Georgia Tech needs to win a bowl just to prove it still can

Dec. 27, 2010: A not-so-happy day in Shreveport. (AP photo)

Dec. 27, 2010: It was a not-so-happy day for the Yellow Jackets in Shreveport. (AP photo)

Georgia Tech’s last bowl victory came when Reggie Ball, then a sophomore, was the offensive MVP of the Champs Sports Bowl. The date was Dec. 21, 2004. So yes, it has been a while.

“We haven’t won a bowl game in, like, eight years,” said guard Omoregie Uzzi, overclubbing a bit.

Tech makes much of its run of consecutive bowl appearances, now at 15. What Tech, showing PR savvy, plays down is that about all the Jackets have done in many of those previous 14 bowls was appear. Tech has lost nine of the 14, and only one of the head coaches involved in the streak has managed a winning record. Interim Mac McWhorter won the 2001 Seattle Bowl, making him the Mr. December of recent Tech vintage. George O’Leary was 2-2, Chan Gailey 2-3, Jon Tenuta (another interim) 0-1. And Paul Johnson, the incumbent, has fared worst of all.

The back half of Tech’s current six-game skid falls on Johnson. “We’ve lost three in a row,” he said after being asked if his 0-for-Tech bowl record makes him feel a greater need this time. “But I’d want to win if we’d won three in a row … You want to win anytime you play, even if it’s at jackrocks.”

(For the uninitiated, “jackrocks” is apparently the North Carolina term for the kids’ game with the metal thingys and the rubber ball — the game some of us call “jacks.”)

The convenient explanation for Johnson’s bowl failures is that a defenses have a month to prepare for his stylized offense. Johnson, who dislikes many things, dislikes convenience above all. “People can say whatever they want,” he said Monday, speaking after Tech’s morning practice. “You can find stats to back up anything. I think my bowl record at Navy was 2-2.”

(For the uninitiated, when Johnson says, “I think,” he means, “I know darn well.” His bowl record at Navy? It was 2-2.)

This correspondent, you’ll be chagrined to learn, has a theory: Except for the BCS title game, where each side want to win with all its might, most other bowls hinge on who wants to be there more. It’s my belief that Tech lost to LSU in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl in large measure because the Jackets had already won their Big Game by beating Georgia in Athens in Year 1 under Johnson. Something similar held true in January 2010, when Tech, coming off its rousing ACC title victory over Clemson, got outfought by Iowa in the Orange Bowl.

“We also ran into two pretty good teams those years,” Johnson said, and there’s no denying that LSU and Iowa are name-brand programs. But last season the Jackets lost to Air Force 14-7 in the Independence Bowl to finish 6-7.

Johnson: “Last year we should have won the game. That was very, very disappointing.”

The Air Force loss was another, I submit, symptom of motivational malaise. Nobody wants to go to Shreveport, but Air Force went knowing it could take down a team from a BCS league. The Jackets arrived knowing they’d be without Joshua Nesbitt, lost to a broken arm on a Thursday night when a still-in-flux Tech season was doomed.

This year, at least to these eyes, looks different. Tech won its first six, then lost four of its final six. Most Jacket backers would have taken an 8-4 regular season, but the way this 8-4 occurred left some uneasy. Said Uzzi: “We started off hot, but we didn’t finish so hot.”

If there’s an upside to a late-season fade, it’s that Tech should head to El Paso hungry. Uzzi again: “We’re trying to salvage the season, although ’salvage’ isn’t really the right word — I’m proud of what we’ve done. But this would put an exclamation point on it.”

Tech will face Utah, now part of the Pac-12, in the Sun Bowl on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. It was in the 2005 Emerald Bowl that the Utes, then members of the Mountain West, delivered the first of Tech’s ongoing string of bowl losses. Three seasons later, Utah beat Alabama (and Nick Saban) the Sugar. But don’t bother telling Johnson any of this. He can cite chapter and verse.

“Until Boise beat them [in last year's Poinsettia Bowl], they’d won nine [bowls] in a row,” he said. “I hope we want to be there — because the other side has a history of wanting to be there.”

By Mark Bradley

142 comments Add your comment

gt4ever

December 19th, 2011
2:53 pm

I wouldn’t bet on this game…. I see us losing big… inho….

kl

December 19th, 2011
2:53 pm

gtfanfrom1951

December 19th, 2011
2:54 pm

GT Man

December 19th, 2011
2:56 pm

Just as long as we have someone that can catch a ” Fair-catch”

Mark Bradley

December 19th, 2011
2:57 pm

Tech is a three-point favorite, FYI.

put me in coach

December 19th, 2011
3:00 pm

Hankie Aron

December 19th, 2011
3:02 pm

Good piece, coming from a Dog fan no less

Hankie Aron

December 19th, 2011
3:03 pm

I hope Tech comes ready to play. The Dogs didn’t care about being there against UCF last year. Still to this day don’t understand how they lost that game.

