesy of Days familySynjyn Days' parents understand the X's and O's of football better than most.
Days' parents still harp on him now. The family has always preached the importance of a healthy lifestyle, regularly exercising together and helping Synjyn with agility drills in the offseason. (His brother, junior end Jabari Hunt-Days, is academically ineligible at Georgia Tech this season.)

Game days offer their own set of challenges for the family, as Paula insists on sitting behind an end zone so that she can get a better view of the offensive line. Synjyn does not need to be told that these last two performances are as much his blockers' doing as his own.

"Although Synjyn may be getting a little bit of recognition for his last two performances, he really can't make the plays if the offensive line doesn't do what they have to do and if the coaches don't make the right call and the quarterback doesn't make the right read," Paula said. "It's definitely a team sport, and I always have to take up for my offensive line.

"You tell them thank you when you make those long runs. He's like, 'Of course, Mom. Yeah, I do.'"

As for his parents' advice off film heading into Saturday?

"The funny thing is it's really more armchair entertainment, because the reality is Coach [Paul] Johnson could probably care less," Calvin said.

As their son thrives with a bigger workload now, though, the Days family's hard-nosed philosophy continues to pay off. Good thing Synjyn was paying attention all those years to his coaches — in the household and out of it.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
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Here are a few things to keep an eye on this weekend as we head into Week 3:

1. Famous Jameis. It's been a nearly interminable two weeks since we've seen Jameis Winston take the field. And who can blame us for complaining? His college debut was sensational, and his home debut will come this Saturday against Nevada. (He's excited, meanwhile, because Wolfpack end Brock Hekking has a mullet.)

Steve Addazio
AP Photo/Mary SchwalmBoston College is playing better under coach Steve Addazio so maybe, just maybe BC could pull off the upset at USC.
2. Another upset on the horizon? OK, so it will take a lot for BC to pull off the upset at USC. But who's to say that it cannot happen after watching the first two weeks? The Trojans are reeling after a 10-7 home loss, and the fans are calling for Lane Kiffin's firing. The Eagles, meanwhile, have shown a renewed sense of grit under new coach Steve Addazio. Just imagine Addazio's reaction if his squad pulls it off ...

3. Edsall's reception. Randy Edsall's exit from UConn three years ago was not exactly smooth. Now the Maryland coach returns to his old stomping grounds as the Terrapins look to improve to 3-0. The Huskies beat them last year in College Park, Md., 24-21.

4. Pitt getting back on track. All we have on which to judge the Panthers' ACC era so far is a Week 1 loss to Winston and FSU. But the Panthers do show promise offensively, and they have a great chance to get in a rhythm this week against New Mexico, especially coming out of a bye.

5. Duke QBs. It's Brandon Connette time for the Blue Devils, who kick off their ACC season at Georgia Tech. With Anthony Boone out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, Connette will start, though coach David Cutcliffe has said he wants to get freshman Parker Boehme some playing time as well.

6. Georgia Tech's A-back. The Yellow Jackets start an eight-week stretch of eight games, with the first four coming against division opponents. They will be without A-back Deon Hill (illness), with B.J. Bostic or Synjyn Days likely to step in for Hill.

7. Syracuse's QB shuffle. A home opener against FCS Wagner may be the perfect remedy for the 0-2 Orange. Drew Allen will start again at quarterback, but Terrel Hunt has been assured of playing time as well. How both fare could determine who gets the nod moving forward this season.

8. Wake looks for answers on offense. The Deacs struggled in their 10-point outing last week at BC, particularly running the option. Coach Jim Grobe said the option is here to stay, though he'd like to see more out of the passing game when defenses focus on the run.

9. Can the Hokies' offense get it going? Logan Thomas was better last week but still threw two picks in the end zone against Western Carolina, resulting in a total QBR rating that ranks 132nd out of 138 passers. He will need to improve against the East Carolina Pirates, whom the Hokies remember for their opening-week upset in 2008.

10. Unlikely fireworks? Five ACC teams are off this weekend, including Clemson and Miami, which have provided the league with its signature victories so far this season. Where will the surprises come from this week? The Coliseum is where the biggest one can probably take place, though Winston could surprise us all and re-create his opening-week performance when FSU faces Nevada.
Georgia Tech opens spring practice today with a new defensive coordinator in Ted Roof, and a new starter at quarterback in Vad Lee. I had a chance to catch up with coach Paul Johnson to ask about his expectations of both headed into the spring. Here is a little of what he had to say.

I have to start off by asking -- how are you enjoying Twitter so far?

PJ: My daughter, she said, ‘You’ll be good at that, Dad, you need to do it.’ And, ‘I’m like, I don’t know about that.’ She goes, ‘Oh just try it.’ So it’s been interesting.

What is the No. 1 thing you want to see this spring out of your defense as it starts to get adjusted to playing a different scheme?

