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#STINGDAILY: Golden Opportunity

Nov. 18, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

It has been a while, but . . . today, we’re going scatter shooting. Topic: Georgia Tech football.

The Yellow Jackets may or may not land in the ACC Championship game; that depends on Miami’s decision-making process, or – if the Hurricanes stand pat and do not self-impose a post-season ban upon themselves now that they’re bowl eligible – whether The U can lose Saturday at Duke. Rarely does one pull for Devils, but . . . it’s possible.

Regardless of how that settles out, Tech has a golden opportunity this week, and it coincides with the annual grand slam box that waits to be checked on the Jackets’ wish list every season.

Beating Georgia is always abundantly beautiful, if painfully rare, and now that the Bulldogs control their fate with regards to earning a spot in the BCS national championship game, a win over those folks might spark The Rapture that we’ve all heard about from time to time (whether we believe in it or not).

Georgia is No. 3 in the BCS standings with a shot yet at No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

The Bulldogs won’t be No. 3 in the BCS standings if Tech wins Saturday.

Without even knowing all this, senior nose tackle T.J. Barnes said after the Jackets’ 42-24 win over Duke Saturday, “This is like momentum to keep the team spirits up because hate week is next week.”

So, there’s that.

The Jackets are now bowl eligible for the 16th straight season and that is nothing to sniffle at. A few weeks ago, sniffles were prevalent.

In winning four consecutive ACC games after a 1-3 start, the Jackets have become hoarders. They had three turnovers combined in those four games while registering six takeaways. Tech did not turn the ball over against Duke, which Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe alluded to in his post-game comments.

What he said, in simple terms, was that against Tech you expect the Jackets to cough it up a few times because there is so much ball-handling in the Jackets’ wing T/option offense. (Or would you call it a double wing offense?). Tech pulled the trigger on 86 plays Saturday, and did not give the ball away once. There were only two scares.

Also in those four wins, Tech’s time of possession was (with opponents’ TOP in parenthesis): 43:45 (16:15); 31:42 (28:18); 37:14 (22:46) and 38:10 (21:50).

Like I said, hoarders.

Here’s how you hoard: in the streak, the Jackets converted 38-of-63 third downs (60.3 percent) and 8-of-9 fourth downs (88.9 percent).

Or, look at it this way: in situations including failed third downs where Tech opted not to punt on fourth, Tech in that four-game streak faced 68 first downs and ended up with a first down (or a touchdown) 67.6 percent of the time (46 times total) when you add the 8-for-9 fourth down rate.  

So, more than two-thirds of the time that Tech hit third down in those four games, the Jackets achieved a positive outcome on that play or the next.

Who wouldn’t take that batting average?

Against Duke, the Jackets faced third down 20 times. They converted 13 times, and went 4-for-4 on fourth downs (a Paul Johnson high-water mark at Tech and the first time since 1976 that the Jackets converted so many in a game).

So, that’s 20 third downs with 17 positive outcomes on that play or the next.

That’s 85 percent. That’s sick.

Call it the Beno factor.

From my seat, the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the season has been A-back Robbie Godhigh.

He’s not tall, but he’s as strong as a video game hellion, a remarkably wicked blocker on the perimeter, and – who knew? – a fine receiver. His two touchdown receptions Saturday against Duke made him just the second player since Paul Johnson became head coach to catch two touchdown passes in one game.

The other guy, Stephen Hills, is playing for the New York Jets.

Outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu was invisible in the first half of the season. He’s been a menace in the second. He had two more sacks Saturday.

Ray Beno and the boys up front have figured out what’s what.

He, Morgan Bailey, Omoregie Uzzi, Shaquille Mason and Jay Finch have started three straight games on the offensive line, and – for a big change – injuries have not mucked up the works.

When, or if, Will Jackson gets healthy again, the Jackets will have a hell of an OL sub waiting in the wings. But Will’s not going to start. You don’t mess with what the Jackets have going in the trenches.

Before Johnson showed up, no Georgia Tech quarterback ever scored more than nine touchdowns in a season. Since Billy Lothridge tallied nine times in 1962, it’s happened five times – all with Johnson calling the shots.

Tevin Washington tied the school and ACC quarterback rushing TD records Saturday with his 18th. Josh Nesbitt did the same thing in 2009, Washington scored 14 last season, and Nesbitt scored 10 in 2010.

Oh, and redshirt freshman Vad Lee has scored nine touchdowns this season.

Washington and Nesbitt are Nos. 1 and 2 in ACC history in touchdowns scored by a quarterback (36 and 35).

Washington’s 36 career touchdowns are tied with Jonathan Dwyer for second-most in Georgia Tech history, all positions included. Robert Lavette – a fine running back from Cartersville who scored that huge late touchdown in the win over Alabama in 1981 (Tech’s only win that season) — scored 46 times from 1981-’84.

The single-season touchdown record on the Flats is 19, set by Lavette in 1982. Washington lurks.

So what’s this about Georgia Tech not having anything with which to entice quarterback recruits? Am I missing something? Isn’t modern football about giving dual-threat quarterbacks the opportunity to do their thing?

A final thought on Mr. Washington: After the Duke game, he was asked, and so was Johnson, by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer whether he’d been treated fairly by fans.

It was a bit awkward, but these situations are part of the landscape in college football. The backup quarterback is a fan favorite in any season that fails to meet expectations (although many Tech goals are remarkably back in play as we read), and Tevin Washington is not one to take your breath away.

But it says here the guy is remarkable in his own ways. He’s quiet as they come, not at all a big talker, not huge, not Carl Lewis fast, but he gives his all and his all has produced some enormous numbers.

Were I a head coach, I’d take Tevin Washingtons on my team by the bushel.

“I think he’s the epitome of perseverance,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t be happier for him to play his last home game and play like he did. I’m glad he’s in our program.”

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