Quayshawn Nealy is learning football from Georgia Tech interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. Nealy, an inside linebacker, is getting extra credit in golf.
Following Tech’s 33-13 win over Maryland Saturday, Nealy explained how Kelly had tried to frame the Yellow Jackets’ remaining games by likening the team to a golfer playing Amen Corner at the Masters. Starting with Maryland, Tech’s final three ACC games against the Terrapins, North Carolina and Duke were like holes No. 11, 12 and 13, the treacherous string of holes that often separate the winners from the losers.
Kelly compared the holes to “these three games, because they’re all conference (games) and those are the most important during (the Masters),” Nealy said. “That’s what I was getting from it.”
And that was about all.
Said Nealy, “Some of us guys, we don’t know golf terminology.”
A comparison of Maryland, ranked No. 111 in the Sagarin ratings, to one of the toughest holes in the most famous golf tournament in the world may be about the best compliment the Terrapins receive all year. Regardless, the Jackets, who at 4-5 are trying to make a bowl game and finish with a winning record, are in a defining stretch of their schedule.
So, the Jackets birdied Maryland. Up comes North Carolina, and let’s just say No. 12 plays more severely than No. 11. The Tar Heels are 6-3, rank No. 16 in total offense and scoring offense and No. 19 in rushing defense. Running back Giovani Bernard is fifth in the country in rushing yards and has a startling 7.4 yards-per-carry average.
Further, North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner is healthy, as are his three backups, the same of which could not be said for Maryland.
The Tar Heels are also coming off their bye week and will be at home. Tech will learn far more about its mettle and capability Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., than it did through its pounding of the Terrapins. Sunday, ESPN set the kickoff time for 12:30 p.m. for broadcast on the ACC Network, which includes CW 69 in Atlanta.
Beyond bowl eligibility, Tech may find additional incentive in a goal once thought all but lost – the ACC Coastal Division title. After the weekend, Tech is tied with Duke for third in the Coastal at 3-3, behind Miami (4-2) and North Carolina (3-2). Virginia Tech is fifth at 2-3. The Tar Heels are ineligible to win the division as part of their NCAA sanctions. Florida State plays Virginia Tech Thursday night in Blacksburg, Va. If the Seminoles deal the Hokies a fourth conference loss, then Virginia Tech’s tiebreaker win over the Jackets, at least for the moment, will be rendered moot.
Further, news broke late last week that Miami may take itself out of the division race. The school is under NCAA investigation, and officials are considering a self-imposed bowl ban for a second consecutive year. Such a ban would disqualify the Hurricanes from representing the Coastal in the ACC championship game. Should that occur – the school won’t make an announcement until the team becomes bowl-eligible with a sixth win – Tech would go to Charlotte with wins over North Carolina and Duke and a fourth loss by the Hokies.
It would be a remarkable, if diluted, achievement for the Jackets. But to even consider it, they’ve got a par-3 to tame first.
“We haven’t even heard anything about that ,” Nealy said of Miami’s possible bowl ban. “We’re looking at one game at a time.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog