Georgia Tech Swarm
MIAMI GARDENS, FL – When it rains, it pours. Turnovers, injuries, and the weather itself formed the perfect storm of misfortune for the Yellow Jackets Saturday at Sun Life Stadium. The end result was a 38-21 drubbing at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes.
Saturday’s loss marks the end of Georgia Tech’s ACC slate, one that ended with a lone victory over Florida State. Despite remaining competitive in nearly all of those games, Saturday stood out as one of the exceptions.
Let’s start with the turnovers. The Jackets turned the ball over four times to Miami’s none. One of those Tech turnovers was scooped up and returned for a touchdown. And it could have been worse as Tech put the ball on the ground nine total times, recovering seven of their own.
Said Head Coach Paul Johnson following the game, “We don’t value the ball very much. Four turnovers to none, you’re not going to win many games.”
On to the injuries. Perhaps the most significant development was the departure of starting quarterback Justin Thomas following the first series of the game, a touchdown scoring drive to give the Jackets an early lead.
“I think he just hit his head on the ground,” said Johnson. “He didn’t have a concussion. He hurt himself when he hit the ground.” Thomas’ readiness to play in next Saturday’s finale is uncertain.
Last was the weather. A sunny start to the game turned into downpour and lightning delay as ominous as the Yellow Jackets’ play.
At the end of the day we’re looking at a Tech team depleted of players and void of consistency in all phases of the game. The consequence is the perfect storm of a 2015 season with one game to play.
With all that has gone awry, a win in that final game can cure a lot of ills and provide a silver lining to the season’s surprising storyline. Up next are the Georgia Bulldogs, a team the Jackets surprised in 2014 in one of the greatest games in the rivalry’s history.
This year the return of a few key players could go a long way as would crisper play. “I’d love to be able to play a game where we didn’t kill ourselves with turnovers,” said Johnson. “And we put an offensive performance and a defensive performance together for three or four quarters and see what happens.”
Perhaps it will happen. Maybe the Jackets are due. Regardless we are approaching Thanksgiving weekend and all Yellow Jackets will agree – it is time to rain on the Bulldogs’ parade.
ATLANTA, GA – Someone had to win. In what turned into a battle of who could make the fewest mistakes it was Georgia Tech’s that made one too many. In familiar Frank Beamer-led fashion, the Hokies took advantage of their opponent’s sloppy play Thursday night and escaped Atlanta with a 23-21 victory.
Redshirt Junior B-back #24 Marcus Allen dives through the middle of Virginia Tech's defense
Both offenses gift-wrapped turnovers throughout the game. It started with blunders from the Hokies. A first half fumble from Virginia Tech on their end of the field, caused by a Tyler Marcordes strip, turned into 7 points for Georgia Tech 45 yards later.
The Hokies’ opening drive to start the 2nd half ended with a poorly thrown ball by Hokies’ quarterback Michael Brewer. The result was an interception by Jackets freshman linebacker Brant Mitchell who returned it 32 yards to the house.
Said Mitchell following the game, “I was a little bit surprised. I knew the receiver was on the outside of me and I wasn’t expecting the ball to come right to me. I thought I would have to push a little bit more, but luckily I was in the right place.”
With 14 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Yellow Jackets were +2 in turnovers and +7 on the scoreboard. Then what has doomed Georgia Tech most of the season doomed them again Thursday night – a failure to execute.
The Jackets’ offense fumbled the ball and turned it over on three of their next four possessions. The last of the three gave Virginia Tech their best starting field position of the game on the Georgia Tech 20 yard line with 9:18 remaining in the game.
Frank Beamer’s bunch was opportunistic at just the right time. Sound familiar? A defensive pass interference call on a 3rd and 7 by Georgia Tech extended the Hokies short drive, punctuated by a 4-yard touchdown run by Travon McMillian. Despite a missed extra point, Virginia Tech’s first lead of the game would ultimately stand.
Similar to losses against Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Virginia, the Jackets had the ball late in the 4th quarter with a chance to tie or win the game.
Starting from their own 21-yard line quarterback Justin Thomas led Tech down the field, aided by a 15-yard late hit penalty by Virginia Tech. Five plays later Tech were set to face a 3rd and 5 from the Hokies’ 39-yard line. Down two points, the Jackets were already in kicker Harrison Butker’s field goal range for a game-winning attempt.
Unless you’re into masochism, you may be happy to stop reading here.
Thursday’s final serving of crushing, self-inflicted blows came in the form of a dead ball 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. The result of the penalty was an all too familiar disappointing ending. A Virginia Tech sack on 3rd and 20 followed by a failed 4th and 27 pass attempt by quarterback Justin Thomas ultimately put the final nail in Georgia Tech’s coffin.
Perhaps there are positives in this narrative, though it is admittedly a stretch to find them. On one hand it is clear the Jackets would benefit from simply playing clean, sound, disciplined football. So many of these losses are seemingly regardless of opponent. On the other hand, now 10 games into the year, that glimmer of light is dulling quickly.
Said Head Coach Paul Johnson, “We’ve got to do a better job. Ultimately I’m responsible for it. It’s embarrassing.”
With a bowl game likely out of the picture, senior safety Demond Smith said pride will continue to be the motivator to improve and win the last two games. “It’s been frustrating from the injuries to our record,” said Smith. “But with the guys [on this team], we never quit.”
Photos from the Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech Football Game on 11/12/2015 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, GA
Head Coach Paul Johnson
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