Jackets’ response to critics suddenly gives them title shot

Tech linebacker Chaz Cheeks is carried by fans after the win. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Tech freshman linebacker Chaz Cheeks is carried by fans after win. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Few took them seriously at 6-0.

Everybody piled on when they lost two straight.

This is what happens when a sports team operates in a world of around-the-clock analysis and hyper kinetic Tweeters.

Georgia Tech is a good football team, one that, as improbable as it seemed a few days ago, suddenly has a chance to go back to the ACC title game for the second time in three seasons. When Virginia Tech comes to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Nov. 10 – assuming the field and maybe some fans have been resuscitated by then following an unscheduled, late-night Saturday block party — the Yellow Jackets can all but assure themselves of the ACC Coastal Division title with a victory.

There is a pretty good chance they will be home underdogs again.  But if this bunch of 18-to-21-year-olds has proven anything this season, it’s that they seem to operate better after most have already drop-kicked them into third-tier-bowl oblivion.

Tech fans hadn't celebrated like this since winning the ACC title.

Tech fans hadn't celebrated like this since 2009. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

“We’ll probably be an underdog,” said the quarterback, Tevin Washington. “That’s OK. It’s just motivation. I prefer it that way, because when nobody gives you a shot you can go out and prove them wrong.”

About that chip on Paul Johnson’s shoulder: His players appear to have inherited it. Whatever works.

Tevin Washington rushed for 176 yards, a school record for a quarterback. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Tevin Washington rushed for 176 yards, a Georgia Tech record for a quarterback. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

The Jackets had lost consecutive games at Virginia and Miami. They looked lost and Washington looked shaken. The option offense, which Johnson cherishes like offspring, had produced only three touchdowns in the previous 10 quarters. But against previously unbeaten Clemson, the Jackets rambled again, totaling 383 yards rushing, 443 in total offense and four touchdowns.

Tech upset the BCS’s No. 5 team, 31-17, in a game that actually wasn’t even that close. This came a week after the 24-7 loss to Miami. But the Hurricanes followed up that win with a 28-21 loss at home to Virginia on Thursday night.

Don’t try to make sense of it. Your head will hurt.

When it was over, Tech fans celebrated like they hadn’t since winning the ACC championship two years ago. There hadn’t been a scene at Bobby Dodd like it probably since the Jackets upset No. 4 Virginia Tech that same season, when fans tore down a goal post and carried it to the school president’s house.

(Campus officials have learned something since then: They took down the goal posts after Saturday’s game before fans could get to them.)

“I got into [the post-game celebration] a little bit,” Washington said. “But I tried to get off the field — it got a little crazy when the fans rushed the field. It’s a great feeling. Our team had been down in the dumps the last two weeks. So to come back like this and win is great.”

Yes, direction can change again. But the view in the ACC just got significantly better. Virginia (2-2) isn’t likely to run the table (remaining opponents: Maryland, Duke, Florida State, Virginia Tech). The Coastal title probably will come down to the nationally televised game between the Jackets (4-2) and Hokies (4-1) a week from Thursday. Tech’s only other conference game is at Duke. Virginia Tech plays North Carolina and Virginia.

The Jackets’ defense has steadily improved. (Clemson, which had been averaging 42 points in the conference, was held to a field goal in the first half and 17 overall.) But it’s the bounce-back by Washington and the offense that changes everything. He ran for a 176 yards and a touchdown, including carries of 46 and 56. It helped that everybody around him played better, but he looked more in control. The offense had a rhythm again.

Johnson also is learning what buttons to push with this team. Washington said he reminded them during the week that, “Everybody wrote us off.” The Jackets played with an edge that they hadn’t all season.

When it was over, the coach told the assembled media: “Let us finish the season before you do our tombstone.”

They’ve earned that.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

235 comments Add your comment

jjm

October 30th, 2011
3:15 pm

Trey

October 30th, 2011
3:17 pm

HECK YEAH!!!!!!!!!!! Go JACKETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THWG

DawgFannnnn

October 30th, 2011
3:18 pm

Who did you pick to win the GA/FL Game? Huh?

Stinger1

October 30th, 2011
3:20 pm

congrats to the special teams. After all the criticism you’ve recieved over the past few weeks. You seemed to do a good job last night .

