Sept. 27, 2015
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
“Next man up” has become a common theme for Georgia Tech’s offense.
Ricky Jeune chose Saturday as his day to step up.
The redshirt sophomore wide receiver caught four passes, for 91 yards, both game- and career-highs, and scored his first career touchdown, in Georgia Tech’s 34-20 loss to Duke. Jeune downplayed his personal production, treating it as simply doing his job.
“We knew Duke was loading the box up, and it was one-on-one on the outside and I just made a few plays for my team,” said Jeune, who left Wallace Wade Stadium with seven catches on the season for 131 yards, a hefty 18.7 yards per catch, and his first career score — he began Saturday with three catches for 40 yards. ”I definitely I feel like I can help my team. I‘m going to keep working hard. Just flush this and move on.”
Before Head Coach Paul Johnson flushed the game he made note of Jeune.
“Ricky Jeune made a couple of nice plays today,” said Johnson in his postgame comments. “Other than Ricky, nobody makes any plays.”
The 6-2, 214-pound wideout from Spring Valley, N.Y., played in spots in 12 games last season as a redshirt-freshman, but mostly late in games and on special teams before earning a starting position at wide receiver in fall camp. He caught one pass in each of his first three starts before the outburst against Duke.
On a week when the Jackets were without wide receiver Micheal Summers and big-play A-Back Qua Searcy, Jeune became something of a security blanket for quarterback Justin Thomas. Thomas targeted Jeune 11 times, helping out Thomas, who frequently found himself being chased by the Blue Devils defense.
“Justin is a mobile quarterback so he’ll try to make a play no matter what,” he added. “I just go after him. Whatever he does I try to be there.”
The combo worked well, connecting twice in the second quarter, on a 30-yard pass, then, at the end of the half, on a 10-yard touchdown pass over the middle to conclude a 12-play, 74-yard drive that pulled the Jackets to within 19-10 at the break. On the TD, Thomas eluded a strong Duke rush then found Jeune breaking over the middle.
“The play is supposed to go to me but I was double-covered so I scrambled back inside,” he recalled. “Justin, being a mobile, great quarterback, hit me in the hole.”
Late in the third quarter, Jeune and Thomas connected on an 18-yard play and he was the target on an interception that that drive at the Duke 33, down 26-13.
Then, in the fourth, with Tech still trailing 26-13, they hooked up on a 33-yard play, as part of the Jackets’ longest drive of the day, an 11-play, 88-yard drive that ate up 4:45 and ended with Thomas’ 12-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 26-20 and appeared to turn the course of the game.
Tech’s Lawrence Austin intercepted Duke QB Thomas Sirk at the Blue Devils 35 on the ensuing drive, but the offense stalled and lost the ball on downs and would not get any closer.
The loss was disappointing, for the Jackets, who were prepared but simply did not execute.
“We knew what they were going to do,” Jeune said. “We knew Duke’s cornerbacks were going to just peek inside and then fire once the A-Backs came in motion. So we expected that. We got some blocks and missed some blocks.”
Jeune also refused to put anything on the rain and slick conditions that led to a combined five fumbles — Tech put the ball on the ground four times, recovering three of them, although the one they didn’t turned into the crushing final touchdown.
“For me the weather didn’t really affect us,” he said. “We made some plays and we missed some plays.” What Jeune feels shouldn’t be missed was the effort as they look ahead.
“I feel like at halftime we gained a little confidence, settled down,” he said. “One thing about us, we’re never going to give up. We’re always going to keep fighting, pick each other up and try to get a win for the team.”
The Jackets will now prepare for North Carolina (3:30 on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium). He believes the team can rebound from back-to-back losses as they did last season, when they fell to Duke and at North Carolina then closed by winning five straight wins and six out of seven.
“Definitely. We’re going to keep working harder and get better every day,” he said. “We just need to block better and come out well and focus right away so late in the game we can play like we’re capable of playing.”
Jeune expects to continue to be a big part of that as a reliable target for Thomas.
“We throw a lot of passes every day in practice,” he said. “Justin and I definitely have build a good chemistry.”