Fright Night Arrives One Night Late

Nov. 2, 2007

By Jack Wilkinson –

At least the Falcons will be blacked out Sunday. Georgia Tech had no such luck Thursday. This, alas, was televised from coast to coast.

On a gorgeous autumn evening, in one of college football’s finest after-sundown settings, Fright Night arrived one night late on the Flats. Up 3-0 early on a Travis Bell field goal, the Jackets went belly-up at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Without Tashard Choice or any semblance of a running game, with Taylor Bennett throwing four interceptions (one more than he’d had all season), Tech was trampled by Virginia Tech, 27-3.

“They played well. We played poorly,” said Jackets’ coach Chan Gailey, his team now 5-4, 2-4 ACC. “And then we missed our chances to get back into it.”

After allowing two Virginia Tech touchdowns in the second quarter, the Jackets missed some prime opportunities after intermission. Josh Nesbitt, the freshman backup quarterback, overthrew a wide-open James Johnson, 10 yards behind the nearest defender at the Virginia Tech 15.

Later in the third quarter, Bennett (11-for-26, for 157 yards and those four picks) rolled left and hit Johnson, who cut back and raced 35 yards, only to lose a fumble at the VT 23. Later still in the quarter, Bennett was picked off yet again.

On a night when the Jackets went bye-bye Coastal on ESPN, and were officially eliminated from the Coastal Division race, they surrendered 481 total yards. No. 11 Virginia Tech is now 7-2 and tied atop the Coastal with Virginia at 4-1. To add fashion insult to injury, the Hokies manhandled the Jackets with four players wearing white Georgia Tech road jerseys, after their Virginia Tech road whites mysteriously disappeared from the visitors locker room.

Three of those Hokies dressed in white and gold hurt the Jackets badly. Defensive backs Brandon Flowers and Kam Chancellor each had interceptions. And then there was the guy in the white No. 7 Tech jersey, with “GLENNON” handwritten in black ink across his shoulders.

On the first day of the month, Sean Glennon was Mr. November, completing 22 of 33 passes for 296 yards and two TDs – one a 71-yarder to Josh Morgan.

Not even a Bobby Dodd Stadium crowd of 52,202 and a, uh, unique halftime concert by Big Boi could help. (Historical footnote: Bobby Dodd, of course, preferred the smaller, lighter half of Outkast. Coach Dodd always was an Andre 3000 man.)

Even the wayward 25-second clock operator had a better night than the Jackets. They were also victimized by Virginia Tech’s traditionally opportunistic special teams. This time, though, with an uncharacteristic twist. After Jud Dunlevy kicked a 28-yard field goal to tie it 3-3 late in the first quarter, the placekicker recovered his own onside kick that led to the Hokies’ first touchdown.

Bennett followed that with his first pick, and then his second was promptly capitalized on by Glennon. He hit Justin Harper for a 40-yard scoring pass. The rout was on, particularly in the absence of Choice. The ACC’s leading rusher dressed in full uniform but merely watched, still recovering from minor knee surgery last week. Bennett had no such excuse.

“I thought he could have read some things better, obviously,” Gailey said. “Early in the game, he made some good throws. After that, I thought he didn’t read things the way we hoped he would read them. That’s something we have to get better at. I have to do a better job of preparing him to play games like this.”

“When the running game isn’t there, we have to go to the air and get that thing working,” Bennett said. “It just doesn’t help when I throw four picks…I don’t think I’ve ever done that, even in high school.”

Asked where Georgia Tech goes from here – still a victory shy of becoming bowl-eligible, and perhaps needing two wins in its last three games to guarantee a bowl bid for the 11th consecutive season – Bennett said, “Duke.” Next Saturday’s opponent in Durham, followed by home games against North Carolina and Georgia.

With no chance of Tech returning to the ACC Championship Game, Bennett said, “Now we are motivated to get as many wins as possible, and try and get the best bowl possible.”

This scheduling note: Next Saturday’s kickoff in Wallace Wade Stadium will be at 1 p.m. It will not be televised.

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