Outmanned Tech fights to the end but can’t finish the drill

One guy coached a winning game. The other coach won. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

One guy coached a winning game. The other coach won. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – Give Paul Johnson a couple of months and he could take the remaining Rolling Stones and have those geezers rushing for 300 yards a game. Say what you will about the man, but he can coach the heck out of what he has. At issue Saturday night was whether he had enough.

There aren’t many coaches who can outdraw Johnson with the X’s and O’s, but the game, as we’re constantly reminded, isn’t played on a whiteboard. It’s played by real-life players. And Johnson’s Jackets lost to Georgia here Saturday not because they didn’t play hard or well but because in the end they just weren’t as skilled. Try as they might, and they tried mightily, they could never take the lead.

If anything, Saturday’s game showed us how clever Johnson is. He bled 512 yards out of an offense missing its best player. Tech held the ball for 38 minutes and 14 seconds, ran 92 plays to Georgia’s 48. And even at the end, when the Bulldogs appeared to have scored the clinching touchdown, they looked up and realized the old fox on the far sideline had one-upped them again.

As Johnson said, allowing Georgia to score was “the only way we could win the game.” And rather than alert its players to the possibility and advise them to get a first down and then fall on the ball, the Bulldog staff was caught unawares.

“We didn’t coach very good there,” Mark Richt said, speaking of Washaun Ealey’s 20-yard touchdown run with 1:29 remaining that put Georgia up eight points. “We got outcoached right there. It was good strategy by Coach Johnson. I thought when it happened, ‘He got us there. He got me.’ ”

It was that kind of night. Georgia won the game but left the distinct impression that it had gotten away with one. Johnson’s Jackets messed up early and often and still were one drive from winning the thing. (And then, one possession later, one drive from forcing overtime.)

Tech fizzled twice early — getting stopped on fourth-and-2 at the Georgia 19 after recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, fumbling inside the 10 not five minutes later. And here came the Bulldogs, seizing a 14-point lead that at the game’s outset seemed like twice that much. But back came Tech, back on the strength of those two Johnson staples: A  running game and a sheer stubbornness.

Even the hardiest of Jacket backers were dreading this strange game, in which the team with the lesser record entered favored by two touchdowns. Georgia clearly has better players than Tech, and without quarterback Joshua Nesbitt there are moments when it seems Tech has nothing at all. And yet the visitors kept fighting after falling behind by those two touchdowns, and soon it was apparent that the team lacking its best player wasn’t lacking in guts.

It was 14-all with one minute left in the first half, 21-all with a minute left in the third quarter. And this wasn’t because Tech was playing letter-perfect football; on the contrary, it had taken three Georgia turnovers and gotten nothing from them. And still the game was tied, the underdog having become the aggressor, the Bulldogs looking as confused as they had all season. (Which, given how the season had gone for Georgia, was saying something.)

Late in the third quarter Tech was driving to take the lead when Roddy Jones fumbled. Georgia nosed ahead on Washaun Ealey’s touchdown burst on fourth-and-goal. Then Tech fumbled again, quarterback Tevin Washington pitching to Jones as the Tech back was about to get splattered, and the resulting loose ball was taken for a touchdown by Georgia linebacker Justin Houston.

Another two-TD lead for the home side, this with barely a quarter to go. Surely there was no responding from this, not with the redoubtable Nesbitt a spectator with his broken arm. But doggone — no pun intended — if the Jackets didn’t surge to one touchdown and then, beggaring belief, another. With 4:56 remaining, the Jackets were within a point of even.

And Scott Blair, who hadn’t missed an extra point all season, missed the extra point. And surely that was that. But no. Georgia didn’t lose six times by its ability to deliver under pressure. The Bulldogs moved within field-goal range, chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 and saw Aaron Murray fumble the snap. At last Tech had its chance to take the lead.

And it couldn’t manage a first down. Tevin Washington was dropped for losses on first and second down, threw incomplete on third and fourth, and the Jackets had to be done, didn’t they? But Johnson pulled his let-’em-score trick and still his Jackets kept coming, flying across midfield with 45 seconds left. And then finally it was done, Washington delivering an interception.

