ATLANTA — Coach Paul Johnson remembers Kansas taking a knee at the end of the game. Stephen Hill recalls the dropped pass that should've been a touchdown. At Georgia Tech, they still reflect on how a single loss sent their team into a swoon that essentially lasted a whole season.
"It probably affected us more than it should have. Coming into that game, we were pretty high — probably a little too high — on ourselves," running back Roddy Jones said. "They just outplayed us. After that, we weren't able to shake it."
Looking to make up for last year's 28-25 upset, Georgia Tech (2-0) hosts Kansas (2-0) on Saturday in both teams' final tuneup before the start of conference play.
The Yellow Jackets haven't spent a lot of time fretting over what happened in 2010, but there's no doubt that game still stings in these parts. They were the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions (a title since vacated due to NCAA violations) and ranked No. 15 when they visited Lawrence. The Jayhawks, coming off an ugly loss to North Dakota State, were two-touchdown underdogs.
But Kansas took advantage of numerous Georgia Tech blunders, pulling out the first of just three wins in Turner Gill's debut season as coach. Georgia Tech never really recovered from the setback, stumbling to a 6-7 record.
"The game last year was fun," Kansas linebacker Steven Johnson said. "I know they were ranked heading into the game, so that was a great opportunity for us to go out and get a win. We'll be trying to do the same thing this year. We'll need to go into their house and do it."
For both teams, this will be the first real indication of how they might stack up in conference play.
Georgia Tech started with blowouts of FCS schools Western Carolina and FBS lightweight Middle Tennessee State. Kansas cruised past McNeese State, then needed a touchdown pass with 14 seconds left to pull out a 45-42 win over Northern Illinois.
At least the Jayhawks actually have a winning streak — a first in the Gill era. Now, they need to address another ignominious streak, having lost nine straight on the road.
"The main thing is our defense needs to tackle well," Gill said. "If you don't tackle well, then it's really going to be a tough situation because they always get you in opportunities where its a one-on-one situation. If our guys can't make that tackle, then they're going to have a lot more opportunities to make big plays."
In Johnson's option offense, the Yellow Jackets stick to the ground on most plays. They've also been much more effective in the passing game, at least against two lesser opponents.
Tevin Washington has thrown only 21 passes, but he's completed 13 (62 percent) for 473 yards and five touchdowns — four of them covering at least 71 yards. His favorite deep threat is Stephen Hill, whose averaging — yes, averaging — nearly 44 yards on seven catches that include three TDs.
A year ago, Georgia Tech didn't have this many passing yards (579) until its seventh game.
"They actually seem like they're more explosive on offense because of their passing game," Gill said. "They obviously do a great job running the football, but when they start passing like that they have a tremendous thing going."
Johnson said the Yellow Jackets are doing the same things they've always done on offense. They're just doing a better job of taking advantage when the inevitable opportunities to make big yards in the passing game come up.
"I really don't think it matters what you do. The bottom line is scoring more points than the other team at the end of the game," he said. "You get no more for throwing than you do for running. When you cross that goal line, it all counts the same."
James Sims made his college debut against Georgia Tech last season, carrying 17 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. He's rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the first two games this season, and the Jayhawks are 5-0 when the sophomore reaches triple figures.
For Sims, that performance against the Yellow Jackets will stay with him the rest of his life.
"I always remember it because it was my first college game," he said. "It was a fun experience. It was a fun win and I won't ever forget it."
That remains perhaps the signature win of Gill's rocky tenure, which includes a 1-7 mark in the Big 12 and a bunch of blowout losses. Another victory over Georgia Tech — on the road, no less — would give this beleaguered program a big boost going next week's conference opener against Texas Tech.
The Yellow Jackets know they can't afford another letdown like last season, not if want to show they can again be a championship contender.
"Obviously, we remember last year," Jones said. "But we're a different team, and that's a different team. They're better than last year, so we have to come out and be ready to play."