Georgia Tech bracing for power runs from Vandy's Webb
ATLANTA (AP) Georgia Tech's relentless spread-option attack with its triple-option potential is known for causing sleepless nights for defensive coordinators.
Most of the Yellow Jackets' yards usually come on the ground.
This week Georgia Tech also has to worry about stopping the run when Southeastern Conference rushing leader Ralph Webb leads Vanderbilt against the Yellow Jackets on Saturday.
Webb ran for a career-high 211 yards and two touchdowns in the Commodores' 47-24 win over Middle Tennessee last week. Webb, a junior, is only 711 yards rushing behind Zac Stacy's Vanderbilt career record.
''I would think if we don't stop it we'll see it until our nose bleeds,'' said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson of Webb's runs. ''He'll be downhill.''
Coach Derek Mason isn't afraid of giving the ball to Webb as much as possible.
''You've got to go with what works for you,'' Mason said.
Johnson said Vanderbilt is a power running team.
''They're gonna pack it in there and come get you,'' he said. ''They're not hard to find.''
Webb leads the SEC with 308 yards rushing after running for 1,152 yards in 2015.
Georgia Tech (2-0) has dominated the series against Vanderbilt (1-1). The Yellow Jackets have won five straight in the series, including the most recent meeting in 2009, and are 11-0-1 against the Commodores since 1941.
Vanderbilt center Barrett Gouger said this is a chance to end that ugly streak.
''We're facing a Georgia Tech team who we have not had the opportunity to beat in a while,'' Gouger said. ''... So there's an opportunity in front of us to do something great.''
Some other things to look for as Georgia Tech faces Vanderbilt:
QB OK TO GO: Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas was held out of the second half of last week's 35-10 win over Mercer with a minor injury but is expected to start this week. Backup quarterbacks Matthew Jordan and TaQuon Marshall each ran for a touchdown after Thomas left last week.
HELP FOR WEBB: Webb's big game last week was Vanderbilt's best rushing performance since Frank Mordica set the SEC record with 321 yards in 1978. What's helping keep Webb fresh through two games this season is the emergence of Khari Blasingame, who moved from linebacker to running back. Blasingame has 87 yards rushing with a team-leading three touchdowns on the ground.
LIGHTS ON: Vanderbilt's offense finally showed signs of life aside from Webb last week with Kyle Shurmur completing passes to 10 different teammates. He also completed 13 of 14 passes in one stretch after missing on his first seven passes and finished with 113 yards passing and one TD. Vanderbilt needs balance to keep defenses from focusing on Webb. ''I just hope that the lights are on,'' Mason said. ''That we paid the light bill, and Kyle Shurmur can actually continue to push this offense forward.''
LIGHTS ON II: Johnson said sophomore running back Qua Searcy, who leads the Yellow Jackets with 87 yards rushing, performs better in games than in practice. ''There are some guys when the lights come on and the game starts they just kind of up their play a little bit and that's kind of what he's done,'' Johnson said.
ACC VS SEC: Johnson acknowledged it's impossible to ignore the conference rivalry that comes with the matchup. ''It's Georgia Tech vs. Vanderbilt, but that's part of it,'' he said. ''We're playing for Georgia Tech and I guess the league because people keep track of it. We hear a lot of it.'' Both schools were charter members of the SEC in 1933. Georgia Tech left the league after the 1963 season. This is the Yellow Jackets' first regular-season game against a team from the SEC other than in-state rival Georgia since a 42-31 win at Mississippi State in 2009.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org