Notes: Tech cheerleader’s effort not flagging

The unlikeliest star of the Sun Bowl?

That would be Brendan Espey, the Georgia Tech cheerleader who fought gusting winds to run the gold Tech flag out of the tunnel to lead the team on the field before the game, won by the Yellow Jackets 21-7 over USC on Monday.

Leaning forward and head down, Espey carried the flag into the teeth of winds so strong that they blew him off course and almost knocked him over. He was concerned he wouldn’t make it to the end of the field, but was motivated by pride and self-preservation.

“It was either (keep going) or the team and the (Ramblin’) Wreck is coming right behind me,” said Espey, a senior in his third year on the cheerleading team.

Espey’s adventure was on the broadcast and later made the game highlights on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Espey, a former high school football player and wrestler who can bench press 295 pounds, knew he was in trouble when he thought he had run out to the 50-yard line, only to realize he was still only at the 20.

“I literally felt like I was walking,” said Espey, a business administration major. “I was a little embarrassed because people next to me were barely jogging. I was like, I’m trying, guys, I promise.”

(You can see a clip of it here.)

In the record books: Cornerback Rod Sweeting and nose tackle T.J. Barnes entered the Tech record books by playing in their 54th career games, breaking Rashaad Reid and Scott Blair’s record for most games played in a career. Sweeting and Barnes played in every game they were eligible for, starting with the 2009 season opener against Jacksonville State. Defensive end Izaan Cross played in his 52nd game, tied for fifth most, and made his 41st career start.

If Tech goes to a bowl game and the ACC Championship game next season and safety Jemea Thomas plays in every game next season, he’ll break Sweeting and Barnes’ record by playing in 55 games. Thomas played every game as a freshman in 2009, but redshirted in the 2010 season and has played every game since.

Rare play: Quarterback Vad Lee’s 3-yard touchdown pass to B-back David Sims in the second quarter marked an unusual first. It was the first touchdown pass covering less than 8 yards in coach Paul Johnson’s five seasons.

Tech has scored 119 touchdowns of 9 yards or fewer since the start of the 2008 season. Apart from three 9-yard passes and one 8-yard pass, the rest have been runs. Not surprisingly, Sims said he was surprised when the call came into the huddle. Sims snuck out of the backfield to the left, where Lee found him.

“I wanted the ball, but I didn’t know he was going to call the pass,” Sims said. “It was wide open.”

Defensive numbers: Inside linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days led Tech with 10 tackles, followed by outside linebacker Brandon Watts with nine and Cross with six. Watts also had a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss.

Tech had eight pass breakups, its most in a game under Johnson. Defensive linemen accounted for three of them, including one by Cross that forced a fourth-down incomple pass in the third quarter.

Defensive line coach David Walkosky “has been doing a good job training us and telling us when a ball comes up and you might not necessarily be able to get the sack or rattle (the quarterback), put your hands up and see what happens,” Cross said. “That’s what I did.”

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

82 comments Add your comment

CT_Jacket

January 2nd, 2013
8:06 am

Awesome defensive effort these last six quarters. Hopefully, it will be something to build upon for next season. A bowl win to end the season feels great!

AtWork

January 2nd, 2013
8:06 am

I hope CPJ asked Lane if he regretted not showing up for dinner or not showing up for the game.

Glad to see the Jackets get after it and really shut down the trojans. Something to build on for next year.

Go Jackets!

Guru

January 2nd, 2013
8:24 am

That rod guy sure is intelligent accepting his trophy and using profanity.

Remarkable

January 2nd, 2013
8:25 am

Jackets we root for you in every game except for when you play UGA. Great game!

It is so appropriate for this year...

January 2nd, 2013
8:29 am

…that the most talked about, and probably MVP of the game, is a former HS player who is now a cheerleader at Tech – just great, more fodder for “others” to cast regarding CPJ and his “high school” offense…

Reebok

January 2nd, 2013
8:42 am

The video of that gassed male cheerleader, staggering around and getting high-fived by one of the girls for his effort, was priceless. Nice victory for the Jackets, something to build on…I think we have our Defensive Coordinator.

