Hope you all have had a restful holiday and aren’t suffering too much Georgia Tech football withdrawal. I’ve arrived in El Paso and am proud to report I’ve done my share to infuse the local economy with out-of-town cash with to my purchase of an Oral-B toothbrush at Target last night.
Players and coaches also arrived yesterday, presumably with their dental hygiene instruments.
I don’t have a ton today, but I did speak with quarterback Tevin Washington and quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon for a story I plan to write for Wednesday’s paper. I think the most intriguing thing that I learned was that a considerable part of Washington’s passing struggles was due to a habit of looking too much at the pass rush and not enough downfield. Perhaps not surprisingly, he was at times a little impatient in the pocket.
“It’s having a feel for the pocket, being able to see downfield and feeling the pocket and knowing when to cut it loose, when to run,” Bohannon said. “You work on it in practice, but truthfully, you’ve just got to get out there and do it and get a feel for it.”
Washington recognized he has some room to grow in that department. It’s not easy, and it’s one of those things that typically worsens as pass protection breaks down. The more hits a quarterback takes in the pocket, the more antsy and concerned about self-preservation he’s likely to become.
The challenge, Washington said, is “making sure you keep your eyes downfield so you can give yourself a chance to make plays.”
Going into the Sun Bowl, Washington is 63 for 135 (46.7 percent) for 1,515 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had an unbelievably hot start passing. He was 27 for 42 for 821 yards (64.3 percent, 19.5 yards per attempt) with eight touchdowns and one interception. The rest of the way, the numbers were 36 for 93 for 694 yards (38.7 percent, 7.5 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. He had no touchdown passes in the last seven regular-season games, although he ran for 10 in those games.
I think more goes into the numbers than Washington’s play, good and bad – the pass protection, the routes receivers ran, the catchable balls they did or didn’t catch, the score or third-down situations forcing Tech’s hand, etc. – although his focusing on the pass rush is obviously no small element.
And it’s notable that Bohannon, who is typically unsparing and honest in his evaluations of players, said that Washington has “done a tremendous job to get us to this point” and praised his leadership. It bears a reminder that the same guy who didn’t have it against Georgia is also the same guy who ran for 176 yards (a school record for a quarterback) and led the offense to 383 rushing yards against Clemson and who has helped Tech convert 54.9 percent of its third downs, the highest rate in the country.
Said Bohannon, “Sure, you can always look back and always go, ‘Well, if we’d have made this play in this game’ or ‘If he’d have made this throw in this game,’ but it’s part of the position, I think. I’m proud of what he’s done for us this year and I’m proud of where he’s at.”
Speaking with him Monday, Washington seemed very ready and eager to play; I think it’s important to him to finish well and help Tech break the bowl losing streak. He’s a highly team-oriented player with some of the best work habits on the team. To borrow a phrase Al Groh likes to use, the game means a lot to him.
“I don’t really think I had a best game,” he said. “I’ve still got a chance to go out and have my best game Saturday. I’m looking forward to trying to do that.”
The El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau expects about 5,000 out-of-town visitors for the game, the fewest total in years.
A Deseret News story about Utah’s bowl preparation routine.
Salt Lake Tribune story about Utah running back John White, who went from third-string JUCO transfer to being 103 yards shy of the school single-season rushing record. His injury status (ankle) is a little unclear.