Georgia had won and rendered itself bowl-eligible, but the lasting memory of this game won’t be of the Bulldogs and their escape: It will be of Johnson and his Jackets and how close they’d come with all their fumbling and without their No. 1 quarterback. It will be of the coach with the lesser players forcing the Bulldogs to the brink. If Paul Johnson can ever recruit similar talent on a consistent basis — admittedly, it’s a big if — Tech won’t wind up 6-6 again anytime soon.

“I wish I could have found a way to help them win the game,” Johnson said, speaking of his players, but he’d done all any coach could do. He’d put them in position. His undermanned team just couldn’t finish the drill.

859 comments Add your comment

St Simons Daddy

November 27th, 2010
11:27 pm

SUCK IT NERDS

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:27 pm

Mark, Johnson still outcoached Richt.

Mark Bradley

November 27th, 2010
11:28 pm

I won’t argue, CTG.

Hunker Down

November 27th, 2010
11:29 pm

Yep…Dawgs win game but CPJ was the better coach

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:29 pm

I would have been more pleased if i was a tech fan.

Eat it St. Simons

November 27th, 2010
11:29 pm

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (((42-34))) NICE EXTRA POINT!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Eat it St. Simons

November 27th, 2010
11:30 pm

Karma is a B****H!!!! Enjoy Shrievport HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Jerry

November 27th, 2010
11:31 pm

The glaring weakness of the triple option- EXTRA POINTS

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Eat it St. Simons

November 27th, 2010
11:31 pm

Sorry Shreveport. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ((((42-34))))

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:31 pm

I pose the question which team has a brighter future with its present head coach? Answer: Georgia Tech.

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:31 pm

Watch Johnson throw his players under the bus in the post game news conference. I can hear it now…I put 34 on the board and the players lost it for ME.

GT65

November 27th, 2010
11:32 pm

Last BCS bowl = GT
Last conference championship = GT
Last national championship = GT

…a clearly outmanned GT team loses because of two fumbles, one which potentially cost tech 7 points and one that gave UGA 7 points. I honestly thought GT would lose by 17-21 points, but they actually should have won.

THWG

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:32 pm

Todd, you have got to be kidding…..what great athlete will go to Tech and play in that high school offense ?

Eat it St. Simons

November 27th, 2010
11:32 pm

Remember all the hell you nerds gave us last year about Shreveport and now that’s where you’re going HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

St. Simons

November 27th, 2010
11:33 pm

I didn’t watch. I was too busy making sweet sweet love to the couch in my mom’s basement.

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:33 pm

Gailey’s players are gone…Tech will never win again.

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:33 pm

I’m trying to remember, would it have been mathematically possible for Georgia to kneel out the clock before Ealy ran for that touchdown?

GTUGA

November 27th, 2010
11:33 pm

Hey Simon, two fumbles and you aren’t going bowling at all …so shut your face

Otis My Man

November 27th, 2010
11:33 pm

Dawgs ROLL! Johnson is a PECKER!

Just Short ...

November 27th, 2010
11:34 pm

And let the blubbering begin. Not the players or coaches … the cheese on these boards. Eat it, suck it, gimme some bucket. Eat it, suck it, gimme some bucket. Fun game to watch by two teams fighting hard to the end. Congrats to CMR … if one coach needed it more, he did.

Old School

November 27th, 2010
11:34 pm

It is hard to believe a school with the tradition and class of UGA has fans like St. Simons Daddy and Eat It St. Simons. A lot of my friends are Dawg fans, and all of them have class. What are you guys, 12 year olds. How pathetic, classless juveniles you are.

GT golden

November 27th, 2010
11:34 pm

The fture is brighter at G

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:34 pm

Burgess, Paul Johnson has proved he can coach marginal athletes to better themselves.

Mike S

November 27th, 2010
11:34 pm

WE STILL RUN THIS STATE

{{{{{42-34}}}}}
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

OH yeah, ENJOY SHREVEPORT!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Paul in RDU

November 27th, 2010
11:35 pm

GT played with a lot of heart tonight. I am happy with their performance – if not the result.

