Georgia Tech drilled, problems start with Al Groh’s defense

A common scene: A Bulldog (Chris Conley) scoring and a Jacket (Rod Sweeting) watching. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Common scene: UGA (Chris Conley) scoring, Tech (Rod Sweeting) watching. (Brant Sanderlin)

When a team looks flat, lost and beat up and loses 31-17 to its chief rival — and it really wasn’t even that close — generally no player or area is immune to criticism.

Physically, Georgia Tech got hammered Saturday by Georgia. There were mental lapses. Emotionally, the Jackets seemed to lack a pulse on their home field against the only opponent that usually defines their season — which probably is the greatest indictment of all, considering the 364 days of buildup on a campus where the rallying cry is, “To hell with Georgia.”

“You have to play with everything you have. We didn’t,” linebacker Steven Sylvester said.

How does that happen? Were they saving it for the Sun Bowl?

But Tech’s biggest problem Saturday against Georgia was no different than what its biggest problem has been for four years under coach Paul Johnson. Their defense stinks. They can’t stop anybody or intimidate anybody. Two many games come down to pinball games.

Bad defense got Dave Wommack fired after two seasons. Bad defense under Al Groh should leave his future uncertain at the end of a two-year contract. Groh hasn’t said definitively that he wants to come back, but the question Johnson needs to ask himself is: Do I want him back?

This is no minor issue. Johnson has won 34 games in four seasons. The Jackets’ 8-4 record this season going into their bowl finale certainly is not worse than most projected at the outset of this season, and it’s probably better. But when you have a defense that ranks 43rd in yardage, 56th in points allowed and 89th in third-down conversion, you’re not going anywhere.

Georgia is good, very good. The Dogs have better players and are as hot as any team in the country, save LSU (next week’s opponent in the SEC championship). But when the Bulldogs accumulated 254 yards on their first four possessions, this game was over. Georgia didn’t even punt until its sixth possession. By then, it was 24-10.

Johnson’s view of his defense’s inability to stop the Dogs: It’s deflating. I think it deflates the whole team.”

The option offense isn’t built to play from behind. Neither is quarterback Tevin Washington. When the Jackets tried to open it up, Washington was intercepted twice on Tech’s first three possessions in the second half.

But remember where the problems started.

Georgia’s superiority on the field shouldn’t discount that Groh’s 3-4 defense got worse late in the season and has failed in the big picture. Tech is no better off on defense today than it was when they fired the last guy. Nationally, under Wommack the Jackets finished 28th (2008) and 54th (2009) in total defense. They were 64th in Groh’s first season and went into this week 43rd. Scoring defense in the past four seasons: 20th and 38th, respectively, under Wommack; 37th and 56th (entering the week) under Groh.

Progress?

Johnson is an offensive-oriented coach. When he goes consecutive series without a touchdown, he goes postal, but even he recognizes the importance of having some semblance of a defense, or he wouldn’t have made a change two years ago.

Groh wasn’t made available for comment Saturday. Just as well. He might need some time to figure out how to spin this one. There was an expected transition period with the switch to the 3-4 defense last year, but it’s not any better now. The Jackets still don’t have the players to play it, particularly up front.

Young teams should get better as the year goes on. But Tech has back-slid since a 31-17 upset of Clemson, with mediocre defensive performances against Virginia Tech, Duke and Georgia.

Sylvester on the difference since the Clemson game: “I think it’s just playing with emotion. If you turn on the film of the Clemson game you can see how emotional we were. I feel like we came out flat the last couple of games. We didn’t have as much energy as we should have, and our attention to detail wasn’t [good enough].”

Players should be able to get up for its rival, but that’s also on coaches for not having them prepared. Johnson and Groh share that responsibility.

But the head coach isn’t going anywhere. Groh, we’re not so sure. And when Tech fails, it’s usually not because of the offense.

