Of all the challenges the Georgia Tech offense presents, containing B-backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days could prove to be the most problematic for the Florida State defense in the ACC title game Saturday.
Laskey and Days have been an unstoppable force in the Jackets’ five-game winning streak. In four of those games, one of the backs has gained over 100 yards. Laskey did it most recently last week in an upset over rival Georgia, rushing for 140 yards and three touchdowns -- including the game-winner in overtime.
He seemed to have extra drive against the Bulldogs, taking over the game when it was on the line. As right guard Shaq Mason said, “As I watched film, I was just seeing the things he was doing. I mean, I never saw him run that hard. He's always been a hard runner, but he just had the will to get it done.
“I have confidence in him that he's going to bring that again this week.”
Laskey humbly admitted, “Probably one of my best games I’ve ever had since I’ve been at Tech. I give a lot of credit to the guys up front. They were blowing guys off the ball all time. Every guy on the team, you could tell we all had that extra fire in our eyes, and we came out and it helped us tremendously.”
Laskey began the year as the starter, patiently waiting his turn behind David Sims. Davis joined the B-back group this season after shuffling around different positions in the offense. His size and athleticism made him the perfect fit.
The two became close, and started calling each other Ebony and Ivory. Their playing styles suit the B-back position, where a hard-nosed temperament is a must. Laskey is 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds; Days is 6-2, 231 pounds. Try bringing those guys down on first contact when they are running right up the middle.
“We have a pretty big D-line up front. We're going to need them to perform really well this game, get their people on the ground, keep them from gaining yards,” Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith said. “We faced a couple big backs this year, Boston College, to Florida, teams like that. It just comes down to tackling. You're going to have to man up, get them on the ground.”
That is something teams have had a tough time doing this year, whether Laskey or Days got the carries. Initially, it was only Laskey. But when he hurt his shoulder against North Carolina, Days stepped in and had three consecutive 100-yard games.
Last week against Georgia, both were particularly effective running up the middle. A combined 26 of their 42 carries went that direction, and they got stronger as the game went on.
“Me and Synjyn both bring a lot of power to the position,” Laskey said. “When we’re driving down the field having 10-, 12-play drives and we’re running right up the middle on the defense, they’re going to get worn out. It really helps wear down some defenses.”
Laskey and Days combined for 236 of the team’s 399 yards rushing against Georgia.
“Me and Zach, we definitely have similar running styles,” Days said. “We’re always falling forward, we’re always going to keep our feet moving to try to get the extra yards. We're definitely hard workers on and off the field, trying to be leaders. Being seniors, me and him, we wanted to go out there our last go-around, leave everything out on the field, to have no regrets.”
Beyond the 100-yard games Laskey has had, there is one stat the best illustrates how effective he is with the ball in his hands. On 150 carries this year, Laskey has lost a total of 2 yards.
“For me, I always just tell myself if I can fall forward and that’s going to be a couple yards right there,” Laskey said. “Really, I just try to win the one-on-one battles with the linebackers and soft shoulder them for a few yards.”
He and Days will try to do that again against the Seminoles. If they are as successful as they have been over the past five games, Georgia Tech will improve its chances at the upset.