Justin Thomas' growth as a passer and DeAndre Smelter's success as a receiver have been headline-worthy storylines throughout Georgia Tech's 7-2 start this season. But the core truth about the Yellow Jackets still holds true: They remain pretty darn good running the football.
So good, in fact, that they have rebounded from losing their top running back the last two games to improve their rushing average and have done serious damage to their opponents' defensive stats, too.
Zach Laskey's status remains up in the air for Saturday's tilt at NC State because of a shoulder injury suffered Oct. 18 at North Carolina that has kept senior out of the past two games. All Georgia Tech has done without the bruiser -- who has rushed for 595 yards this season -- is tally 733 yards on the ground over its last two games, wins at Pittsburgh and against Virginia.
Synjyn Days has led the charge, with the former quarterback putting forth consecutive career-best outings. The redshirt senior rushed for 110 yards against the Panthers and 147 yards and a touchdown against the Cavaliers. Broderick Snoddy has excelled as well, going for 82 yards and three touchdowns in the Steel City before tallying 52 yards on just seven carries this past Saturday.
"He's got good speed," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said of Snoddy. "He's gotten more comfortable with what he's doing. He probably played better at Pitt than he played Saturday, but he's got a good skill-set. He can run fast."
Six Panthers turnovers aided a Yellow Jackets offense that put up 56 points two weeks ago, with the ground game proving relentless. Georgia Tech rushed for 465 yards on a Pitt defense that entered that game ranked 17th nationally against the run (111.14). That makes the 268 rushing yards compiled against Virginia seem ordinary by comparison. But consider that the output came against a Virginia defense that entered Atlanta with the nation's ninth-best rushing defense (100.38).
Georgia Tech has boosted its rushing offense these past two games (from 306.28 to 319.67) despite being down its top back.
Laskey, for his part, has tried to remain as involved as possible despite still not practicing as of Monday.
"He's a big help," Snoddy said. "He's just lifting us up. He's a happy guy. He's smiling, picks us all up, lets us all know what we need to do. We all say that we're playing for Zach."
Laskey's potential return would surely provide a boost against a Wolfpack team coming off its first ACC win in two years Saturday at Syracuse. The Wolfpack might be going for bowl-eligibility during these final three regular-season games, but there is plenty at stake during this same stretch for Georgia Tech, too.
"Right now we're just focused on NC State and getting this eighth win," Days said. "We haven't had (more than) eight wins since I've been here at Tech. So that's what our senior class is pretty psyched about, to try to have our best year since we've been here. It's looking good so far, but we've got to keep on plugging along."