By Jeff Schultz

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

632 comments Add your comment

ngr7921

November 26th, 2011
5:20 pm

NIce piece Jeff

5150 UOAD

November 26th, 2011
5:21 pm

Our Passing D is what we knew it was except for 1 game. Tevin Washington is what we thought he was all season.
Still don’t know WHO was supposed to cover the TE cutting across the middle. It was there all day.
Tevin threw some of the worst passes I have ever seen. he was not on the same page with the WRs ever today. The First was an easy TD if the B-Back sees hill and throws it earlier instead of the Sky High DUCK in the middle of the field.
Tech didn’t play MEAN enough. tech never looked like they were Pi$$ed enough to want to win.

Congrats Tevin Washington. You have 1 more game as Tech’s QB. Please make some plays in the bowl game.

5150 UOAD

November 26th, 2011
5:24 pm

Twelve inmates hurt in Georgia fight.
I guess one of the dawgs didn’t want to get off the field.

ngr7921

November 26th, 2011
5:25 pm

Groh just needs to recruit better players for it’s system Schultz. Georgia was not very good on defense under Grantham until Big John Jenkins came to town and Kwame the Tsunami Geathers was finally ready to play

ngr7921

November 26th, 2011
5:27 pm

Hind end still feeling a little chapped 5150? Please see my above comment instead of taking cheap shots

RS Dawg

November 26th, 2011
5:27 pm

I bet Tech goes to that bowl that they play on the blue carpet.

merbertmoover

November 26th, 2011
5:27 pm

@ 5150 UOAD

sorry we had to beat you down again. i know it’s really starting to get to you guys, but we couldn’t play soft, not with the REAL big game coming up next week.

thanks for allowing us some extra valuable practice time though

ngr7921

November 26th, 2011
5:29 pm

You gotta have the right type of players for the system you are running

Ted M

November 26th, 2011
5:29 pm

Their special teams stink too, even today was the special teams best game. UGA 2nd half kickoff return really hurt the jackets & not fielding punts.

CPJ should not have started throwing so soon in the second half…how could Johnson not know Tevin can’t throw?

JB

November 26th, 2011
5:30 pm

I agree, the defense sucks. We couldn’t stop a bowl of jelly. We need a qb who can be effective and pass when needed with some authority to give balance. Once this offense has balance…LOOK OUT! Groh has been a failure and we can’t land the stud 300 lbs guy to draw double teams in the middle of the 3 4 or take up space. Groh tends to be soft as oatmeal. He isn’t aggressive. Give us tenuta back and i’m happy. This defense had fire under him.

Vad lee must win this job next year or its more of the same for GT. We have 9 back on offense and 8 back on defense next year. No excuse why we shouldn’t be much better next year. How you come out and get hammered on your home field by a team that is no better than VT is perplexing. Uga wanted it more and kicked our ass on both lines. Pitiful showing at BD today. Pitiful

dawg fan sitting on rocky top

November 26th, 2011
5:30 pm

I guess GA still has not played a decent football team?

Rev. Tom

November 26th, 2011
5:30 pm

As I have said from day one – Coach Richt is the best – have never wavered from that no matter what the record – Go Dawgs! http://www.wedgeorgia.com

John24153

November 26th, 2011
5:31 pm

The problem with the defense is the offense. The defense of option teams, just like spread teams, do not get practice time against pro or power offenses. Also, the limited practice time of college teams makes defense of a team with a different offense from what their team is playing very difficult. I don’t believe Paul J will ever have a strong defense.

don

November 26th, 2011
5:31 pm

The defense did stink. So did the coaching, and the offense. Washington was horrific. Why is it set in stone that CPJ isn’t going anywhere….? I wish O’Leary never left. Of course, I bet he does too.

Bid Old Dawg

November 26th, 2011
5:32 pm

5150 UOAD…..funny and have fun in Charlotte at the former mufler bowl now to be called Belk Bowl….Yikes…real good trip…Charlotte in December…………..burrrrrrrrr

PJ Blowhard

November 26th, 2011
5:32 pm

5150 UOAD and Paul Johnson song – I’m a loser baby. So why don’t ya punch me in the mouth.

Bid Old Dawg

November 26th, 2011
5:33 pm

err…I meant muffler….I can’t spell I’m a product of the Atlanta School system……………….

