A most pivotal game for Tech




The ship had sailed. The credits were rolling. Georgia Tech’s shot at an ACC title was smashed into pieces.

It’s what fans thought. After Clemson overpowered the Yellow Jackets Oct. 6, it’s what players thought, too.

“Three losses back-to-back and some in conference play, and we were just like, Nah, there’s no bouncing back for this season,” inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said. “Let’s just try to go to a bowl game.”

Tech still had a path to win the ACC Coastal Division and claim the conference title, its primary goal for the season. But the Jackets had to be perfect in the conference and also required help in the form of Virginia Tech’s worst season since 1992. That’s all.

“Our team chaplain, Derrick Moore, he does a great job,” quarterback Vad Lee said. “He’d be in the locker room saying, ‘Our goals are still alive,’ even after we’d had all these losses, and everybody’s looking at him like he’s crazy.”

The Hokies collapsed, the Jackets have walked the path and no one is looking askance at the chaplain now. Tech plays Duke Saturday in its final home game of the season with a record of 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the ACC. At the least, a win secures the Jackets bowl eligibility and a share of the Coastal Division title. At best, if Duke beats Miami Nov. 24 or the Hurricanes self-impose a postseason ban as part of sanctions resulting from an NCAA investigation, the Jackets will be in Charlotte Dec. 1 to play for the ACC title – the same Jackets who lost by 21 points at home to Middle Tennessee State, made necessary the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh and incited the more impatient segments of the Tech fan base (and maybe some of the patient ones, too) to call for coach Paul Johnson’s firing.

“We had some inspiring wins, played some tough games, experienced some tough losses, experienced some very uppity moments, some happy moments,” senior defensive Izaan Cross said. “It’s been like this.”

With that, Cross made a wave pattern with his hand. With three wins in the past four games, Tech is cresting. Tech throttled North Carolina last Saturday 68-50, the most points it has scored in any of its 228 ACC games. (It was also the fourth most points Tech had allowed in an ACC game.)

Saturday’s game, senior day for Cross and his 11 classmates, can either continue to lift the Jackets or usher them into descent.

The reality of Tech’s second-half resurgence is that the Jackets’ position is still precarious. Despite having played more than 80 percent of the regular season, Tech couldn’t write the first words of a 2012 synopsis, unless they were “strange season.”

In two weeks’ time, Johnson’s team could be celebrating a stunning rebirth that sends them to the Orange Bowl. Or, in a week, they could be lamenting a squandered season and the end of their 15-game bowl streak.

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot,” said Cross, his Tech career whittled down to its last few games. “A lot at stake on this game, for sure.”

The Blue Devils arrive at the third Saturday of November with similar dissonance. In coach David Cutcliffe’s fifth season, Duke has earned its first bowl bid since 1994, but also has been routed in three of its past four games. The Blue Devils, too, can win the Coastal with their first win over the Jackets since 2003 and a follow-up win over the Hurricanes.

The Blue Devils are an unlikely partner, but it’s fair to call this Tech’s most meaningful game since the 2010 Orange Bowl.

“We’re trying to treat it that way,” Cross said. “I know the coaches, especially the defensive side of the ball, are making a big emphasis on that. Coach Johnson just said, ‘If you can’t get up for this game, then you don’t deserve a heartbeat.’”

In case you missed it…

Tech offense seeking more vs. Duke

The possibilities of a Coastal tie at 4-4

Tech avoids letdown vs. Presbyterian

Notes: NCAA experts say Miami should self-impose

Johnson on Lee, offense, redshirt freshmen

Notes: Washington looking like starter

No chance, after all, for Tech in three-way Coastal tie

Notes: Johnson to again wait on naming starting QB

Bradley: Tech as Coastal champion? Yep, it could happen

Tech season takes another turn

Tech-Georgia gets noon kickoff

Golden, Nealy ACC players of the week

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

78 comments Add your comment

Coach Z

November 16th, 2012
4:22 pm

Coach Z

November 16th, 2012
4:24 pm

Ha ha. The smartphone has proved valuable. Now lets root, root for the Home Team!

A Tall Tale

November 16th, 2012
4:26 pm

Crazy season…but no true Tech fans were calling for Johnson’s head. Maybe some disillusioned, and rich alumni made some ill-timed phone calls, but the rest of the chatter were from UGA fans who don’t know any better. Johnson’s the best coach Tech wants, needs and can support. All Tech fans need to recognize that. We’re not settling for mediocrity, we’re providing a competitive base from which we will grow and excel. When Johnsons tenure is all said and done, he may be the best coach we’ve ever had.

