November 10, 2009

Morgan's clutch play

Georgia Tech came up big defensively against Wake Forest when they needed it the most, especially in the second half. Derrick Morgan, who had six tackles including 3.5 for loss and 3 sacks, led the defense. After reviewing the game film, Morgan thinks that Tech has a lot that they can improve upon in practice this week.

"We had a good performance, but it was not what we wanted it to be," said Morgan. "We gave up 17 first half points and we didn't really get off to the start we had hoped for. We hunkered down in the second half and held them to only 7 points. We need to work on our assignments and make sure that we are playing together as a team."

Morgan made a game saving play on Wake's last drive of the game to sack Riley Skinner on third down, which put them out of field goal range. Morgan lined up wide on the play while the linebacker lined up inside of him and suddenly found himself one on one against the fullback after the ball was snapped. He flattened the defender in short order and then dove at Skinner's legs, getting just enough contact to trip him up and bring the quarterback to the ground for a loss of five yards.

In what looked to be a brilliant defensive play by design, Morgan said that they actually lined up incorrectly on the play. According to him, "We messed up on that play. The linebacker was supposed to be on the other side of me, but it worked out in the end. It was the last play of regulation and I was tired, but they had a back blocking me and I had to win that battle. I tried to get a piece of Skinner because he had been stepping up all day in the pocket and I swiped for his feet and ended up getting him.

It does not hurt to have luck on your side every now and then.

His total production for the season has been far from lucky, however. Morgan now leads the ACC with 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss; totals that also rank tied for second and tied for sixth in the nation respectively. He has already won the Lott Trophy player of the week for his stand out performance against Clemson and looks to be well on his way to All-American honors.

Morgan addressed his incredible stat line for the season by remarking, "People will tell me where I'm at here and there, but personally I try not to look at the stats. I try to just stay focused on getting more. My goal for the year was to be defensive player of the year and I need to keep producing in order to get there."

He is not just a pass rushing machine, as he has also made some big stops on run defense this year. Tech came up big as a team against Wake by allowing only 28 yards on 25 attempts. This was key to making Wake a one-dimensional team that relied mostly on the pass. For the season, Morgan ranks fourth on the team in total tackles with 43, which is the best among defensive linemen.

He described the rushing defense with the following, "Our main goal on defense is to stop the run first. I like to be an all-around defensive end so I take pride in stopping the run as much as I do rushing the passer."

Morgan has also asserted himself as a leader on defense. "Me and Morgan Burnett are the two team captains and we try to encourage the guys. We talk to the coaches on the phone and relay that message to the team so that we can make the proper adjustments."

So far, the Jackets have stepped up on defense when they have needed to and they will try to continue to do just that under the guidance of their star player, Derrick Morgan.



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