Sept. 14, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
This is a big weekend for Georgia Tech football, the likes of which doesn’t come along often and especially not so early in a season.
There was the unveiling Friday afternoon of a statue of Bobby Dodd on Bobby Dodd Way outside of Bobby Dodd Stadium. Today, the terrific Tech teams of 1951 and ’52 – back-to-back SEC and bowl game winners – will be honored.
Also, there is the matter of this afternoon’s game against Virginia. This one is amplified by the fact that the Yellow Jackets have already lost an ACC game.
Plus, Virginia last year sent Tech’s season south. How’s that for motivation? Tech was 6-0 and ranked No. 12 in the land. That 24-21 loss was worse than the score. The ‘Hoos slowed the Tech running game substantially, and ran over – and around – the Jackets on the way to 272 rushing yards of their own.
The Jackets are 3-5 since they were victims of identity theft.
“Our big problem is last year they ran flat over us,” Paul Johnson said the other day. “They rushed for 270 yards and kept the ball for most of the time. We’re used to winning the time of possession pretty handily and they did a good job of holding onto the ball last year, and staying on the field.
“It’s a lot of the same guys up front, same running backs, so we’ll need to see if we can’t stop the run.”
The Tech head coach was right but for a few details.
Time of possession was actually almost as close as rushing yards (272 per team). Virginia held the ball for 30:01, Tech for 29:59. But the Cavs held it for 11 of 15 minutes in the fourth quarter.
It didn’t matter that Virginia didn’t score in the second half. The Cavs scored enough in the first half, and kept the Jackets from scoring enough in the second.
Tech played that day like a team that believed a bit too much in itself, and when it was over, Virginia head coach Mike London said, “This is one of those wins against a good team with a lot of accomplishments that you can try to turn the corner on how you think about yourself and how people view your program.”
The Jackets are in a position to impact the way people view their program, and while this game won’t address that in whole – no one game ever does – it might serve as a starting line for the never-ending race in that direction.
Those are big words in a sport that ebbs and flows dramatically. Just consider for a moment London’s comments after last year’s game, and then check out this video of the Virginia fans rushing the field after that game.
So, have the Cavs then really turned the corner? Was last week’s 17-16 win over visiting Penn State – in which the Nittany Lions missed four of five field goals – validation of a program like that London last fall hinted might be on its way, or was it merely survival?
The answer doesn’t matter for Tech. But the nature of the questions serve as reminders that in college football the fleeting natures of expectation, perception and the way all of it may stand at odds with reality.
All of this babble and conjecture among fans is just that. A year ago, the Jackets played Virginia as if they were confident in themselves – way too confident.
This team cannot afford that kind of foolishness.
There are a lot of small-scale questions surrounding the Jackets.
Will Zach Laskey again run so well at B-back? Can he pick up the other parts of the game, like, you know, blocking?
Are moves in the offensive line, where Shaq Mason is expected to start at guard and guard Will Jackson is expected to slide out to right tackle, take?
Did the fact that Tech wide receivers contributed to last Saturday’s win over Presbyterian prove that Tech actually has wideouts, or that the Jackets were playing Presbyterian?
Will the defense continue to impress? Can offensive lineman Morgan Bailey stay healthy long enough to play in games and show the world what coaches get so excited about from watching him in practice?
These and other answers are yet to come, and not all at once today.
The more positive responses filed to these and other queries, the more likely the Jackets will one day again enjoy rapture like that found on this glorious day in 1990 against these Wahoos.
It says here the Jackets do some thumping today. The hope is that it won’t go to their collective heads.
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