Veteran offensive linemen want careers at Georgia Tech to end strong

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Will Jackson knows how he wants it to end.

FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Get the ball at the start of the fourth quarter on about the 2-yard line and drive it for 14 minutes and 58 seconds, and punch it in and do a squib kick and win the ballgame,” Jackson said Friday, shortly after Georgia Tech arrived for the Music City Bowl. “That’s how I fantasize it going.”

It would be an apt conclusion for Jackson and his two classmates who arrived on campus together in 2009 – offensive tackle Ray Beno and center Jay Finch. The three redshirted together that season, when they played together on the offensive scout team, and have started on the line together for the past three seasons.

Barring injury, Monday’s game against Ole Miss will be the 26th in which the three have started together. In Georgia Tech history, it’s possible that no trio of offensive linemen has played more snaps together than these bearded three.

“Being able to come in with two guys from the beginning and finishing out with the same two guys is very special,” Beno said. “We know the ins and outs of their play for these five years. It’s something we’ll remember for a lifetime.”

They were building blocks for coach Paul Johnson’s offense, signed in 2009 after his first season at Tech.

They have demonstrated durability and toughness in the engine room for Tech’s pounding option game, one that finished second (2011) and fourth (2012) in the country in rushing yards per game the past two years and enters the bowl game ranked fourth at 311.7 yards per game.

They developed a cohesion that does not need words. While Jackson in particular has moved around the line, playing left guard and both tackles, they played in a row – Beno at left tackle, Jackson at left guard and Finch at center – in more than half of the games they’ve started together.

They have shared bruises and laughs, wins and losses.

“All in all, I feel pretty good looking back on it,” Jackson said. “Looking back on
when we were seniors in high school, talking about our future careers and what might happen, we’ve all three played a lot of football and had a lot of success. We’ve all graduated. So, all in all, it’s been a fun ride.”

STREAK CONTINUES

Paul Johnson’s teams have reached a bowl game 11 years in a row. He had lost five games in a row before last year’s win over Southern Cal in the Sun Bowl.

SCHOOL BOWL RECORD

Navy 2-2

Georgia Tech 1-4

Note: Johnson did not coach Navy in the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl after being hired by the Yellow Jackets.

MUSIC CITY BOWL

WHO: Mississippi (7-5)

vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)

WHERE: Nashville, Tenn.

WHEN: Monday

TIME/TV: 3:15 p.m./ESPN

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