Sept. 11, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
I didn’t make the trip to Kansas, and I didn’t get to see the entire game Saturday so I cannot offer an expert’s voice on what happened.
An amateur could go out on a limb and say that Georgia Tech aided and abetted on a terrible day for the ACC. And he or she would be dead right.
The big three from the conference (note lowercase) according to preseason predictions and polls all lost. To throw salt in the wound after Virginia Tech (lost at home to James Madison), Miami (lost at Ohio State) and Tech, Florida State didn’t show up in Oklahoma.
The Yellow Jackets showed up in Lawrence, Kan., but where their energy level was good if not fever-pitch, their preparation was not.
Kansas may not be terrible, but the Jayhawks scored three points a week earlier at home against an FCS program that they lost. You knew KU would be ticked, Johnson said as much. “They looked mad,” quarterback Joshua Nesbitt said.
Tech looked like a football team with some interesting plays, a team that might’ve been told in the middle of a week of practice to put game uniforms on and play for real rather than practice.
“You know, to be honest, we didn’t really look like we were ready to play,” said linebacker Kyle Jackson. “We came out kind of dull.”
No argument from Johnson, who said, “We’ve got to go back and I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys ready to play. Clearly, they think it’s a walk in the park sometimes.”
For the most part, the Jackets stayed dull.
They took a 17-14 lead to halftime against a team that scored just one field goal a week earlier. The Jayhawks mixed quarterbacks, and the Jackets struggled horribly to slow the better passer of the two and didn’t do much better in slowing down the running QB over the course of the first two quarters.
Then, for a quarter-plus Kansas defensive coordinator Carl Torbush and his unit flummoxed the Jackets.
Several things came to haunt the Jackets Saturday. Earlier in the week, coach Paul Johnson said when asked if Kansas was a trap game, “I don’t know what a trap game is.” Perhaps now he knows, having fallen under the rubble of one in Kansas.
Johnson also jumped a few heartbeats earlier in the week when questioned about Tech’s passing game, basically explaining that the Jackets were not a passing team. That much has been known for a while.
Eventually, Johnson went further and said that he’d worry about Tech’s passing game if the Jackets lost a game and struggles in the passing game were relevant to that. That was as close to a pregame concession as you’re likely to get from him, and, sad to say, it was prophetic.
The coach didn’t wait until the post game. He told the Fox Sports reporter that Tech left two touchdowns on the field in the passing game in the first half alone. He was right, one being a dropped TD by Stephen Hill.
Hill later caught a TD pass, and a two-point conversion, but the Tech passing game was again poor and it happened on a day when the Jackets needed it. Kansas slowed the Tech run game in the second half. The passing game could not provide enough of a bail out.
Beyond some of Nesbitt’s erratic throws, there were times when it appeared that the passing attack is under-practiced. There was a fourth-down mix-up when Nesbitt’s pass was short of Hill, and Johnson got in Hill’s grill on the sideline as if he had not adjusted his route properly.
Embry Peeples’ huge catch and run in the fourth quarter, which eventually became the Hill touchdown, might’ve been a 95-yard touchdown play if Peeples did not trip over his teammate – Hill.
As one of the television announcers said of the passing game, “It’s not pitch and catch for Georgia Tech; it’s a lot tougher process.”
Tech rushed for 291 yards, and Nesbitt passed for 116 while completing just five of 15 passes (he’s 6 for 21 on the season), but the Jackets did not make the right plays at the right times. “Overall, we just did not show up ready to play,” the Tech quarterback said.
Lance Richardson’s roughing-the-punter penalty hurt, and it wasn’t the only special teams issue.
The defense never seemed to calibrate itself against KU’s new-style offense. “They came out with that fast-tempo offense,” Jackson said. “We had to focus a little more on getting our calls. But really, there was nothing that caught us off guard. It’s a matter of execution. When the game moves fast tempo you have to think faster.”
The offense put up numbers, but not in all the right places.
“It was just one of those frustrating games we have to put behind us, and focus on conference play beginning next week,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, we have to use it as a wake-up call. That’s one of those terms that you never want to hear. We just have to use it to get ready for Chapel Hill next week.”
Hopefully, North Carolina will be a better road trip than Kansas.