It wasn’t pretty but the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets remain undefeated

As with most college football teams that had gaudy offensive numbers during their initial non-conference games, those numbers generally go way down once the regular season conference play begins.  So the Yellow Jackets are following the same reality as are the majority of the BCS teams.  Except for one very important difference; they remain one of only a dozen undefeated teams after six weeks of games including 3 conference encounters.  So while we all would like to see our Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets put a 56 to 0 thumping on every opponent the remainder of the season, at this stage it becomes an endurance contest of just get a win.  Much like Paul Johnson likes to say; as long as we have more points than our opponent at the end of the game.

While Maryland came into this game with a record of 2 and 2, including a 38 to 7 trouncing at home courtesy of the Temple Owls, let’s not forget that they almost came back to defeat a very good West Virginia team, and lest we forget they opened the season on Labor Day with a victory over the Miami Hurricanes.  I know, I know, Miami came into that game with a bunch of suspended players but the Terrapins did what you are supposed to do; win the game.  Given that Maryland beat the Hurricanes and gave the Mountaineers a tough game, they are a very competitive team as Georgia Tech discovered. 

At the moment the Yellow Jackets are going through the part of their ACC schedule against teams that according to the pre-season experts were not expected to challenge for any conference championships.  On a side note, those Demon Deacons from Wake Forest are currently tied with Clemson for the lead in the Atlantic division of the ACC, and we are tied with the Duke Blue Devils for the lead in the Coastal Division.  How ironic that all four of the teams currently tied for first place in the ACC were expected to be nothing but road kill for the pre-season champions; FSU and Va. Tech.  With another critical Coastal Division game coming up this Saturday at UVA, perhaps now this team is starting to realize that they have to keep playing full throttle for the entire 60 minutes.

So while I was sitting in my seat at BDS watching the Yellow Jackets offense, I kept hearing the stadium announcer saying; “tackle by Vellano.”  In fact he was saying it over and over again to the point that I thought the Terps had one heck of of an active linebacker on their team much like All American Luke Kuechly of Boston College.  It turns out that Joe Vellano is a 6′ 2″ 285 DT who was all ACC second team last year.  After the game, I checked and saw that he made “twenty” tackles, including 14 solos for the afternoon.  He was a one man wrecking crew on any play run in either the A or B gap and apparently was not blocked very well by any of the Yellow Jacket interior linemen.

It is rare for an entire defensive line to have anywhere near that many tackles for a whole game.  While the aforementioned Luke Kuechly leads the country in tackles averaging about 15 per game, he is expected to make tackles as the defensive linemen’s job is to keep offensive linemen tied up on the line of scrimmage enabling the linebackers to make the majority of the tackles in either a 4/3 scheme that Maryland uses, or the 3/4 that Georgia Tech employs.  Making this particular performance by Mr. Vellano that much more impressive.  That kid can play some football in the trenches. 

Guess what?  He was a 2 stars player coming out of high school in Albany, New York.  Last season when he was named all ACC second team he had a total of 63 tackles for the entire season, putting even more perspective on his demolition performance yesterday at BDS notching 20 for the day.  He was the main reason the interior running yardage was not very good at all in the game.  So while everyone was obviously amped up to play against those future NFL DT’s that manned the trenches for the North Carolina Tar Heels a few weeks ago, apparently those 310 Lbs. future pros were unable to match the effort of 2 stars Joe Vellano against the triple option offense.

The Outland trophy winner and every other major defensive player of the year award won by Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska a few years ago never had a game where he made 20 tackles and he was a first round selection in the NFL draft.  I am emphasizing this particular performance to highlight a reality of college football; you better come prepared to play your best game every week as anyone can win and anyone can lose a game on any given Saturday.  Rankings don’t matter as the unranked team looks forward to having an opportunity to defeat a highly ranked team as that will be their lone highlight in an otherwise unremarkable season.  Just ask Kansas last year who went 3 and 9 even though they knocked off Georgia Tech when they were ranked # 15 in the country.  By the way the Jayhawks were pasted 70 to 28 by Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Remember the pre-season coronation of FSU as ACC Champions and making it all the way to the BCS National Championship Game this season?  Well the wheels fell of their championship wagon after that loss to Oklahoma in the second week of the season and they have not won a single game since losing to Clemson, and again last Saturday for the second time in four years to Wake Forest.  At the moment the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets go into every game with a bulls eye on their backs and every team, especially the teams that received no pre-season kudos, are gunning to knock them off and make the ESPN highlight show. 