85jacket

January 2nd, 2013
8:50 am

Cross and Barnes had their best games of the year. Hunt-Days is going to be a great one. Big thanks to the team and Coach Johnson for making the best of a grim situation after the Middle Tenn loss. I think the team and coaching staff gave their all and made the season a memorable one.

Billybuzz

January 2nd, 2013
8:55 am

I really like the way the defense kept driving their legs into the tackle. I have not seen that this year until this game. They stopped a number of runners cold in their tracks. Great job with technique. The selection of the defensive coordinator will be interesting. Kelly has shown a lot of progress with this group.

Alabama Jack

January 2nd, 2013
9:00 am

Thanks guys. Looking forward to next year with great anticipation.

Justpassingthru

January 2nd, 2013
9:06 am

Disgusting display by 2 of our players at the Trophy Presentation.

Full Metal (the Original)

January 2nd, 2013
9:08 am

Great way to end an up and down season! Go Jackets!

GTAE70

January 2nd, 2013
9:25 am

GT used to have a program for athletes that taught them how to interview, meet the public, etc. Please restart the program, it is sorely needed and not just for athletes. We could all use some coaching in how to address our sound-bite society.

NOVAJacket

January 2nd, 2013
9:26 am

Keep on going Justpassingthru – don’t need you!

Flamboyant Sun Bowl

January 2nd, 2013
9:29 am

……. I’m flying a GT flag right now !

GT GRAD

January 2nd, 2013
9:31 am

Congrats to the GT team and coaching staff!

I think Kelly should be the next defensive coordinator.

GT has a solid strong tradition of intelligent, classy and high character players…..the comments and appearance of the two players after the game were both embarrassing and uncharateristic for the GT family/program. The incident should (and I expect will be if I know Coach PJ at all) be used as an example of what NOT to do in the future!

I really look forward to Vad Lee and Justin Thomas at the QB position for the next 3-4 years!

Side note: The roster is full of talented young players who have learned some VERY valuable lessons this season; this bodes well for the GT Football team going forward! We only lose a few seniors this year…………

Tokyo jacket

January 2nd, 2013
9:41 am

@reebok, we may have our DC but who is going to be our recruiting coordinator? I think we will need a pretty big shot in the arm there. I’d like to see Giff Smith as the DC and RC, Kelley as the Assistant Head Coach for defense, and some new staff elsewhere. While our D played outstanding against USC and FSU, let’s not forget that the wind and USC’s motivation were a part of things.

I think Kelley did a great job as DC the last 6 quarters but gave up 42 to UGA, 50 to UNC, and 41 to BYU. Overall, I’d give him a B- for the duration. I’m not sure if that’s enough to annoint him as the answer to our prayers.

A lot of people argue that defense is more about Jimmies and Joes than Xs and Os – if that’s true, Kelley might not necessarily be the right guy.

yeller bug

January 2nd, 2013
9:44 am

Yep, it seems our Stinger was too much for the trojans to contain. They had it coming.

Great win, great start to next year, favorable home schedule….lots of positives to build upon. Now onto B-ball……..

Tokyo jacket

January 2nd, 2013
9:55 am

BTW, what Rod Sweeting said was not inexcusable. He caught himself as he said it…I never heard the T. Anyway, he was gassed and celebrating with his teammates. Learn from it and move on. Not a disgrace, just a minor smudge.

I did like Vern Lundquist’s comment though, “for those of you wondering if we have a 7-second delay, we do not.”

GT fan

January 2nd, 2013
9:55 am

To bad Ken didn’t show up for the live blog….

juvenal

January 2nd, 2013
9:58 am

on the interview thing, all i heard Sweeting say was “shhhhh…..’, can stand alone or begin “shoot”, did not get lundquist’s feeling he needed to apologize, any insites, Ken? felt CPJ’s terseness is welcome for standing out, like he just wants to get back to work, the announcers seemed to get it….seldom listen to games because i try to be there, had a wedding New year’s Eve, groom had it worse, an lsu grad (maybe better he missed it)…..bet Super had a great time……..

