Nov. 28, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
There will forever be a tendency to look after the fact at a game that was close and hone in on one play above all others, and it is impossible to forget Scott Blair’s missed extra point last night in Athens.
Georgia Tech lost, however, as much or more so because of other points left off the scoreboard, other opportunities frittered away, other gifts given the Bulldogs.
That point that Tech failed to put on the scoreboard – Blair’s first missed PAT after making 77 straight (a missed PAT against South Carolina State in the season opener was counted as a “team” miss because the snap was bad) — left the score 35-34 Georgia.
The Yellow Jackets got the ball back by letting Georgia score, and if the Jackets had scored a touchdown at the end, they could have forced overtime with a two-point conversion. That didn’t happen.
Here, I’ll digress for a moment. I saw a similar situation in a high school game this season, when Grady held a slim lead at St. Pius in a tight region battle. St. Pius let Grady score, but . . . a Grady running back and/or his coaches were smart enough to NOT score, and instead of running the ball in he bailed and fell to the ground on purpose. Then, his team ran out the clock.
The Bulldogs could have done the same thing.
They did not, but it didn’t come back to bite them Saturday night both because the Jackets soon turned the ball over for the fourth time, a theme that had more to do with Tech losing than the missed PAT.
The Jackets lost three fumbles Saturday night, which unfortunately was familiar. They entered the game having lost 14 fumbles, more than every team in the nation except Western Michigan and Ball State, who had 15 each (and BSU had already played its 12-game allotment).
If you were to ascribe a three-part deathly hallows to Tech with the requirement that all parts be tangible rather than un-measurable metrics (like passion, focus, etc.), then the ingredients would be fumbles lost, defensive plays not often enough made, and the shortage of a sufficient passing game.
Tech was done in Saturday chiefly by parts one and two. When you rush for 411 yards, as the Jackets did, and you’re still scrambling uphill all night, the passing game is hardly to blame.
Coach Paul Johnson’s team fell for the first time when scoring 30 or more points (15-0 before Saturday night in those situations) because even though the Jackets ran 92 offensive plays to Georgia’s 48, Tech’s three lost fumbles were all hugely costly.
Plus, on the Jackets’ first possession of the game, they drove to fourth-and-2 at the Georgia 19, and Johnson opted to go for it rather than send Blair out to try a 36-yard-field goal. Orwin Smith lost a yard, and we were left to guess whether Tech left three points off the scoreboard.
Back to the primary point . . . not long after that, Smith lost a fumble at the Georgia 5. At minimum, Tech was in prime field goal range there, too.
In the third quarter, Roddy Jones lost a fumble at the 13. Later in the period he didn’t handle a pitch from Tevin Washington, and Georgia’s Justin Houston scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown.
That’s two fumbles lost in the red zone (and something like five lost in the red zone in the past three games), and another taken the other way for 7 points. Georgia scored 21 points off Tech fumbles.
Add the fact that the Bulldogs averaged 8.6 yards per offensive play, and that’s ball game.
In the grand scheme of things, neither the offense nor defense did enough to win.
The fact the Jackets had life late was a testament to perseverance.
But perseverance doesn’t make tackles nor hang onto the ball.
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