Oct. 2, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
That was one of those weird games where you felt, more or less, like your team was always in control, but when it was over and you felt back on it, you weren’t quite sure what happened.
The better team won Saturday afternoon in Raleigh, as Georgia Tech remained unbeaten with a 45-35 win at NC State that was similar in some ways to the game the Wolfpack won in Atlanta last year, but then again different.
Then as Saturday, the better team won. The difference was that although NC State seemed to be scrambling uphill most of the day, the home team never really crawled all the way back into it. Last year, no amount of crawling by the Jackets drew Tech close enough for it to matter.
State did a decent job Saturday slowing down Tech’s running attack, chiefly after the first quarter or so. The Jackets kept NC State in check, too.
Balance put Tech up 45-21 by the middle of the fourth quarter, but then the bottom of the cardboard box got soggy.
You’ve got to win games of all sorts if you’re going to make it to the conference championship game, this was just another style.
It just so happened to remind the Jackets of their mortality. After Synjyn Days’ fumble was returned for a touchdown in the game’s waning minute, to pull the `Pack within 10, everybody on the visitors’ sidelines was sorta wondering.
“It lets you know that you’re not as good as you think you’re are,” A-back Orwin Smith said in summation. “We don’t want to be negative, because we were still up . . . . last year, if we got up, teams would come back and win.”
NC State didn’t come all the way back and win, and that’s a very good thing for Tech. Obviously. But, as Smith said, “we were happy, but it was bittersweet. The fact that they came back. We don’t expect any team to give up, but . . . “
And there you have it.
Rather than blindly celebrate another win, the Jackets (5-0, 2-0 ACC) are uneasy. Everybody should always be that way. It’s a form of creative energy.
I know Tech graduate Simit Shah, who follows the Jackets passionately, has never rested easily in his career. He’s run important stuff at CNN for years, and become so good at what he does that he’s been recruited by many of the big dogs.
Simit took a flight to Raleigh because he cares.
He surely liked what he saw because the Jackets seem to care as well.
All Tech fans might do well to invest more, care more.
Why? Because this team has something going on. Tech has played 20 quarters this season, and scored in 19. The third quarter Saturday was the first exception to what has become a pretty impressive rule.
Safety Isaiah Johnson, whose name is not quite as difficult for me to spell as that of Jeremiah Attaochu, did his part Saturday. His interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter pushed the Tech lead to 42-21.
That was just before N.C. State got a little something too much going.
Johnson had a weird feeling even it was different than that 97-yard pick-six he had in the state Class AAAAA semifinals when he was at good ol’ Sandy Springs High.
“Every game is not going to be a blowout,” he said. “Defense wins championships. Pretty much every body was in everybody’s ears — Louis [Young], Julian [Burnett], Steven [Sylvester].”
All the woofing either worked, or was rendered irrelevant because the `Pack ran out of time.
In a strange way, that felt especially good to the Jackets.
They’re still close enough to the misery of last season to rejoice doubly over something like their second ACC win. The fact it came in Raleigh made it special.
“Of course, I wouldn’t want to decide between playing home and away,’ Johnson said. “But playing away, in truth, it feels even better because you’re at their house.”
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