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Last-place Georgia Tech, Louisville seeking 1st ACC victory

October 4, 2018
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FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2018, file photo, Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) runs past Clemson safety Denzel Johnson (14) for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets are in danger of losing a fourth straight game and getting off to their worst start since 1994. But TaQuon Marshall believes Georgia Tech will play a fundamentally clean game, starting with himself, against Bowling Green on Saturday and come away with an expected victory. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville and Georgia Tech hope a third try will finally yield that elusive Atlantic Coast Conference victory.

Both schools are 2-3 overall and 0-2 in league play, and sitting at the bottom of their respective divisions. On the bright side, one win could start a turnaround to the season.

Georgia Tech looks to end a seven-game road losing streak. Coach Paul Johnson said his staff has tried to keep the team focused on building off a 63-17 rout of Bowling Green rather than their recent road woes.

“It’s hard to win (ACC) games in general and it’s hard to go win games on the road,” Johnson added. “As coaches, we try to — I try to do it, but sometimes it’s hard — you just have to turn off all the noise. It’s all it is - a distraction. You’ve just got to be able to get ready and go play.”

The Yellow Jackets feature a potent option offense that has them atop the ACC in rushing at 339.2 yards per game. Senior quarterback TaQuon Marshall and redshirt freshmen Jordan Mason and Tobias Oliver have each rushed for more than 300 yards and combined for 15 touchdowns.

Those multiple threats present another challenge for Louisville, which allowed Florida State to overcome a 21-7 lead in a 28-24 loss the Cardinals were two minutes away from winning. The Seminoles won on a late 58-yard touchdown pass, highlighting the Cardinals’ defensive vulnerability to big plays.

That and other things must improve if they hope to climb out of the ACC basement against Georgia Tech’s ground game.

“Somebody’s got to have the quarterback,” coach Bobby Petrino said, “someone’s got to have the pitch and then you need a guy running the alley inside-out. And then that guy needs to be able to recognize play-action pass because they threw the ball six or seven times the other day.

“It’s always about the discipline and recognition.”

Some other things to watch as Louisville and Georgia Tech chase their first ACC victory:

BALL HAWKS

Georgia Tech’s seven interceptions this year are one more than all of last season, which has helped the Yellow Jackets match last year’s 10 total takeaways. Fifth-year senior safety Malik Rivera has two pickoffs in ACC play. Tech is tied for 11th nationally in interceptions and tied for 13th in takeaways.

GROUP EFFORT

Louisville has tried a succession of running backs and hopes it has found a workable combination in junior Trey Smith and freshman Hassan Hall. Smith rushed for career highs of 70 yards on 14 carries against FSU, while Hall had 57 yards on 11 attempts. The Cardinals rank next to last in ACC rushing at 120 yards per game.

KICK STARTER

Georgia Tech has promoted freshman walk-on Wesley Wells to be the Yellow Jackets starting placekicker. After outperforming Shawn Davis and Brenton King in practice last week, Wells sealed the job by converting all nine extra-point tries against Bowling Green. Davis began the season atop the depth chart but fell from favor after missing a conversion in the opener against Alcorn State. King missed a PAT against Pittsburgh and a 43-yard field goal attempt against Clemson. Davis will still handle kickoffs.

MILESTONE NEAR

Petrino can become the 12th active coach with 120 career wins if the Cardinals win. He’s 119-51 lifetime, including 77-30 in two stints with the Cardinals.

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AP Sports Writer George Henry in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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