Georgia Tech Football: Jackets Can’t Seem to Play All Four Quarters

Nearing the end of the first half of today’s victory over Georgia Southern, Yellow Jackets fans must’ve believed they were finally witnessing the dominating performance they’d been waiting for amongst Tech’s opening non-conference games.

Too bad this is the 2014 Jackets squad, because they simply cannot seem to play a full four quarters of football.

The first two games were both similar storylines.  Tech stumbled early and often in the first halves both on offense and defense, then exploded in the second.  But this game was the opposite seesaw-esq performance between halves.

Tech dominated this game the entire first half, and even Georgia Southern’s lone touchdown was the result of a missed tackle and then 69-yard TD.  If it hadn’t been for a holding penalty as Tech was driving late in the half, it could have easily been 42-10 at halftime instead of 35-10.

But on the first drive for Georgia Southern in the second half, they controlled the ball and drove down the field and scored a touchdown, eating up almost five minutes.

Sep 13, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Southern Eagles wide receiver Montay Crockett (85) battles with Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Demond Smith (12) during the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia Tech defeated Georgia Southern 42-38. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

One huge play that could have also been the reason this game ended up so close, was the unsportsmanlike conduct call on Georgia Tech’s Paul Davis after the Jackets had forced GSU into a punting situation on a 4th and very long, after a bad snap.

This gave the Eagles a fresh set of downs, and that opened the flood gates. The Eagles followed up that touchdown with three more unanswered, plus a two-point conversion, to make the score 38-35.

Let’s be honest, Georgia Tech’s defense left the door wide-open for the Eagles to get back into this game.  The personal foul at the beginning of the 3rd quarter is only the beginning.

As was the case against Tulane much of last week’s game, the secondary is extremely suspect.

Too often in 3rd down situations was Georgia Southern QB Kevin Ellison (164 yards passing) able to find receivers wide open down the sidelines.  Unacceptable!  This problem can’t seem to be fixed year after year.

Paul Johnson’s offense generally gets undue blame for Yellow Jacket losses.  If the Jackets had lost this game, it very-well could have spelled doom for him.  I can hear it now, “This offense can’t even beat Georgia Southern!  What a joke”.  Of course many of these pundits clearly don’t watch these games.

But for the seventh year now, the Jackets have barely even sniffed mediocrity, much less be in the same galaxy as “elite” on defense.  Pre-Johnson, the Yellow Jackets LIVED by superior defense, as longtime former coordinator Jon Tenuta’s units frequently flat out won games that Chan Gailey and Reggie Ball seemed to always throw away.

Southern had 337 yards of offense against Georgia Tech  in the 2nd half.  Yes, the Tech offense sputter a few drives (helped by penalties, most notably a questionable chop block call), but one cannot expect the offense to score every single time the unit touches the ball.  The spread was 28 points at the half for goodness sake!

We all know GSU is a solid football program, and now in the FBS for that matter, but it is a major concern going into ACC play that the Jackets can’t put away a group of five opponent they dominate during an entire half of play.

What is going to happen in Blacksburg, Chapel Hill, or even worse, Athens?  Since this game was at Bobby Dodd Stadium, maybe it doesn’t even matter where the games are anyway.

There is a very bright spot.  The play of Justin Thomas so far has been outstanding.  Today, he threw for 188 yards and four (yes four!) passing touchdowns, and had a rushing touchdown as well.  It’s already clear that both Deandre Smelter and Darren Waller are NFL-caliber players.

With Justin’s ability to outrun pass rushers and his shifty option skills, having these two targets running down each side of the field is a dangerous combo no team wants to face.  Justin’s huge rushing plays and eventually the go-ahead passing TD with :23 to go prove he has the intangibles that we’ve all been waiting for, and he is indeed a special player.

Sep 13, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas (5) runs past Georgia Southern Eagles defensive end Quaun Daniels (44) during the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Put this together with Tech’s solid stable of A-backs and B-Backs, and it’s crystal clear that the defense will make or break this season, and ultimately, fair or unfair, Paul Johnson’s tenure on The Flats.

The next eight games are absolutely critical for Paul Johnson.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that he either needs to win the ACC Coastal Division and earn a trip to Charlotte, or beat UGA, or both to secure his job.

The offense is not of much concern, thus making these things possible.  But yet again (only in reverse fashion) the team has left fans with a bad taste in their mouths after seemingly forgetting there are more than two quarters of football in the college game.

Maybe this is the best time to face the Hokies, who just suffered an embarrassing loss to East Carolina today, then again maybe it’s not.  It all depends on who you ask.

But I’m guessing that regardless of who VA Tech has or hasn’t beaten, this game is Tech’s biggest one of the season as far as determining their path to Charlotte.  History has told us that repeatedly.

Will the Yellow Jackets defense finally show up to play ALL FOUR quarters?  Or will they tumble down the rabbit hole beginning next Saturday afternoon?

One thing is for sure,  if the team loses any games this year, I think it’s clear by now it wont be because of Justin Thomas.