Unbiased Sometimes

January 2nd, 2013
10:01 am

I thought the Rod Sweeting trophy interview slip was hilarious and awesome. I’m sure he was just nervous and it slipped out under the pressure of the situation. With that said, PJ should use this as an example of what not to do because if this was a bigger game with more people watching, it would be a much bigger deal.

GT fan

January 2nd, 2013
10:02 am

What exactly was said? I missed the interviews………

Ken Sugiura

January 2nd, 2013
10:13 am

Juvenal – I’ve not known Sweeting to be profane. I’ll say this in his defense. the whole situation – being on-stage minutes after an emotional win, having a TV reporter stick a microphone in his face – was both new to him and probably overwhelming. I can understand a slip of the tongue. that said, a lot of other athletes have been in that situation and not messed up like that, though he’s hardly the first. a mistake, but an innocent one, I think.
I didn’t pay close attention to what Johnson said. It didn’t sound out of the ordinary. For what it’s worth, he gave a lengthy opening statement thanking the Sun Bowl and the city of El Paso in the post-game press conference. I think when he’s prepared to talk, he’s fine. when he’s not, he’s not quite so glib.
GT fan – i confess. I’m a pretty inconsistent live blogger. Something to improve upon in 2013. Thanks for your encouragement.

Yella-Britches

January 2nd, 2013
10:13 am

juvenal heard the same thing I heard…”shhhhh……”

jim 70

January 2nd, 2013
10:17 am

Great Game – and the ACC did well, 4-2, with the four best teams winning.

Defense finally showed up. If they play like that next year, we’ll once again see FSU in Charlotte. Offense with Vad’s passing should make for an exciting season.

Ken, thanks for the great reporting!

damngooddawg!

January 2nd, 2013
10:17 am

I found myself uncomfortably pulling for Tech….I….I’m so ashamed. Not really. Anyway, congrats. It looks like you’ve found your QB.

Coach

January 2nd, 2013
10:18 am

This is what happens when we play defense. We could win a lot of ball games this way. I already feel better going into next year.

GT fan

January 2nd, 2013
10:27 am

Thanks Ken for your reply.. I do enjoy your GT reports,info, etc….Now lets support both Basketball teams as they are damn good.

www

January 2nd, 2013
10:44 am

check out paul johnson in this clip. even he is laughing at/with rod sweeting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhVMEbH6ILo

juvenal

January 2nd, 2013
10:49 am

having learned at Tech how to start & end every sentence with s or f, unlearned by saying shoot, or just “sheesh”(shhhhh),, all i heard & i replayed it…..ok, Joe, we got to give it up, Tevin broke the streak & congrats! am very much looking forward to next season, would keep Kelly for unlearning D being over-cerebral & just going full speed, teams playing from states out of the South are still suprised by how fast we play(still don’t like 3-4), but more so cuz CPJ (finally) using more spread, at 1 point they showed a stat that we had passed 4/10 on third down, & the short TD? priceless!

chas_jacket

January 2nd, 2013
10:57 am

Good defensive effort – the defensive play calling was excellent – we always seemed to have DB’s or linebackers in the right place – unlike earlier in the season. All i heard from Rod was “sheee…” , obviously a slip but clemson’s coach said “fricking” during his post game interview, which is a thinly veiled version of another, much worse curse. A little pr coaching wouldn’t hurt though. It was just great seeing the team so happy. I loved the way the game played out with both the leaving senior qb and next years qb contributing to the win. Great way to go into the off season.

Tommy

January 2nd, 2013
10:57 am

Bring Giff Smith back from Buffalo and make him and Kelly co-defensive coordinators.

William Casey

January 2nd, 2013
11:00 am

People who are complaining about Sweeting’s minor slip have obviously never won a hard fought game. Let’s not be prissy. LOL

Tokyo jacket

January 2nd, 2013
11:12 am

@Tommy, now we’re talking!

juvenal

January 2nd, 2013
11:24 am

btw, Ken, great pun…….

D'OH!

January 2nd, 2013
11:24 am

OH this is way too hysterical!!! Techs sports blog is about a cheerleader waving a flag in windy conditions. Tells you how far this program has fallen.