Waldo

November 26th, 2011
5:33 pm

We suck. Poor offensive play calling creates problems for the defense on occasion. We also know that the special teams are a joke most days. I am not thrilled with Groh’s defense but he shouldn’t get all the blame. At some point the head coach has to accept responsibility for something. The talent gap on the field was huge today. We just don’t have those types of athletes in our program.

Old Boy

November 26th, 2011
5:35 pm

When Tech got Groh, I thought he would be a good addition and turn Tech’s defense around. He wasn’t. Only part of it can be blamed on lack of star power on defense.

Richt is LOL'ing u Haters

November 26th, 2011
5:36 pm

LOL “The Genius” gave us 3 points with his stupid cutesy TO. LMAO! I love how this article throws Groh under the bus but still manages to exalt “The Genius” Fish Fry Johnson. The buck stops with Fish Fry AJC. Find another internet meme to ride for the 365 because the “Paul Johnson is a genius Richt is on the hot seat” BS has run its course. Feels so good putting the nerds back in their place for the 10th time in 11 years. Tuck Fech, Go Dawgs, and R.I.P. Larry Munson. Stingtalk and their classless thread looks really funny and bitter now that they got a big boot where the sun don’t shine. Karma is a dog that will bite you bitter nerds. Miller Lite tastes delicious today. Terrence Moore can kiss it as well.

Big Old Dawg

November 26th, 2011
5:36 pm

Jeeezzzz….I can’t even spell my name right……………help me…I need to learn how to write and spell English…am OK with Eubonics…………..

JiveTurkey

November 26th, 2011
5:36 pm

Paul Johnson is still a buffoon!

phil

November 26th, 2011
5:36 pm

JB – your team stinks. Gonna stink next year against actual competition too. Get ready.

Alphadawg

November 26th, 2011
5:37 pm

As much talk about our soft schedule and how bad we were, what does today say about tech and the ACC? Somebody should explain to tech fans that the loss is so much worse when you spew so much garbage before the game. You gotta back it up.

Dawg4Life

November 26th, 2011
5:37 pm

As expected, Dawgs still run this state and tech is 2nd rate but 3rd in the state!

Neutral

November 26th, 2011
5:37 pm

Hey TOAD……welcome back. Please make sure you add GT to your list of lousy offenses UGa has played this year!!! I agree with you….the DAWGs still haven’t beaten a good team!!!!

Ted M

November 26th, 2011
5:38 pm

“Why is it set in stone that CPJ isn’t going anywhere….?”

GT does not have the money to buy out his contract. It will be 5 yrs before GT could even consider it.

phil

November 26th, 2011
5:39 pm

Not our fault the competition isn’t worth a toot. Look at Tech. Every win was against inferior or vastly overrated teams.

JB

November 26th, 2011
5:39 pm

The real truth, Groh is Bear hunting with a BB gun. Groh knows football….but he ain’t got what he needs to stop folks. No one on his D could start for Georgia. They are good, smart boys but they are not SEC and elite ACC type players.

Bruce Mac

November 26th, 2011
5:40 pm

Isnt it funny when all else fails Yechsters can always resort to their racist insults. Tech Sux

JB

November 26th, 2011
5:41 pm

@ rs dawg, we don’t deserve a bowl after that showing today. The sun bowl was our likely destination but we may have turned them off after what everyone saw today. UGA is better than GT, recruit better, have more speed and perhaps betters coaching staff. I just can’t wrap my mind around such a poor showing vs a team that has beaten your arses over the past few decades. Where was any intensity? I knew that coming in if we didn’t get pressure on murray and be able to attack well up the middle an on the perimeter with our option…it would be a long day. IT WAS!