SeanMcGuire

November 16th, 2012
4:30 pm

Second!!!!!!!!!

ctop

November 16th, 2012
4:31 pm

What’s the good word?

SeanMcGuire

November 16th, 2012
4:31 pm

Supersize that order, mutt

November 16th, 2012
5:00 pm

@ A Tall Tale……I agree 100%

GT Joe

November 16th, 2012
5:04 pm

For the record, I was ready to fire CPJ IF he didn’t start Vad vs. UNC. He didn’t start Vad, but did the next best thing, played him 90% of the game. So we’re cool again.

I like CPJ. I like his offense. But sticking with Tevin for so long almost, ALMOST made me ready to write him off.

Thank goodness for the boo birds at Bobby Dodd during the BYU game; CPJ finally heard that the fans were ready for a QB change, and he did it.

Reformed Toady

November 16th, 2012
5:10 pm

I guess you were yelling at home GT Joe.

Jacket Man

November 16th, 2012
5:29 pm

I saw this posted on another site: If Chan Gailey’s teams would have been scoring at the same rates as Paul Johnson’s their record over his tenor as Head Coach would look like the following:

2007: 12-1
2006: 13-0 (and OT with WVU)
2005: 11-1 (and OT with Utah)
2004: 12-0
2003: 11-2
2002: 12-1

The difference is the defense, CCG had Jon Tenuta running his defense and was able to keep lower scoring games than we have now. So it seems to me that if Paul Johnson can just find a decent Defensive Coordinator who can come close to the success to Tentuta, then GA Tech can be a really, really, good team…

Jacket Man

November 16th, 2012
5:31 pm

By the way, my guess is there would have been some seriously high rankings, don’t you, especially in 2006?

tired from all the frustrations of being a yellow jacket

November 16th, 2012
5:33 pm

tech can beat the dawgs-no doubt about it. Must not score too quickly. Dominate time of possession-make several 4th down plays. There is niothing more frustrating than to not have the ball.

Jacket Time

November 16th, 2012
5:40 pm

Ahhh the Tenuta days… Blitz, blitz and blitz. I miss holding teams under 20 pts. Then again it was tuff to score over 20 pts. I remember a certain phenominal receiver we had then too and that well… uh… QB of sorts.

Jacket Time

November 16th, 2012
5:41 pm

Jacket Time

November 16th, 2012
5:43 pm

Feeling pretty confident about us winning this game and well I know we felt this way earlier this season about a couple of games. We know how some of those games turned out. Anybody else nervous?

and GT Joe you crack me up man. Go Tevin and Vad!

crunch time

November 16th, 2012
5:47 pm

Orange Bowl !

Why Not ?

Ramblnwrek

November 16th, 2012
5:59 pm

You know….Tenuta is the DB coach at NCST. So he might jump at the chance to be a DC again…..hmm. Question is would he be a good fit with the rest of the staff?

Jacket Man

November 16th, 2012
6:10 pm

That should have read “tenure”…good grief hate these auto fills…

beezit

November 16th, 2012
6:18 pm

“A most pivotal game for Tech”

Excellent observation….not many people have the gift of discernment…

Delbert D.

November 16th, 2012
6:20 pm

9-5 is not impossible. It needs to be 6-5 with a win tomorrow, though.

Jet

November 16th, 2012
6:22 pm

Man Ken, you spent your allotment of adjectives in this blog.

Addicted

November 16th, 2012
6:31 pm

@GTJoe – I understand where you are coming from, but I think Paul Johnson played the Vad Lee transition perfectly. It was obvious even in the UNC game that Vad Lee is still not where we want our QB to be. So instead of throwing him in the middle and having him fail constantly, thereby destroying his confidence, CPJ, has brought him on by gradually increasing his playing time. This has given him practice, experience, and not hurt his confidence by blaming himself for losses.

I think over the medium to long term this was a great strategy.

Ken Sugiura

November 16th, 2012
6:51 pm

Jet – i did kind of go overboard, huh. kind of excessive. superfluous.

fuzzybee78

November 16th, 2012
6:55 pm

@GT Joe

“Thank goodness for the boo birds at Bobby Dodd during the BYU game; CPJ finally heard that the fans were ready for a QB change, and he did it.”

The only thing CPJ concluded was that there are regrettable some clueless, classless excuses for fans even at GT. Never ever ever ever BOO a college kid. end of discussion!

