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Unique methods pay off for Georgia Tech coach

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson watches his team prior to a game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013.

Paul Johnson is part of a Georgia Tech coaching fraternity that includes some memorable characters.

• The school's first full-time head coach (John Heisman) has the most coveted trophy in college football named after him.

• The winningest coach of the group (Bobby Dodd, 165 victories) has his name attached to the stadium, a 100-year-old edifice that is the oldest on-campus facility in major college football and the venue where Pitt (4-3, 2-2 ACC) will meet the Ramblin' Wreck (5-3, 4-2) on Saturday night.

• Two others (Bud Carson and Chan Gailey) were successful NFL coaches and assistants on Steelers' Super Bowl teams.

• Another (Bill Curry) was the starting center on the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl I champion.

• Three of them (Heisman, Dodd and William Alexander) won at least 100 games, a feat Johnson has matched (152) if you count his time at Georgia Southern and Navy.

Georgia Tech's next victory will be its 700th since the program's inception in 1892, making it only the 17th school to reach that milestone.

Johnson, though, is different. He coaches with a unique style, his triple-option offense testing the opponent's discipline and attention to detail, if not its pass defense.

Pass? Georgia Tech largely ignores the custom of the day in college football in favor of a running attack that leads the ACC and is fourth in the nation (an average of 315.6 yards per game). Meanwhile, Georgia Tech's 120 pass attempts and 45 percent completion rate in eight games are by far the lowest in the conference.

“It's just the system that we choose to run,” Johnson said. “I just always had the belief that if you can run and stop the run, you're going to have a chance to win.”

Johnson points to the national championship game after the 2009 season when Alabama beat Texas, 37-21, and threw only 12 passes.

Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore, can throw a little. He was 6 for 8 the past two weeks in 56-0 and 35-25 victories over Syracuse and Virginia. But those teams invited Georgia Tech to run, and the Yellow Jackets didn't turn down the invitation, rushing for 394 yards in both games.

“We'd like to throw it more efficiently than we have and maybe a little more,” Johnson said, “but just the nature of what we've done in the last couple of weeks. The secondary wasn't really involved in stopping the run game a whole lot, so there wasn't a lot of reason to throw.”

Pitt gets its second consecutive look at the triple-option after its mixed results last week in a loss to Navy. The Panthers have had trouble with mobile quarterbacks — Notre Dame's Everett Golson comes immediately to mind — but Pitt coach Paul Chryst doesn't sound concerned.

“We did some really good things against (Navy),” he said. “They had a couple of long drives at the end of the game. We have to clean that up.

“I don't feel like there is something inherent about that offense that we can't handle.”

Note: Charges of simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct were dropped against defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell in connection with a brawl July 30 in Homestead. Judge Thomas Torkowsky withdrew the case Thursday prior to a scheduled preliminary hearing.

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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