Georgia Tech Football: Jackets Again Start Sluggish, Finish Strong


For whatever reason, Georgia Tech has started off sluggish in the first halves of games only to come out and play lights outs in the second half.

It was the first play from scrimmage for the Georgia Tech offense.  Justin Thomas, coming off of an impressive performance against Wofford in the season opener, fumbles and sets up Tulane inside the Tech 10 yard line.

Tulane would then score on a 12-yard pass from Tanner Lee to Justin Shackleford.  Things didn’t seem to get much better in the first half of play.

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Later on the third possession, another fumble on a failed pitch set Tulane up deep into Tech territory again.

This time, however, Tulane missed a field goal.  As frustrating as these fumbles were, the Jackets running game looked very strong throughout the game, even in the first half (when they didn’t fumble the ball away of course).

Justin Thomas was only 3 of 8 for 15 yards passing, but as most Tech fans have come to expect with Paul Johnson’s offense, those kinds of numbers are usually a good sign the running game is near-flawless, and it was.

The Jackets pretty much ran at will, and multiple players joined the party Saturday afternoon. Five Tech rushers averaged 7+ yard per carry.

Senior B-Back Zach Laskey led the way with 86 yards on 12 attempts.  Thomas was the team’s 2nd leading rusher with 70 yards, and Tony Zenon had a solid day with 62 yards on his emotional homecoming to the New Orleans area, as he relocated to Atlanta after hurricane Katrina in 2005.

As I mentioned in an article last week, the Tech defense was the unit that had the most to prove this game.

The first half left a lot to be desired, with the defense allowing a 65-yard touchdown pass. Probably the most concerning aspect was the 75-yard drive the defense allowed late in the first quarter.

It was also mentioned in that article last week that Tech’s defense should dominate this game (I also gazed into the crystal ball preparing you for the blocked punt!), and by this point there was a feeling the defense was going to be a big problem, not only in this game, but the rest of the year as the team enters ACC play.

Sep 6, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Quayshawn Nealy (54) returns a interception for a touchdown against the Tulane Green Wave during the first half of a game at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It was clear though, the defense came out in the second half ready to play, and shut out the Green Wave the rest of the way.

Clearly the halftime adjustments were executed by Ted Roof, although three interceptions by Tulane QB Tanner Lee surely helped.

But Tech’s defensive line appears strong against the run, and did finally develop somewhat of an effective gameplan against the passing game into the second half.

Quayshawn Nealy shined, including a defensive touchdown off an interception, and he clearly stood out as a superior talent on the field the entire game.

Next week is Georgia Southern.  The Jackets haven’t yet came out of the tunnel this season showing much pizzazz.

Yes, the second half performances have been solid and deserves accolades, but the team has one more week against lower competition to fine-tune and show a true, solid identity.

Tech is indeed 2-0, but before traveling to Blacksburg (a game that now looks much more daunting), it would be nice to see a dominating performance in all phases of the game and for all four quarters to set the fans’ minds at ease.  The caliber of play in the first halves of these first two games will likely dig the Jackets a hole they cannot crawl out of against most ACC teams.