Georgia Tech wins, but this was nothing to celebrate

nesbittTD

Josh Nesbitt had an early 4-yard touchdown run to get Georgia Tech going. Nesbitt ran for two scores and threw for two more, but it turned out to not be such an easy night.

NASHVILLE — When a team has won five straight, launched itself into the BCS bowl picture and generally has left the impression it will skate through the “Nerders Row” portion of its schedule — Virginia, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Duke — it doesn’t expect to have games like this.

Georgia Tech defeated Vanderbilt on Saturday night 56-31.  Looks one-sided. It wasn’t. Nor should it have been this sloppy or this difficult.

Expectations on North Avenue suddenly are meteoric. Maybe the altitude got to be too much.

It’s all still sitting there for the Yellow Jackets, everything they could possibly  have wanted when this season began. A double-digit win total. An ACC championship. A BCS bowl game. A top-10 ranking. A second season under Paul Johnson to reaffirm that the first season under Paul Johnson wasn’t nearly a fluke.

But this game was a not-so-subtle reminder that there’s still the possibility of the bottom falling out. Vanderbilt entered this game with a 2-6 record. Its only victories had come over Western Carolina and Rice — and they don’t really count.

But where was this game at halftime? Tied at 28-28. When the Commodores drove to a field goal on their first possession of the second half, they led 31-28.

How bad should the Jackets feel about that? Bad enough to inch toward the balcony and maybe seek therapy.

In Vandy’s six previous losses, the Commodores totaled 9, 3, 7, 13 (that against Army, and only because of a field goal in overtime), 10 and 10. One of those 10’s came against the Bulldogs. So you need not wonder why Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is as unpopular on The Flats as Willie Martinez is in Athens.

If the Jackets don’t want to concern themselves with impressing poll voters, that’s one thing. But they can’t give up an 80-yard kickoff return or a 62-yard touchdown run, as they did Saturday night, and expect to skate again. They can’t assume any of their remaining opponents will implode the way Vandy did.

Because there’s only one Vandy.

Jonathan Dwyer gave Tech a 35-31 lead late in the third quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run. Then Vanderbilt turned back into Vanderbilt.

On the ensuing possession, running back Jamie Graham fumbled on the Commodores’ 19-yard line. (It was one of three Vandy fumbles.) Two plays later, Dwyer was in the end zone again from 3 yards out and suddenly it was 42-31 after two touchdowns in a span of 40 seconds.

Early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Josh Nesbitt connected with Embry Peeples for an 87-yard score, and the game looked like a rout. But for most of the night, it wasn’t.

It would be overstating things to suggest this was an “escape.” It was more like a reminder.

After a string of impressive conference victories over Florida State, Virginia Tech and Virginia — two of those coming on the road — expectations surrounding this program skyrocketed. The Jackets had the look of  a team that was together and focused, that was following their coach, that seemingly would not be derailed in this home stretch.

Even coach Paul Johnson, while stating he believed Vanderbilt was better than its record indicated, did not anticipate any sort of a letdown. When asked earlier in the week about playing a non-conference game against a lesser opponent, he said: “I think our football team, to be a special one, has to go out and want to win every game. … I’m not worried about [a letdown]. I hope our guys are mature enough to realize that Vanderbilt is a good football team. We’re playing against the SEC. We’re not supposed to be able to compete. It’s a chance for our guys to match up with [an SEC team] again.”

Except that when you think, hear and see Vanderbilt, you don’t think, hear or see SEC. You see a small stadium that’s one-third empty on a campus where football doesn’t matter

It matters again at Tech. When you stumble, everybody notices.

469 comments Add your comment

Kurdt Kobain

October 31st, 2009
11:31 pm

This is the most doomy, pessimistic article I have ever read about a 25 point win. Yes, the first half sucked. Yes, the 2nd half was a rout as it should have been. Wouldn’t call this game a “stumble”.

jabster

October 31st, 2009
11:34 pm

The D needs to quit taking half the ballgame off and play the whole ballgame. Whatever CPJ told them at halftime, they need to take that to heart as soon as toe meets leather for the rest of the season.

stiggywiggy

October 31st, 2009
11:35 pm

Good insightful column. Maybe I should un-cancel my subscription to the AJC, which I canceled after your Limbaugh column (which somehow disappeared).

Tech’s defense sucks, but these days their offense appears unstoppable. What was Mark Bradley smoking last August?