Steve

October 30th, 2011
3:22 pm

UGA 35 Nerds 21.

JD

October 30th, 2011
3:25 pm

Hope UGA and Tech only have two losses each when they meet. Won’t mean anything in their respective conferences, but should make for a great game. Both are already bowl eligible so that won’t be in play either.

JD

October 30th, 2011
3:26 pm

Steve, get over yourself. Just take each game as they come. You still have to play Auburn and Kentucky.

OKSEA

October 30th, 2011
3:26 pm

I’m damn proud of GaTech…played with a lot of heart. You could tell from the first quarter the jackets wanted this win more than the tigers.

GTech

October 30th, 2011
3:27 pm

DawgFannnnn – Congrats, you won. Go brag on your own blog post, not this one. Or can you not read the headline? You obviously can’t spell…

Team

October 30th, 2011
3:28 pm

Steve– wait for the game. UGA isnt that good to be predicting a score. Everyone has beaten FLA, TENN, VANDY, OLE Miss, Miss St

Team

October 30th, 2011
3:29 pm

DAWGFANN–who did you pick to win the Clemson/GT game–just what I thought

gtzulu

October 30th, 2011
3:33 pm

Homophone: “seen” -> “scene”

will

October 30th, 2011
3:35 pm

That was the most complete game the Jackets have played all year… They looked like a team that could compete against all comers

GT Rolls!

October 30th, 2011
3:35 pm

Gt will beat VT, Duke and UGA. UGA isn’t good at all, and their combined record against other SEC foes is 1 – 15, which means the teams they have beaten suck! They have New Mexico next week, which is a joke in itself. GT will win out, be 10 -2 and play Clemson in the ACC championship, be 11 -2 and headed to the Orange Bowl. Look out next year, as the Jacket team is very young. THWG!

Ted M

October 30th, 2011
3:37 pm

Why why why did they have to suck against Va & Miami? They didn’t look so good against NC State & Maryland either.

bhamwreck

October 30th, 2011
3:38 pm

UVA score was 24-21 not 28-21.

Ted M

October 30th, 2011
3:38 pm

CPJ has to have them playing like that every week.

Ted M

October 30th, 2011
3:40 pm

Tech is back in the top 25 at #22.

Hayseed Dixie

October 30th, 2011
3:41 pm

The defensive play vs. Clemson was nothing short of stellar.

Bradley said we lacked talent. Jemea Smith, Jeremiah Attoachu and Louis Young beg to differ.

The Real YellowJacket

October 30th, 2011
3:41 pm

Just win baby!

Max Sizemore

October 30th, 2011
3:42 pm

Jemea Thomas is a Beastie Boy.

bhamwreck

October 30th, 2011
3:42 pm

reference was the Miami UVA score – nevermind….confusing sentence though. We need some conciser writing Jeff.

JM

October 30th, 2011
3:58 pm

go jackets! what an awesome game.

Glenn

October 30th, 2011
4:04 pm

UGA fans need to stick to their own blog. Your team has yet to have beaten a team with a winning record. If it’s easy to beat your chests over scraping by a team that’s lost 4 in a row, then do it somewhere it will be appreciated. Our team just beat an undefeated, 5th ranked, team in the Country. Now how did the “Dawgs” do against Boise State?

Jeff Schultz

October 30th, 2011
4:09 pm

Dawgfannn — I picked Florida. Was wrong. I also picked Clemson. Was wrong. But overall, I’ll match my record against your’s, Sparky.

Jeff Schultz

October 30th, 2011
4:10 pm

Bhamwreck — I think you misread that. I was referencing Miami’s 28-21 loss to Virginia, not Tech’s 24-21 loss to Virginia.

Jeff Schultz

October 30th, 2011
4:10 pm

Ted M — Yep: Tech is 22 in AP and 23 in coaches/USA Today.

Jeff Schultz

October 30th, 2011
4:13 pm

Hayseed Dixie — Jackets don’t lack “talent.” People get too hung up on “stars” in recruiting rankings. Overall success is determined by how players develop and how they perform in systems far more than raw speed, etc.

Golden Tornado

October 30th, 2011
4:13 pm

I love to see Orwin Smith run the ball, and Tevin, Jemea, David, Stephen, and half a dozen others have real offensive talent. Concern: Is Stephen Hill hurt?