GFF

December 19th, 2011
3:07 pm

Reggie Ball…..just the mere mention of that name makes me smile. Go Utah!!!

31-17

December 19th, 2011
3:12 pm

Fire your coach and maybe y’all will have a chance at winning a bowl game every once in a while. Have fun playing in the WHO GIVES A *%*$ BOWL!

Nom Nom Nom Chucks....Taylor or Norris

December 19th, 2011
3:14 pm

“Georgia Tech needs to win a bowl just to prove it still can”

OUCH. That’s a burn and will leave a mark.

GT

December 19th, 2011
3:17 pm

Utah now in the Pac makes this very interesting.

I don’t think the Dawgs loss to UCF was as bad as the Tech loss to Air Force. Both losing teams should not have lost but Georgia had a real opponent

UGA Insider

December 19th, 2011
3:17 pm

Can’t say anything negative about Tech concerning bowls. We lost to UCF last yer and CMR kicked a field goal on 4th and inches. I still say it was the worst loss in UGA history.

Nom Nom Nom Chucks....Taylor or Norris

December 19th, 2011
3:18 pm

Is that Air Force guy slapping the spit out of the Tech players mouth or just the ball out of his hands? Or both?

JB

December 19th, 2011
3:19 pm

Tech is due. Depends on the mind set of the Tech team. Sad to say that, but last year Georgia gave little effort against UCF. In looking at that game last year from DVR, the Georgia lineman just basically gave shoulder bumps against the rush on passing plays………. Tech should win. Good luck

Nom Nom Nom Chucks....Taylor or Norris

December 19th, 2011
3:21 pm

Wow, I just thought of UCF last year….and retract my previous insults to the GT fans.

4th and 2 inches….nah, kick it like a dog.

Mark Bradley

December 19th, 2011
3:21 pm

I would say Georgia’s loss to Central Florida was as bad as Tech’s to Air Force. Remember, Tech didn’t have its quarterback. And Tech at least scored a touchdown.

JB

December 19th, 2011
3:22 pm

Be interesting to see how the Dawgs react after the LSU game, in which for a half , they looked like the best team in the country……and then the second half, looked like they had never practiced or played the game.

Really?

December 19th, 2011
3:22 pm

Mark why even waste your time and talent writing about the north avenue trade school? You know their so called “fans” would rather troll UGA blogs running their sucks about how depressed and pathetic their pointless lifes are.

I kid I kid. Merry Christmas everyone.

JB

December 19th, 2011
3:24 pm

I will say that UCF & Air Force wanted it worse than Georgia or Tech did.

Jason

December 19th, 2011
3:24 pm

Hopefully the players will at least be able to enjoy a trip out to Carlsbad caverns and another to Cattleman’s Steakhouse. Otherwise the trip out there is going to be awfully boring. I don’t really see where either team could be that interested in this game…

UGag

December 19th, 2011
3:24 pm

Georgie’s was definitely worse. A top 10 talent team can’t put a TD on UCF? lol

Mark Bradley

December 19th, 2011
3:24 pm

No doubt, JB. And you kind of knew that, in both instances, going in.

Jason

December 19th, 2011
3:25 pm

A trip out to White Sands national park might not be bad either. Stop by the Eagle Ranch postachio farm in Alamogordo and get some green chile postachios.

JB

December 19th, 2011
3:28 pm

In hindsight, that loss to UCF saved Richt’s job in my opinion. Everybody had kinda written him off at that point, after that horrible year and THEN the ” no effort Bowl loss”. I know I had.

Hail Munson

December 19th, 2011
3:31 pm

I hope Tech wins despite the few idiots screaming to hell with Georiga during the Munson tribute. Even big brother wants little bro to do well occasionally.

Beerman

December 19th, 2011
3:31 pm

What might have been mentioned is that Tech once had the nation’s best bowl winning percentage, among team that had played in more than 15 bowls, if my memory is correct. Things have changed, though, haven’t they?

JB

December 19th, 2011
3:31 pm

Ugag………….You really think Dawgs were top 10 last year…????……. Thank you for your service. How was Iraq last year?