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:35 pm

Ga. Tech….a high school team playing in a high school stadium , they can’t fill.

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:35 pm

Georgia does not deserve to go to a bowl game. They Suck.

Cousin Vicker

November 27th, 2010
11:35 pm

Isn’t the coach that is 2-1 against his state rival better than the coach who is 1-2 against his state rival? No?

Old School

November 27th, 2010
11:35 pm

And yes, Tech, like all schools, has some classless fans too. But not nearly as many as UGA. Or at least it seems that way on the AJC blogs.

Extra Point Kicking Instructor

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

You see, Blair, you’re supposed to kick it BETWEEN them yellow sticks, son

Jimbo

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

Hey Jerry, this offense gained over 600 yards including returns over your team. Not bad for a high school offense.

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

Georgia’s defense couldn’t stop a pee wee team.

Student

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the poser engineers
Their center-columned arch looks like it was built by cows and steers
After the bridges crumble and the planes fall from the sky
The board is asking, “Why?”

Paul in RDU

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

Coach todd – I don’t think UGA could have knelt out the clock but as soon as Ealey got the 1st down they could have

Tech Man

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

Tech was the better team is this one!!!!!!!!

GTBob

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

We turned the ball over 5 times, turned it over on downs 2 more times, missed an extra point, didn’t have our starting QB and we were still in it at the end. I don’t know how CPJ pulled that off but it gives us a lot to look forward to next year and in future years. He completely out coached Mark Richt tonight.

kennyh

November 27th, 2010
11:36 pm

if UGA fans run their mouths about this game they were handed , they are dumber than dirt..

Mike S

November 27th, 2010
11:37 pm

I loved the Bob Davies slam (Intentional or not) early in the game. He was talking about Murray and some other players going to the Tech-Duke game and said, “Of course Ga Tech only had 42,000 at that game so they were probably happy to just have people in those seats.” LOL!!!

Burgess

November 27th, 2010
11:37 pm

grantham, Johnson is in way over his head. surely you can see that. He needs to be at a Navy or Ga. Southern…….He’s a marginal coach that should be oaching marginal athletes. He won with Gailey’s players…they’re gone now.

Old School

November 27th, 2010
11:37 pm

@Mark: good column- right on all of your points.

GT79

November 27th, 2010
11:37 pm

Great game. Coach Johnson is a great coach for Tech and we will be back. Congratulations to the Bulldogs. Good luck to both teams in the bowl games, even if they are in Shreveport and Birmingham….oh well.

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:37 pm

So does that mean Georgia gets a BCS Bowl? No Fricking Way. They shouldn’t be going to a bowl other than the toilet bowl.

Hey Old School - posing as Eat It St. Simons

November 27th, 2010
11:37 pm

I am a classy UGA fan, but am letting 12 months of putting up with St. Simons go.

Josh

November 27th, 2010
11:38 pm

Mark, you’ll need to revise the last sentence of that third paragraph.

Given that UGA’s been scoring points by the bundle, I think it’s safe to say that Bobo’s no longer the problem. However, that defense is AWFUL. Is it the scheme, or does Grantham not have the players to run it, or both? With even a mediocre defense this year, the Dawgs would have been 9-3.

BIG BIRD

November 27th, 2010
11:38 pm

Hey Bradley…how dare you say Tech is without a quarterback!

BradleyisaBulldogHomer

November 27th, 2010
11:38 pm

Pay J Green is gone. Murray will have no one to throw to next year.

Chaps

November 27th, 2010
11:38 pm

Georgia doesn’t cover the spread against a “high school offense” and bad coach. et they dance around like they beat…. oh, Auburn.

bo

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

this is Johnson’s third year, I think. why make excuses for his talent. those are his players against a 5-6 team. no moral victories here.

todd grantham

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

thanks Paul in RDU. if washaun had had the game situation in his mind, he would have fallen at the tech 5 yard line.

JW

November 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

Wow! Doesn’t take long for the classless fans to appear, does it?

Can’t say it was great game for either team, but a fun game to watch at least.