PJ has got to open the offense up a bit more moving forward. Get a qb who can run and complete better than 55% of his passes and let’s get a new DC who has shown RESULTS on the field with a defense!!!!! VAD LEE, PLEASE BE THE PLAYER EVERYONE TOUTS YOU TO BE! It’s your job to lose next year!!!!

phil

November 26th, 2011
5:41 pm

Fire FG…

Please keep PJ, tech morons….love his high school offense.

Trevinb

November 26th, 2011
5:41 pm

Bottomline is that tech sucks. They will beat UGA once every few years.

Dumbo

November 26th, 2011
5:41 pm

I’m back Techies………uh, I think my brother is right….Reggie Ball is back as Washington………..

OkieDawg

November 26th, 2011
5:42 pm

GT is a pathetic excuse for a football program.

Gregg

November 26th, 2011
5:42 pm

10 out of last 11…….never gets old…..31 out of last 42……..never gets old!

Dawg'88

November 26th, 2011
5:43 pm

Guess Yech has bigger fish to fry…….in downtown Charlotte….Yikes!

Nativebird

November 26th, 2011
5:43 pm

Get used to it my fellow Jacket-fans….this IS the future. We are living it in real time. As long as CPJ is our HC and running the triple-gimmick, best be good with 8-3’s, 7-5’s, 6-4’s, No more ACC’s, maybe a Georgia win every 6 to 7 years (when they are down), a pourous Defense and the inability to recruit ANY players…repeat “any” for effect… that ever want to execute the modern day forward pass as a weapon. Bad hire, bad choice, the day they signed this guy….who quite frankly…is perfectly happy coaching a high school team….as long as he is free to run his triple-gimmick.

Cmon man

November 26th, 2011
5:44 pm

Just like I said after the va tech game tech has no heart. How can a player say they didnt play with energy in a rivalry game? If no teams gets your blood boiling it should be your instate rival. You tech fans need to really ask is cpj the right guy for the job if you cant get your team up for big games then why are you coaching? Oh yea 10 out of 11!!!

Rickey F

November 26th, 2011
5:45 pm

Except for that fake punt GA should have beaten South Carolina and would be in the national title discussion. What’s bothering me is the number of people saying the SEC East is down this year. I guess that’s referring to Florida. Didn’t hear anybody say the East was down last year. LSU looked scary good last night. Anybody up for hearing Munson shout Hunker down, Dogs!?!

Ted M

November 26th, 2011
5:45 pm

Days should start at QB in the Bowl game.

Reggie Ball was 10 times better Tevin but he still stunk.

Dawg'88

November 26th, 2011
5:45 pm

Top 3 football teams in the state of Georgia:

1, GEORGIA
2. Georgia Southern
3. Ga Yech

Ouch that hurts….Ga State ain’t far behind at #4.

Alphadawg

November 26th, 2011
5:45 pm

The bummer is that tech sucks so much that this win won’t help our CBS ranking.

Dawg'88

November 26th, 2011
5:46 pm

If Georgia Yech plays in a bowl game and no one shows up…does anyone care?

phil

November 26th, 2011
5:46 pm

Nativebird, you are on the mark…PJ is an arrogant, for no reason, jerk on top of coaching a high school offense against big boys. Please keep him.

Alphadawg

November 26th, 2011
5:46 pm

Najeh Davenpoop

November 26th, 2011
5:46 pm

If you choose to run an offense where you can’t and won’t pass the ball, you better hope you are leading in the second halves of games, because you cannot come from behind while exclusively running the football.

phil

November 26th, 2011
5:47 pm

PJ is an arrogant dullard….please keep him.

please

November 26th, 2011
5:48 pm

Good game Gt, that is to all the real tech fans with class, to all those who talk smack all year long, hahahahahahahahah.

gt4ever

November 26th, 2011
5:48 pm

This was as much the Offense’s fault as the defense… Period… Anybody who blames this all on the defense, well, just doesn’t have a clue…