Nov. 21, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Georgia Tech’s football team broke a moratorium Thursday night, when shortly before 11 p.m. several of defensive tackle Adam Gotsis’ teammates started doing jigs as the Yellow Jackets came out from down under to punch a ticket to the ACC championship upon North Carolina’s 45-20 win over Duke.
That televised result made the Jackets winners of the Coastal division.
Tech will play defending ACC champion Florida State in the ACC title game Dec. 6 in Charlotte.
Gotsis had never seen before in his native Australia such silliness, although when he was a freshman the Jackets went to the ACC title game – against FSU.
There was something special about this, as the Jackets were given up for dead at midseason after back-to-back losses to the very teams that Thursday night in Durham determined Tech’s fate – Duke and North Carolina.
“There was a little bit of dancing,” Gotsis said of Thursday night’s scene in Tech’s Edge Athletic Center, where most of the team gathered to watch the North Carolina-Duke game on a large TV not far from their locker room.
Gotsis, who is from Australia, was a bit out of his element even if the Jackets are not as they prepare for their third ACC Championship Game in head coach Paul Johnson’s seven seasons at Tech, their second in three years, and third in six years.
They don’t think like this in the Down Under.
“Definitely not anything as exciting as this [in Australia],” he said. “One of the goals up on our board [is to win the ACC], to achieve this as a family — it was an awesome atmosphere . . . there was a little dancing at some points.”
Who wouldn’t dance?
The Jackets were counted out by many long before they fell in back-to-back weeks to the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.
Members of the ACC media before the season picked Tech to finish fifth in the seven-team Coastal division.
With sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas coming quickly of age, an offensive line that grew up faster than perhaps even coaches expected and a defense that has made quantum leaps in the past month, the Jackets put themselves in position to step up onto the ACC’s big stage again.
Senior Isaiah Johnson, whose last game played before this season was against FSU prior to suffering a knee injury in 2012 bowl preparation, was nearly beside himself Thursday night.
“Being here with the team was a good feeling,” said Johnson, who missed all of last season while mending his knee. “I’ve been saying it all week; ‘We are going to the ACC Championship.’
The other, more notable Johnson was not in attendance Thursday night.
Tech’s head coach, Paul Johnson was visiting his hometown of Newland, N.C. Surely he watched.
You better believe he watched, and all of the Johnsons know the deal.
Tech (9-2, 6-2 ACC) beat Miami (6-4, 3-3) and Virginia Tech (5-5, 2-4), one at home and one away, and Duke (8-3, 4-3) did not – losing to the Hurricanes on the road and the Heels at home.
So with Thursday’s loss to the Tar Heels, Duke’s second straight at home, the Jackets are going back to the ACC Championship Game.
Tech has won four straight games in impressive fashion, and their mid-season humblings continue to serve as motivation.
“The mood was it was painful. After those losses, we weren’t able to sleep well,” Isaiah Johnson said. “Both of us knew we fell out as units. I’m proud of this team, and its ability to handle adversity. Now, it’s a rematch [from 2012]. We’re excited to be going there; we earned it.”
The Jackets don’t have a game this Saturday, yet Gotsis is ready to get back at it. First, there is more business to tend to as the Jackets will resume focus Friday.
“It’s going to be good to go back and play [Florida State] again,” Isaiah Johnson said. “But after tonight, we’ve got to get back to work. We’ve got to worry about next week, and Georgia. That’s the biggest spot on our schedule.”