Before I address the upcoming ACC game against the Maryland Terrapins, let’s go back and review the recent homecoming loss to the BYU Cougars. Somewhere in between the Cougars being a pretty good football team and the less than stellar performance put forth last Saturday by Georgia Tech, we have the conclusion as to what is going with these Yellow Jackets. As the late USC Coach John McKay told his 1974 team during halftime when they were down 24 to 6 to Notre Dame; “the NCAA hasn’t outlawed blocking and tackling.” At times this season it appears that Georgia Tech is under the impression that 38 years later they have.
Add to that one of the biggest mysteries in football; the kicking game along with all of the roller coaster ramifications that it has on the outcome of a contest, and that helps to explain why this season has not gone well. This past Saturday the kicking game did Georgia Tech no favors and I’m not just talking about the kickers. Unfortunately, we are unable to kick the football out of the end zone with any semblance of consistency so that fact is a reality that has to be accepted by the coaching staff which needs to develop a strategy to minimize the negative impact that shortcoming has on the game.
If you can’t force a team to begin a drive on their 25 yard line after a kick deep into the end zone, then you need to get your kicker to launch the ball very high with lots of hang time to enable the coverage team enough time to get down the field in order to set up a wall of tacklers as close as possible to the return man. That is how you compensate for the inability to kick the football out of the end zone.
At the current time our kicker is providing a line drive boot to about the fifteen yard line with nominal or zero hang time that results in the opponent’s kick return team now having a tremendous advantage given that they are running up the field with the football and gaining yardage well before they should even be catching one. That explains why BYU was able to average over forty yards on kickoff returns and begin all but one of their offensive possessions either in Yellow Jacket territory or well past their own forty yard line. That creates a huge advantage for the offense when they consistently have that type of field position to start a drive. Until that problem gets fixed, the defense is always going to be limited trying to defend an offense who have the ball with great field position.
Add in the blocked punt that happened early in the game that gave BYU another possession even deeper in Georgia Tech territory around the fifteen yard line and that goes a long way to explaining how this contest was lost. More troubling is the fact that after nearly having a punt blocked by Boston College the week before, apparently that situation went unanswered for this game as the blocked punt was the result of a singular breakdown, not the customary mass jail break type of block with several players getting into the face of the punter.
The other very troubling statistic was Georgia Tech had 86 yards of offense for the entire first half of the game. Unacceptable! After reading the comments from the BYU Coach the week prior to the game crowing about how they were looking forward to defending the triple option, one would have thought that would have been enough motivation to challenge the entire offensive side of the football by jamming the football down their throat for huge yardage. Instead, the Yellow Jackets made him look like Nostradamus as they were unable to get any yardage either inside or on the edge.
Other than an outstanding kickoff return by Jamal Golden who went 97 yards for a score, this was a game that looked more like the Orange Bowl performance when Iowa pushed the Yellow Jackets around on both sides of the line of scrimmage. At the moment, this team needs to decide how they want to finish out this season because unlike the NFL where a poor season places you higher in the draft, in college a losing season can have a negative impact on recruiting.
The next three games are going to dictate whether or not this team will even get to a bowl game, or sit home and watch the likes of Duke and Kent State play in the post season. Making this game against Maryland their first test of how they want to finish up this season. With the talent this team has on the roster there is no excuse for the current record or most recent performance.
As for those Terrapins from Maryland, they have played teams very tough on defense all season long and return their outstanding DT Joe Vellano who was a one man wrecking crew last time these teams played with 23 solo tackles against the triple option last year at BDS. Let’s hope he doesn’t have a twin brother playing this week as he was unblockable and another DT with similar DNA would not be a helpful component going into this game. So the offense will be tested once again, however, one would think that after being throttled at home that they are fired up to atone for such a substandard performance.
Offensively, the Maryland Terrapins (turtle) are constantly being discussed given the extraordinary number of season ending injuries they have sustained to their quarterbacks. This week after losing their fifth QB they are now down to moving a 230 lbs. linebacker into the position who happened to play triple option football in high school. I really don’t know what to think of this other than perhaps it will help out our offense with one less defender available on that side of the ball, although he might play both ways in this game.
In order to provide some motivation to the Yellow Jacket defense this week given that the coach from Maryland has done nothing to provide anything useful for the bulletin board, word had it that based on the overwhelming number of quarterbacks they have lost to injury for the year, that an exemption could be made to allow them to suit up their mascot; Testudo the turtle to run their offense this game as he too played the position in high school. However, the NCAA stepped in and said absolutely not solely based on the fact that given the lack of a pass rush all season long by the GT defense, that if they were still unable to get a QB sack in this game that it would be too embarrassing for a team that was unable to even get pressure on a turtle.
I understand that the current ruling by the NCAA is being appealed and a final decision would be made prior to game time. Therefore, just in case the NCAA does allow Testudo to suit up for this game against Georgia Tech, I thought it might be helpful to show the team what he looks like which explains why I have a picture of him for my article instead of the customary GT helmet logo. Go Jackets!