Saturday will be the 4th meeting between the BYU Cougars and the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. The Cougars lead the series 2-1 with the first game taking place in 2002 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Georgia Tech returned the trip to Provo in 2003 before the Cougars went back to Atlanta in 2012.
Atlanta, GA 2002 (0-1)
In the first match up between the schools, the Cougars traveled to Atlanta after a disappointing upset by Nevada the week before. The game was an ugly affair as the first drive ended in a Brett Engemann interception, and the second ended on an Engemann fumble. The Cougar defense held on the first three drives but yet another interception gave the Yellow Jackets great field position. The first quarter ended 0-0 but Georgia Tech was driving.
Shortly into the second quarter, the Yellow Jackets would score on a one-yard run to go up 7-0. The Cougars would finally put points on the board after Matt Payne connected on a 49 yard field goal on the subsequent drive. With the offense struggling, Lance Pendleton replaced Engemann on the next drive and led the team on a 59 yard drive that ended on a one-yard touchdown by Pendleton. With the touchdown, the Cougars went to the locker room with a 10-7 lead.
Georgia Tech took the lead in the third quarter after another one-yard rush capped off their first possession of the second half. BYU would record the next two scores on a 39 yard field goal and a 17 yard touchdown pass from Pendleton to Reno Mahe, but missed the two-point conversion. BYU would not score again but they took the lead into the fourth quarter, 19-14.
In the fourth quarter the Yellow Jackets would score two more touchdowns to round out the scoring 28-19. The Cougars had one last chance to score but the drive ended with Pendleton's only interception of the game. Pendleton ended up 17-39 for 274 yards one touchdown pass, one touchdown run, and an interception.
Provo, UT 2003 (1-1)
Georgia Tech came to town the following year, on a night when BYU retired Steve Young's number eight at halftime. The game started off a bit disconcerting as Matt Berry threw an interception which gave the Yellow Jackets the ball at the BYU 38 yard line. The Cougar defense played tough though and forced the Yellow Jackets into a 26-yard field goal. On the ensuing drive the Cougars seemed to stall momentarily at the Yellow Jackets 38-yard line but Gary Crowton opted to go for it on fourth down and Berry hit Daniel Coats in the middle for a 38-yard touchdown. The final score of the quarter would go to Georgia Tech as they connected on a 39-yard field goal, leaving the score at 7-6.
In the second quarter, the Yellow Jackets would score first as the special teams blocked a BYU punt for a touchdown giving the Jackets a lead 13-7. The Cougars were unable to put any points on the board in the second, leaving the score as is heading into the locker room.
Something happened during halftime because coming back into the the third quarter, BYU took back the lead on their first drive with an 80 yard drive that ended with a 15-yard pass from Berry to Coats. The Cougars would score one more time on a 14-yard pass from Berry to Toby Christensen to take a 21-13 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was a defensive struggle as the only points scored would be on a 24-yard field goal with 2:32 left in the game, giving us the win, 24-13. Berry ended up 31-46 for 276 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Atlanta, GA 2012 (2-1)
After nine years the Cougars would visit Atlanta again to take the best of 3. BYU started off the game strong with a 44-yard kickoff return by JD Falslev, and Riley Nelson went 5-6 while moving the Cougars to the Georgia Tech 6-yard line. On the fourth and one play, Jamaal Williams carried the ball home for an early 7-0 lead. With the defense holding strong, the Yellow Jackets tied up the game on a 22 yard pick-six.
BYU started to put the game away in the second quarter by scoring on another fourth down play by Williams, only seconds into the quarter. After a blocked punt by Kyle Van Noy set up a short field, Nelson took the ball 10-yards for the touchdown to increase the lead to 21-7. On the ensuing kickoff, the Yellow Jackets scored on a 97-yard kickoff return. (see it below) Another long return by Falslev gave the Cougars a field goal to take a 24-14 lead into the half.
Not our best attempt at special teams to be sure.
In the third quarter, Daniel Sorensen intercepted the ball and gave the Cougar offense the ball at the two yard line. This led to another Williams one-yard touchdown run. With 20 seconds left in the quarter, Georgia Tech connected on a field goal to finish the third quarter 31-17.
BYU would score 10 more points in the fourth after a shuffle pass from Nelson led to a 39-yard touchdown by Williams. With 6:59 in the game, Justin Sorensen added a 26-yard field goal to finalize the scoring at 41-17. Jamaal Williams ended the game with 107 yards rushing, three rushing touchdowns, 54 yards receiving, and one receiving touchdown.
After a convincing win in Logan last week, the outlook is much more positive than anticipated. Many had given up on the team and the offense before they put up 24 points on the Aggie defense. The defense flexed their muscles again to put another feather in their cap. If the progress that was gained can be translated into Saturday's game, and future games, the outlook is bright for this team as they continue to progress to becoming a formidable opponent.
The most obvious positive is the play of Taysom Hill. Having a career day by going 17-31 for 278 and three touchdowns should give him confidence going forward. Taysom wasn't needed in the running game but he still had 36 yards rushing before the 22 yards in sacks were deducted. With some precision passes, and some over the top bombs, defenses will need to play the pass as well as the run.
