Sept. 13, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
The bad news list is longer, including the reality that everybody will wear a new jersey this week; the Jackets will all have bulls-eyes of a different sort than what comes with winning a conference title.
The Jackets are taking extra licks from fans and media after their unexpected loss at Kansas.
There has by now been enough beating up of Tech for my tastes. One upset loss, I’ve come to grasp.
I still have fan in me, and I can relate in that way to Tech fans. I was there last October, when Ohio State lost at Purdue. I think the Boilermakers were 1-5 going in.
So there were the Buckeyes, with two losses by midseason . . . and they ended up winning the Big 10 outright. Then, with a win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes finished with a top five ranking.
This is not to suggest that Tech will end up top five or win the conference, but I’m not discounting any possibilities.
This can be suggested: the Jackets had no right to play at Kansas as if they were so talented and deep so as to presume victory. An excess of ego or confidence may have led to this, I don’t know for sure. But that approach flat out won’t work.
Coach Paul Johnson said it more succinctly. “Nothing’s easy. You have to learn it every game. Some teams are good enough to punch the clock and get by. We’re not.”
There you have it.
Ohio State’s was a conference loss. Tech’s was OOC, thankfully. The Jackets are undefeated in the ACC, which – ironically — looks more winnable now than before.
Both teams picked to finish ahead of Tech in the Coastal division – Virginia Tech and Miami – not only lost but showed serious vulnerabilities Saturday.
Virginia Tech is 0-2, and missing it. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think it started to leave the building after the Hokies lost their opener late to a fine Boise State squad, and coach Frank Beamer followed a day or so later by opining that college football should have preseason games – a not-so-subtle attempt to dismiss the relevance of that loss.
What a terrible thing to say, at least at that time and place. Virginia Tech, talented as the Hokies may be, looks cooked after a home loss to James Madison.
Miami has seniority and nice speed in many spots. But the Hurricanes are not as solid on the lines of scrimmage as everywhere else. They lost 36-24 at Ohio State. But for punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns the margin would have been much larger.
Yet the `Canes have already been hit with some season-ending injuries, and they have to play at Tech.
On the other side of the conference, Florida State’s showing at Oklahoma was embarrassing. Johnson likes to say that in-game adjustments are over-rated by media and fans, but after the Seminoles and Sooners matched each other with early touchdowns, Oklahoma completely jammed up FSU from there. Don’t care where the game was played; the `Noles were way too awful to use that excuse.
For my two cents, Tech’s pending trip to Chapel Hill has the ingredients to be an antidote for what ailed the Jackets at Kansas.
The Tar Heels were widely picked to be much improved this season. Then several `gates struck coach Butch Davis and his team. With the folderol about agents and academic shenanigans, he’s using Super Glue to hold his team together. UNC is a talented, but wounded team. Like Tech.
Kansas did not have the Jackets’ attention, obviously. Tech for at least one game, did not have it.
It says here that Tech will be dialed in on the Heels, and I’m more optimistic than two days ago. I don’t think any Jackets will be in a position after the game to say something like this: “They were playing harder than we were. They outplayed us and outhustled us.”
That was center Sean Bedford speaking about Kansas.
To reach double-digit wins in the regular season will require the Jackets playing their tails off the rest of the way. Half efforts and fractured attention, which they rolled out against Gardner-Webb in 2008 and perhaps against Georgia in ’09, won’t float the boat.
The Jackets don’t appear to have any potential first-round draft choices on this team, let alone five players who a year from now might be in the NFL (as last year’s team did). Where excellence is in shorter supply, effort and attention to detail must close the gap.
Anthony Allen has not yet adequately replaced B-back Jonathan Dwyer, Joshua Nesbitt has struggled to throw the ball, receivers have had problems catching it, the Jackets have committed horrible penalties at terrible times, the defensive line appears thin and the defense in general is not what it might be, at least not yet.
What is not correctable? There is a lot of season left, and just off North Ave. there is a coach who has earned the right to be expected to right the ship.
The first step will be to relish the bulls-eye rather than resent it.
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