By Matt Winkeljohn
It has been a long and winding road for the Presbyterian College footballers to end up here, primed to play Georgia Tech. Just last month the NCAA granted the Blue Hose full Division I status into the Big South Conference to wrap up a “transitional” phase of six years or so.
By comparison or contrast (you decide), the past five days may have felt longer and wind-ier for the Yellow Jackets. As one might imagine, they’re champing to administer some pain, er, seek a soul cleansing and ASAP.
The absence of familiar rhythm to this season’s start remains discombobulating.
Still smarting from Monday’s mule kick in the solar plexus, a 20-17 overtime loss to Virginia Tech in a game that last spring was moved forward from later in the schedule by ACC suits eager to please the TV powers that be – the Jackets may have themselves ideal guests.
Do not be fooled by Presbyterian’s 45-10 win last week. Like many D-I programs, the Blue Hose scheduled down for the opener.
Brevard College is tiny; the Division II Tornados do not give out athletic scholarships, and have half the enrollment of Presbyterian’s 1,200. The Methodist school from Rock Hill, S.C., had little chance last week, especially playing in the Presbyterian stronghold of Clinton, S.C.
So, no wonder that Tech head coach Paul Johnson said: “Every team has some good players and I’m sure Presbyterian does, but [this] is about Georgia Tech. It’s about us moving forward and improving in a lot of areas that we need to improve.”
Depth chart comings and goings may be less important than what’s going on in the minds of key players.
Take Tevin Washington.
The senior quarterback played well most of the night Monday, and in fact was exquisite on the drive that pushed the Jackets ahead 17-14 with 44 seconds left. His scrambling fourth-down completion to A-back B.J. Bostic kept that drive alive.
It was borne of helter and skelter. “We work on the scramble drill in practice, and B.J. saw me rolling; we made eye contact,” said Washington, whose throw on a right-hand scramble was on the money. “He kept going to get open.”
Upon the next visit by chaos, Washington did not react so well when scrambling left. His overtime interception throw left Virginia Tech needing a field goal to win. VT got it.
“I was trying to throw it away. I thought I had more time, but [a defender] showed up and was coming quick. I didn’t get a chance to throw it out of bounds” he said. “If I had it to do again, I’d just take the sack.”
That would’ve given the Jackets a plausible field goal try.
Hindsight’s free, though.
The right support personnel can be priceless.
Washington’s parents were at the Virginia Tech game, as they are at every Tech game in which their son plays.
Lewis and Monica visited with him in pitch black of midnight before he boarded the bus for the airport that night. They helped Tevin begin re-calibrating.
“My dad stays on me about not beating myself up,” he said. “My mom said, ‘That was the first game of a long season. Now, let’s see what you’re made of. Bounce back. Be a leader.'”
In this situation, it’s good that the next game comes sooner than usual. The Jackets get a quick chance to re-set. An an added bonus, a win over Presbyterian will count toward Tech’s bowl eligibility win requirement even though the Blue Hose are in every way a much smaller opponent.
The winningest football coach ever – high school, college or pro — graduated from Presbyterian, but long-time Summerville (S.C.) High boss John McKissick retired last year, and his career mark of 594-143-13 will not help the Blue Hose.
Then again, the last time Tech played a Big South team, Gardner-Webb gave the Jackets tremendous grief a few years ago before the home team held on for a 10-7 win. Johnson mentioned that the other day.
“It was gut-wrenching the way it ended for us,” Johnson said of the Virginia Tech game. “The good news is you get to play again on Saturday. You have to try to put it behind you as quick as you can.”
It says here that the Jackets will not be happy today, that Presbyterian will not score against Tech’s starters unless there is a turnover deep in Jackets’ territory, that the Gardner-Webb example has come up a few times, that Tevin Washington will show you why he’s a better football player than some think, and that Zach Laskey will be just one of a few Jackets to step up.
Don’t be surprised if running back Broderick Snoddy makes an impression as well.
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