Archive for October, 2012

Georgia Tech stops the bleeding but assumes nothing

It was a much easier day for T.J. Barnes and the Georgia Tech defense. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

It was a much easier day for T.J. Barnes and the Georgia Tech defense. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

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 …

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Quick hits: Tech defense better, Vad Lee impressive

Redshirt freshman quarterback Vad Lee finishes off his 24-yard touchdown run. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Redshirt freshman quarterback Vad Lee finishes off his 24-yard touchdown run. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

I’ll be back with a column on Georgia Tech’s 37-17 victory over Boston College shortly. Until then, here are my three “Quick Hits” on the game:

1. POST-GROH PROGRESS REPORT: OK. Don’t get too excited. Boston College entered the game ranked 79th nationally in total offense and 84th in scoring. And it looked the part.  But the Jackets appeared far less confused for most of four quarters after allowing 42, 49 and 47 points in the previous three games (all losses), which led to Al Groh’s firing. Boston College was held to a lone field goal in its first eight possessions before scoring two second-half touchdowns. So, alas, Tech had some movement in the right direction.

2. VAD LEE MAKES HIS CASE: If redshirt freshman quarterback Vad Lee wasn’t ready for significant playing time before, he certainly seems to be now. Tech might even have itself a little quarterback controversy. On …

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LIVE: It’s desperation time for Georgia Tech (and defense)

Paul Johnson's team needs to go 4-2 just to get bowl eligible.

Paul Johnson's team needs to scramble in second half of season just to become bowl eligible.

Of all the directions anybody could have expected Georgia Tech would go under coach Paul Johnson, this wasn’t one of them: He is getting involved in the defense.

Johnson fired his second defensive coordinator in 4½ seasons when he canned Al Groh after a 47-31 loss at Clemson two weeks ago. Athletic director Dan Radakovich gave Johnson a vote of confidence following the Groh firing, but Johnson obviously feels some pressure (internally and externally) to turn around the Jackets. They’ve lost three straight since a 56-20 win over Virginia (allowing 138 points in those three games) and have fallen to 1-3 in the ACC.

There is still a chance to salvage something out of this season. The remaining conference games (Boston College today, Maryland, North Carolina, Duke) certainly all are winnable, and BYU next week isn’t overpowering. Georgia is the most difficult game left on the schedule. …

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Hawks’ Drew says he’s prepared to work without parachute

Larry Drew has a new cast of players, including Anthony Morrow  (left) and Lou Williams.

Larry Drew has a new cast of players, including Anthony Morrow (left) and Lou Williams. (AP photo)

This has been a Hawks’ preseason written in pencil. Five starting lineups in five exhibition games.

While that partly can be attributed to a player injury or the whims of head coach Larry Drew experimenting with new pieces, it’s also a fair gauge of where this team is at right now. Nobody is mourning the departures of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, both of whom forever earned places on the franchise’s Mount Rushmore of failures. But now Drew is trying to find a starting lineup with an entertaining but undersized roster and in less than ideal circumstances.

He is, as he put it, “trying to bring cohesiveness as fast as I can.” Of course. Because while nobody can be certain how long this rebuilding project by general manager Danny Ferry will take, things are less fuzzy concerning Drew. He is in the final year of his contract.

Nothing like the pressure of working without a net …

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Weekend Predictions: Bulldogs, Jackets rise from dead

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Before getting to this week’s expected resurrection, I felt the need to do some research on raising the dead. See, a year ago, Georgia lost its first two games of the season and was declared kaputski, only to win its next 10 games, thereby saving the season, the head coach and all hope for those who embrace the idea of bringing a corpse back to life, particularly in an election year. (”How much for that Lincoln or FDR on the top shelf? Can I at least get a discount on Andrew Jackson with a Kroger Plus Card?)

So here we are again, with the Bulldogs having flat-lined in South Carolina. This prompted some research on what it would take to raise the dead. (Street term: black magic, potions or campaign speeches). This is what I found on SpellsOfMagic.com. (Back off. I’m a journalist.):

This is a job for Dr. Frankstein (pronounced: franken-STEEN).

It's a job for Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced: franken-SHTEEN).

This spell will raise the dead and make them immortal . Don’t use this spell no matter what resion[sic]. There is consequences. …

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Bulldogs’ ‘NFL talent’ have their heads somewhere else

South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore has been among those who've dented Georgia's defense. (Gerry Melendez/The State)

South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is among those who've dented Georgia's defense. (The State photo)

ATHENS – Ten months ago, Mark Richt stood in front of a room in Butts-Mehre Hall and pronounced, “Today is a great day for Georgia.”

