Middle Tennessee 49, Georgia Tech 28: What’s left to say?

These are the Blue Raiders. They won. By 21 points. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

These are the Blue Raiders. They won. By 21 points. On the road. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

Were Georgia Tech outrageously lucky, all its fans would be as circumspect as Dave Miller of Atlanta. Miller, a 1977 Tech grad, sat above the South end zone as Middle Tennessee was driving to Points No. 43-49 on Saturday, whereupon he rose without ceremony and moved toward the exit.

“We’re just young,” Miller said. “We had some injuries on defense. And Middle Tennessee is a good team.”

Miller’s summation: “We’ll get better.”

Not 20 feet away, another Tech fan watched the same game end and drew a different conclusion. “This was ugly,” said Jerry Kenney, also of Atlanta. “No pass rush, no tackling. I’m sure Clemson [Tech's next opponent] will be licking its chops.”

Kenney was asked if this had just been a bad day for the home team. “It’s not one bad day,” he said. “It’s two bad days in the week [the first being the overtime loss to Miami], and hope is going out the window.”

Here we offer the boilerplate disclaimer: In sports, things are rarely as bad (or as good, for that matter) as they seem. Indeed, that’s a pet phrase of Paul Johnson’s. That said …

Favored by 27 points, Paul Johnson’s team lost to Middle Tennessee. By 21. At home.

“Probably the worst,” Johnson said, speaking of losses his teams have suffered. But this coach only arrived in December 2007, and this was the worst defeat Georgia Tech has known since Sept. 17, 1983, when Bill Curry’s Jackets lost to Furman 17-14. (Three years later, another Curry team would be tied by the Paladins.)

Yes, Middle Tennessee is a Sun Belt team, and yes, the Sun Belt is an FBS conference. But still: On Aug. 30, the Blue Raiders opened their season by losing at home to McNeese State.

“Embarrassing,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it.”

Chan Gailey’s teams were infamous for alternating stunning victories and stump-the-band losses, but Gailey never lost to Middle Tennessee. (Did lose to Duke, though.) Heck, even Bill Lewis — known around Tech as He Whose Name Must Never Be Mentioned — never lost one like this. (Did lose to Duke, though.)

It would have been bad enough to lose to Middle by a point on a 65-yard field goal that glanced off a pigeon and bounced through the uprights. But Tech lost to Middle on a day when it led the 27-point underdog for all of five minutes, nine seconds. A week after yielding 42 points and 609 yards to Miami, the Jackets were gashed for 49 and 510 by the Blue Raiders.

Said Johnson: “As bad a game tackling as I’ve ever seen.”

Said linebacker Quayshawn Nealy: “In the first half we missed 25 tackles.”

Johnson again: “It was like we were running in mud.”

Tech has played five games, losing three. It already has lost twice at home, marking the first time the Jackets have lost on consecutive weekends at historic Grant Field/Bobby Dodd Stadium since 1988, which was Bobby Ross’ second season. And now we have to ask What This All Means for this abashed coach and this humbled program.

Check the schedule, and you’ll see more than a handful of winnable games remaining. But Miami looked winnable, and Middle Tennessee was deemed a given. By losing both, Tech has fallen to 2-3 with games at Clemson and Georgia to come. By losing both and looking helpless on defense, it makes us wonder if Tech has either the scheme or the personnel necessary to prosper in the ACC, a conference it ruled not so long ago.

Will defensive coordinator Al Groh be in place tomorrow? (For this game, he was moved upstairs to the press box, and those 49 points and 510 yards suggest that perspective isn’t the issue.) Middle’s first five touchdown drives spanned 75, 78, 88, 68 and 75 yards, and here we have to pause to ponder the first part of the sentence.

Middle’s first five touchdown drives. The first five of seven. On the road. On a day when it was a four-touchdown underdog. Against an opponent from a Big Six conference that has graced a bowl for 16 seasons running and was the ACC champ (since vacated) in 2009.

