The second time is a charm for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Sun Bowl

It goes without saying if you really don’t want to be someplace; then don’t go.  Playing in a bowl game has always been a reward for any college football team and once the players from USC started going onto their social networking sites and making derogatory remarks about the Sun Bowl host city; El Paso, that set the tone for this game.  You would have thought given that they were unable to even go to a bowl game the past two years due to an NCAA ban that they would have been excited to be playing anywhere; apparently not.

I have no doubt that Georgia Tech wanted to be in this bowl game as they took the necessary steps to obtain a waiver from the NCAA just as UCLA did last season after losing their Conference Championship game to fall below .500.  There was lots of discussion about even going through that effort, and perhaps being better off just sitting out this post season to avoid another losing effort in a bowl game.

Attitude is always a variable that coaches try to create as part of their job in motivating their team.  In this case a few USC players came right out and said what they thought, and no doubt Lane Kiffin tried his best to put the genie back in the bottle but it was all for naught.  To all my friends who are USC fans and alumni, even they would have to admit that the Trojans just tend to mail it in when they are not playing for a National Championship or in the Rose Bowl.  The Las Vegas Bowl loss against Utah was an example in Pete Carroll’s first season, or the inaugural Freedom Bowl Game several years earlier against Fresno State also comes to mind.  Heck, even the last time they played in the Sun Bowl TCU used that game as a springboard for their recent football successes.

Heading into this Sun Bowl game the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were heavy underdogs and rightfully so after getting pummeled by those dreaded dawgs in COFH, then losing a very tough ACC Championship Game to FSU 21 to 15.  The media was predicting another rout against USC to finish off this trilogy with a three game losing streak and even more appalling a final losing record of 6 and 8 for the year.

Well just as everyone was predicting in the pre-season a BCS National Championship for the USC Trojans even before they were able to bolster their running back position adding a thousand rusher by poaching Silas Redd from Penn State who opted to transfer immediately after the sanctions imposed on the Nittny Lions by the NCAA, now even more pieces were all in place to fulfill that proclamation.  But as with all predictions, they are built on a foundation of sand and ultimately fall by the wayside as the regular season begins to play out with an assortment of unexpected wins and losses throughout the college football landscape.

So with all of the potential opponents the Yellow Jackets could have faced, they had the misfortune to draw the pre-season consensus No. 1 ranked Trojans in the Sun Bowl as their opponent and everyone was expecting another bowl loss.  Only this one bordering on humiliating given the talent from top to bottom on the USC roster who regularly sign the premier recruiting classes in the nation every year or at least since the recruiting services began tracking these matters.

Throw in the fact that the GT high school offense can be stymied when teams have several weeks to prepare for it and the expected rout was on other than the actual final tally, and that’s even before the USC offense is added to the equation with their NFL passing scheme and Biletnikoff award winner at WR; Marquis Lee, and a certain first round NFL pick Robert Woods at the other WR.

So with all of those realities embedded before the opening kickoff the real question was; why even play the game?  Because that’s what the Sun Bowl Committee was expecting, as well as the 48,000+ in the stands.  One would have thought the folks in the stands might have been better off walking across the border into Juarez’ and watching a bullfight that at least on paper would have been more competitive than what they were about to witness in El Paso.  Perhaps they even serve margaritas at the south of the border stadiums for those four legged events?

When the game started off with the Yellow Jackets offense sputtering on their first two offensive possessions, USC started their second possession with great field position after a shanked punt gave them the ball at the GT forty-one yard line.  Surprisingly the Yellow Jackets defense held them to a field goal attempt that was clearly wide left of the cross bar.  But the field judge called it good all the while the USC field goal team walked off the field downtrodden after the missed effort.  Good thing instant replay is now a part of the fabric of these games or Paul Johnson might have been ejected arguing over that monumental error.

My thoughts heading into this contest was in order to have a chance to win the offensive line would have to open up some running lanes for the B-Backs to gain at least 120 yards.  Well they paved the way for 159 by David Sims and Zach Laskey as they did not get stopped for a loss of yardage all game.  After closing out a scoreless first quarter as both defenses were playing well, the Yellow Jackets went on a 14 play 74 yard drive with Vad Lee at QB and he threw a very nice three yard pass to B-Back David Sims for a 7 to 0 lead.

Then after the defense forced the Trojans to punt for the third time in the first half, the momentum was swinging in the favor of GT.  Unfortunately Vad Lee threw an interception on his next possession.  A few plays later Rod Sweeting returned the favor by picking off a pass from the Trojans QB and returning it to the Yellow Jackets 46 yard line.  After moving the ball successfully on the ground to the Trojans 36 yard line, the next play Vad Lee was grabbed from behind on an option play and fumbled the football right back to them.  USC scored in eight plays on a swing pass to Silas Redd coming out of the backfield for a nine yard TD to tie up the game heading into the half.

After kicking off to the Trojans to start the second half the defense held yet again forcing their fourth punt of the day.  Jamal Golden fielded it on one bounce and took it all the way back to the one yard line.  Tevin Washington scored on a keeper a few plays later and the lead was now 14 to 7.  But the play of the Yellow Jackets defense was nothing short of fantastic.  They were hitting, knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage, not letting anyone break a tackle, and forcing USC to drive the football by eliminating any big plays from their receivers.

The Georgia Tech defense continued to keep the Trojans off balance and after holding them on a fourth down took over at their own 38 yard line and proceeded to drive the ball 62 yards in nine plays to take the lead at 21 to 7.  More impressive was the seventeen yard touchdown pass thrown by Tevin to Orwin Smith who shook off a tackle at the four yard line to complete the score.  The defense continued their stellar play the rest of the game and intercepted their third pass of the day to keep the Trojans out of the end zone to end the game.