Supersize that order, mutt

November 16th, 2012
6:57 pm

@ Ken…..well, you’re 40 years old now, you’re catching up with some of the rest of us. Happy Birthday (belated) by the way :)

Buzzzed

November 16th, 2012
7:03 pm

I’m really looking forward to going to this Duke game. Never thought I’d say that.

Unbiased Sometimes

November 16th, 2012
7:08 pm

There is one thing I would like to say about Tevin in the UNC game. He had a fantastic first drive. Do you remember that play where he was about to be sacked and through a great off balance pass over the middle? Despite this drive he was still replaced by Lee. This tells me that PJ has no intentions of keeping him in no matter how well he plays. If this is the case than what is the purpose of starting him at all?

Supersize that order, mutt

November 16th, 2012
7:10 pm

@ Unbiased…..because it’s senior day

Unbiased Sometimes

November 16th, 2012
7:10 pm

Unbiased Sometimes

November 16th, 2012
7:12 pm

Yes, but I was specifically referring to the UNC game.

fuzzybee78

November 16th, 2012
7:29 pm

@Unbiased–
CPJ has said TW is better at reading what the other D is showing on the first series or two in the game.
We are clearly in a transition at QB with Vad. TW comes out after the coaches get a chance to see how the D is playing us and gives the reins to Vad. Been working and like you said TW made a tremendous play to get the ball off to OSmith in the first series.

Jackette

November 16th, 2012
7:39 pm

hey guys, just know if all of this comes to fruition, there are plenty of SEC schools ans others that are coming to entice CPJ to be their next coach. So true GT fans let’s support our coach and team..and GO JACKETS!

I love Jan Kemp

November 16th, 2012
8:44 pm

Happy B-day Ken! You dont look 40 lol. Good job on the 92.9 The Game interview, enjoyed hearing it! Glad to see the new station giving Tech(and you) some air time. Go Jackets! Looking forward to the game!

1 4 GT

November 16th, 2012
9:14 pm

It has been a frustrating, up & down season for sure. For the guys on the team, the coaches & the fans. But I think we all can now see that the guys had this in them all along. The proverbial fly in the ointment was all the complications thrown at the defense. (dislike calling out someone no longer here) We all realize the potential that went up in smoke for want of one 4th down play against VT & one defensive stop against uMiami. FOR WANT OF A NAIL But redemption is upon us. From Ken’s good coverage of the team, it reads as though the team is well aware of what’s at stake. I believe they will come out with fire in their eyes tomorrow. I will be there to cheer them on. Hell, I’m getting pumped now. Bet the Devil outta Duke! GOOOO JACKETS THWGeorgie

btgt69

November 16th, 2012
9:34 pm

I have been going to games since 1966,,, never have booed the players,, never will,,, frustrated hell yes,, but I at least i didn’t go to uga where underachievement and arrests are prevalent both on and off the field

Hayseed Dixie

November 16th, 2012
9:40 pm

I remember South Carolina beating UGA at home.

Those UGA fans stayed there and booed for what seemed like an eternity- throwing stuff on the field.

I had two thoughts:

1. What a classless, entitled, delusional, bratty fan-base. Totally living up to their stereotype.

2. And South Carolina fans who thought they couldn’t possibly enjoy this win any more than they just did…just got the ultimate treat.

Was Richt fired? Anything change? Aw, heck no.

Booing Your Own Team. Making you look like an idiot since, well, the Dawn of Time.

Tokyo jacket

November 16th, 2012
9:51 pm

Really looking forward to the game tomorrow. Can’t wait to watch the Wreckbone tear it up some more.

Ken Sugiura

November 16th, 2012
9:58 pm

thanks for the birthday wishes. you guys are great.
unbiased – tevin was 1 for 2, vad was 2 for 2. i don’t know if it was that simple, but the logic was that you don’t take out a guy who’s just led two touchdown drives totaling 150 yards. johnson said after the game something to the effect that he was waiting for an opportunity to put tevin back in the game, but lee never gave him an opportunity because he kept leading touchdown drives. (mind you, i don’t mean “he was waiting for an opportunity” like he was dying to put tevin back in, as perhaps some may read it, but simply because he’d set it up as a rotation)
if it’s the opposite tomorrow, i’d think tevin would return.

A Dawg from day one!

