After suffering a devastating loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels, coach Ted Roof and Tech’s defense have gone back to the drawing board to figure out what went wrong in Saturday’s game against UNC.
Some credit goes to North Carolina for playing very well on offense, but it just wasn’t Tech’s best day on defense as they struggled to make tackles in the open field all game long.
Coach Johnson commented on the tackling and how players didn’t execute, but he hesitated when asked about whether Tech’s defense has improved as the year has gone on.
Coach Roof was expected to have his work cut out for him this season after losing six senior starers on defense including All-American defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu.
Even though Tech lost six starters, they returned two more safeties from injury including senior Isaiah Johnson and junior Jamal Golden.
Golden, who also returns punts and kickoffs, has already put the past away and only focused on the upcoming game against Pittsburgh. Even though the team has struggled the past two games on defense, Golden is confident going into the Pittsburgh game.
“We know it’s going to be a physical game. Today at practice, we practiced 80 percent run [defense] because that’s what they do: they want to run the football,” Golden said. “[Pittsburgh] averages 240 yards a game on the ground, and we’ve just been working on being physical and trying to build a wall at the line of scrimmage,” Golden said.
However, Pittsburgh added some new plays in their most recent game against Virginia Tech, where their quarterback, Chad Voytik, had 19 carries in the game.
“They’re similar. They run the same stuff [as last year], but they also added some new plays similar to what Duke and UNC run with their new quarterback they’re starting this year,” Golden said.
Golden noted that Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd is a very good player and that the Tech secondary would keep their hands full defending him along with 6-foot-2 250 pound running back James Conner.
The team is expecting to end the losing streak.
“We’re just ready to get the feeling off of us. We’ve lost two straight and nobody likes losing. We hate losing more than we like winning so we’re just looking to drop the losing streak and start another winning streak,” Golden said.
Due to graduation of key secondary players from last year, Golden has stepped into a leadership position for the defense and special teams unit.
“I’m an upperclassmen. I’m a leader on the defense. We have other guys too, Isaiah Johnson, Quayshawn Nealy, Adam Gotsis. [We’ve] just been picking the team up and we still have a chance to do something special. We’ve only lost 2 games. We still have a chance to win double digit games and have a chance to get to a bowl and the ACC Championship game,” Golden said. “There is a lot to play for and we’re just taking it one game at a time to reach our goals.”
Golden and the team have been addressing the problems they had in the UNC game including tackling.
“[UNC has] playmakers, they have guys on scholarship who are going to make plays, but that’s no excuse for us missing tackles. Tackling is 50 percent technique and 50 percent just wanting to get the job done.”
Replacing the production of Attaochu and former linebacker Brandon Watts has not been easy as the team has struggled to get pressure on the quarterback this season.
“We have guys who can get the job done. Keshun Freeman, Rook-Chungong, Tyler Stargel, it’s just a matter of fact of just wanting to get it done and wanting to be the guy to make the play. We’ll add pressure, and I’m sure Coach Roof will dial up some blitzes to get pressure on the quarterback,” Golden said.
This year, Tech has predominantly run out of the 4-2-5 defensive formation due to having an experienced secondary.
“We mix it up; it just depends on the situation and where the game is going. It’s up to Coach Roof, really.”
Golden believes the defense will step up in a major way this weekend and they hope to have a big impact on the game to take pressure off of the offense.