Starring Ted Knight as Judge Smales

October 31st, 2009
11:37 pm

Agree with you Jeff. There was NO EXCUSE for that 1st half effort. Tech should have played the WHOLE GAME the way they played in the 2nd half. It is disappointing to see the defense get torched in the first half on several occasions. However, I am thankful that adjustments are made in the second half, but I would like to see a complete effort in BOTH halves. These efforts give CPJ ammunition to keep the team grounded, but 28 POINTS TO VANDY IN THE FIRST HALF. Totally UNACCEPTABLE, but will take the win.

jacketbacker

October 31st, 2009
11:37 pm

Defense has to play better but the O was fantastic!!…..Bottom line, its a win on the road and we move on……We just scored 56 points on a SEC team that gave up only 14 to USC the week before….Gooooo Jackets!!!!!!

calvin

October 31st, 2009
11:37 pm

Poor Jeff Schultz. His favourite team in Georgia lost
today, so he had to lash out at somebody.

GTJay

October 31st, 2009
11:38 pm

I agree with Kurdt–way to look at the glass as half-empty, Jeff. I certainly wouldn’t call 56 points and 600 total yards (and another domination in time of possession) a “stumble”.

Brock

October 31st, 2009
11:38 pm

Jeff-it wasn’t one sided? Did you see the second half? Have you seen total yards by Tech?(600) Did you see time of posession?

GT Mom

October 31st, 2009
11:38 pm

I think GT is the “Rodney Dangerfield” of college football. Doesn’t seem to matter what they do – they get no respect. I have to watch most games with the sound muted because I can’t stand the one-sided commentators. Only Raycom seems to do a good job of having balanced commentators. But I love watching ‘em – it’s always exciting!

durden

October 31st, 2009
11:39 pm

A tipped pass that just happened to land in a Vandy receiver’s hands and a failed pooch kick returned for a TD by one of the best kick returners in the nation are what kept them in the game. Nesbitt has started to figure out the passing game. It looked as though PJ wanted to give him a chance to practice it even when the score was close, and while it cost them some 3-and-Outs early, it paid off in the end. Thats the kind of confidence he has in this team’s ability to score and hold when it matters.
Yes, the D relies on the O to eat up time, but they seem up to the task. This is a aggressive, ball hungry D that gets itself in trouble sometimes, but they have enough playmakers to win.
If GT’s “sloppy” and “difficult” wins are by 25 points, and they learn this much about themselves in the process, maybe they ARE that good.

TML

October 31st, 2009
11:40 pm

This game was a stumble…for the defense. We cannot play this way and expect to go 11-1. Dook may always be Dook, but they beat Virginia today and have a head of steam right now. And we have to go to Wallace Wade. Not to mention that we still have Wake – who gave Miami all they could handle today – in-between.

Don’t get me wrong. I said we’d go 11-1 5-6 weeks ago and I still believe that we will. But this wasn’t how to get to 8-1. CPJ will say the same. But we ARE there. And with the wailin’ and nashin’ of teeth going on in Athens AND THE AJC NEWSROOM right now, I’ll most definitely take it! :) I just hope the defense gets back to its Virginia-like play…rapidly.

Go Jackets!

Go get “Toe Meets Leather” – Scott Sisson’s game-winning FG against then-#1 Virginia in 1990 – at http://www.stinGTees.com RIGHT NOW!!!

Jackette

October 31st, 2009
11:40 pm

Yes the D needs work and have played better but Dwyer was outstanding as well as Nesbitt and Roddy Jones. One thing that Tech hasn’t had is a week off and they are beginning to look like they need it but it was a good wake up call to prepare for Wake who almost beat Miami. Need the 12th man at home again to support the Jackets and do not know if anyone is noticing but Duke is not the some old Duke. They are currently in 2nd place in Coastal and Jackets could use some support in Durham because if you want this championship, your going to have to fight for it fans included.

GT For You And Me

October 31st, 2009
11:42 pm

Jeff: we all knew this was going to be a let down game… GT made the adjustments at half time. As we all knew they would. That’s the game they needed for a let down…To remind them of what they have to lose with a possible loss to an inferior team. They realized that in the second half. We won,that is the bottom line!

Not Disappointed

October 31st, 2009
11:42 pm

Jeff, sounds like tuff love. I do agree. Sorry I didn’t get to see the first half.

Paul Johnson will get the team focused. He knows how to adjust. Good article Jeff.

Ramblin Wreck!

Andrew

October 31st, 2009
11:43 pm

I’ll take a D that takes the 1st half off and then shuts it down in the 2nd with an offense that drops 600 yards on a SEC team any day of the week. Was it pretty? No. Is it a 25 point victory? Yes. I can only hope hope the Mutts let Logan play the rest of their games.