For the moment they are fortunate to win these last two games as the Yellow Jackets have apparently still not gotten the message from Coach Paul Johnson and the rest of the coaching staff that great teams look to become better each week regardless of the opposition.  Perhaps now they will realize how fast the trip will be out of the rankings if they don’t come out each and every week and play with the same attitude displayed by the Wolf pack and the Terrapins.  I want to see one of Georgia Tech’s defensive linemen come out and dominate a game by making 20 tackles in one of these next six games.

As far as the performance in the game, the Al Groh defense has stepped up their play nicely each and every week by coming up with critical stops when they are needed the most.  Considering that the defense was down 3 linebackers going into this contest, I want to congratulate the players who stepped in and played well enough to preserve a win on a day when the GT offensive line was not up to the challenge presented by a non first round NFL DT.  Linebackers Quayshawn Nealy (interception); Chris Crenshaw; and true freshman Nick Menocal (QB sack) all made plays when they were sorely needed to preserve this victory.

So now it’s time for the Yellow Jackets to realize that there are no slam dunks for the ranked teams, only disaster if they fail to come out and play each game from this point on as the most critical game this season.  We will find out this Saturday at UVA if this past week’s performance has shown them that they must retain their focus for 60 minutes or run the risk of defeating themselves much like they did last season at Kansas.  My hunch is; lesson learned and they will come out and explode at UVA as I know CAG has a real warm spot for defeating the Cavs.  Just win!

Comments

  1. JasperJacket says

    Michael:

    I find it very interesting that  fans like to discuss things like  ” I don’t think the kids are committed to being successful. Like CPJ said, they went into cruise control and thought they could get away with it.”

    A couple of comments:

    1. We should all remember that these guys are not playing against chumps from a coaching or player perspective.  Div 1 teams ALL have significantly competent coaches (take note of the $ they are being paid and the fragility of their jobs)
    2. For the most part almost ALL Div 1 teams have the top level of football talent available to them and each team have their  share of talent on their squad. 
    3. Tech players have a ton going on in their lives outside of football and they have to be great time managers to compete at this level week in and out, it’s not easy.
    4. Tech is in the top 15 in the nation and it’s always easier to “get up” for playing top 15 games than it is to play lesser weights.
    5. None of the Tech players ( or realitively few of them) have played on losing teams their whole life, it’s just the nature of things that the best in anything rise to the top, rest assured that they do not like to lose. If they could tollerate losing they would not be wearing the gold & white on Saturday’s ( or Thursday’s).
    6. Committed???  Try going thru the gauntlet that these guys have, theirs is easliy one of the toughest roads to success on the planet every week and keeping their head in the game 100% of the time is not easy nor is it possible in my opinion. If it were then we could all do it.

    Summation:

    These guys do care, they are committed, they put every available ounce of their being in their game every week or they don’t play. So does however their competition.

    We are 6-0.  That’s a perfect record thus far.  Wouldn’t we all love to be perfect all of the time, not possible.  This  team is something we should all be proud of thus far not negative about.  Sure they can do better, we can all do better every day.  You don’t hear the players or coaches complaining about the fan’s not being fully engaged the entire game for every game do we?

    Johnson and staff get paid a lot of $ to insure that their players perform to the best that they can on any given day.  They are earning their paycheck as fas as I can see. We’re on the right track here!

    Good to see that fans are engaged and observant, let’s just keep it all in perspective and appreciate what we do have. It’s certainly a lot better position we are in today than we were 4 years ago this time of year!

    • Michaelgoldfeder says

      Hi Jasper Jacket,

      I remember a few years ago when LSU and Les Miles were winning a string of games in the last minute and the fans were ready to fire him and get somebody new.  Funny thing, they won a national championship and are always in the BCS hunt year in and year out, yet their fan base was always griping that they were under performing on offense and not winning by more than a few points.  The comments I read from a lot of the Yellow Jackets fans is along the lines of; “If we don’t start playing better these tougher teams like; Miami, Clemson, Va Tech, and UGA are going to whip us!”  Well at the moment GT is far ahead of pre-season ACC favorite FSU and I can only imagine the comments the Seminole fans are posting.

      All in all, GT has done exactly what was asked of them each week and that is win the game.  The discussion gets distorted as we are not winning by enough, not scoring every drive, and giving up too many points.  In the grand scheme of what is college football, there are going to be challenges each and every week, and so long as we have more points than the other team, that is what matters.  Sure, I too would like to win every game 63 to 0 and be ahead at the half 30 to 0, but that is just not realistic.  I remember the Oklahoma Sooners the year they lost to Florida in the BCS National Championship game 24 to 14.  For the year they averaged about 60 points a game and were never challenged the entire year.

