The most unique offense Virginia Tech faces all season could be Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets’s option offense is predicated on maintaining possession and taking shots downfield when they present themselves.
“It really, really forces you to make the most of your time on offense,” Justin Fuente said. “I’m not suggesting it’s a bigger challenge offensively than it is defensively, but part of the reason it is a challenge defensively is you don’t see it everyday, and they’re very good at running it. Coach (Paul) Johnson and his staff have the answers, and when you give them something, they certainly can counterpunch.”
The battle between Georgia Tech’s offense and Bud Foster’s defense can best be characterized as a chess match that Foster has had the upper hand in lately. Virginia Tech has won five out of their last six meetings with Georgia Tech, and in each of those wins the Yellow Jackets were held to 27 points or less.
“I have a lot of respect for Bud,” Johnson said. “He’s been on the better end of it mostly. We have a lot of respect for Bud, I think he does a great job coaching and usually, our games, if you find something they’re going to adjust, so it’s kind of move-countermove.”
Even when Virginia Tech figures out the option, the Yellow Jackets can strike through the air. Georgia Tech is 18th in the country in yards per play and quarterback Justin Thomas averages over 10 yards per pass attempt.
“They just run it so precise, you know,” said Defensive Line Coach Charley Wiles. “They counter with what you’re doing.”
Thomas is the cog that keeps this option machine moving. In just 115 attempts, Thomas has thrown seven touchdowns and connected on passes of 50, 65, 81 and 83 yards this season. Thomas has also carried the ball 112 times for 561 yards and another five touchdowns.
“He’s one of the great athletes in this league,” Bud Foster said. “He’s made some runs and some throws that are just… he makes them go.”
Motuapuaka looking forward to facing run-heavy Georgia Tech
The defensive players are excited about the unique matchup. It’s a physical game every year and even though Virginia Tech is dealing with a few nagging injuries up front, Andrew Motuapuaka is looking forward to the battle.
“Yeah, I think it’s really fun, Georgia Tech week,” Motuapuaka said. “Especially at the Mike position, just flying around and trying to make plays all over the field. It’s pretty much designed for the Mike to make a lot of tackles.”
Motuapuaka’s performance will be a deciding factor in Saturday’s game. He’ll have to remain disciplined at linebacker and be able to follow the ball, as well as be able to prevent Georgia Tech from connecting on pass plays over the middle on play action. He said that the misdirection is the most difficult part about preparing for Georgia Tech.
“It’s just things to mess with your eyes,” Motuapuaka said. “Like fake handoffs, pitches… you just have to be fundamentally sound and you just got to make sure you’re doing your job, that you’re not trying to do too much, because then they’ll expose you, a gap will be exposed and they have the potential to take it to the house.”
Can Virginia Tech’s offense exploit a leaky Georgia Tech defense?
Much is made about the Georgia Tech offense, but their defense cannot be ignored.
The Yellow Jacket defense has had mixed success this season. Georgia Tech held Clemson to just 26 points in late September, but since then has allowed 35 points to Miami, 37 points to Pittsburgh and 35 points to Duke. Last week, Georgia Tech was blasted by North Carolina, allowing 48 points and 636 yards of offense.
Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente doesn’t think the Yellow Jackets’ performance vs. North Carolina is indicative of their defensive prowess.
“From what I’ve seen throughout the year, they’re a much better defense,” Fuente said. “They’re incredibly sound in their schemes and in their techniques. The kids are playing hard and they do some things that can certainly cause you some problems.”
Georgia Tech can be had in the passing game. The Yellow Jackets rank just 74th in the nation in passing yards allowed, which is a welcome sight for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ passing attack vs. Duke last week was held to just 192 yards, while star receiver Isaiah Ford made just four catches for 62 yards.
Ford said that Georgia Tech’s secondary is similar to Duke’s, in terms of being versatile in coverages.
“They fly around a little bit on the back end,” Ford said. “They like to do a bunch of different things, and they’re long and athletic. It’ll be a challenge for us as a receiving corps.”
The offense’s success could ensure a Virginia Tech win. In both of Georgia Tech’s wins over the Hokies during the Paul Johnson era, Virginia Tech scored less than 25 points. If Virginia Tech can slow the Georgia Tech offense, the Hokies offense could put this game out of reach.
“That’s the best defense I’ve ever seen against this — score points,” Wiles said.