As I walked around BDS for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets game against the “U” on Saturday, I noticed a very large presence of folks clad in Miami orange and green gear getting ready for the game. One was being very disrespectful by pulling off the pickles from his chicken sandwich and dropping them to the pavement near Yellow Jacket alley. I thought that was a good sign given the number of people who quickly trampled on those green pickles on their way into the stadium. After all; it all used to be about the “U.”
Once I get to my seat inside the stadium, a green clad Miami supporter sat down right next to me sporting a baseball hat with Sebastian the Miami mascot emblazoned on the front. I asked him about the duck and he told me he was actually a crane. It turns out that he is neither; Sebastian is in fact an “Ibis”, a local marsh bird that is known to predict hurricanes to other birds and everglades creatures in advance of the event. That should have been my first warning that a disaster was about to ensue on Grant field.
The first two drives for the Miami offense against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defense on Saturday were more reminiscent of a walk through than a competitive football game. What it really exposed is the fact that our defensive down linemen are just not currently able to stand toe to toe with a physical offensive line and make much of a dent. While I understand that Randy Shannon rolled out a very large group of talented players, we should be able to perform much better than that, after all they didn’t have a C.J. Spiller in their backfield.
So the one time that our defensive line fires into a Hurricane, it comes on a 4th down and 4 during a field goal attempt before the football was actually snapped. The 5 yard penalty imposed gives the Canes a first down and a few plays later they put it into the end zone for a touchdown and their lead quickly climbs to 14 to 0 due to another ill timed mental mistake that translates into another big play for our opponent. That has become the trend for the Yellow Jackets this season and it has continued to be very costly.
On our next offensive series Roddy Jones was stripped of the football and the Hurricanes ran it in for a touchdown and a 21 to 0 lead in the 1st quarter. Fortunately the replay booth overturned that call since Roddy’s knee was on the ground before the football was ripped from his grasp. That turnover would have not only been a disaster but probably have turned this football game into a potential rout since at that juncture we had no answer for Miami on either side of the line of scrimmage.
While everyone will complain about the officiating and penalties called throughout a game, jumping off sides and moving before the ball is snapped on offense are as clear cut as they come in the world of mistakes on the gridiron. While the 2 pass interference penalties called against Mario Butler may have been weak, they are judgment calls that cannot be changed by the replay booth. However, the movement penalties and jumping or lining up off sides are well within our control and should not be happening at all, and certainly not at home where crowd noise cannot be blamed as a contributing factor. Once again we hurt ourselves with needless penalties that are the equivalent of unforced errors that are just devastating in the course of a football game.
As disappointing as this loss was on Saturday, there were a few bright spots worth mentioning; Tevin Washington ran the option well and displayed very nice touch on his passes. For a first time start he made good decisions and more importantly managed the offense very well. While not the tackle breaking sledge hammer runner that Joshua is, he displayed good speed and quickness when he turned up field. The Yellow Jackets had their chances to score, but give the Hurricanes two outstanding linebackers; Sean Spence and Colin McCarthy credit for playing some stout defense and making every tackle to keep the option from exploding for a big play. We did run for 300 yards on the ground and another 100 yards through the air, so our offense moved the football against an outstanding defensive team.
The turning point of the game boiled down to 2 plays; 1 on offense and 1 on defense that broke the back of the Yellow Jackets. The first offensive play by Miami after we scored a touchdown in the 2nd half to cut the lead to 14 to 10 was a 79 yard catch and run by Leonard Hankerson that resulted in a touchdown and obliterated any momentum that Georgia Tech had after a nice scoring drive. The other play was an Orwin Smith fumbled pitch on the 6 yard line that looked good for a touchdown had Orwin held onto the football.
The most frustrating aspect about the fumbled pitch that went directly into Orwin’s hands was his immediate reaction afterward, or lack thereof when he failed to quickly fall on the football lying on the ground right near his feet. It appeared that Orwin must have thought that it was an incomplete pass based on his hesitation to go get the football. Given that Orwin Smith is by far our best and most complete A-Back, it was hard to understand what went wrong in that moment of time other than to say he just had a momentary lapse in football judgment on the field.
Unfortunately, it thwarted a touchdown right after the Hankerson score and would have put us right back in the game at 21 to 17. These 2 plays were killers and reflective of the types of mistakes and missed opportunities that have plagued Georgia Tech all season long. We are making plays, but negating most of them with unforced turnovers and needless penalties that are all within our ability to control. Either this changes next week against Duke or this season will be over as going into Athens needing a win to become bowl eligible will be a tough mission to accomplish. By the way, UGA needs to beat us in Clean Old Fashion Hate to get to a bowl game themselves; how ironic!
So now we go into next week’s game against Duke with another chance to become bowl eligible. This will be no easy task as the Blue Devils defeated Navy a few weeks ago 34 to 31, so they obviously have either the Iowa or Miami blueprint on how to stop the triple option. Georgia Tech played hard against Miami, and we did stop them on the goal line late in the game to keep another touchdown off the scoreboard. They continued to play hard now all they need to do is start playing smarter! This losing streak needs to stop next week against Duke! Go Jackets!