PROVO, Utah – When BYU running back Jamaal Williams suffered a nasty concussion in a loss to Utah last month, his thoughts turned to his mother.
Williams wasn't worried about if he had suffered a serious neck injury or if he would be able to play again this season. He was more concerned about disappointing his mom.
"When I got hurt, I feel like I let her down," Williams said. "And the next game, when I came back, I felt like I was playing for her to show her that I was going to be ready and be the same Jamaal."
The good news for BYU is Williams finally feels like the same Jamaal again. It's also bad news for Georgia Tech.
No team understands the damage Williams can do better than the Yellow Jackets, who face the Cougars in Provo on Saturday. Georgia Tech had no answer for him a year ago. He rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries in a 41-17 BYU victory. It was one of three games where Williams had more than 100 yards on the ground during his freshman season.
It ended up being a game where Williams, who has tallied 457 yards on 90 carries this season, proved he could be a special runner for the Cougars.
"It was just my opportunity to show what I can do," Williams said. "I wasn't a normal freshman. I was here to play and show that I could contribute to the offense."
Slowing down Williams is only one concern for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets also need to figure out how to move the ball against a stout BYU defense.
Georgia Tech ranks eighth nationally in third-down conversion percentage (.542), but failed to convert a single third down against the Cougars a year ago.
"Physically, on the edge, they got after us pretty good," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said. "We were 0-for-10 on third down and we had one third down that was less than five yards. So we got ourselves behind the eight ball. They did a great job."
How well Georgia Tech fares against BYU this season could come down to the team's ability to set the tone on the ground. The Yellow Jackets average 300 rushing yards per game, while the Cougars allow just 132.6 rushing yards per contest.
Five things to watch when Georgia Tech plays BYU on Saturday:
SACK LEADERS: BYU and Georgia Tech each have a defensive standout closing in on a school sack record. Jeremiah Attaochu ranks sixth all-time for the Yellow Jackets with 21 sacks. Attaochu needs just 10.5 to break the school record. Kyle Van Noy has 23 career sacks for BYU and needs 11 more to break the school record. Both players rank in the FBS top 5 for career sacks.
RUNNING MAN: Georgia Tech's backfield will need huge numbers to keep BYU on its heels. David Sims will be the focal point of that attack and he has been a solid back for the Yellow Jackets so far. Sims leads the team and is ninth in the ACC in rushing (65.0 ypg). He also ranks third in the ACC in scoring (8.4 ppg)
HOLD THE BALL: Time of possession could play into Georgia Tech's favor if BYU's fast-paced offense sputters early. The Yellow Jackets rank third nationally in average time of possession (34:47) and have won that battle in each of their last four games. Georgia Tech held the ball for nearly 14 minutes in the first quarter alone in a 45-30 loss to Miami.
HINE RETURNS: BYU regains a potent special teams threat with Adam Hine set to resume kick returning duties this weekend. Hine, a sophomore running back, sat out last week's 31-14 victory over Utah State after sustaining a concussion a week earlier against Middle Tennessee. He ranks no. 2 nationally with 34.57 kickoff return yards per game.
NO BIG PLAYS: BYU ranks No. 18 nationally in scoring defense in large part because the Cougars keep opposing offenses in front of them. The Cougars allow only nine plays per game that go 10 yards or longer and have allowed only 45 such plays this season. BYU ranks No. 7 nationally in that defensive category.