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PREVIEW: Tech poised to run all over Alabama A&M

Yellow Jackets’ run game ranked 7th in country

Georgia Tech running back Robert Godhigh leads all of FBS with 13.2 yards per play heading into today’s game against Alabama A&M. (Reuters)

Georgia Tech running back Robert Godhigh leads all of FBS with 13.2 yards per play heading into today’s game against Alabama A&M. (Reuters)

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech was battered in front of a national audience last Thursday at Clemson, but the Yellow Jackets have a golden opportunity to rebuild their confidence — and prepare for in-state rival Georgia — today at home against Alabama A&M.

The Yellow Jackets still hold a slim shot at tying for the ACC Coastal Division title but are finished with their conference schedule. Running back Robert Godhigh leads FBS with a 13.2 yard average per play, and the former walk-on has become the go-to back for the nation’s seventh-best rushing attack.

When fans cry out for Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson to throw the ball more often, he points to the numbers. The truth remains that the more the Yellow Jackets throw the ball, the more trouble they have.

“We’ve lost four games, and in each of those games we’ve thrown it 20 or more times,” Johnson said. “For us to be successful, we need to run the ball successfully. That gives us the best chance to win.”

Here’s the evidence:

— Against Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets completed 7 of 24 passes with two interceptions for 144 yards.

— Against Miami, Tech completed 6 of 19 passes with two interceptions for 66 yards.

— Against BYU, Tech completed 11 of 24 passes with one interception for 163 yards.

— Against Clemson, Tech completed 15 of 26 passes with one interception for 192 yards

In those four games, Tech completed 39 of 93 passes (41.9 percent) with six interceptions and no touchdowns.

“We’re at practice every day and we’re doing the thing that we think gives us the best chance to win the game,” Johnson said. “If I thought that throwing it 50 times a game would give us the best chance, we’d be chucking it.”

And while it is unlikely to see Tech transition into a run-and-shoot offense, it is equally unlikely to see a change at quarterback. Vad Lee will continue to start and get most of the snaps, although backup Justin Thomas could see more time this week against Alabama A&M.

While it may not matter this week against Alabama A&M, injuries are continuing to take their toll on the offensive line. Chase Roberts suffered a concussion against Clemson and is doubtful for this week. Shaq Mason was dinged up in the game, but should play. Veteran Ray Beno returned last week, but there’s still no sign of tackle Morgan Bailey, who has missed five straight games and played in only three games.

“We’ve got a lot of guys banged up,” Johnson said. “We may sit a couple out on Saturday to make sure we’re healthy for the last game.”

The Yellow Jackets gave up 55 points to the Tigers last week, and reestablishing confidence will be the primary focus against the overmatched Bulldogs, with a much more formidable group of Bulldogs looming next weekend. Georgia Tech is fourth in the ACC in points allowed at 22.4 per game. Alabama A&M has lost four of its past six games and allowed 440 yards in a 50-42 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week.

Alabama A&M’s Barrington Scott rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns last week, giving him 1,004 on the season. The Bulldogs feature the top-ranked scoring defense in the Southwestern Athletic Conference at 24.3 points. Jaymason Lee started at quarterback last week, finishing with 349 yards passing and three touchdowns; he has thrown for eight TDs over his previous three games despite completing fewer than half his pass attempts in that span.