A2K

December 19th, 2011
3:31 pm

Paul Johnson needs to win a bowl game to prove he can.

He’s a good coach when things are going his team’s way. If they get behind, are not executing or the other team’s defense is playing well he does not seem to have a lot of answers.

DawginLex

December 19th, 2011
3:32 pm

UGA insider

The bowl loss to Miami of Ohio was the worst clunker ever in UGA history

DIT

December 19th, 2011
3:33 pm

tech by 17! This coming from a Dawg. My gut says that they will play like they did against ClemPson. Good luck Jackets!
It will be a nail bitter for my Dawgs. Not sure which way. Until they learn to play with a killer instinct.
Good luck to both programs, let’s make the state proud!

GTBob

December 19th, 2011
3:33 pm

Our team didn’t even look motivated to play UGA. Im surprised you think we will be motivated to play a meaningless game against Utah in El Paso Texas.

Birmingham Jacket

December 19th, 2011
3:35 pm

It’s no coincidence that Georgia Tech has faired poorly in bowls, as have much of the ACC in recent years. The ACC is a relatively weak conference.

An no, I’m not a UGA fan pretending to be a Jacket. I’m a third generation, grad who goes to all our home games, and cheers for the White and Gold.

But if walks like duck and quacks like a duck….. It’s probably not a cow or a dog.

GTBob

December 19th, 2011
3:38 pm

And one more thing. I’ve ask Santa for a GEORGIA sweatshirt, and I lay awake at night hoping Santa doesn’t let me down. The stuffed bulldog he brought me last year is all I have to keep me close to my Dawgs.

Birmingham Jacket

December 19th, 2011
3:38 pm

It’s no coincidence we have faired pooly in bowl games, as have other ACC teams. We play in a weak conference.

And no, I not a UGA fan pretending to be a jacket. I cheer for the White and Gold and go to all the home games.

Just stating a fact.

Brave Hokie

December 19th, 2011
3:38 pm

Fight like the ACC matters, Jackets…

I hope we do the same.

Birmingham Jacket

December 19th, 2011
3:39 pm

Most ACC teams fair poorly in bowls.

It’s because it’s a relatively weak conference.

Fact. Not opinion.

JB

December 19th, 2011
3:39 pm

GTBob….I think a top 5 defense had something to do with that, ya think?

GTBob

December 19th, 2011
3:42 pm

GTBob….I think a top 5 defense had something to do with that, ya think?

No, I don’t think a top 5 defense has anything to do with the players just looking like they didn’t even care to be there. We looked the same way against Duke.

JB

December 19th, 2011
3:47 pm

GTBob……………Here’s a clue. Tech defense is bad. They know it’s bad. Johnson knows it’s bad. And the Tech trolls know it’s bad. This Kim Jong guy in North Korea, on his death bed was heard to utter, ” that Tech D bad”.

indianman

December 19th, 2011
3:50 pm

i enjoy seeing georgia tech getting their butt beat

Technically Correct

December 19th, 2011
3:51 pm

Any given Saturday… it’s always about who wants it more.

indianman

December 19th, 2011
3:51 pm

i enjoy seeing ga tech getting their butt beat

GTBob

December 19th, 2011
3:52 pm

JB, I agree its bad. What does that have to do with anything? Even a bad defense can at least act like it cares in the last couple of games.

Hoopster

December 19th, 2011
3:53 pm

The day that Paul Johnson starts worrying about what Mark Bradley thinks about his football team is the day…………..well let’s now worry about it. Not happening.

PB

December 19th, 2011
3:54 pm

Mark, can we come up with a description of the offense other than “Stylized.”… it almost reads as derisive.

SupremoDawg

December 19th, 2011
3:56 pm

Jason, Eagle Ranch is AWESOME! Still, not hardly a memorable bowl trip. Have you been to El Paso lately? UGGHHHH!

DocDawg

December 19th, 2011
3:57 pm

Its a mediocre team in a bad Pac 10 vs a mediocre team in a bad ACC with a track record of not showing up in bowls. There’s a decent chance that Utah will bring a few fans and parents, as its “only” a very long one day drive to El Paso from Salt Lake. They win 3-0.

Big Albany Dawg

December 19th, 2011
3:58 pm

HOT SEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SupremoDawg

December 19th, 2011
3:59 pm

Dawg in Lex, Yup that Tangerine Bowl was nasty, but the Hungover Sugar Bowl 1-1-69 was the all-time SUCK JOB! That was a GREAT team, ask the Gators 51-0!