Whatever was working for this program works no longer. Johnson’s prized offense can’t score enough to override his defense, which looked stout at Virginia Tech on Labor Day night but has fallen to pieces. And the excuse made after the Miami game — that Georgia Tech was two plays from being 4-0 — no longer holds currency. There are no excuses when you lose by 21 points at home to Middle Tennessee.

Said Jerry Kenney, the Tech fan: “There was a basketball player named Micheal Ray Richardson, and he once said, ‘The ship be sinking.’ ” He nodded toward the field.

By Mark Bradley

561 comments Add your comment

The Mighty Quinn

September 29th, 2012
6:03 pm

I guess everyone is watching UGA/UT.

The Mighty Quinn

September 29th, 2012
6:04 pm

Oh. First. Sigh.

The Mighty Quinn

September 29th, 2012
6:06 pm

On topic, as pathetic a performance by a Tech squad as I have seen in many years….and thats sayin’ somethin’. MTSU looked like they had 20 guys on the field every play.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2012
6:07 pm

The Mighty Quinn

September 29th, 2012
6:09 pm

Al Groh: Dead man walking. Paul Johnson: not far behind.

BusterBrave

September 29th, 2012
6:09 pm

Da’ Blue Raaaaidas’ !!!!!!! as Chris Berman might say,good observation Mark,3 yrs of Al Groh’s defense is enough…….see a scenario of Groh goes and Johnson be on the hot seat next year,forced to hire a real defensive coach…….just sayin’……

The Mighty Quinn

September 29th, 2012
6:10 pm

Seriously, Mark, how do you see this shaking out?

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2012
6:12 pm

I don’t know, MQ. I don’t believe Johnson is in trouble, job-wise. I do believe Groh might be.

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:12 pm

Do you advocate Johnson’s termination, Mark?

GT Trumpet

September 29th, 2012
6:14 pm

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:14 pm

I must say this is the first time I have questioned Johnson’s stewardship of the program, so I’m not there yet. But he is responsible for the performance of the defense, and it’s killing the program.

BusterBrave

September 29th, 2012
6:14 pm

Kirby Smart ? be in line for his 1st headcoachin’ job…….a juicy idear…………… :-)

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:17 pm

You always wonder what happens when he gets taken away from the brain, BusterBrave.

bill

September 29th, 2012
6:17 pm

This really is a disgrace for Tech fans…..think the writing is on the wall….6-7, 6-0 then collapse….this loss….. PJ has made his bed with Groh and Washington……
For all defending Washington, he makes horrible decisions when the game is on the line. Has for most of 3 years. Washington is to PJ as Ball was to Gailey. …..

If Groh isn’t relived soon…VERY soon…PJ will be gone before 2013. The novelty is up….sad, sad day for Tech fans.

What r u really choking?

September 29th, 2012
6:17 pm

How long do we have to say that Groh is not a good coach? This 3-4 he runs has not stopped anyone in the years he has been at Tech! I am a UGA fan first but I cheer for the home teams and today I stop cheering for Tech because of this lousy coaching…..tired of it! I quit!

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
6:18 pm

Ga Tech was over powered by better stronger players in ever facet of the game. And those players, who over powered Tech, lost to McNeese State.

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 29th, 2012
6:19 pm

This program is better than its head coach and defensive coordinator.

Show’em the door and let Brian Bohanan take the reigns.

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
6:19 pm

Mark – If GT wanted to fire CPJ could they financially afford to…

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
6:20 pm

…or are we stuck w/him?

TechLB

September 29th, 2012
6:20 pm

Mark, Spot on, again.

You know, as fans I think Tech fans are pretty patient. We understand it takes a while to build your team, get your system in, recruit your players, install your culture, etc. We know it would be tough to be a perennial top 10 program, it’s just not the kind of school we are but a consistent top 20-25 is the level we should demand! We do want a passionate, fundamentally sound team that plays tough, smart football, win some, lose some but improve, make changes, pay attention, get better.

