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Loss Not Difficult To Explain

Nov. 26, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Here’s the story you didn’t want to read, I didn’t want to write, but we have to include. Georgia Tech lost to Georgia Saturday, and the reasons are not complex.

In general, the Yellow Jackets – who seem likely to go to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas to play Utah, Washington, UCLA, Arizona State or Cal — could not defend the UGA passing game, particularly when it still mattered.

Also, the game spun out of control over the bitter final minute of the first half and then with a dollop of bile in the first minute of the second. Add some of the dreaded “hidden yardage” plays and some special teams shenanigans, and Ugh-A! wins.

Tech left a touchdown on the field on the first half of the game, when a reverse pass found Tyler Melton taking a pitch with fellow wide receiver Stephen Hill so wide open down the right sideline that the distance between him and the nearest defender spanned two area codes.

Melton was running so fast, though, that he couldn’t throw that deep a pass (whether he saw Hill or not). By the time he pulled up and threw to the middle of the field, where Embry Peeples was – for a time – also open, the savages in red and black sensed what was going on. A high ball was then easily defended.

That set a tone, despite what some say.

Opportunities were there, but left like un-cashed checks.

Georgia, too, threw away its first possession. Quarterback Aaron Murray was whacked by Tech linebacker Steven Sylvester while throwing, and Tech’s Louis Young intercepted.

So the first two possessions were a wash.

Georgia ran on five of nine plays that first go-round (two were QB scrambles, one of which was wiped out by a Tech penalty), and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo – who later told insiders that the plan going into the game was to seek a run-pass balance even with all of UGA’s injuries and suspensions, etc. with running backs – did not make that mistake over the remainder of the first half.

He went with what was working.

Even though the first Georgia drive ended by interception, Georgia coach Mark Richt said, “We knew we were getting people open.”

From that point, Georgia went to pass on 16 of its final 18 plays in the first half, with Murray scrambling on two of those attempts. He completed 11 of 14 passes on the way to throwing for 193 yards in the first two quarters.

The Jackets had a devil of a time covering 6-foot-3, 241-pound “flex” tight end Orson Charles. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that inside linebacker Julian Burnett was trying to cover Charles because the Jackets were most often in zone.

Even though that meant that safeties usually had their eyes up (facing the quarterback), Murray did a masterful job putting the ball on his big athlete as the Tech linebackers released Charles from short zone coverage into safety responsibilities.

In short, Murray hit Charles between zones, and with Charles breaking off the line of scrimmage without a bump, he caught four passes for 67 yards in the first half.

“They did a nice job protecting their quarterback,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “Any time guys get that open . . . especially [on] crosses . . . “

Crossing patterns really hurt Tech in the first half, as the middle was scantily defended, and not only with regard to Charles.

UGA has several quite capable receivers, which probably spawned the idea of so much zone coverage, and Murray kept finding holes in the zones.

Still, because of Young’s interception, and the Jackets’ 14-play, 80-yard drive late in the second quarter, this was still quite a game. David Sims somehow kept his balance after being stalled at the point of attack, and then spun to lunge for a 5-yard touchdown with 1:13 left in the half. The Jackets were within 14-10. Then, after the Jackets chewed up 7:13, a familiar problem surfaced as the Bulldogs remedied somewhat in just 1:04.

Georgia went 58 yards on eight fast plays, which happened a couple games ago when Virginia Tech did the same thing after the Jackets scored shortly before halftime, and more bad fate fell.

UGA’s Blair Walsh badly missed a field goal in the waning seconds of the first half, but Tech had called a timeout, the officials said after the fact.

Walsh made the do-over with three seconds left in the half.

“Sometimes, that’s the way it goes,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. If I’d have known they were going to have a bad snap, I wouldn’t have called timeout.”

Everything was compounded at the start of the second half. Were Tashard Choice not mentoring UGA’s Brandon Boykin, the latter might not have returned the kickoff 60 yards to Tech’s 36-yard line.

Long story short, Murray completed three straight passes (he was at that point 16-of-21 for 229 yards and three touchdowns just 1:36 into the second half) and Georgia led 24-10 not so long after holding a scant four-point lead.

That was pretty much that, especially after Tevin Washington threw interceptions on two of Tech’s next three possessions with Georgia punts to the 4- and 8-yard lines mixed in, and the game was more or less over.

Murray also passed on the first play after the first interception, and at that point, Georgia had passed 22 times and run nine. After the first possession, the Bulldogs passed 18 times and ran five to that point.

From there, UGA ran 19 times and passed seven because the Bulldogs not only could afford to, but also wanted to run clock.

Nothing much mattered after the early second quarter, when Georgia had only to go 36 and 38 yards for a pair of touchdowns (thanks to the big kickoff return and the second interception).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but then again it’s not news by now.

This might have been a game Tech could have won if defending the pass didn’t prove so difficult from UGA’s second possession through the first own of the second half.

Georgia Tech ran the ball quite well in the first half (164 yards) against the nation’s No. 2 run defense (81.3 ypg allowed), but once the Jackets reached a point where they had to pass, they were boxed in.

This blows.

I’m going home now.

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