Oct. 10, 2015
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Sunday’s film study will be a mixed bag for Brant Mitchell.
The game on the whole, a 43-24 loss at No. 6 Clemson, will be a difficult watch, but there will be moments — his first career interception, a key block on a fake punt — where he stood out and that the freshman linebacker, wearing No. 51, will relish seeing again.
He’ll just do so quietly — as quietly as he recollected those moments following the loss the Yellow Jackets’ fourth straight and third in as many ACC games.
In a game where Tech trailed after only 65 seconds, those two plays, one in the second quarter the other in the third, pumped life back into the Jackets.
The fake punt came with 6:47 left in the second quarter and the Jackets trailing 26-3. and in desperate need of a spark. Facing a fourth-and-seven at their own 40, the snap went to linebacker Chase Alford, the up-man lined up to the far right in the protective triangle for punter Ryan Rodwell. Alford ran left, behind linebackers Tyler Stargel and Mitchell.
The 6-2, 240-pound Mitchell ran into Clemson’s Garrett Williams, keeping him at bay long enough for Alford to get the corner and gain nine yards and a first down.
“That’s just repping what you do in practice, I guess,” said Mitchell about his block. “It’s just executing the assignment that’s at hand and luckily we came out with a first down.
“It’s a good feeling because I feel like I’ve done my job correctly and I’ve helped the team out,” he added. “That’s the best feeling a man can have when he’s been a good teammate. I would appreciate if somebody blocked for me, too, so I just want to do the same.”
Mitchell came up big again in the third quarter, this time on defense, making his first career interception. This time, he dropped into coverage, hung in the shadows and picked off Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s pass.
The play came with Clemson looking at second and three at the Tech 46, up 33-10. Mitchell, who made the tackle on the previous play, dropped back to his own 36, read the eyes of Watson, who, feeling the heat from pressuring left end Antonio Simmons, fired over the middle for wide receiver Germone Hopper. But Hopper, who was well-covered by corner D.J. White, never got near the ball, as Mitchell cut in front, intercepted the pass and returned it 14 yards.
“I just dropped back and tried to get in my zone. Luckily I was in the right place at the right time,” Mitchell said. “It’s a great accomplishment, I guess, for me, but I don’t know. I just went into my coverage and played the ball and luckily I came down with it and returned it for a little bit.”
Mitchell, a two-time former Mr. Tennessee Football at Webb School in Knoxville, where he starred at middle linebacker (he also played B-Back) and led the Spartans to three straight state titles, added a career-best four tackles (all solo), one more than his previous high, set in the opener against Alcorn State.
“I’ve got to give it up to the guys that are beside me, on my left and right,” he said. “If they didn’t do their assignments I wouldn’t be able to make the plays that I did.”
Mitchell is better remembered for the accidental illegal touch of Harrison Butker’s last-minute onside kick against North Carolina, which is unfortunate, as he deserved, but did not get, credit for making first contact on the big stop on Carolina’s third-and-one play at its own 10 early in the fourth quarter. That TFL, which officially went to linebacker Tyler Marcordes, who cleaned up the play, helped Georgia Tech regain the football and momentum.
Mitchell doesn’t mind being the unsung hero of that play and would be happy to have that role in other big plays like it. He just wants the opportunity to be in position to continue to make plays, especially for the home crowd.
“It’s always great to make a big play in Bobby Dodd because the stadium was so loud,” he said. “As soon as I made contact I knew that it was something big because I could hear them roaring. Tyler was right there with me so I’ve got to give credit up to him, too.”
Mitchell hopes to get a chance to make some more plays next Saturday at Grant Field when the Jackets look to get off the schneid against Pittsburgh.
“We start the next half of the season next week,” he said. “We have a clean slate so we just have to forget about what’s been going on, look forward and hopefully take it to Pitt.”