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Georgia Tech passes infrequently, but Pitt must still be wary

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 10:39 p.m.
Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee (2) pitches the ball to a teammate as Virginia defensive ends Max Valles (88) and Jake Snyder (90) close in for the tackle during the second half Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va.

Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House knows Georgia Tech loves to beat opponents with the running game.

But House and his defense must keep their eyes open Saturday night for Georgia Tech's passing game.

Pitt's ability to stop Georgia Tech's sporadic passing attack could decide Saturday's 7 p.m. ACC matchup in Atlanta.

“When they do throw the ball, they are messing with your eyes and they are going for the home run,'' House said. “It may not be like a conventional offense where they are throwing it 25 times a game, but when they do throw the ball, a lot of the times, they are pushing it vertically down the field.”Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee has completed only 45.2 percent of his passes, about 15 percent below a top-rated NCAA quarterback.

Georgia Tech makes up for Lee's inaccuracy by rushing for 315.6 yards per game, a number that's good for first in the ACC and third in the NCAA.

Lee has 921 yards passing on only 47 completions (19.6 per catch).

In Georgia Tech's past two victories, the Yellow Jackets totaled 91 points while defeating Syracuse and Virginia. Lee completed just 6 of 8 pass attempts.

“Don't be fooled by the numbers,” House said. “Of those eight passes, probably six of them were shots (deep throws).”

Indeed, those six completions totaled 163 yards.

That's one of the areas where Georgia Tech's triple-option offense differs from the same scheme Navy used to defeat Pitt, 24-21, last week.

The advantage is that Pitt's defense practiced against the same offensive formations two weeks in a row.

“It's the same tree,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.

The disadvantage is that Georgia Tech saw how Pitt defended the triple-option.

The big difference is that Georgia Tech brings more athleticism to the field.

“They are real explosive,” House said. “Their fullbacks (David Sims and Zach Laskey) are better athletes than the ones we faced last week. They are guys who can take runs and take them the distance.”

Sims (6-0, 225 pounds) is the team's leading rusher with 516 yards. Meanwhile, Laskey, who lived in Pittsburgh until age 7, is another big back (6-1, 214), with 6.5 yards per carry.

Four runners, including Lee, have gained at least 350 yards.

“(The fullback) is the guy who can split your defense the quickest, because he is closest to the line of scrimmage,'' House said. “Navy didn't test you with the fullback like Georgia Tech will.”

While he acknowledged the similarities between the teams, Chryst was reluctant to compare one against the other.

“To compare (Georgia Tech) to someone you just lost to would be wrong,” he said. “One quarterback (Navy's Keenan Reynolds) just beat us. We have a lot of respect for the other one.”

Notes: Middle linebacker Shane Gordon (collarbone) and left guard Cory King (back) have been practicing, but Chryst didn't guarantee that they will play. “We will see how they feel,” he said. “(Practicing) was good.” ... When Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof held the same position at Minnesota in 2008, he matched schemes with Chryst, who was at Wisconsin. With a team that finished only 7-6, Wisconsin won, 35-32.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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