Notwithstanding that those words came at an orchestrated media event — two weeks after a bowl loss to Michigan State (please forget) and two weeks before national signing day (please come) – nobody could dispute the sentiment. In the room with Richt were 15 players who announced they were bypassing the NFL draft to return for another season. Nine played on defense. Another returnee was Jarvis Jones, who was attending a football camp that day.

Expectations were high for Georgia this season primarily for one reason: defense. There were nine returning starters. There were nine upperclassmen. There were four players projected to go as high as the first round in the next draft. There was a defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, lauded to such a …

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Falcons are NFL’s last unbeaten team: Here’s fate of others (VIDEO added below)

The NFL's last yearly unbeaten teams have had varying results. (via TheAtlanticWire.com)

NFL's "last" unbeaten teams have had varying results. (via Tripp Jones, TheAtlanticWire.com)

I’m not a huge fan of statistics and acknowledge that some things perceived as historical “trends” can often be misleading. But I find this interesting, especially since the Falcons (6-0) are the final remaining unbeaten team in the NFL (by virtue of their cardiac win over Oakland Sunday and Houston’s loss to Green Bay Sunday night).

According to information from FootballGeography.com – via Reddit user Tripp Jones and The Atlantic Wire — there have been 47 “last unbeaten” teams since 1970. (Note: In some seasons, there were more than one team. In 1970, for example, Denver, Detroit and the Los Angeles Rams all started 3-0 but lost their fourth game.)

Of the 47 teams since 1970, 22 have gone on to the Super Bowl — 11 winning, 11 losing. Six others made it to the conference championship before losing.

The rest of the breakdown: 11 lost in the divisional round, five lost in the wild card …

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Falcons 6-0 but Turner is frustrated with running game (UPDATED with video)

Michael Turner found little room to run on those rare occasions when he was given ball. (AP photo)

Michael Turner found little room to run on those rare occasions when he was given ball. (AP photo)

When a team is a 6-0, every negative critique should begin and end with, “… but they’re 6-0.” Because ultimately, the record determines the standings, the playoff field and whether some climate-controlled, pass-dominating offensive Dome team is going to be forced to head for the snowdrifts of Green Bay or Chicago in January in the postseason.

So we start again by reaffirming that the Falcons are 6-0. All hail.

But anybody witnessing the last three victories, sloppy exercises over mediocre opponents Carolina, Washington and Oakland, can attest to the team’s issues going into the bye week. Need confirmation? Ask their starting running back, who has had a close-up look at probably the Falcons’ biggest failing right now: their lack of a running game.

When Turner, a relative spectator in the mistake-plagued 23-20 win over the Raiders’ Sunday, was asked about the …

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LIVE: Falcons can make it 6-0 before getting a little rest

Michael Turner scored the wining touchdown last week at Washington. (AP photo)

Michael Turner scored the wining touchdown last week at Washington. (AP photo)

Five games into the season, the Falcons (5-0) already have a 3½ game lead over Tampa Bay (1-3) and a four-game lead over New Orleans (`-4) and Carolina (1-4). They also are one of only two unbeaten teams in the NFL and lead the race for home field advantage through the NFC playoffs.

What does this all mean? Well, not quite nothing. But not nearly everything.

It’s only October, and as impressive as the Falcons have been in many areas — particularly pass offense, pass protection and to so me degree pass defense — they weren’t great in consecutive come-from-behind wins over Carolina and Washington. The biggest issues remain the running game and run defense, which also happen to be the two factors (along with quarterback play) that generally separate the Super Bowl contenders from the also-rans in December and January.

Today’s game against Oakland seems to set up perfectly. The Raiders (1-3) aren’t …

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Fan revolts out of control, one wanted to fight UGA player

Braves fans littered the field with beer bottles and garbage, endangering others. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Braves fans littered Turner Field with beer bottles after bad call. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines fan as: 1) an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator; 2): an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit).

As with anything, definitions can often be broadened. The boundaries of this definition just seemingly shouldn’t stretch to home fans cheering when their quarterback crumbles to the ground with a concussion. Or throwing bottles and garbage on a baseball field, endangering other fans and players, in protest of an umpire’s call. Or egging and toilet-papering a home known to be rented by five college players out of disgust, merely because the team lost a football game. Or effectively challenging one student-athlete to a fight on Twitter.

Yes. One “fan” actually did that last week to Georgia’s Christian Robinson.

“There were all these people saying stuff about me on Twitter, it …

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