Third downs bedeviling Georgia Tech

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 10: Justin Thomas #5 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets calls out to Mikell Lands-Davis #37 during their game against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)

Third down has not been kind to Georgia Tech and quarterback Georgia Tech. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)

Georgia Tech broke one streak when it defeated then-No. 9 Florida State to stop its five-game losing streak. The Yellow Jackets have at least one far less consequential but still meaningful slide to stop.

Tech has not converted a third down of six yards or longer since the Clemson game, a streak of 13 consecutive plays. The Jackets are experiencing an unusually unsuccessful season on third downs, tied for 108th in the country at 33.3 percent (33-for-99). They’re tied, incidentally, with Georgia.

Third down has been a strong point for the Jackets in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure. In his seven completed seasons, Tech has finished in the top two three times and last season tied an NCAA mark for highest third-down rate (57.9). After Johnson’s first season, in which the Jackets were 84th at 36.7 percent, they’ve converted no less than 40.4 percent in any season. While rating this season’s third-down performance “awful,” Johnson also pointed out that Tech is still No. 4 in the ACC in scoring offense at 35.1 points per game.

“What it tells me is we’ve been in a ton of third-and-longs, and we’re not near as good at throwing and protecting this year as we were a year ago,” Johnson said.

It is perhaps on third-and-long where Tech feels most heavily the graduation of wide receivers DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller (both in the NFL) and A-backs Tony Zenon, Deon Hill, Charles Perkins and B.J. Bostic.

Starting with the Notre Dame game, Tech has been in 29 third downs needing 10 yards or more, which is 35 percent of all third downs. The Jackets have converted four of them, and are 1 for their last 18. Last season, quarterback Justin Thomas threw 27 passes on third downs of 10 yard or more and converted six of them.

Tech’s opponent Saturday, Virginia, is No. 38 in the country in third-down defense at 34.1 percent.


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