Nov. 13, 2010
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech Defensive Coordinator Al Groh may not know the theory of relativity, but he is quite familiar with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
That was why Groh’s defensive unit changed up its approach after the Hurricanes opened the game with back-to-back 88-yard scoring drives, both primarily on the ground.
“When the other team moves the ball like that you’re always making adjustments. If you don’t you’re a fool,” said Groh, proceeding into Einstein territory. “You try to continue going the same way then obviously you’re probably going to get the same result.
“You have an idea when you start out the game, the so-called game plan, which is very detailed. But that’s just the way you start the journey,” Groh continued. “There are going to be detours along the way and changes that you have to make. The idea that you can wait until halftime to make those adjustments, which usually means that it’s too late.”
Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, on Saturday afternoon, it was too late after those two drives.
“We made way too many mistakes against a team as talented as Miami,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson of his team’s 35-10 loss to Miami. “We dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of.”
More frustrating for the Yellow Jackets was that defensive miscues contributed to both drives, which otherwise might have resulted no points instead of a 14-0 lead.
“It wasn’t really Miami. It was us,” said senior inside linebacker Brad Jefferson, who led Tech with 11 tackles, five of them solos. “We beat ourselves. We helped them win.”
“Certainly the mistakes that we made today were very harmful in going against a team that’s clearly a big, strong, talented team,” said Groh. “We had three get-off-the-field situations where we kept the other team on the field with penalties. We’ve just got to play better than what we played.”
Johnson made that point quite clear, as his usually calm demeanor simmered and showed signs of reaching a boil as he looked at the stat sheet.
“It’s a little frustrating,” he said. “The times we did get them stopped when the game was in doubt, then we’d have a penalty to give them a first down. It’s disappointing. They had 64 plays, 500 yards. We also were outmatched.”
They expected to be outmatched, size-wise — especially with the likes of freshman right tackle Seantrel Henderson, who stands 6-8, 330, and created match-up problems all day.
“We knew that coming in. On a year-to-year basis that’s the case. You look at the size of some of those players,” said Groh, who then dryly quipped, “You look at the match-ups, whoever had to line up in front of No. 77 (that was linebacker Anthony Egbuniwe, who stands a stout 6-5, 248). and the good news is he’ll be there for three more years.
“As we said going into the week with the players, we’re not going to get any taller in a week’s time. We’re not going to get any heavier,” he added. “They are who they are and we are who we are. To deal with that, there’s a way we have to play. One, we have to play a clean game. We can’t magnify or add to what they are able to accomplish based on their skill, we can’t add to that through mistakes. We had three stop downs, that with a penalty we kept them on the field. Points resulted after each one of those. You have to tackle well against these guys. They’re hard guys to tackle. There are ways you’ve got to tackle. We made a mistake on one of those and they ended up with a lot of yardage that resulted in points. That’s no surprise. We knew that was going to be the case.”
Senior corner Dominique Reese doesn’t believe the Jackets were outmatched.
“They didn’t do anything that we didn’t know about,” he said. “We expected NASCAR, the hurry-up offense? We knew that was coming. We just didn’t execute. When they put the extra tackle over to run the ball on the pitch, we knew they were going to do that. We saw them do that on film. We just didn’t make plays when we had a chance. They made more plays.”
Missed tackles and penalties aside, the game was still in doubt at 14-10 following an inspirational six-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Quarterback Tevin Washington, a major bright spot all day completed the drive with a 22-yard pass to Kevin Cone, his first career TD catch.
But Miami’s next play took the sting out of the Yellow Jackets, as a simple play-action pass turned into a 76-yard touchdown catch-and-run to senior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson.
Hankerson, who had a game-high 132 receiving yards, making a big play didn’t surprise Groh.
“We thought he was the best receiver in the league coming in,” said Groh. “He played like one.”
The timing of the big play by Miami didn’t surprise Johnson.
“It’s been the tale of our season,” he lamented. “I could go game after game. You try to get a little momentum back and what happens? The very next possession they score. This time they scored in one play. What happened? We had a guy bust. That still doesn’t mean it has to go 75 yards. We were in two deep. Nobody shielded two, he bit on the run fake, but you still ought to get the guy down.”
The key for the Yellow Jackets is to not get down themselves.
There is still a chance to become bowl eligible with a win in one of their next two games. That sixth win is especially important.
“We’ve been going to bowls for 13 years,” said Jefferson. “It would be devastating if we were the team that didn’t go.”
Then, there is that meeting with Georgia in Athens in two weeks.
Johnson, whose team has lost three straight games for the first time since he arrived in Atlanta, won’t allow his team to go down quietly.
“Nobody wants to lose. Trust me, I’m not used to it either,” he said. “I don’t like it. But the only thing I know to do is to keep working.”
They’ll keep working the same way and hope for a different result. Insanity? Maybe, but, then, again, this is football, not rocket science.