One of the basic tenets in the punt return game is to never let the football hit the ground. So once Georgia Tech’s punt returner and safety Jerrard Tarrant went out of the game with an undisclosed injury, it would have been acceptable for his replacement to do nothing more than just fair catch the football. When that option proved to be unsuccessful, the next step would be to let the football bounce and just stay away from it. That worked well on another punt, but then the Yellow Jackets decided to give the fair catch another try and that pretty much ended the game with another turnover inside the 10 yard line that Air Force turned into a touchdown.
The defense played a very solid game holding Air Force to a single touchdown despite being called upon to repeatedly take the field after holding the Falcons to a 3 and out then forcing a punt, only to have that result in yet another string of endless turnovers that have just plagued the team throughout the course of this season. They were still able to limit the points by the Air Force despite these punt errors that resulted in 40+ yard deficits on each occasion. Then for good measure as the offense was on a long time consuming drive to open the second half, we fumbled the football at the Air Force 3 yard line instead of scoring a touchdown and a 14 to 6 lead.
Aside from the foregoing special teams errors, the team played hard all afternoon, but the punting errors were too much to overcome as each time Georgia Tech was looking at good field position after holding the Falcons to a 3 and out, they just kept hurting themselves with these unforced turnovers. Unfortunately, these mistakes gave Air Force a shortened field and they did just enough to come away with a victory. Even the last drive of the game by the Yellow Jackets was reminiscent of their entire season when yet another receiver dropped a wide open pass that would have been a huge gain deep into Falcon territory.
So the 2010 football season has now come to a close. Our younger players must learn from these missed opportunities and become better from their experiences. This was a tough loss from the standpoint of the defense actually stepping up and playing a very good game, only to be negated by multiple special team miscues and an untimely fumble inside the 5 yard line as Tech was on a long touchdown drive to open the second half of the game.
It is understandable that all of the naysayers are now out in force with their negative sentiments about the triple option offense and this team, however, the reality is that mistakes on the field have nothing to do with schemes or coaching. It falls on the backs of the players to step up and perform when they have their opportunity on the football field. Today our underclassmen did not take advantage of their moment in the spotlight. As a consequence it will ignite a yearlong monologue that Paul Johnson’s offense is obsolete and once again highlight the shortcomings of his offense as being one dimensional.
So as I prepare for the onslaught of negativity that is certain to follow, the question becomes quite clear; Is every offense now deemed to be obsolete from this point going forward when the performance of their special teams play is unsound, and unforced turnovers and penalties are an affliction all season long? Turnovers and penalties are the responsibility of the players executing the offense and the game plan on the field each and every week.
Our coaching staff is not responsible for receivers dropping wide open passes, or offensive and defensive linemen jumping off sides before the ball is snapped. Nor is it responsible for turnovers inside of the red zone. They put the players in a position to have success and win games this season provided they did their part.
The future success of this team is going to depend on all of the players showing more leadership in order to develop a sense of accountability for these efforts; both good and bad on the gridiron each week going into next season. Is the orchestra leader to blame when the performers don’t bring their instruments with them or is it the fault of Beethoven who wrote the music?
It would be appropriate to blame the coaching staff if they had a player who was on the scout team all season long that was suddenly thrown into a real game without ever taking a practice repetition in the offensive or defensive scheme that was being utilized in the actual game. That never happened this season so the bellyaching about this offense doesn’t work at this level is well past its expiration date.
The accountability of this team is for the players themselves to start to accept and do something about it going forward if they choose to have even a modicum of success next season. The passing component of this offense is just fine provided that people block and footballs are caught! Every offense has their strengths and weaknesses, just as every team has its leaders and followers. At this juncture we need to have all our players step up and become leaders or start looking in the mirror when their coaching staff is bashed every week for their performance on the field.
You don’t lead the country in rushing the season after losing a 1st round receiver to the NFL and your starting B-Back who ran for 1,395 yards in each of the prior 2 seasons unless you are an outstanding coaching staff. You have a poor season because your players were unable to take care of the football and made mental mistakes during the game each and every week. Our staff did their job and put this team in a position to compete and win each week. Now it is up to them to start doing their part. After all, that is why they are on scholarship and playing football at Georgia Tech. Go Jackets!