Three Unforced Errors in the Kicking Game Sting the Yellow Jackets in Kansas

So the day started out well enough as I noticed several cars on W/B Interstate 70 flying Georgia Tech window flags on their way to Lawrence, Kansas for the game.  That was nice to see as I was looking forward to the first road game of the year.  Once inside the stadium the Yellow Jacket fans that made the trip to the game were very vocal and ready for the kickoff.  We win the toss and defer to the second half.  Good!  We like to have the ball coming out of halftime so let’s get the defense on the field and get going.  WOW!  A kickoff that went down to the goal line that Kansas bobbled and returned out to the 12 yard line.  That was a great kickoff by the true freshman Justin Moore. 

Defense gets a stop and the Jayhawks have to punt the football.  We start around our 45 yard line and the option is getting big yardage on the perimeter with the A-Backs.  Roddy Jones ripped off a very nice run and in just a couple of plays Joshua takes the ball around left end for a 9 yard touchdown run.  7 to 0 Yellow Jackets and the game is starting off very well and we have the momentum.  Then disaster hits!  Justin Moore lines up for the kickoff and doinks it down to the 30 yard line as it sails untouched like a spinning top straight out of bounds.  Now the Jayhawks who just gave up a touchdown after being stopped by our defense have some life, not to mention the football at their own 40 yard line to start this drive.  All of the momentum that has been garnered in the defensive stop and touchdown drive has just been thrown out the window with this kick; unforced error # 1.

A football field is exactly 53 1/3 yards wide and there is no excuse for not being able to kick the football in the field of play somewhere between those 53+ yards and force your opponent to return the ball and earn the right to start their second offensive series of the game on the 40 yard line.  A welcome wagon gift from the visiting team of starting on their own 40 yard line without being required to do anything more than stand on their sideline and watch a botched kickoff really gets a team fired up.  Coach Paul Johnson was even less tolerant as that concluded the day for young Mr. Moore who has a very strong leg.  However, he will have to figure out a way to keep his kicks inside the field of play before he steps onto the field for another kickoff opportunity with Paul Johnson roaming the sidelines. 

Given that the Jayhawks were coming off a humiliating 6 to 3 loss at home to a lower division FCS team and were being ridiculed throughout the college football world along with Ole Miss, Georgia Tech didn’t need to provide any extra opportunities to help them redeem their shattered image.  This kicking error also sucked the life out of the Yellow Jackets faster than that famous tornado starring Dorothy and Toto.  In about 6 plays a rejuvenated Jayhawk offense began completing passes and found the end zone for the first time this season.  The crowd was roaring and coming to life and all of the energy and momentum suddenly shifted back to Kansas.  Score tied at 7.  Now it goes from bad to worse.

On the kickoff return we have a holding penalty that has us starting on our 8 yard line.  We cannot move the football and the crowd is now roaring like they do at Kansas basketball games.  We punt the ball for a whopping 13 yards!  It went almost straight up into the air and bounced backwards; unforced error # 2.  Now the fired up Jayhawks have great field position on our 40 yard line and they move the ball down to the 2 yard line then throw a pass to the tight end for a 14 to 7 lead.  We go into halftime with a narrow 17 to 14 lead after Joshua ran 4 yards for another score and Scott Blair kicked a short field goal.  But you could see that Kansas and their fans were all fired up just being close to the # 15 team in the country.  You never want to give a team extra possessions, especially when playing on the road, but that is what was transpiring on the prairie in Lawrence.

The defense played okay at times and actually forced some punts and got some quarterback sacks, but their tackling was not very good.  In fact, on a 3 yard out pattern, I think every defender on the field had a chance to tackle the Kansas receiver who ran through every set of arm tackling opportunities 28 yards to the end zone for a touchdown and a 28 to 17 lead heading into the 4th quarter.  It was reminiscent of John Rambo falling through a dozen tree branches before finally hitting the ground in First Blood.  Although Rambo incurred substantially more damage in that maneuver than did the jayhawk receiver.  The only marginally positive outcome of that touchdown was the 15 yard penalty he provided for unsportsmanlike conduct when he dove into the end zone. 

Which brings me to the final kicking error of the day.  A roughing the punter penalty we incurred after forcing Kansas to kick after our defense did a nice job of playing defense in the second half.  While I would commend any player for blocking a punt, with one of the best punt returners in the county on our team in Jarrard Tarrant, it makes more sense to set up for a return and let him use his athletic ability to set us up with good field position.  This killed our momentum and once again fired up the crowd.

So Georgia Tech dropped out of the rankings along with every other ACC team who had even more devastating losses than this one by the Yellow Jackets.  Now we have to get ready for another road game against North Carolina to open the ACC season.  We will find out quickly how this team responds as Paul Johnson has said in the past; good teams don’t lose 2 games in a row.  Go Jackets!

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