Mike Lum

October 31st, 2009
11:44 pm

Tech fans can’t think these next three games will be a cakewalk. Like Paul Johnson says, they haven’t won nothing yet. The Vandy win could’ve been more impressive, but it’s hard to get up for every game. Next week Wake will be tough enough. Let’s take them one at a time. Wins don’t have to be impressive, but every big play the defense gives up makes it harder on the offense.

stiggywiggy

October 31st, 2009
11:44 pm

Just a few words to preclude the onslaught of inevitable comments from wound-licking, previously black-hatted dawgies: No need to tell us how bad your SEC representative, Vandy, sucks, and how our win was insignificant. We remember how you celebrated your own win which you pulled out in the 4th quarter in Nashville. And you obviously can’t compare our performance against Mississippi Stae with that of the TRUE SEC “cream-of-the-crop” teams, LSU and Florida. I guess you’ll have to resort to the old default position of muttering crap about nerds and slide rules. Enjoy your slide into Baylorville, dawgies. Wonder how many discared red and black flags are now floating in the Saint John’s River.

Jackets Keep Rollin'

October 31st, 2009
11:47 pm

Jeffy Downer, if the “dawgs” beat anyone 56-31, ran for over 400 yds and passed for another 200 you would declare them BCS champs. When the dawgs beat Vandy it counts as an SEC win…If you keep talking smack about the SEC, make sure you give TECH kudos for beating a team from the so called best conf.

Not a pretty win, but I’ll take it. Defense stepped up 2nd half. They scored off a fluke pass deflection and ran back a kick — whatever.

Has ANYONE score anything near 56 points on them this year?

Mike Lum

October 31st, 2009
11:48 pm

Hey reality check, that was no rout. Don’t know what game you watched. Tech scored 21 points off four Vandy fumbles. Without those, it’s a 4 point game (if my Tech calculus/math is right).

TechFan

October 31st, 2009
11:48 pm

Truthful Jeff. If our D could have played a complete game, I think Tech would have met the expectations people had going into this game.

We need more consistency out of our D and special teams before we start thinking about a top 10 ranking.

Go Jackets!

Kurdt Kobain

October 31st, 2009
11:48 pm

There’s no such thing as an impressive win over Vandy. GT could have won by a hundred and people would have said “Its just Vandy.”

So I’ll the 25 point win and move on. Maybe its not something to celebrate, but its certainly no reason to doubt this team.

Sandyspringsjacket

October 31st, 2009
11:49 pm

Defense is unimportant, the objective is to out score the other guy and squeeze the life out of them like a python with our offense. We just keep doing that we will be OK. I can not wait to squeeze the life out of the barkless leg humpers. Championships are great, but beating the douch bag dawgs is still the greatest of all to a true GT fan!

stiggywiggy

October 31st, 2009
11:49 pm

The funny thing is, even though Jeff Schulz is correct that the defense sucked, it was a rout, nevertheless. If the score and total yards and time of possession, don’t scream ROUT, I don’t know what does.

third quarter fan

October 31st, 2009
11:49 pm

Never was worried.

Starring Paul Johnson as Sheriff Buford Pusser

October 31st, 2009
11:50 pm

When we finally muster a defense that will play strongly the entire 60 minutes, the rest of the nation will be sucking hind tit.

go tech

October 31st, 2009
11:50 pm

Here’s the points Vandy’s vaunted SEC opponents scored against them:
Ole Miss 23
LSU 23
UGA 34
MSU 15
USC 14

And little GT from the ACC?

56 points!! That’s 56 points!

I’d say that’s a pretty good showing vs. the mighty SEC.

This column was written at halftime...

October 31st, 2009
11:50 pm

Jeff, had already made up his mind how this blog was going to be written at halftime, no matter to outcome of the game. Tech made the defensive adjustments and the offense rolled to a 25 piont win…

Kudzu

October 31st, 2009
11:51 pm

Shut Up! Idiot…

Cuz

October 31st, 2009
11:51 pm

Is there any reason to read this column? I just scrolled past.

Joe

October 31st, 2009
11:52 pm

Bottom line…good teams find a way to win. Tech won that is all that counts. Yes the defense was victimized by the option read from the quarterback. Its the same offense that Miss State runs and that gave us fits for a while too…..

Oh and a little reminder the Gators squeaked by last week only to stomp the Dogs these week.

I have pity for the team Tech plays a full 4 quarters against because it will get ugly for the other team. Go Jackets!!!

stiggywiggy

October 31st, 2009
11:54 pm

Give it up, people. It’s a hopeless cause. Trying to convince an SEC elitist-shill that his conference is not the equivalent of Mount Olympus is like trying to convince an aging, declining starlet that no one still looks at her body the way they used to.

Vonn

October 31st, 2009
11:55 pm

I’m just glad I had my big umbrella with me.

