Sept. 29, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
You will find no spin here. Georgia Tech lost a football game Saturday that most of us expected the Yellow Jackets to win.
There were obvious statistical explanations. MTSU senior running back Benny Cunningham rushed for 217 yards and five touchdowns, QB Logan Kilgore completed 17-of-23 passes for 246 yards, the Blue Raiders totaled 510 yards of total offense and – after not turning the ball over in back-to-back games – Tech turned it over four times.
This goes beyond that.
Something is missing.
The defense has gone AWOL the past two weeks, and that’s a problem. There has to be an explanation, however, for that explanation and it’s not as simple as X’s and O’s.
First, it would be hard to argue the suggestion that the Jackets Saturday were suffering from a hangover after their wrenching overtime loss a week earlier to Miami.
“It could very well possibly be,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “I just know that we didn’t have ’em ready to play. We talked, tried to use several different angles, but we didn’t get through. That comes back to me.”
Defensive coordinator Al Groh moved from the sideline to the coaches’ box Saturday for the first time in years, but that didn’t help. He and the defensive staff have serious work to do after allowing 1,119 yards of total offense in the past two weeks.
Tech also was missing some key players on defense, namely outside linebacker Jeremiah Attouchu and nickleback Louis Young. Outside linebacker Brandon Watts’ role was diminished also because of injury.
Yet, the most significant absence may have been the Jackets’ soul.
They were listless on both sides of the ball and while some of that goes to coaches and and the possiblity that poor schematics were in play Saturday, this is not all on coaches.
The sideline was dead as dead gets from start to finish. That’s been a theme all season.
When was the last time you saw a Tech player face up a teammate and tell him to get his head out of his . . . you know?
Coaches can talk until they’re blue in the face, but there’s a jumping-off point where among players peer-to-peer accountability must come into play. Nevermind who is a captain and who is not, who’s going to jack up the fellas? The chaplain?
The Jackets fed off their own bile, and that of Johnson, to get up a few weeks ago to rout Virginia. But a head coach cannot – on any campus in America – do that week in and week out for 13 weeks including a bye. There must be other energy sources.
They had a different vile stew in their gut this week after the loss to the Hurricanes, and . . . they never purged. It’s still there.
“I think we just didn’t come out ready to play today,” said senior quarterback Tevin Washington – even though he tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns. “They came out with an edge. I think we could have done a better job getting ready for this game. I don’t think the Miami loss had anything to do with it.”
Tevin may have been wrong on that last count, but, hey, he’s still got a little kid in him.
It’s not an easy thing, and it’s difficult to force. But the Jackets need some men in uniform to step up and elevate the gruff factor. That may be especially difficult given the CV of players Tech typically recruits for academic reasons.
Something has to change.
“I told coach Stockstill after the game, they got after us and whipped our butt. I want to give them some credit; they played hard. But after saying that, it was embarrassing. I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it. We didn’t play with a whole lot of energy.
“We turned the ball over . . . and we probably had as bad a game tackling as I’ve every seen, maybe worse than last week. Bottom line, we didn’t do anything very good. If you do that, and turn the ball over, you get beat. That’s it in a nutshell. If we don’t get ready to play a little better and harder against Clemson, it’ll be embarrassing.”
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