With the season now done, it seemed an appropriate time to look back at the plays the defined what most would consider a disappointing past few months for Georgia Tech’s football team.
During the 2009 ACC championship season there were so many exciting plays to choose from it was hard to whittle down the list.
This year … not so much. It seems most of the big plays went against the Yellow Jackets.
I present to you three plays, that I think best epitomized the season, along with a poll that will allow you to vote on the play of the year.
Trying to defeat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg is never easy. Trying to do so on a cold November night, with a chill so biting you could swear you heard it say “Just thermals, not too smart, are you?”
Nevertheless, Georgia Tech arrived in western Virginia with a lot to play for: the game with the Hokies has turned into one of most anticipated each year. Accusations of illegal blocks made by the Hokies’ players and coaches after Georgia Tech knocked them off their No. 4 perch in 2009 added to the intensity.
Georgia Tech needed a win to keep alive its slim hopes of making it back to the championship game. Joshua Nesbitt needed just a few more yards to become the most prolific rushing quarterback in ACC history.
Nesbitt scored a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and then got the record and another touchdown on a 71-yard run up the middle with less than 5 minutes remaining in the opening period. Lane Stadium was quiet, and it wasn’t because everyone was gobbling down turkey legs.
The Hokies were able to cut the lead to a touchdown on a run by Ryan Williams.
Another threat was snuffed out with an interception in the end zone.
Tech caught another break — it stretches the memory to recall when the Jackets caught two good breaks in one game — when the Hokies fumbled on their next possession. The turnover gave Tech the ball at Virginia Tech’s 47-yard line.
Tech began moving down the field in a way they hadn’t in the season’s first few games. The Jackets were methodical and mean.
And then disaster struck. Two, actually.
Rolling to his left, Nesbitt tried to loft a pass to Anthony Allen in the front of the end zone.
Allen saw Virginia Tech’s Davon Morgan shadowing him.
Morgan cut in front of Nesbitt’s pass, intercepted it at the 1-yard line and sprinted up the sideline. Disaster No. 1.
Nesbitt ran to try to tackle him. Morgan’s knees jackhammered into Nesbitt’s arms as he reached to push him out of bounds. The impact broke Nesbitt’s right forearm. There was no intent. It was simply two players trying to make plays. But it was disaster No. 2.
Of course, David Wilson’s 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the game-winner, but it seems that without the interception and injury that kickoff return likely wouldn’t have mattered.
“If we don’t put the ball on the ground, I don’t know if they ever stop us,” coach Paul Johnson said after Tech’s 42-34 loss to Georgia in Athens.
But they did. Four times, losing three. And if Georgia didn’t put the ball on the ground (four, two lost) this game could still be in overtime because Tech’s defense had no answer for Georgia’s passing offense.
Nevertheless, the Yellow Jackets ran 92 plays (its most since 2000) and totaled 512 yards in offense (411 rushing).
But the fumbles, two inside the 20-yard line, doomed them to another loss to their rivals.
From an earlier blog:
The last fumble occurred when Tevin Washington tried to pitch the ball at the 21-yard line. Linebacker Akeem Dent hit Roddy Jones as the pitch arrived, causing him to lose the ball. Justin Houston scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown to give Georgia a 35-21 lead with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
“It’s a pitch that’s got to be caught. It hit my hands,” said Jones, who carried the ball nine times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Orwin Smith dropped a pitch in the first quarter that Georgia recovered on the 5-yard line. The second occurred when Jones was stripped of the ball inside the 15-yard line in the third quarter. After a scramble, Georgia picked it up on the 36-yard line.
“They did a good job of getting their hands in their and their helmets and poking the ball away,” Jones said. “It’s just the little things like that that got us beat today.”
The touchdown pass
It only seems fair to include a positive moment from the season, even if that moment served as a reminder that something didn’t seem quite right with Tech’s offense.
Tech arrived in Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest in early October perhaps expecting an easy game.
The Demon Deacons weren’t good at defending the run, allowing 175.8 yards per game. They had given up more than 500 in their prevous two games.
They figured something out.
Nesbitt had just 6 yards on 19 carries in the second half. Tech was trailing 17-6.
But Nesbitt wouldn’t quit. He led Tech on two scoring drives only to see Wake Forest take a 20-17 lead on a field goal with 2:21 remaining.
On their next possession, on fourth-and-4, Nesbitt sprinted 16 yards to Wake’s 47-yard line keep Tech’s hope alive.
He hit Jones for 9 yards and followed with another 9-yarder to Stephen Hill. Preston Lyons drove his way for 5 more to set up Tech at Wake’s 24.
Four plays later, Nesbitt rushed for two yards to put Tech at Wake’s 9. He called timeout.
On the next play, Nesbitt dropped back and found Correy Earls on a post pattern.
“I’m still flabbergasted,” said Earls, who entered the game with one catch on the season.
There are so many other plays to choose from:
Which play do you remember most? Share the play and why it sticks out in your mind. How did it epitomize the season?
On Friday, we’ll look at candidates for player of the year.
Oh, and since most of you got smartphones or an e-reader for as a gift, you can follow me on twitter @ajcgatech.
– Doug Roberson, AJC