This isn’t to suggest that Georgia Tech suddenly is a football program without any hope for the future. But the team that was just dismembered by Miami — it looked no better than the one that was humiliated by Kansas two months ago.
That’s a problem.
Tackling isn’t any better. Blocking isn’t any better. Even the most basic of common-sense football moments — like, dude, the ball is on the ground, so fall on it — seem to leave players looking perplexed, like preschoolers trying to comprehend chemical engineering.
The Jackets lost to Miami at home 35-10 Saturday. Not only are the defending ACC champions not going back to the title game, they may not even go to a bowl game. They haven’t won a game since Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 16 (and we’ll let you decide how much that counts).
This performance was so bad, even the Independence Bowl scout left after the third quarter. How bad do you have to be for the guy from Shreveport to think, “You know, I really don’t need to meet the Georgia Tech coach after the game. I believe I’ll go watch Georgia and Auburn on TV.”
Just as well. Paul Johnson probably would’ve preferred to be somewhere else.
This makes three straight defeats for the Jackets, their longest skid since the end of 2006. Johnson hasn’t lost three straight games since he was in his first season at Navy in 2002. That’s when he lost 10 straight. The good news is: There’s only two games left on the schedule, so that infamous run won’t be matched.
“Nobody likes to lose,” Johnson said. “Trust me, I’m not used to it, either.
“There’s no magic wand. Hell, if I had a magic wand, I’d have used it at halftime. I wouldn’t save it for next week.”
Yeah, about next week: The Jackets (5-5) are still one victory short of being bowl eligible. Don’t presume the Duke game next week is a gimme. Duke scored 89 points in wins over Navy and Virginia in consecutive weeks. Tech’s defense? It just allowed five touchdowns, 507 yards and 24 first downs to a Miami offense that was using its backup quarterback.
So much for progress in the Al Groh defense.
It’s one thing to alibi for an offense that was missing its primary weapon, quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, at kickoff for the first time this season. But that doesn’t explain allowing the Hurricanes to drive 88 yards for touchdowns on each of their first two possessions.
It doesn’t explain Miami’s second possession, when a silly pass-interference penalty on third down kept a drive going and an offside penalty on a field-goal attempt gave the Hurricanes a first down at the Tech. Miami scored its second touchdown two plays later.
It doesn’t explain running back Orwin Smith fumbling a pitch in the third quarter, then standing there and looking at the ball, as if waiting for it to magically become airborne and float back down into his arms. (Miami recovered and drove to its fourth touchdown on the next possession to make it 28-10.)
When Tech tried to make a run, driving to a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half to close to 14-10, Miami answered in one play: a 79-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson (a busted coverage on a short toss over the middle).
Yes, the Jackets had built-in excuses for taking a step back this season. They lost four players to the NFL draft. But to lose to Kansas, to get dominated by an average Miami team — which lost to Virginia two weeks ago — and to suddenly have to scramble to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 1996 wasn’t expected.
“This really hurts, especially being a senior,” said cornerback Mario Butler, who drew the pass-interference call. “Time’s really winding down. … We had higher expectations.”
Johnson struggled to play the role of optimist: “We’ve still got a chance to salvage a winning season.”
But when a team is making the same mistakes in November that it was in September, it becomes clear that the light bulb just isn’t going on.