Dec. 18, 2012
by Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –
With graduation behind him and a trip back to El Paso ahead of him, Georgia Tech’s quarterback wore his frequent smile. Maybe it was just one fly-by observation, but Washington appeared a bit more relaxed than usual – as if he had no questions to dread.
When the Yellow Jackets leave in a couple days to play USC-west in the Sun Bowl for their last game, Washington and Smith are going to be happy enough. It won’t be a BCS bowl, no, and they’d be downright giddy if Tech had won the ACC title game against Florida State rather than simply rallying enough to make it close.
But last year’s trip to El Paso was better than a Joe might think, and, “it’s a bowl game. We could be sitting at home,” Smith said.
The Jackets will stay busy in their few days before playing the Trojans on Monday.
“I’m looking forward to visiting the military base [Fort Bliss] and visiting with the troops, telling them how much we appreciate everything they do for our country,” Washington said. “Our focus is to get a win in a bowl game.”
Yes, that would be a fine bonus beyond evening Tech’s all-time record against USC. The Jackets now trail 1-2.
Washington, Smith and the offensive players have been getting a feel for the way the Trojans try to play defense, and the way defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin likes to roll. He’s leaving the private research school in Los Angeles soon after this game, his tenure as a Trojan and especially this season having been largely underwhelming.
Kiffin’s been more conservative than not as a defensive coach, and it hasn’t worked well. He’s often credited with creating the Tampa 2 coverage while defensive coordinator with the NFL’s Bucs, the goal being to never get beat deep.
He went about that largely by modifying some defensive philosophies of his former boss, Tony Dungy, and to significant effect – in the NFL, where the safeties and everybody else are quicker.
It wouldn’t be right to suggest that he’s gone about calling defense exactly the same way back in the college ranks, where he built a record of 16-17 as North Carolina State’s head coach from 1980-’82.
Dropping a pair of safeties 12-15 yards from the line of scrimmage before the snap sure won’t work well against Tech. The Jackets have been getting ideas about this version of Kiffin, in part by watching film of the Trojans playing Oregon and Arizona.
“They’re physical up front. They’re defensive line is very athletic getting to the quarterback, getting in the backfield,” Washington said. “I think you just get a feel for personnel, see what they tend to do in certain situations, how they respond up front.”
Smith said, “You find a formation that is similar to what you do, and say, ‘This is what they do with doubles or three-by-one. They’re definitely aggressive, and we think they will be with us just like any other team.”
Beating the young men in garnet and gold will be nice, even if they’re leaving the season as a Trojan horse, or something quite different than they were perceived to be when the season began ranked No. 1.
“It’s just another game,” Washington said. “I think we’re preparing for them just like they’re another team on the schedule.”