It wasn’t the prettiest game but let’s give the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets credit for playing hard and earning the right to once again participate in a post season bowl game. At some point this year the Yellow Jackets will finally play a game that doesn’t include self inflicted mistakes in the box score. Once that happens, then we will finally see those results posted on the stadium scoreboard for the first time. In the meantime, we have two more games to see if that is a possibility for this squad.
The game started off reasonably well on the first offensive possession by taking the football all the way down the field for a touchdown on the back of Anthony Allen who was repeatedly pounding the ball into the middle of the Duke defense for positive yardage. Unfortunately, on Anthony’s 30+ yard run into the end zone, there was a downfield block in the back penalty by a wide receiver that negated the score. After bogging down once again in the red zone and having to settle for a field goal and a 3 to 0 lead, I was quickly caught thinking; was this game just going to be another link in the long chain of unforced errors, penalties and mistakes that have riddled Georgia Tech this season on the football field? I hoped not.
So the ensuing kickoff is promptly botched and fumbled forward by the Blue Devil returner as he was running past the 10 yard line and freshman Isaiah Johnson tried to scoop up the bouncing football around the 20. Instead it was knocked backward toward the end zone with a growing mosh pit of Georgia Tech and Duke players frantically trying to recover this football near the goal line. Could this be the break that finally snapped the Yellow Jackets out of their season long slumber on the gridiron and was the beginning of an onslaught of scoring for the day they become bowl eligible? No! Duke recovered the pigskin in the end zone and the entire drama that lasted all of 20 seconds was nothing more than yet again another missed opportunity to start a game off correctly for only the second time all season.
So instead of a 14 to 0 lead just minutes into the game and all of the momentum and crowd support it quickly becomes 3 to 3 after the Blue Devils drive down the field and their Lou Groza candidate kicker hits a 50+ yarder to knot the game in the 1st quarter. On our next offensive possession Tevin Washington runs for a 1st down on a 4th down and 2, then also tacks on an additional 15 yards after a Duke defender hits him late for a personal foul penalty. Tevin throws a nice pass completion to a receiver on the left side who promptly has it knocked out of his hand inside the 15 yard line and a Blue Devil recovers his fumble ending another scoring opportunity. So after leaving 21 points on the field, I’m not feeling very good at this juncture of the game and we are still in the 1st quarter tied at 3 apiece.
Fortunately the Duke offense eventually fumbles away the football in our territory and we are able to recover and end their drive. Anthony Allen is really running with some authority this game and doing an outstanding job from his B-Back position. We are moving the ball between the A and B gaps with Anthony, and now Tevin throws a perfect pass to a wide open David Cone who promptly drops it ending another scoring opportunity and we kick another field goal and are leading 6 to 3. After the kickoff Duke starts moving the football and finally our defense makes a big play as true freshman outside linebacker, Jeremiah Attaochu, breaks through their line and tackles the Blue Devil quarterback for a big loss on a 3rd down and 4 play; finally, a quarterback sack from the defense.
The Yellow Jackets get the football back and are moving until faced with a 4th down and 1. Once again as they are running the play they get flagged for the umpteenth time this season and hit with another 5 yard motion penalty and thwart an opportunity to get another score. After forced to kick the football back to Duke, Georgia Tech is able to hold them and force a punt. Unfortunately, Duke is successful in running a fake punt for a 16 yard gain and a few plays later score a touchdown by their backup quarterback even though he appeared to fumble entering into the end zone. It didn’t matter as the replay booth upheld the touchdown. So after all of the lost scoring opportunities and yet another not so special teams error, we are trailing 10 to 6. The Blue Devils kick another field goal just before the 1st half ended and we go into the locker room behind at the half 13 to 6.
We receive the football to open the 2nd half and drive the football down the field but once again bog down and have to kick a field goal cutting the Duke lead to 13 to 9. I understand that they are getting better and have won some games and played some folks tough this season, but trailing to Duke just doesn’t make the grade. On their next possession the Blue Devils throw the football to a wide open receiver for a 50 yard gain who apparently wasn’t even being covered at all. A safety had to run him down around the 25 yard line to prevent a certain touchdown. Not really sure what happened on that play but it was just another one of those communication errors that are happening way too often this season.
Next play senior cornerback Mario Butler steps right in front of a Duke receiver intercepts the pass and goes 85 yards for a touchdown. Our first big defensive scoring play of the season and what a time for it! While it appeared that Mario was running out of gas inside of the 10 yard line and still being chased by their quarterback, it was necessary for him to dive into the end zone for the score. No penalty was called for excessive celebration. Whew!
We stop Duke on their next possession and now our offense is moving the football on the ground very well with Anthony still running strong up the middle. Tevin runs the option to the left and makes a great pitch to Orwin Smith who is knocked out at the 2 yard line. Next play Tevin takes it in himself for the touchdown and we are now ahead 23 to 13. We kickoff to Duke and they move the ball against our defense through the air and eventually score on 37 yard touchdown pass to a wide open receiver in the middle of the field for a touchdown cutting the lead to 23 to 20. Will we ever be able to put a team away and get some backups into the game?
Our next offensive possession results in an “Oh No” dropped fumble by Tevin at midfield that was very unfortunate given that he has been playing so well at that point since taking over for Joshua a few weeks ago. Duke bogs down on offense then trots out their kicker for an easy 34 yard chip shot field goal. He misses! Now we have some life! The next drive Tevin throws a long pass down the right side to a well covered Stephen Hill. He catches the football and turns on the jets even with his heavily taped knee and takes it 79 yards for a touchdown and a 30 to 20 lead that stood for the rest of the game.
I was so happy that Stephen was able to take this one all the way to the house as he was having such a tough season, and hopefully this will be the confidence booster that he needs to start playing like everyone knows he can at wide receiver for the remainder of the year. Once again this wasn’t a pretty win, but the Yellow Jackets did what they had to do and are now bowl eligible heading into their final regular season game against UGA. Another chapter of clean old fashioned hate awaits next week in Athens, who by the way need to beat Georgia Tech to become bowl eligible themselves or wind up staying home this post season and watching on television. Go Jackets!