If I had to go to a football game — and I’ll say this with all honesty — I’d pick one in which Paul Johnson is coaching. This is not some overnight observation. This comes from a guy who has seen Neyland, Dodd, Blaik, Wade and Lombardi coach, not to mention having sat for hours with Bob Zuppke. You know, the guy who coached Red Grange at Illinois.
Of course, they’re all gone now, so I’m left with the new fella at Georgia Tech, like it or not. I bring this up after an evening of watching him on “white-out night” Thursday — and let me add, that I despise mid-week night football games. This may or may not appeal in the least to the present-day students in the stands.
(Though, did you notice that during the Georgia Tech-Clemson game, a synchronized cheer of “Fight, fight, fight” broke out in the quite intelligent home-team section? That’s old-time Ivy League stuff that you don’t hear any more, drowned out by that dreadful pregame ear-splitting stuff.)
On the subject of coaching, I will surmise that this was not one of Johnson’s scientific highlights. His Yellow Jackets athletes had rumbled along to a 24-0 lead then went into a mental fog.
Sort of the same affliction that struck them in the opening game with Jacksonville State, no powerhouse but bothersome. One of those touchdowns scored against Clemson totally addled a lot of us. We looked up and the place-kicker, Scott Blair, a junior from Calhoun, was actually throwing the football to Demaryius Thomas, better known as “Bay-Bay,” for a touchdown, and looked quite comfortable at it. That gave Tech a lead of 24-0, and that looked rather well-invested.
Johnson’s athletes must have felt the same way, for they began to bumble and bobble about. And — get this — they never scored again until the fourth quarter, by which time Clemson had taken charge, 27-24.
Keep this in mind, since Tommy Bowden took leave last season, the Tigers have re-tooled their coaching staff. An assistant named Dabo Swinney, unfamiliar to most of us, but an Alabama alum, took his place, and surprising to some, was eventually cemented in place. He hired a young and rather promising offensive coordinator named Billy Napier, and it was Napier’s offense that pummeled the Jackets before Johnson could stem the tide, as they say.
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t slick. It was all done by Blair and his field goals. Tech never scored another touchdown. After Napier and his offense took the lead, 27-24, Blair tied the score from 34 yards out, then kicked the deciding field goal from 36 yards in the last minute, and color came back in the faces of all those people dressed in white. The next problem was traffic.
Johnson had thrilled them, but not as planned. On the other hand, the Tiger folk got a thrill of their own. More to come from Dabo Swinney, who admires Mack Brown so openly that he went to Texas and sat at Mack’s feet for hours, learning how to be like Mack Brown. I’d say, he’s off to a good start.
As for Tech, I’d suppose that those kids will be spending more time in the football lab before they get to Miami.