Jeff Schultz

October 30th, 2011
4:13 pm

Bhamwreck (part II) — Wait, you got confused so it’s my fault? OK, I’ll look at sentence and see if needs to be restructured, Professor.

carolinajacket

October 30th, 2011
4:19 pm

Getting a bit defensive Jeff?

Yellow Fuzz

October 30th, 2011
4:20 pm

How bout THEM

2 star recruits?
gimmick, high school offense?
80 year old Defensive Coordinator?

Looking forward to doing business with the dog nation in 27 days!

Yellow Fuzz

October 30th, 2011
4:23 pm

“Tech upset the BCS’s No. 5 team, 31-17, in a game that actually wasn’t even that close”.

FREAR THE FUZZ

Yellow Fuzz

October 30th, 2011
4:25 pm

Tech upset the BCS’s No. 5 team, 31-17, in a game that actually wasn’t even that close.

TALK ABOUT STEALING THE DOG NATION’S THUNDER! HAHAHAHAHAHA.

The key

October 30th, 2011
4:25 pm

was Washington did not keep 32 times. Team effort.

Yellow Fuzz

October 30th, 2011
4:28 pm

BASED ON THE PREVIOUS GAMES BETWEEN PAUL JOHNSON AND MARK RICHT, I AM CONFIDENT NOVEMBER 26TH WILL BE A BARN BURNER!

Darian

October 30th, 2011
4:28 pm

Hey Jeff don’t answer to some of these idiots. Everybody knows that there is no underdog in GT. They can beat anybody on any given day, that’s why they play the game. Ask the Texas Rangers.

Scrap

October 30th, 2011
4:28 pm

Way to go Jeff………another great story…….You do a really good job…….by the way……….what’s your score on Sack Schultz, Sparky?

bibDawg

October 30th, 2011
4:29 pm

bhamwreck – I read it the same way you did. Really, just bad sentence structure, so Schultze will say we are wrong. I see what he was trying to say……….he just said it poorly. You would think that one who writes for the public would make an effort to communicate as clearly as possible…..which followed that up with…………….

Yellow Fuzz

October 30th, 2011
4:30 pm

I SPEAK FOR MYSELF ONLY WHEN I SAY THAT I WANT TO WIN ANOTHER ACC CONFERENCE AND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BUT IN MY MIND, THERE IS NO GREATER VICTORY THAN ONE THAT IS OVER THE DOGS.

Darian

October 30th, 2011
4:35 pm

Say that yellow fuzz. Say that. Go jackets.

JM

October 30th, 2011
4:35 pm

Did Jeff change that sentence? Because it looks fine to me.

Anyways, GO JACKETS!!!!

Rock you like a HermanCain

October 30th, 2011
4:38 pm

Stephen Hill won’t catch the ball unless he’s got a chance to be on sportscenter. Any chance he can be coached to dive on every catch?

IL Jacket

October 30th, 2011
4:41 pm

Jeff, thanks for the coverage. I know your job is to not be a homer and I appreciate that. Remember, however, don’t feed the trolls. It just encourages them.

IL Jacket

October 30th, 2011
4:44 pm

Yellow Fuzz, got to disagree. Would rather be ACC champion and National champion than a victory over UGA, if that were the only option.

Boobie Bowden

October 30th, 2011
4:48 pm

Message for Richt. God prefers Gold over satanic red. sorry.

superDawg

October 30th, 2011
4:49 pm

schultz don’t get churpy about your record.You have been hexed by THE MAIN MAN and that is a big problem for you.

carolinajacket

October 30th, 2011
4:50 pm

Re: winning the acc or beating UGA. Lets just do both this year. It is still possible.

Not So Fast

October 30th, 2011
4:51 pm

Fla State scored 30 on Clemson, Maryland scored 45 and North Carolina scored 38 so what does that say about their defense… says they were never a #5 team… small redemption for a tek team taken to the woodshed by Virginia

Get ready for a VT beat down and a UGA beat down….

Indy Jacket

October 30th, 2011
4:56 pm

So,when we whip va tech we have basically set a rematch with Clemson.While the win was awesome dont give Clemson any future motivation!! And dont worry about the puppies,let their heads keep swelling and we’ll sting em good when its time next month.