An important point must also be brought up that Taysom did an amazing job adjusting to the rushing speed of the Aggies defense. The defense caught him off guard for the first 15 minutes. But as the game progressed, he adjusted. He moved faster; he made quicker decisions; and he played with confidence that only extreme need can bring out in a quarterback. He's shown he can adjust when given good coaching and rise to the occasion (an expected characteristic that BYU fans hold their quarterbacks to).
Van Noy and Unga
Kyle Van Noy and Uani' Unga were two bright spots on defense that played well yet again. Van Noy set the tone of the game on the first play from scrimmage when he jumped a screen route and intercepted Chuckie Keeton for a pick-six. Unga wasn't going to be out-shined by Van Noy so he recorded a career high 16 tackles, forced a fumble and had a fumble recovery. We can expect more from him against the Yellow Jackets on Saturday
For the second straight game the specials teams had a positive influence as Craig Bills blocked a 47 yard field goal attempt by Nick Diaz. The kickoff teams also improved and didn't allow a problematic kick return.
We can't touch on the positives of the game without giving accolades to Mitch Mathews. Just like Taysom, Mitch had a career day with 5 receptions for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Where did this 6'6" wide receiver come from? (Apparently he hails from Oregon and was an All-Metro wide receiver back in High School. Who knew?) We can only hope that this was the first of many more such games.
The two turnovers were tough to swallow and in both cases, could have gone either way. Taysom needs to hold onto the ball, and even though there was a face-mask that was not called, it didn't cause the fumble, it would have just negated it. After the fumble it did appear that the coaches may have lost a little confidence in Hill and the run, but due to his breakout passing performance the need for Hill to run showed itself unnecessary. The interception could have been called either way as it was a wrestling match in the end-zone. The pass was just short but it was still almost caught.
One of the few concerns on both sides of the ball was the third down conversion rate. On offense the Cougars were only 5-18 on third down and this number must increase in order for the offense to have success. On the flip side of the ball, the defense didn't give up a great percentage of conversions but did still allow 10-23 which should be lower when facing a defense as good as BYU. One of the reasons this might be higher is the fact that the second string played much of the later part of the game.
Triple-option vs. Front Seven
With the success that the Cougar defense had last year against the option, it will be interesting to see how the offensive coaches game plan against a very good option defense. The Cougar defensive line thrives on the challenge for assignment sound football and when facing the triple option, assignment sound is what they will need to be. If the front line can get a push into the backfield, the linebackers will have a few more options when spying the quarterback and chasing down the running backs. If everyone keeps their assignments, not much yardage will be gained.
After a good week of special teams play, the Cougars need to make sure they are ready for more special teams plays. Last year the kickoff team allowed a touchdown return against Georgia Tech and this time around it could be costly if it happens again. If Adam Hine is back this week, the kickoff return team could make more noise as Georgia Tech is ranked 102nd in kick return defense, giving up 24.19 per return. The kickers could also play a part in the game and Justin Sorensen is 8-9 on the year while Yellow Jacket Harrison Butker is 3-5 on the year.
BYU WR vs. GT Secondary
Last week Mitch Mathews broke onto the scene and BYU would love to take advantage of this. Georgia Tech has the 58th ranking defense against the pass. If Cody Hoffman and Mitch Mathews can stretch the field, look for the running backs, JD Falslev and the other receivers to have room in the middle of the field and for the short passes.
The Keys to Watch
When Georgia Tech has the ball
Look for the offense to try and establish their strength, the triple option. Paul Johnson has made a living off making this scheme successful so don't look for them to drop it if a few plays don't work. On that note, in order for it to work for the full game, the offense will have to take shots down field. Vad Lee is the offensive general for the team but has done most of his damage on the ground. The last two games have seen his passing completion drop dramatically and he is now completing about 44% of his passes. This could bode well for a BYU defense that ranks 10th in the country in passing and may be able to squash the passing game. Look for the Cougar linebackers to play a big role this week as they will have the responsibility to cover either the QB or the dive runner, leading to a large number of linebacker tackles.
When BYU has the ball
Look for a large dose of Williams as the offense tries to set up the pass. The Yellow Jackets defense is ranked 28th in the country in rush defense, but after watching the Cougars passing game last week, they can no longer just play the run. Look for Hill to have a few more carries as they try to keep the defense off balance. They will try to draw up the secondary and linebackers in order to open up the middle and long ball. Watch for the long ball, it was very successful last week and could be again if Hill can put the same touch on the ball. For the first time this year, we may be confidently going into a game with a triple threat with a healthy running back corps, two breakout receivers and Taysom himself.
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has accumulated an impressive record of 151-67 while going 14-3 in the AA-playoffs. The triple option that he has implemented, wherever he goes, has brought him success at all levels. He was the offensive coordination for two NCAA Division I-AA championship teams at Georgia Southern and then came back to coach the same school to two more NCAA Division I-AA National Championships in 1999 and 2000. Considering all the success he has had, you might be interested to know that he has never played a down of college football.
At this time there is no future scheduled meeting between the two schools.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 5:00 pm MDT
Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here
Radio Links (Georgia Tech): Click Here
We will also have a game thread open for fans to participate in the conversation. Keep up-to-date throughout the game here.