Georgia Tech knows defense

North Carolina will face a Yellow Jacket team on Thursday that knows how to play defense. Of the teams UNC has faced, only Texas and Oklahoma have higher ranked defenses than Georgia Tech.

As difficult as is the task faced by the North Carolina defense, the Yellow Jackets, unlike years past, does not have to try and beat teams with their offense. 


Go figure.  Georgia Tech has a defense.  The 12th best defense in the nation.  Only Texas (#4) and Oklahoma (#10) have a higher rated defense than the Ramblin' Wreck.


It has not always been that way. 


The Yellow Jackets gave up 416 yards per game as recently as 1999, and 30.3 points per game.  That year, North Carolina almost upset Georgia Tech in Atlanta, rolling up 276 yards on the ground.  Anthony Saunders had one of his best games as a Tar Heel, rushing for 110 yards. 


That game was tied at the end of regulation, 24-24, and Tech went on to win in overtime, 31-24. 


The Tech defense stiffened in 2000, yielding only averages of only 379 yards per game, and 19 points per game.  Against North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets broke a 28-28 deadlock with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter, and went on to win 42-28.   In that contest, North Carolina was only able to muster 89 yards on the ground, but Ronald Curry was 17-31 for 388 yards, though he also tossed two interceptions. 


This season Georgia Tech has fielded one of the stoutest defenses in the ACC.  They are second in the conference in pass efficiency defense, first in rushing defense, first in passing defense, and first in total defense, yielding only 290 yards per game. 


Their defense has improved by 126 yards per game since 1999.  They are giving up only 16.4 points per game so far this season, down almost 14 points just two seasons ago. 


The resurgence of the Tech defense began shortly after head coach George O'Leary hired Ted Roof as defensive coordinator in 1999.  Roof played linebacker for Georgia Tech, and was a member of the "Black Watch" defense of 1985. 

"When I got to Tech, I heard a lot about Ted Roof and how he played the game the way it is supposed to be played," said O'Leary back in 1999. "A very intense, hard-nosed guy. It's a contact game, and make no mistake about it, that's the way he coaches the defense."

In their last outing, the stingy Tech defense held NC State to only 264 yards of total offense, intercepted Philip Rivers twice, and added one fumble recovery to their takeaway column. 

Gathers celebrates one of his nine sacks

The Yellow Jackets benefit from the presence of the ACC's sack leader, Greg Gathers, at defensive end.  Gathers has nine sacks to his credit so far this season.  Nick Rogers, the other defensive end, has four sacks and eight tackles for loss. 

Nick Rogers Stalks Citadel runner

Linebacker Recardo Winbush leads Tech in tackles with 51. Daryl Smith, who has missed three games, is expected to return against UNC this Thursday night.  Defensive back Marvious Hester has three interceptions to lead the Jackets, and Jeremy Muyres has two picks. 

North Carolina will match a steadily improving offense against the Tech defense.  In their last outing, the Tar Heels scorched Clemson for 425 yards and 38 points.  In each of their last three contests, the Tar Heels have gained over 400 yards of total offense. 

Complicating the Tar Heel task of solving the Tech defense, Curry strained a hamstring against Clemson, and is not expected to play against Georgia Tech. 

Darian Durant, four-time ACC Rookie-of-the-Week, will get his first start as a Tar Heel.  In his lasting outing, against Clemson, he completed 11 of 11 passes for 97 yards, no interceptions, one touchdown pass, and rushed for two more touchdowns. 

In the past three games, Curry and Durant have combined for 48 completions in 72 attempts (66%), 727 yards and six touchdowns against only one interception. 

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