PJ: It’s the same regardless of scheme. You want guys that can play fast, play hard and understand what they’re doing. The scheme is there to help them. We try to work the scheme around them rather than trying to fit them into the scheme. And I think our guys are excited about it. Ted’s a fiery guy. He’s going to have a lot of passion, a lot of energy and I think they’re looking forward to that. And it’s not that big of a change from what we did the last half of the season.

You guys showed major improvement the second half. Is the goal to build on some of what you were able to do?

PJ: Yeah I think the second half we simplified things and tried to let guys play fast and understand what they were doing and basically we played a lot of 4-3 tenets the last six games. We got away from the 3-4 a little bit.

Jeremiah Attaochu is going to be playing more at defensive end. What are your hopes for him in that role?

PJ: That’s what he played last year. Very seldom did he drop. He was more our rush guy. We played a field boundary guy and it’s going to be very similar in what we’re doing now, so we’ll try to play to his attributes and his strong suits. He’s a really good pass-rusher and we’ll try to utilize him in that area and line him up on some tight ends and some of that.

[+] EnlargePaul Johnson
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia Tech's Vad Lee is in a QB competition this spring, but coach Paul Johnson said there's no doubting Lee's leadership skills.
How do you see some of the competition playing out along the line with T.J. Barnes and Izaan Cross gone?

PJ: We’ve got some good depth. Euclid Cummings is a guy I’m excited about. I think he’s got a ton of ability. Emmanuel Dieke has played a lot. Adam Gotsis, Shawn Green played. We’ve got a couple guys, Pat Gamble, Rod Chungong, Francis Kallon that we redshirted so we feel like we’ve got depth there and some guys so we’ll probably play six, seven guys up front.

Now that Vad looks to be your starter, have you seen him taking on more of a leadership role?

PJ: Vad’s always been a leader. It’s in his DNA. Usually the good ones in that position are that way. He’s a hard worker and I think that he’s trying to develop a chemistry with everybody and we’ve got another guy named Justin Thomas that we redshirted at quarterback, and that ought to be a heck of a battle this spring. Clearly, Vad’s in front but Justin’s a good player in his own right, so that ought to be some pretty good competition between those two guys.

How will you work the reps?

PJ: Well, Vad will start out at 1 but in the spring, you’re going to run two teams anyway so they’ll probably get an equal number of reps.

Any kind of scenario where you play both like you did with Vad and Tevin Washington last year?

PJ: It’s possible. It will be determined on how it turns out, once we get into the spring and we start playing how it looks and how it unfolds, but I think going into the spring you’d have to say Vad’s the No. 1.

What about at A-back. Orwin Smith was able to do so much, what’s the competition going to look like there?

PJ: We’ve got a lot of guys back there who have played a lot. Synjyn Days played the last half of the season there, we moved from quarterback so we’re excited about him. Robbie Godhigh is the starter that returns. Deon Hill, B.J. Bostic, Dennis Andrews is a guy we redshirted. We have a lot of guys there we feel can be pretty good players.

What are you looking for out of those guys to take the next step?

PJ: Well Robbie’s been a reliable guy, he played well all year and I think the other guys are very capable. I think the more Synjyn plays, hopefully the better he’s going to be. He’s 225 pounds so he’s ideal. He can block, has good speed, hard to tackle. B.J. and Tony (Zenon) both are shifty littler guys, Deon’s in the middle so out of that group of guys we just hope to find a rotation that fits what we need really.

What about Broderick Snoddy? Will he continue to run track this spring?

PJ: Football will override the track part and so he’ll be at practice. Whenever they have meets and those kind of things we’ll try to work it out and let him do both.

Do you envision a bigger role for him?

PJ: Yeah, I would hope so. Every time we got to the point last year where we were trying to get him in, he would get hurt or something would happen and it just didn’t materialize but certainly we’d love for him to have a bigger role. But that’s going to be up to him this spring to earn it.

Who are you looking at to replace Omoregie Uzzie on the offensive line?

PJ: There will be some competition. We were able to redshirt a couple of classes of guys and we feel like we have some depth, so we’ll just work it out. We’ll end up with the best five playing if we have to move some guys around. With Jay (Finch) missing the spring, Catlin Alford, Freddie Burden will get a lot of reps. We’ll slide some guys. We’ve got some guys, Will Jackson has played both guard and tackle. He can slide in there. He and Shaq (Mason) will probably be the starters and then Morgan Bailey and Ray Beno, who both started at tackle all year -- we could still have five guys who started a lot of games.

Orwin Smith doubtful for ACC title game

November, 30, 2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Georgia Tech leading rusher Orwin Smith did not practice on Thursday because of a right ankle injury and is listed as doubtful for Saturday's Dr Pepper ACC championship game against Florida State, according to a school spokesman.