The entire Yellow Jackets bench was energized all game long and it was obvious they were not going to let this one slip away like they did last year in OT.  The defense held USC to their lowest point total of the season; seven, and they only gained 205 yards the entire game; another season low for the Trojans.  Kudos to the entire defensive team and Coach Kelly who along with his staff put together a great game plan to shut down the USC high powered attack.  Then being able to execute it after losing their best player in the first quarter when outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu had to leave the game with a left arm injury makes it even more impressive.

Georgia Tech heads into the off season with lots of momentum with this bowl win to break their seven year losing streak.  This win also goes a long way in taking away the tired old argument about being able to stop this high school offense with enough time to prepare for it as the Yellow Jackets ran for 294 yards and threw for another 75 with two touchdowns.

The real benefit that this squad should take away from this victory is the fact that it was not only a total team effort, but more importantly goes a long way in reinforcing the old coaching adage that; hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.  That was more impressive considering the talent disparity on paper between these two schools according to all of the recruiting experts.  The Yellow Jackets have plenty of talent, just not the five stars variety.

I just want to thank all of the departing seniors on this team for their collective contributions the past several seasons in building what will be a very good program moving forward in the ACC provided they; keep working hard!  Go Jackets!




  • Mike

    Hi Jasper Jacket,

    Happy New Year and welcome back. Actually I’m still enjoying the Sun Bowl win and just taking in all of the recent events with the staff and the recruiting is really turning into a mosh pit. I just put together an article that I’m proofing and will post later this evening as just as you said; the day job is quite demanding. I might be gone but not for long. I’ll be addressing many if not all of your comments in the next couple of articles. As always, thank you for the kind words.

  • Jasper Jacket

    BTW just reviewed my notes and saw multiple spelling errors! Oh well sorry about that!

  • Jasper Jacket


    I hope your silence on this web site recently does not reflect your frustration with what has transpired at GT since the season’s close causing your silence. Hopefully you have just been covered up at your day job! I miss your insights and enthusiasm for GT@ Keep em comming!

    Although Coach Kelly did not get the DC job and moved on to FSU IMO the return of Ted Roof will pay very big dividends for GT in the furture. Ted is a vey strong recruiter and I believe a very major addition to Johnson’s staff. We’ll see. As we discussed on this site during the 2012 year, Offense at GT was not the issue, stopping people was the issue. I am still not convinced that the talent you speak of at GT on the D side of the ball is all that strong and that there is a ton of work to be done there getting stronger D players in here. Again we’ll see won’t we?

    On another note the run up to Signing Day is once again getting very interesting what with SEC schools pounding away once again to flip GT recruits, even the guys iun Athens are getting into the frenzy to get GT commits away from us. Tells me that the recruiting process at GT is healthy and in fact a number of the kids we wnet after this year and got coimmits from are very strong athletes, well beyond the rating they get on the pay for info web sites that so many fans worship these days.

    Here’s hoping that this week works out well for the Jackets on the recruiting trail and those that committed keep those commitments and join the GT family. They will be very happing for the most part if they do. There will always be those that have last minute changes of heart and go in an alternative direction, that’s fine, I wish all those that do success where ever they choose to go to school. Hopefully they focus and get their degree’s and move on in life. They will miss a chance to get an outstanding education, one that stays with them for the balabnce of their lives and pays dividends to them for all their employed days and even beyond but that’s their choice.

    Hope to see your comments soon again! Go Jackets!

  • GT Nuke

    Hey Mike, good write up. I am amazed at how we decided to play in the Sun bowl. The kids got tired of the talk and the trash and the doubters, they played with a chip on their shoulder, and out performed a superior team, especially the defense! WOW!
    I was admitedly dissapointed at the several poor behavior penalties in the series near the end of the game. What is going on there! We are supposed to be better than that!
    Is Coach Kelly the real deal or did USCw just phone it in, or was it a little of both. The chatter on the GT blogs is that 6 quarters does not make a defensive coordinator. But then again, there was a marked improvement in the last 6 games, and our competition was better in those games, so maybe we have more than 6 quarters of trending to judge Kelly by? What do you think?
    I am certainly glad we broke that miserable loosing streak! I hope this is the beginning of good things to come! I’m really looking forward to next year now.

    • Mike

      Hi GT Nuke,

      I have to say two of those three personal foul penalties were flat out bogus, other than TJ Barnes late hit on the QB, and I can live with that one. The other two were utter jokes.

      The situation with DC Coach Kelly is going to be difficult for Paul Johnson to resolve. In my opinion the bottom line is he had the defense prepared, tackling great, and in position all game long. That goes a long way in earning the job in my mind. The kids want to play hard for him, but more importantly; THEY DID!

      At this point he is a known commodity and after that effort fully deserves the job. Taking into consideration all of the chaos that he inherited after Groh was fired, frankly nobody saw this coming to end the season. He out schemed a very sophisticated NFL West Coast passing offense loaded with talent and shut them down.

      I was impressed as it shows clearly he met and exceeded the expectations of Paul Johnson who wanted to simplify and let the kids play fast. There is plenty of talent on that side of the football and it will get better next year with the redshirt freshman on the DL.

      A heard an expression a while ago that holds true for Coach Kelly; The best soup is homemade. Everybody needs that first opportunity and CCK performed well beyond measure in both the second half of the ACC Championship Game and Sun Bowl. He should be the Yellow Jackets DC for next season as he grew into the job and performed well under pressure.

      If Wally Pip never was injured for the New York Yankees, there never would have been an opportunity for a player who achieved some fame; Lou Gehrig. Coach Kelly made the most of his opportunity and frankly deserves the job based on what’s most important; On field performance!