Nov. 27, 2011
By: Jon Cooper
– There are a lot of Georgia Tech fans who woke up and got ready for work with their jaws a little sore after taking one on the chin Saturday against rival Georgia.
Everyone knows the numbers so there’s no need to rehash that.
What’s should be on the minds of Yellow Jacket faithful is that better days are coming and they’re coming soon.
This isn’t a search for a consolation prize.
This is belief in Paul Johnson and what he’s trying to accomplish.
That’s becoming an elite team. That requires learning how to beat, not just play with, the nation’s elite.
The next step for this group comes in a bowl game, the Yellow Jackets’ 15th straight appearance. It gives the team an opportunity for nine wins for the third time in four years and the 10th time in 55.
It’s also an opportunity to end a six-game bowl losing streak, would be the first bowl win for this senior class and give the seniors a proper send-off.
It also would be vital for the psyche of the group that will return — a substantial portion of the team. How substantial?
There’s a small section that appears on page five of the press notes. It has been there so long this year that it’s easily overlooked in search of fresh items. It actually took me three passes through the notes to find it.
The section reads: “Jackets one of Nation’s Youngest Teams.”
Among the bits of information in there are that there are 10 scholarship seniors on the roster, there are no senior offensive linemen on the roster, two seniors start on offense, four seniors start on defense.
Many of those seniors are in key spots — A-Back Roddy Jones, wide receiver Tyler Melton, defensive tackles Logan Walls and Jason Peters, linebacker Steven Sylvester and safety Rashaad Reid on defense.
That’s a lot of leadership and, more important, means a lot of inexperience everywhere else to overcome in big games, such as Saturday’s with Georgia.
Quarterback Tevin Washington takes much of the heat for his two interceptions in the second half and they did hurt. But, in fairness, this is the same guy who in his first full season as a starter already has the second-most rushing yards by a QB, most rushing touchdowns, is second in pass efficiency is tied for third in rushing touchdowns, and is fourth in touchdown responsibility.
Redshirt freshman Synjyn Days had a nice series yesterday, but with the score 31-10. Johnson saw the big picture and rightfully came to Washington’s defense after the game.
“Tevin Washington has been our quarterback all year,” said Johnson. “I am excited about Synjyn [Days] I think he can bring some things to the offense, but it is not fair to judge him on the two series that he played this game.”
Those things, as well as the presence of redshirt freshman Vad Lee set up a nice race to look ahead to in the spring.
A-Back Embry Peeples will be a senior next season. He’ll be pushed by redshirt freshman Tony Zenon, while at B-Back, redshirt sophomore David Sims has shown tremendous progress. Most important, the offensive line returns in tact.
The defense also will be more experienced and returns eight of its top 10 tacklers, including ILB Julian Burnett, OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, safety Isaiah Johnson, Corner Louis Young, and up and comer Jamea Thomas.
This was the second season in Al Groh’s 3-4 and showed remarkable progress.
Special teams, especially kickers, learned the importance of not reaching the end zone on kickoffs and surely will work on, and improve, their length for next year.
What’s next is where the focus has to be.
“We’re definitely disappointed in the way that the game ended,” said Jones. “It was a pretty emotional game for us being the last game. I guess it was the main disappointment that that’s the way we’ll leave Bobby Dodd Stadium.”
That sentiment is especially heartbreaking coming from Jones, who remained eloquent.
The team now will wait and see where it is going to play its bowl game.
Regardless of location and opponent, the game is a reward for a very good season that simply didn’t end the way the Jackets wanted — losing two games against top-10 teams that will be vying for Conference championships next weekend.
That ending, too, is now in the past. There’s one more opportunity to write a fitting final chapter.
As much as it hurts, Jackets faithful have to put yesterday in the rearview mirror and look ahead to what’s next just like Johnson, his staff and the team will.
There’s a lot of more to be gained that way and the view is certainly much better.