      Well guess what?  Once they were in a fight for the first time that season, in the National Championship Game no less, they were unprepared as they had become so accustomed to blowing every team out by halftime this was their first real challenge of the season and they lost!  At the moment, the Yellow Jackets have won with offense, won with defense, played and won with backups, and gotten critical stops when needed.  All of which is why I am very comfortable with the progression of this team under CPJ and CAG for the remainder of the season.  While challenges do await, the other squads are going to be challenged too.  But now we know GT fights and does what it has to do to win football games.  That mental edge is very important in success on the football field.

      I say let’s enjoy the success of this team by showing up at BDS and on the road for the remainder of the year as nobody expected anything of this team since the triple option was dead according to all of the know nothings in college football.  We need to fill up BDS and keep it rocking all season long and supprt the Yellow Jackets!  

  2. says

    Hey Mike, I sat through (cringed through) the game as well, and I have to tell you that I don’t think the kids are committed to being successful. Like CPJ said, they went into cruise control and thought they could get away with it.

    Why does it seem like GT football teams are made up of head cases? Why can’t our kids stay focused? Why do they seem to be short sighted and lack the long term vision to be true champions? I don’t keep track of most college football teams, but I cannot say that this sort of mental dysfuction occurs with the top tier teams on a regular basis. The true top teams (of which we currently are not) know what it takes to perform at a championship level. I know its not the coaching – it should be obvious that CPJ knows what it takes. And I get the imptression he beats it into the kids thick skulls on a weekly basis, but they are seemingly not getting the message. This is indicative of last years team, although to a considerably lesser extent. If they don’t get their heads in the game in a big hurry, I fear that we are going to be embarrassed in a couple of weeks! And that would be a shame.

    GO JACKETS! THWG!

    GT Nuke

    • Michaelgoldfeder says

      Hi GT Nuke,

      All I can figure out is that they are looking ahead on the schedule and nobody, especially us should be doing that in football at any level.  I’m really hoping that this last game in particular will put an end to that approach immediately, as nothing can derail a season faster than an unexpected loss.  On the bright side, maybe this was an opportunity for the defense to step up.  Otherwise, if we were still scoring 50+ a game they might not have been playing this way the last 2 games as they have really come through big time when needed for this team.  Let’s get to 7 and 0 at UVA.  After that then I think the focus will be there for the remainder of the season based on the schedule alone.

  3. Anonymous says

    Michael,

    Thanks for taking the time to summarize Saturday’s game.  I agree that every team is looking to knock us off.  As I feared (and mentioned last week),it appeared that the players — not the coaches — were looking beyond Maryland, Virginia, and even Miami to the “hard games”; e.g. Clemson and Virginia Tech.  In fact, once we scored the touchdown on the first posession of the second half, the offense appeared to take their foot of the gas of the Ramblin’ Wreck and go into a coast mode.  In my view, we were lucky to have avoided an upset.

    All-in-all, this game reminded me more of last year’s Jackets (dropped passes, dumb penalties, missed assignments) than this year’s team.  Our guys are really going to have to wake up to avoid a big letdown before the “hard games”.

    OBTW, I am excited to be able to attend three of the next four games — Virginia, Clemson, and Virginia Tech.  Although I know that I’ll be only one of tens of thousands fans in Bobby Dodd versus the Tigers and Hokies, I’m sure you will hear me, my son, and four of his fellow Jackets yelling and singing the fight song in Charlottesville this coming Saturday.

    Go Jackets! 

    • Michaelgoldfeder says

      Hi Jackets Dad,

      Your welcome.  That’s great you’ll be attending the UVA game with several other Yellow Jacket supporters and helping to bring home another ACC victory for Tech.  What I’m seeing so far with the defense is making me feel more comfortable with the team this season as now we don’t have to go into each game having to outscore our opponent in order to win.  The fact we had so many new players step up on defense this week was nice to see for a change.  Tevin put the ball in our receivers hands quite often Saturday and they have to make some plays to help him out as not every pass will be perfect. Just win!

      • Anonymous says

        Michael,

        OBTW — I have started writing again as the isportsweb correspondent for the Washington Capitals — Let’s Go Caps!

        • Michaelgoldfeder says

          Hi Jackets Dad,

          Great to read that you’re still part of the isportsweb team.  I’ll get my stick and skates out of storage this week and look forward to reading your analysis of the Caps.

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