Virginia (4-4, 2-2) at Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2)
3:30 p.m., Saturday
ATLANTA — A back-to-basics approach is producing offense at a rate rarely seen in Georgia Tech history.
The Yellow Jackets have topped 600 yards in back-to-back games — a total reached only seven other times in the program's history. Georgia Tech leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense and rushing.
Coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday a renewed commitment to his spread-option attack is a key to the strong production. He also gave credit to the leadership of quarterback Justin Thomas.
"Our quarterback gives us a chance to do what we want to do," Johnson said.
That means run the ball. Then run some more, including on triple-option plays.
Georgia Tech ran for 465 yards, setting a season high, and had 612 total yards in last week's 56-28 win over Pittsburgh.
"It's great to see the hard work we put in finally pay off," said offensive guard Shaq Mason.
"We caught them out of position a lot and we just executed. Every chance they gave us we executed."
The Yellow Jackets have accumulated 1,223 yards and 99 points the last two weeks. They rank third in the nation with their average of 326.1 yards rushing.
Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2 ACC) will try to generate more big numbers and stay close in the ACC's Coastal Division when it plays Virginia (4-4, 2-2) on Saturday.
"Coach Johnson has done, again, a great job in mastering his offense," said Virginia coach Mike London. "... He's taken it to another level for them."
Last year, Johnson tweaked his offense in an attempt to utilize the skills of quarterback Vad Lee. The results were inconsistent. Johnson still regrets straying from his time-tested attack which has made him a winner at Georgia Southern and Navy before he moved to Georgia Tech in 2008.
"We got back this year to doing what I wanted to do, and it's my own fault for getting away from it," Johnson said. "I got away from it and it's what I know and it's what we need to be doing.
"I think we're back to the base offense. We're trying to do a few things good rather than do a bunch of things average, and last year what we did was a bunch of things average."
Lee transferred to James Madison following the 2013 season, opening the path for Thomas to bring his speed to the offense. Thomas ranks fourth in the ACC in rushing and is a big-play threat when he keeps the ball on option plays. Thomas has 717 yards rushing with four touchdowns and 11 scoring passes, including five to Deandre Smelter.
There is good depth across the offense, including the line and at running back. Starting running back Zach Laskey was lost to a shoulder injury before last week's game, but former quarterback Synjyn Days filled in with a career-high 110 yards rushing. Ten players have rushed for touchdowns this season.
Meanwhile, a porous defense is an ongoing concern. Georgia Tech had 611 yards but still lost a 48-43 shootout at North Carolina on Oct. 18.
The defense found a new way to get off the field last week, recovering six fumbles in the win over Pitt. Otherwise, Georgia Tech has had to rely on its offense to make up for a defense which ranks 13th in the ACC in yards allowed.
"Give us six turnovers, I'll take our chances," Johnson said with a smile.