Jackets Keep Rollin'

October 31st, 2009
11:55 pm

Hey Mike Lum, did you know fumbles are part the of the game known as “American Football.” And points scored off fumbles actually count towards the final score, and outcome, of the game. Isn’t that a crazy fact. Yes, you should read up on the rules some time.

No extra points for black helmets though.

Jeff Schultz

October 31st, 2009
11:56 pm

Some of you folks are funny, to think I have some pro-Georgia agenda. You should talk to some readers on that campus, who think I’m pro-Tech.

Ross

October 31st, 2009
11:56 pm

Jesus Jeff, you need chill out. Playing at night up there can be an adventure. They annihilated them. Tech is apparently in very good shape physically because they are still jumping around and fresh at the end of every game (other than Miami). “Tech squeaks by Vandy with 7 TDs”. Whew!

-drl

Eddie Elisma

October 31st, 2009
11:56 pm

That D. Thomas has some ups. Almost as much as me, E^2!

CW

October 31st, 2009
11:57 pm

I swear, some of the fans on this blog need to grow up. Schultz didn’t insult your mothers, he said that Tech’s defense didn’t play very well and I happen to agree. The numbers don’t lie! Tech gave up a kick return for a TD and made Vandy’s offense look like a juggernaut on three first half drives.

The offense played great, but the next two weeks are going to be tough. When the D plays so poorly, it ultimately puts pressure on Nesbitt, Dwyer and company to score virtually every drive. So far, they’ve been up to the task, but we’ve got to stop giving up cheap touchdowns.

Kurdt Kobain

October 31st, 2009
11:57 pm

I don’t think you’re pro-GT. I just think you’re overreacting a bit to a shoddy first half, and not giving enough credit for a stellar second half.

Kurdt Kobain

October 31st, 2009
11:57 pm

pro-UGA that is. or pro-GT for that matter.

Ross

October 31st, 2009
11:58 pm

Someone on Bradley’s side suggested the Dogs would come out in the 3rd qtr with silver helmets and red pants. By the time we get them, their wardrobe will be exhausted. They players will complain because they’re all wearing the same dress. Tech will stick with white and gold I imagine.

-drl

Cuz

October 31st, 2009
11:59 pm

Before you Tech fans listen to a lot of krap about it was just Vandy, hear me out. Before today, Vandy had the fifth best defense in the SEC. Yeah they played Army, lost. And some directional school. But they only allowed 1.85 offensive touchdowns per game including the game with UGA. Do not listen to the krap that columnists and a few Dawg fans, okay many, will tell you. You have a dam good team. Keep rolling except for Thanksgiving weekend.

I keep up with SEC stats to see if Willie should be fired at the end of the year. He is toast according to my stats.

truth

November 1st, 2009
12:00 am

shultz off the mark here

Jeff Schultz

November 1st, 2009
12:00 am

“This column was written at halftime…” Hey, I wish. I could’ve taken the second half off.

FYI, 2 second half fumbles in a span of three minutes (late in third, early in fourth) led to 2 Tech touchdowns.

BG

November 1st, 2009
12:00 am

Jeff, you have watched GT games this year, right? Please tell me how this victory was any different from their other ones. Tech pounds away in the first half, without seeming to make a dent. And then the other team just falls flat and Tech runs all over them. Tech WEARS YOU DOWN. This was a good win against Vandy.

Sarge1

November 1st, 2009
12:00 am

Damn, Jeff, I thought Tech won. So now they can’t give up long scoring plays? They can’t get into a “shootout” which BTW they won? What was your point in all ther criticism? It certainly doesn’t dampen miy enjoyment of a nice win for Tech. Jeff, go soak your head in a pooch puddle and kiss CMR’s a** for all those Bulldog fans who, BTW, suffered through a beating administered by Florida.

What?

November 1st, 2009
12:01 am

A win is a win is a win! Was ugly for a while but when Florida or USC puts up 50+ “Oh the best team in the country..” no matter the opponet. At the end of the day it is a win..that is the objective, to win!

Cuz

November 1st, 2009
12:02 am

Dang skippy you are pro-Tech Jeff. You bald headed weasel. From one weasel to another, you smell worse, you Tech lover.

Jeff Schultz

November 1st, 2009
12:02 am

Ross–Pretty funny stuff on Georgia’s unis and helmets.

Kurdt Kobain

November 1st, 2009
12:02 am

When did forcing fumbles become a negative thing? As I recall, the Vandy players didn’t just drop the ball.

Procrastinator

November 1st, 2009
12:02 am

Jeff, maybe you should get a bullet proof vest, these people want to shoot the messenger!