ATLANTA — The Georgia Tech defense has a readily identifiable problem. The Yellow Jackets have been excessively permissive at the start of the past four games.
However, this is not a problem with a simple remedy.
“You’ve just got to do it,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “If I had a magic pill or a magic answer, I’d have already done it. But you’ve just got to do it.”
On Saturday, BYU scored on four of its first five possessions to take a 24-10 lead that led to the Jackets’ third consecutive loss.
Against Miami, the Hurricanes raced 73 yards in two plays to tie the score on their opening drive, precipitating an offensive flurry that would result in an ACC-record 10.4 yards-per-play average. Virginia Tech took a 14-0 first-half lead en route to its 17-10 win. North Carolina jumped to a 13-0 lead before the Jackets rallied in Tech’s most recent win.
“We’ve just got to get the motor going from the start,” defensive backs coach Joe Speed said. “I don’t know the magic formula, but as soon as that whistle sounds, we need to get out of the gate fast.”
In six first quarters this season, Tech has outscored the opposition 62-48. However, excluding the opener against Elon, it’s 48-34 in the opposition’s favor.
Today may start tamely. Syracuse, the Jackets’ opponent, has been outscored 41-30 this season. The Orange have been shut out in the first quarter in four of their six games.
The first-quarter goings-on are no small matter. Under coach Paul Johnson, the Jackets are 27-6 when leading after the first quarter and 7-18 when trailing after the first 15 minutes.
“We’ve got to make plays,” linebackers coach Andy McCollum said. “One thing we’ve got to keep doing that as a whole, as a unit, not just (the linebackers), is quit missing tackles and make plays.”
Against BYU, a handful of changes turned around Tech’s defense in the second half. At halftime, Roof was able to adjust to an unexpected wrinkle in the Cougars’ game plan. Backups sent into the game responded favorably. Roof also made more aggressive calls, sending more players at quarterback Taysom Hill. After halftime, BYU punted on its first five possessions, four times going three-and-out, and scored one offensive touchdown.
“I think we’re starting to get it to click,” said cornerback Louis Young, who rebounded from a forgettable first half against BYU to play more effectively in the second. “(Tuesday) was a good practice, and I think the second half of last week was a turning point for us in the right direction defensively.”
While not prescribing magic pills, defensive coaches have shown players their mistakes while also accentuating positive plays, a net effect, Roof said, of “here’s what happens when we do (play well); here’s what happens when we don’t.”
Nose tackle Adam Gotsis said that the game plan for the Orange could help Tech’s slow-start bug.
“We’re mixing it up a bit this week,” Gotsis said. “We’re just going to see what happens. We have to change something.”
Beno, Bailey, Green out: Offensive tackles Ray Beno and Morgan Bailey and defensive lineman Shawn Green were ruled out of Saturday’s game with injuries. At offensive tackle, the likely starters are Will Jackson and either Chase Roberts or Chamberlain. If it’s Roberts, he would make his first career start.