ATLANTA (AP) No longer able to shoot for an ACC championship, Georgia Tech has to refocus on more modest goals.
This week’s target is six wins to become bowl eligible. To reach that goal, Georgia Tech must win away from home for the first time this season.
”We’ve got a lot to play for,” coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday of Saturday’s game at Duke. ”We’ve got a lot on the line. We’ve got a chance to get win number six, which is huge in a season when you only play 11 games.”
Georgia Tech’s scheduled game at Central Florida on Sept. 16 was canceled by weather. The school was unable to schedule a replacement game on its open date on Oct. 7. It has also considered scheduling a 12th game on Dec. 2, when the ACC championship game will be played.
”I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Johnson said. ”I don’t know. We can’t find anybody who seems to want to play.”
The Yellow Jackets (5-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are 5-0 at home. Including a season-opening loss to Tennessee in a neutral site, Georgia Tech is 0-4 away from Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Georgia Tech’s average margin of defeat in those four games is only five points. In three of the four losses, the games were decided in the final 90 seconds or in overtime. Three losses – to Tennessee, Miami and Clemson – came against ranked teams.
The Yellow Jackets finally won a close game against a ranked team by beating then-No. 17 Virginia Tech 28-22 last week.
The win over Virginia Tech was crucial to the Yellow Jackets’ efforts to avoid missing a bowl bid for the second time in three years.
”We’ve been through it all,” quarterback TaQuon said Monday. ”We’ve been through a 3-9 season (in 2015). We’ve been through a 9-4 season (in 2016) and the guys above me have been through an Orange Bowl season (in 2014). We’ve all pretty much been here together through the ups and downs so we’re pretty close as a group.”
Marshall threw scoring passes of 80 yards to Ricky Jeune and 60 yards to Brad Stewart for his only two completions against Virginia Tech.
Most of Marshall’s production has come on the ground. He needs 66 yards rushing against the Blue Devils to become the third quarterback under Johnson to run for 1,000 yards in a season.
KirVonte Benson, another first-year starter , is only 70 yards from 1,000 to lead the running backs.
Johnson acknowledged the offense hasn’t been his best, though he said he’s happy with the averages.
”I think because we’ve been pretty consistent over the 10 years here offensively and scored a lot of points, the expectations seem to be a lot higher for the offense than other parts of the team,” he said. ”We’re not great on offense by any stretch, but we’re averaging 31 points and over 400 yards per game, which is not bad.”
Georgia Tech will close its regular season at home against No. 7 Georgia in two weeks. Their best chance for the six win may come against Duke (4-6, 1-5).
”Trying to get to six wins is a big deal,” Johnson said. ”It’s not where the goals were set to begin with, but that’s where they are now.”
If limited to 11 regular-season games, it’s possible Georgia Tech could be granted a waiver to play in a bowl at 5-6.
”I have no idea,” Johnson said when asked about the chances for a waiver with five wins. ”I’d like to get to seven, actually.”
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