Nov. 23, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Saturday was one of those days where almost no matter what happened on the field there didn’t seem to be much to talk about from Georgia Tech’s 66-7 win over Alabama A&M, and yet plenty to wonder about. Like, what about the Georgia game?
The Yellow Jackets absolutely rolled the FCS school, scoring on their first eight offensive possessions, mixing in a defensive score, and setting a school record for biggest halftime lead (52-0) in the modern era (since 1950).
After two quarters, during which most the Tech starters played, the Bulldogs had just two first downs and 49 yards of total offense.
David Sims rushed for a career-record 111 yards and a score in the first half. Synjyn Days scored twice, including once from the quarterback position. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Tyler Marcordes had an interception.
It was a rout.
“I think that all you can do is when you start the game and you’re playing defense is not give up any first downs, and on offense score every time you get it,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “It’s hard to do much better than that.”
This game was played because the ACC re-jiggered the conference schedule after Syracuse and Pitt joined and the Jackets ended up with an opening and had to fill it without many teams out there having flexibility to play at Tech.
“It was kind of what we thought,” Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones said after his team finished its season at 4-8. “We came out and played as hard as we could, but they jumped on us really fast.”
Those Bulldogs were hardly the ones that matter.
The Jackets know that. They weren’t surprised after the game when they were asked as many questions – or more – about next week’s game against Georgia than they were about Alabama A&M.
“It’s hard not to look past anybody, but we knew coming off a loss we had to focus on ourselves,” said senior running back Robert Godhigh, who carried three times for 24 yards and a touchdown. “[Georgia is] a huge game, probably the biggest game of the year for us. We lost the past few years, and being a senior it definitely means a lot to try and go out and win this game.”
Just about everybody in uniform played Saturday, and that brought more joy to the starters than the final score. These guys pull for each other.
As Johnson said, “In the second half, we wanted to make sure we played everybody who had any eligibility . . . I think it’s fun for the rest of the players when those guys get in the game. It’s good for everybody when everybody gets to play.”
Take Ben Keith. The redshirt senior offensive lineman from Gainesville, Fla., played in one game his first four seasons on The Flats. That was last season against Presbyterian. Yet he was around for post-game interviews after . . . playing.
Johnson set the stage, sort of, when he said of Keith, “I have a lot of respect for guys like that who walk-on and come to practice every day. He’s been a scout team player for a long time now.”
Keith’s had some injury issues. He could have hung up his shoulder pads for good on more than one occasion, and nobody would have carried a critical thought. No dice.
“Well, you know, quitting would have been the easy way out,” he said. “I’ve never quit on anything in my life that I can think of. I care about this team more than anything. I wanted to see this all the way through, and I wanted to do this as long as they let me. It was an easy decision to come back.”
The Jackets (7-3) want to get back to beating Georgia, as they did in Johnson’s first year as head coach. It’s been a good while since 2008, and these Jackets weren’t around then. But they know the score.
“Not having beaten those guys has been big,” said senior offensive lineman Will Jackson. “That’s certainly motivation going into next week knowing that we haven’t done it so if we were able to do that it would definitely be one of the high-water marks in my time here.”
Saturday’s win over these Bulldogs was all but a foregone conclusion, yet the Jackets did not use their practice time to prepare for the next Bulldogs.
“We didn’t really get into Georgia this week,” Johnson said. “I’m a firm believer that you don’t do that. You send the wrong message to your players if you do that. We’ve got ample time . . . to get ready.
“I think it’s a big game, and a game that we haven’t played particularly well the last couple years and we need to play better.”
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