The last time Boston College came to Atlanta in 2007, Matt Ryan threw for over 400 yards, Georgia Tech lost and dropped six of its next 10 and Chan Gailey lost his job.
Boston College’s latest season visit to Georgia Tech intersected with a firing again. It was only the defensive coordinator (Al Groh), not the head coach, who lost his job this time. Groh didn’t even make it through October. But if something had gone haywire Saturday, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wouldn’t have had anybody left to point a finger at. Serious questions that would’ve seemed implausible after Johnson’s first two seasons would’ve been asked.
Was his program spinning out of control?
Were players, who had followed Johnson’s lead for an ACC championship and 20 wins over 2008 and 2009, now not listening to him?
Was the talent really that bad?
The panic is on hold for now. Georgia Tech crushed Boston College 37-17. The final score would’ve tilted even 10 points more to the left if the Yellow Jackets had somebody who could kick straight. (They botched three short field goal attempts and an extra point. Johnson would gladly swap a major organ for a soccer player who can kick an oblong ball.)
So after three straight losses and the excommunication of Groh, the bleeding has stopped. For now.
It’s difficult to know what this game really means. Boston College is bad. Really bad. Like, Duke bad. Like, losing to Army bad. Like, after the Falcons’ win at Washington two weeks ago, Ryan walked out of his post-game news conference and said, “We lost to Army!” – that kind of bad.
The Eagles are 1-6 and their only win came over an FCS school, Maine. On the subject of firings: How does Frank Spaziani still have a job? When Tevin Washington completed a 27-yard pass on third-and-26 in the second quarter, setting up a touchdown, it’s a wonder Spaziani didn’t just walk off the field and have himself committed.
Johnson wasn’t about to make any grand proclamations Saturday. He didn’t do it a month ago when Tech whacked Virginia 56-20 before the three-game losing streak so he wasn’t going to do it now. But at the very least, we can safely conclude that Tech players haven’t quit on the season or on Johnson.
“I wasn’t concerned that things would spin out of control,” Johnson said. “My concern was that we needed to learn how to be intense and focus and how to approach things. I only know one way to go and that’s balls to the wall and to be competitive and that’s the way I want them to be. At times we are, and when we are we’re pretty good. And at times we lose focus and it’s like junior high school.”
Johnson clearly is making sure he has his players’ attention. He even took a shot at those on his team who didn’t suit up for the game: Quoting: “I’m going to take care of that. You don’t need to be on the sideline if you can’t get into the game – it’s not a party for them, either.”
The defensive game plan was simplified and the Jackets were better. No coincidence. (Johnson during the week: “We don’t need 80 calls. We don’t need a buzz word on everything.”)
Safety Isaiah Johnson said, “It hasn’t been as complicated as Al Groh’s defense.”
The defense held Boston College to a lone field goal in the first eight possessions. The offense only stopped itself (see: crooked kicking foot). It had over 400 yards in the first half and not a punt until the fourth quarter. Vad Lee, the redshirt freshman quarterback, flashed his talent with a 24-yard touchdown run (making four defenders miss) and a 45-yard touchdown pass.
Alas, there were highlights. There was a win.
“It’s nice to be back on the right side of the scoreboard again,” Johnson said.
It had been a while.
By Jeff Schultz
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