QC

January 2nd, 2013
11:57 am

Ken, idea for NY resolution: ditch blog posts that center around inane puns or regurgitate interview block quotes. There are very fews places to go for GT news – many are depending on you. ESPN LA has 4 separate articles on SC’s loss and all we have about the big win is “Cheerleader had tough time carrying flag,” “Big punt return was important,” and “GT feels good about finally winning a bowl game.” This is why newspapers are dying…

Tokyo jacket

January 2nd, 2013
12:02 pm

@Ken, thanks for the great job you do bringing us the news on Tech. Are you working on anything for the DC search? We reaaaaaaly want insight on that.

juvenal

January 2nd, 2013
12:10 pm

re 1124: evidently not as far as usc……..

GT Fan

January 2nd, 2013
12:10 pm

Fellas,
Bringing back Giff Smith is easier said than done.

www

January 2nd, 2013
12:39 pm

there are plenty of young guys who can recruit better than giff smith.

find one and bring him on board as a position coach.

kelly seems like he could work as a DC – it’s the recruiting that HAS to improve.

Tokyo jacket

January 2nd, 2013
1:01 pm

Giff is now searching for employment. He worked with CPJ at GSU. He worked on the Tech staff before and for one year under CPJ. He is the only credible recruiter out there that has any ties to GT. Hiring a good coach is always easier said than done.

Right now I don’t think we have and Sammy Watkins, Nuk Hopkins, Bjoern Warner, Bacari Rambo, Giovanni Bernard, or Jonathan Dwyer, Demaryus Thomas, Derrick Morgan, Michael Johnson, Keyaron Fox, and Morgan Burnett type players on our team. Those are the kinds of guys Giff Smith has proven he can bring in. I think the I really has to open up the checkbook on our staff or risk being overrun by a lack of competitive capability.

blazer

January 2nd, 2013
1:02 pm

Hope Lame Kiffen is still feeling the stinger up his!!

Paul Morgan

January 2nd, 2013
1:04 pm

I have followed Georgia Tech for well over 50 years. Living in Southern California, this win was most appreciated by me. Southern Cal. people expected to walk over us. I told everyone you shall receive the sting of the century. Don’t forget, SC had most of the breaks in the game. The officials were lousy and biased towards SC. No excuse for the field goal awarded to SC that was clearly a miss. I now tell SC people to “mouse on”!

George Stein

January 2nd, 2013
1:04 pm

1 4 GT

January 2nd, 2013
1:53 pm

D’OH is a typical butt sniffing, leg humping, stone licking mutt troll. The story of the “windy” flag runner was about how hard it was in that wind. Had he been there in person and laughed at the guy’s struggles just to stay upright, he might (although I doubt it) have understood the commentary about it. The top tip of the flag was at least one (1) foot behind the cheerleader’s head. But the dwag’s (and he is not alone in his ignorance) gotta come on our blog page and show his John Brown hind quarters to the world. He must be really proud of himself.

Supersize that order, mutt

January 2nd, 2013
1:58 pm

Those of you upset about Sweeting’s slip of the tongue (which he caught himself and never really completed) obviously never went to Tech. I entered Tech as a naive, clean-mouthed little kid and before my first visit home my freshman year had started cussing like a sailor. Hell, even CPJ and the woman doing the interview laughed when he did it. What’s the big deal. GET OVER IT !!!

Supersize that order, mutt

January 2nd, 2013
1:59 pm

@ 1 4 GT…….you tell him, bro. Although I think the tip of the flag was more like 6 feet behind his head. I’d like to see anybody on this blog right now do what he had to do. That wind was COLD !!!!!!

Supersize that order, mutt

January 2nd, 2013
2:03 pm

@ George Stein……thanks for that link. Groh says, “Just to say it briefly, this circumstance here was the most unprofessional, divisive and negative environment in which I’ve ever been,” Groh said. “To say more would be unprofessional of myself. It was just a bad cultural match.” Maybe if he could have coached worth a damn, he wouldn’t have felt that way. Good riddance!!!

5150 UOAD

January 2nd, 2013
2:06 pm

Quayshawn Nealy
I just looked on online, we held USC to 205 total yards. Wow, Defense really did do that thing, I give God the glory and credit to our coaches.