Smith is the team's leading rusher with 673 yards this year and five touchdowns. He is averaging 9 yards per carry. He also has 14 kickoff returns for 267 yards. He injured his right ankle in a Nov. 17 win over Duke and missed last week's game against Georgia. On Monday, Smith said he expected to play, but he probably hasn't practiced enough this week.

Georgia Tech will turn to an A-back by committee approach should it need to replace him. The most likely candidates are B.J. Bostic, who started in Smith's place last week against Georgia, and Synjyn Days, who started the second half last week. Tony Zenon (25 carries, 191 yards and a touchdown) and Deon Hill (five carries, 42 yards) will also play.
Several NCAA rules changes went into effect this season, but there was one that was talked about more than the others on opening weekend.

That would be the new "helmet rule" that requires a player who loses his helmet to leave the game for one play. The only exception is if the player loses his helmet as a result of a penalty. For those who need a refresher on the rules changes, here is an explainer I did back in May, complete with comments from ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads.

According to the ACC, players lost their helmets 17 times in the 10 games across the league in Week 1. None were the result of a penalty. That number is not much different than the trend the ACC found last season, when an average of two players per game lost their helmet.

Still, folks are watching much more carefully now. It was probably most noticeable in two nationally televised games: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington were forced to leave their respective games during critical junctures. Boyd, in fact, lost his helmet three different times against Auburn, and Cole Stoudt was forced into the game in his place.

When you have running quarterbacks like Boyd and Washington, they run a higher risk of losing their helmet. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he would spend more time this week making sure Stoudt was ready to go into the game in case Boyd is lost for a play.

“I understand the rule, but for us it’s a little bit of a challenge when you run your quarterback, he gets hit and sometimes he gets in some piles, and sometimes helmets find their way from getting of their head,” Swinney said on the ACC coaches call Wednesday. “The big thing for us is you better have your backup ready to go. One of the things we’re going to do moving forward is to make sure our backup is getting some snaps, throwing the ball, staying loose and being ready.

“I don’t know how we can get the helmet on any tighter. We’re basically about to cut his circulation off trying to keep it on. It’s definitely an issue, especially at that position. It’s not like at wideout or something else, that is such a critical position. ... It’s definitely something everyone is going to have to continue to adjust to.”

Washington was forced out of the game against Virginia Tech on a crucial third-and-8 from the Hokies' 21 on the final play of the third quarter. Synjyn Days went in, rushed for 4 yards and the Yellow Jackets kicked a field goal.

"Well, clearly you don’t want to lose your starting quarterback on third down but that’s the rule," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday. "It looked like the helmet came off when he was on the ground. ... It's just one of those things."

One of those things to watch for the rest of the season.

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage reports

August, 20, 2012
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Not every school in the ACC gives scrimmage reports, but for those that do, we will gladly post the highlights. Here's a look back at what happened in the ACC this weekend, according to each school's report:

Boston College

Offensive highlights: Junior receiver Alex Amidon had seven catches for 84 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception, in the situational scrimmage Sunday. The scrimmage featured six end-of-half/fourth-quarter situations with limited time on the clock and a limited number of timeouts. Chase Rettig went 18-of-32 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive highlights: Justin Simmons had two interceptions off second-team quarterback Josh Bordner. Manuel Asprilla intercepted Rettig at the goal line, and linebacker Nick Clancy intercepted a Rettig pass that was deflected by Mehdi Abdesmad a few plays later.

Special teams: Gerald Levano punted four times and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt. His first punt landed at the 2-yard line, while his second attempt went 60 yards. Kicker Nate Freese made his only field goal attempt, from 40 yards, and is now 6-for-6 on field goal attempts in the preseason.

Quotable: “We got a lot of nice young guys on this football team, and if they come through and play well, good things can happen, and Justin [Simmons] is one of them,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “He’s as advertised. We did our homework and everything that you do on kids. He’s a good prospect.”

Clemson

Offensive highlights: Tajh Boyd threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, while Martavis Bryant had four catches for 97 yards and had two touchdowns. Boyd was 13-of-22 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Backup Cole Stoudt went 4-of-9 for 61 yards and led a touchdown drive on his first possession. Andre Ellington had an 8-yard touchdown run, while Roderick McDowell led all running backs for a second straight scrimmage with 65 yards on four carries.

Defensive highlights: Coach Dabo Swinney praised the defensive line, where Josh Watson, Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams made plays. Xavier Brewer made a brilliant breakup of a long pass and added five tackles. Jonathan Meeks added an interception. Tony Steward made a big play with a 25-yard interception return.

Special teams: Williams had a blocked a field goal. Backup kicker Spence Benton made a 53-yard kick that could have been good from 63 yards.

Quotable: “We have two weeks to get dialed in,” Swinney said. “We are going to turn the page on Monday after our last two-a-day (practices) and start getting ready for Auburn. We will have our guys penciled in on where they need to be.”

