Dec. 30, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
– NASHVILLE – The key adjustments came early in Monday’s Music City Bowl, where Georgia Tech’s offense hummed out of the box to start the game only to spend much of the remainder in idle. Or reverse.
Tech drove 74 yards in 14 plays with its first possession to tie Ole Miss at 7-7 on Robbie Godhigh’s 8-yard run. From there, the Jackets managed but 224 yards over the rest of the game and 72 came on a Vad Lee-to-Darren Waller touchdown pass that brought Tech within 23-17 early in the final quarter.
When the Jackets are limited to 151 rushing yards in a game, or 160 fewer than their average, then the nation’s No. 4 rushing team is going to find itself hard pressed – especially if the passing game is askew, as Tech’s was in the 25-17 loss.
“I think we can play better than that. Clearly, we didn’t and … give [Ole Miss] some credit for that,” said Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson. “I don’t think we ever got in sync on offense at all. We never got in any kind of rhythm; it was just kind of hap-hazard. We hit some plays here and there, nothing to gain any consistency and [we] turned the ball over [twice].”
The Rebels (8-5) had a few advantages.
Their defensive coordinator, Dave Wommack, is familiar with Tech’s offense. He was Johnson’s first coordinator at Tech. Also, Ole Miss had more time to prepare for the Jackets’ highly stylized attack.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. “It’s many phases we had to work on that there is still no way that you can ask your scout team to do it at the pace that they do it in. I thought you saw some of that early, particular with their wide run game and toss sweep play that they had. Our kids made great adjustments.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Coach Wommack and his staff and the job that they did in scheming and getting us a plan . . . [Georgia Tech’s offense] is not something that you carry just your base defense against . . . That’s why it’s so tough to play them in a short amount of time; you are going to be forced to play some of your base stuff. We were able to get some different [schemes] in[stalled].”
After the Jackets’ early success, the run game was jammed up frequently. Godhigh led the Jackets with 50 rushing yards on 10 carries.
“They played about every defense known to man,” Johnson said. “I mean they were just popping gaps … then after a while [they were] running out, outside with the motion. I really don’t know if they did a whole lot different. We just didn’t block them as well if you want to know the truth.
“We just didn’t do a very good job of adjusting to it. The first three of four times, we ran the true option, the triple, I think we missed the ready every time. Then we got ourselves behind. They created some negative plays for us.”
While the Jackets were having a tough time running the ball, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace was having a better go of it. He rushed 13 times for a game-high 86 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 22-of-32 passes for 256 yards, a touchdown and an interception by D.J. White.
“He’s a hard runner, and he’s good at shaking tackles,” explained Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attouchu. “He’s a solid runner, not overly fast, but he can move and shake and run people over.”
Wallace’s biggest play came by throw.
As Tech trailed 25-17 with about three minutes left, the Jackets sacked him on third down. Problem was the back judge threw a penalty flag just as the ball was snapped.
Delay of game was called, leaving another third-down chance for the Rebels. With 13 yards to go to the marker, Wallace threaded a pass over the middle to Laquon Treadwell for 27 yards and a first down that enabled Ole Miss to run the final 37 seconds off the clock.
On Tech’s first play after the Rebels punted, Lee’s pass to the left sideline was intercepted.
“It definitely hurts, especially when you had chances to come back and win the game,” Godhigh said. “Like coach said, we didn’t get in any rhythm on offense to get anything going.”
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