November 16th, 2012
10:02 pm

Good grief you tech people are hillarious! Three weeks ago you all were on the verge of jumping off a building. Now that you guys have a shot to be in the championship game your convinced pj is e second coming. The fact that tech has a shot to be in that game only proves how pathetic and weak the acc is. Honestly I hope you guys win it, and give pj a big contract extension. And you can make book on this, I don’t care if you win the acc there isn’t a shot in he!! that an SEC school would even have pj’s name run through their mind, and as far as other schools are concerned I think you guys can sleep easy. No one is coming to steal your coach. To be alum’s of what you guys think is one of beat academic schools in the nation (ahem) sorry, but to be so smart you guys have zero common sense. But good luck to you I really do hope you win the acc. THWGT

White&Gold

November 16th, 2012
10:09 pm

“Three weeks ago you all were on the verge of jumping off a building.”

Kinda reminds me of UGA fans that were losing it less than a month ago.

Supersize that order, mutt

November 16th, 2012
10:11 pm

@ A Dwag from day one……I might remind you too that all you creeps were ready to jump off buildings after USC showed how pathetic a team you really are…..AGAIN!! As far as other SEC schools wanting Johnson, I hope they don’t, but Auburn was considering him when Tech hired him. I’m sure some other SEC schools who aren’t on the level of Bama and LSU would love to have him now. And note, I don’t include UGA with Bama and LSU, because you are their weak little sister.

Jacket TIme

November 16th, 2012
10:35 pm

Yes doggie i remember not too long ago a uga team losing to boise state and everyone calling for richt’s head and then making the sec cg and then richt was the best coach ever. Oh then lost to michigan state SEC! SEC! Way to lose to mountain west and big 10. Great job! Any way don’t be jealous that gt is a top ten engineering school in the nation. Academics are what matter most and yes we have you there like or not. Please don’t cry puppy dog.

GTwreckinBee

November 16th, 2012
11:28 pm

so Georgia is going to be sooooo confident in their ability to load the box (and they did a great job of negating the option last year) and then mop up with their secondary… does anyone else see a huge opportunity for us with screen passes / mid-range passing attack to back them outta the box? no way we get much rushing going until we get them fearing the short pass

GTwreckinBee

November 16th, 2012
11:40 pm

…and what if we see Golden taking snaps as A/B back. love Laskey’s heart but don’t seem him overpowering georgia with the straight run up the middle

10 out of 11 supersized

November 16th, 2012
11:55 pm

What does that make you if we are bama and LSU’s weak little sister?? Despite all the flaws and losses you mentioned above we still beat you so why would u talk trash again?

Really pulling for u guys tomorrow and to get into the ACC championship but your ramblings and calling out of our flaws when you can’t even stay on the field with us is getting annoying.

A Dawg from day one!

November 16th, 2012
11:59 pm

Hey not debating the fact that USC e gave us a beat down, that can and will happen to every team in this conference. That one loss to a top ten team is nothing to hang our heads about. We tip our cap and say see ya next year. So the fact that the best slam on Georgia is that one loss to a top ten team doesn’t really bother me. Hang your hat on that if it makes you feel better. You don’t have to hope that no one is coming for pj because just like the rest of the acc and all Dawg fans we want him to have a long, long tenure at the university of ga tech. And all the clever lil jabs at the handle and cracks about academics are soooooo old and played out. Try and come up with something a lil more original and clever, you disappoint me with those weak zingers.

10 out of 11 supersized

November 16th, 2012
11:59 pm

White&Gold how many times have you beaten UGA over the last 11 seasons? I will give u a hint. Subtract 10 from 11, so tell me again why you r trying to talk smack about UGA? Embarrassing.

GTwreckinBee

November 17th, 2012
12:03 am

duuuuuuude….cause it’s a Tech Blog and being aCFB fan means finding the chinks in your foe’s/rivaval’s armor so you can maintain your hope of the almighty rivalry upset! don’t get annoyed if you are on a Tech blog at midnight… in other words…don’t go away mad…just go away….
Really hope you win the SEC though, always pull for the stage of Georgia

GTwreckinBee

November 17th, 2012
12:05 am

above directed at “10 out of 11 supersized”

A Dawg from day one!

November 17th, 2012
12:32 am

I am being honest when I say that I hope tech keeps pj for a long time. And no matter how this season ends up for tech y’all should want a change. I am sorry but you will never be consistantly good with this coach and scheme. You just cannot recruit the kind of players you need to compete in an elite conference running this offense. At least not at the skill positions. I would think that most tech fans would see and understand this. Not here just to bash tech but I read the article and read some of the comments and was shocked at how in the span of three weeks some of you had forgotten the last three years.