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Bud Foster and the Hokies defense try to contain the unique option offense of Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee scrambles against Duke in Durham, N.C., on Saturday. Georgia Tech won 38-14.
The Roanoke Times | File 2010
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster says the Yellow Jackets are a challenge.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson puts out a unique option offense every season.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
On the coaching circuit, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson rarely cross paths, if ever.
But Foster makes sure to chat with the option guru every year before the Hokies’ game against the Yellow Jackets.
“I let him know how much of a pain in the tail he is for all of us to prepare for,” Foster said. “I think he likes that.”
“Us” would be defensive coordinators across the ACC, or at least the Coastal Division, which has to deal with Johnson and Georgia Tech’s unique option offense every season.
The Hokies (3-1, 0-0 ACC) get it tonight in Atlanta against the Yellow Jackets (3-0, 2-0 ACC) on ESPN’s Thursday night game, with the added difficulty of having to do it on a short week. Both teams played last Saturday, giving the Hokies just four days of prep time to alter their regular defense.
“You have to throw it completely all out,” said Foster, who used bits of previous Sundays to get some Georgia Tech prep work done. “This is a whole different animal, when it’s all said and done.”
The Hokies have managed success in recent years defensively against Georgia Tech’s option, in part aided by extra preparation time. After having all offseason to prepare for last season’s Labor Day opener, Foster’s crew held the Yellow Jackets to 192 rushing yards in a 20-17 overtime win.
“That’s stopping their run game,” Foster said. “That’s like holding [a regular team] below 100 yards rushing.”
In five meetings with Georgia Tech, Foster’s defenses have allowed 20.8 points and 360.2 yards per game, numbers on par with Miami and better than every other team in the division. More importantly, the Hokies are 4-1 in those games.
“It’s a little fun, too, because you have to kind of solve the riddle,” Hokies linebacker Jack Tyler said. “You have to figure out a defense that’s going to go stop this crazy component offense that people are going every which way.”
Tech’s experience helps. Cornerback Kyle Fuller will slide inside to play the whip linebacker position, which he did successfully as a sophomore in 2011 against the Yellow Jackets.
That means the only starting defenders who haven’t seen Georgia Tech’s option offense up close and personal are the starting cornerbacks — freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson.
“This is such a technique-oriented scheme that we run here with this game,” Foster said.
“There’s a lot of little things that we’re doing that are totally different than what we do in regular offenses. If a young guy is not ready to play, he’s not going to play.”
The plan remains the same: keep Georgia Tech off the field as much as possible and out of the end zone.
“They’re going to gain yards now, man. That’s what they do,” Foster said. “What we’ve been able to do the last couple years is not give up the explosive plays.”
Virginia Tech’s aim — again — will be to control the clock. The Hokies have won the time of possession battle against hurry-up offenses in East Carolina and Marshall. Now they’ll face a team with that same goal in mind.
For an offense coming off what offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler called its “biggest mistake game, hands down,” that will present a challenge.
Virginia Tech’s defense might be up to the task of holding Georgia Tech in check, but can the offense supply enough points? The Hokies haven’t scored more than two offensive touchdowns in regulation against an FBS opponent since the Duke game nearly a year ago.
That leaves Virginia Tech little margin for error on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve got to get in the mindset that it’s a 60-minute fistfight,” Foster said.
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