Duke

Offensive highlights: Quarterback Brandon Connette caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sean Renfree and ran for another in a 95-snap, controlled scrimmage Friday night at Wallace Wade Stadium. Renfree went 14-of-21 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Freshman Shaquille Powell had eight carries for 30 yards, while Jela Duncan had 28 yards on nine attempts. Garrett Patterson, who moved from defensive back to receiver this week during practice, had five receptions for 80 yards.

Defensive highlights: Cornerbacks Lee Butler and Tony Foster each had interceptions while linebacker Deion Williams recovered one fumble. Freshman defensive end Michael Mann had one sack and one forced fumble.

Special teams highlights: Freshman kicker Ross Martin made field goals of 43 and 48 yards and converted his only extra-point attempt.

Georgia Tech

Offensive highlights: Broderick Snoddy had a 70-yard touchdown run on the second series, while quarterback Vad Lee threw two touchdowns to A-back B.J. Bostic. Lee later added a touchdown run as he continues to work at quarterback and A-back. Synjyn Days and freshman Justin Thomas also took snaps at quarterback, and each led scoring drives.

Defensive highlights: Nick Menocal had an interception he nearly returned for a touchdown. Jimmie Kitchen recovered a fumble, while defensive lineman Anthony Williams had two sacks.

Special teams highlights: Justin Moore had a 29-yard field goal, while David Scully made a 31-yard field goal and all five of his extra-point attempts. There was no punting on Saturday.

Quotable: “The guys are ready to play someone else,” quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We’ve been hitting each other for two weeks and all summer doing drills against each other. Guys are just ready to go and get some new faces in front of us.”

Maryland

Freshman Stefon Diggs continued to impress, as he had three first-half touchdowns -- a 68-yard punt return, a 98-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard reception. Quarterback Perry Hills ran the first-team offense and led Maryland to scores on three of his five drives.

On the opening drive, Hills took the Terps on an 18-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, He went 5-of-6 for 27 yards on the drive and also rushed for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.

"I thought Perry [Hills] had a good day," coach Randy Edsall said. "I thought he did some good things. Of course there's going to be plenty of things that he could learn from, and get better, but I think that we didn't have any issues with delay of game, really didn't have any false starts. When you talk about the mechanics and the operation of the offense I thought he handled it really well."

Miami

The Hurricanes' scrimmage Saturday was cut short in the middle of the second quarter because of lightning in the area. Among the highlights in the abbreviated scrimmage: Mike James and Duke Johnson each had touchdown runs, and Kelvin Cain recorded a sack in the end zone for a safety.

Virginia Tech

Offensive highlights: Logan Thomas went 8-of-15 for 112 yards and a score, while backup Mark Leal went 6-of-16 for 111 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Kevin Asante led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards, while Corey Fuller caught three passes for 68 yards. The Hokies also rushed for 174 yards. J.C. Coleman played with a broken hand and had 54 yards -- 52 coming on one run -- and Trey Edmunds added 45. Tony Gregory rushed for 36 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run. Projected starter Michael Holmes had three carries for 21 yards.

Defensive highlights: The projected first-team defense allowed a little more than 120 yards in four series (24 plays) and gave up just two field goals. Walk-on Zach Snell had six tackles, while Ronny Vandyke had five. Desmond Frye and Antone Exum each recorded four. The defense had five total sacks and Bruce Taylor had an interception.

Special teams highlights: Cody Journell made two field goals and missed one, while Brooks Abbott made one and had a 37-yarder blocked by Kyle Fuller.

Quotable: “I thought it was one of the more productive offensive first scrimmages we’ve had around here,” coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we did some good things, and I think we’ll see some things we can improve. Overall, I think the effort was good. I always say this, but it’s hard to come out pleased because if the offense makes plays, you’re worried about your defense. If the defense makes plays, you’re worried about your offense. Overall, I thought it was a good first scrimmage.”

Final: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 17

November, 26, 2011
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Georgia Tech finished the regular season in similar fashion to the way it started -- with a question at quarterback.

Tevin Washington, who has been inconsistent this season, struggled against Georgia, and not only in the passing game, though that was the most glaring, as he completed 3 of 10 passes for 34 yards and two interceptions. Backup Synjyn Days finished off the game and completed 3 of 5 passes. Georgia's defense had the edge in this game, and held the Jackets to just one touchdown in the second half.

It wasn't a good start for the ACC against its SEC rivals, but there's a reason No. 13 Georgia won the SEC East this year and was ranked higher than No. 23 Georgia Tech entering today's game. The Bulldogs were the better team, and Georgia Tech made too many mistakes to overcome that. It was a disappointing finish to what began as a 6-0 season for Georgia Tech, as the Yellow Jackets lost four of their last six games.

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