Sept. 11, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
From the outside looking in, Georgia Tech’s schedule turns toward meaningful next week when the No. 15 Yellow Jackets will play at No. 9 Notre Dame, but first there is the not-so-small matter of Tulane on Saturday.
The Jackets are doing their best to never mind their 69-6 season-opening wipeout of Alcorn State on Sept. 3, and ignore the Green Wave’s 37-7 home loss to Duke last Saturday.
They’re tracking their mistakes – yes, coaches suggest they made quite a few – and reminding themselves that Tulane last season made life miserable for quite a while in New Orleans. Ultimately, Tech prevailed 38-21 after scoring the game’s final 24 points, but the Green Wave led three times before that.
The meat of the slate, which includes the ACC opener Sept. 26 with Duke and five consecutive ACC games in October, will have to wait for Tech’s attention.
“I think we understand that we have a tough schedule, but you can’t look at it as that,” said senior defensive tackle Adam Gotsis. “You’ve got to look at it as an opportunity to prove to the rest of college football teams that you’re a contender.
“We’ve got a schedule where if we go win some big games later in the season . . . and even Tulane – we can’t overlook that; they almost got us last year. They’re going to come in here with everything. They have nothing to lose.”
Head coach Paul Johnson and his staff found plenty in the Alcorn State video to build upon, and last year’s Tulane tape offered much more of the same.
The Jackets lost two of three fumbles, threw an interception, and trailed 7-0, 14-7, and 21-14.
Tech lost one fumble against Alcorn State when B-back Marcus Marshall lost his grip on the way to rushing for 182 yards. Rather than zero in on the freshman, the head coach this week took a chance to look at junior quarterback Justin Thomas.
He may play all the more as backup quarterback Tim Byerly won’t play this week after sustaining an unspecified injury in practice.
Redshirt freshman Matthew Jordan, who has worked at A-back and quarterback, will serve as Thomas’ backup, and Johnson would prefer there be no reason to play anyone other than Thomas an easy choice dictated by lopsided score.
He’s not assuming that, though.
“Last year the ball security thing got really exposed in that game,” Johnson said. “While [Thomas] is a dynamic player, that is one area that he can really improve upon. I think sometimes he is so quick and so fast that he gets away with not being as sound in that area as he needs to be.”
Jordan made his college debut against Alcorn State with three rushes for 20 yards from the A-back position.
Thomas did not play much against Tulane, rushing three times for 18 yards and a score and completing 3-of-4 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. He did not consider his time against Alcorn State perfect.
“There are some things that I can improve on. It may look good to everybody else, but it doesn’t look good to our room. . . . Getting downhill, ticky-tack things,” he said. “I guess just being better with my eyes, seeing things more clearly.”
Gotsis did not play much last week either, and like Thomas he sees plenty that he and his teammates can improve upon as the Jackets seek to move through the last potato and into the meat of their schedule.
“I thought the first group did pretty well,” Gotsis said. “[Francis] Kallon, [Antonio] Simmons and KeShun [Freeman] . . . you had three defensive linemen with strips. That’s always positive. We’ve got to carry it over every week. We can’t get complacent. We still have 11 teams to play.”
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