This feels like we’re repeating the same mistakes year after year. (Kansas 2010, hello?) Utah last year, mediocre recruiting classes (even though the ratings don’t matter), really bad defense – I mean really bad year after year, listless play…it’s so discouraging.

I have faith but now it’s that there will be big changes for next year!

This is year 5 and this is the result? We have lost patience, it’s time to get better or get out man. That’s the bottom line.

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
6:21 pm

the final score could’ve easily been 70-21.

The Mighty Quinn

September 29th, 2012
6:21 pm

I think Al Groh is a Dead Man Walking. Paul Johnson is on his final appeal of his death sentence.

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:22 pm

He is owed $12MM, Ted. Johnson isn’t going anywhere. Whether he should be removed is another discussion.

TechLB

September 29th, 2012
6:23 pm

@bill – per your Reggie ball to Gailey as TW is to Johnson, Amen! You’re spot on. Although Tevin is a great kid and has a great attitude he’s just not going to win the game for us.

JP

September 29th, 2012
6:25 pm

Paul Johnson is a great coach but his team
is folding on him and do not know why.
The option is great when it is well, but it
has been sick a lot. We have major problems
winning in overtime and when an opponent
has two week to prepare. Paul has got to
start recruiting better horses to win in Division 1
or find a school like Navy or Ga Southern.
Not ready to give up but need a “W”. Come
on Paul lets Roll.

TheJAW

September 29th, 2012
6:26 pm

Nothing left to say…The AD will hve to say something tomorrow…….

Jacket Detective

September 29th, 2012
6:27 pm

Don’t hire a coach that is owed millions by a college willing to pay him that much to go away.
It’s a red flag.
But just on principle, don’t do it.
The system is nuts when the coach can tear up the contract when he wants to leave for more money but can demand the full amount be paid him when he is fired.
If he can tear it up, contracts need to be written where the AD can tear it up when he gets fired.
Why wouldn’t Al give his Alma Matre a break?
3 years to install his system gave both him and CPJ a ready made excuse.
Time’s up.
Team demoralized by worthless multimillionaire Al Groh.

bill

September 29th, 2012
6:28 pm

The thing is….I’m just disgusted. This team is the result of PJ”s recruiting and Groh’s defensive strategy. Think those who said PJ won with Chan’s players are being proved correct. This program is beyond free fall at this point. One can only imagine if Groh didn’t blitz at Va Tech on the last play before the tying FG what would have happened to the season.
But unlike the first 2 years, the luck isn’t on Tech’s side. Groh is obviously not very good here. Tech needs to plan ahead and go with Lee at QB.Washington can’t deliver in the clutch. 7 points in the 2nd half says it all.PJ has to know all of this.

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
6:28 pm

it wasn’t just the defense, Tech’s offensive line was over powered by MTSU defensive line.

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
6:30 pm

I was pretty certain of that George Stein …just looking for confirmation.

We are stuck with a stupid coach that doesn’t think recruiting matters.

Ted M

September 29th, 2012
6:31 pm

Man does this reflect bad on Drad.

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:33 pm

Eh, I’m sure he thinks it matters, Ted. NCAA rules prohibit the amount of contact he can have with players. The assistants are responsible for a lot of it, which is why I think we need a DC with a simple scheme that he can teach quickly so he can recruit like a crazy person.

Jacket Detective

September 29th, 2012
6:33 pm

@JP.
Groh should not have been hired.
Wommack should not have been fired.
Groh did not blitz enough vs Miami.
What have we got to lose by blitzing?
Tevin has played good enough to win the three games we lost prior to this.
He, along with the rest of the team, have been demoralized by their coaches getting outcoached at the end of games.
This stinker may say how they feel about that.

UGA = Yawn

September 29th, 2012
6:34 pm

George S, where did Mark go? He didn’t answer your question. He ran and hid as most of these weak ajc reporters do. I advocate Johnson’s termination. Tomorrow!!

Jeff

September 29th, 2012
6:34 pm

I admit I was not on-board for the CPJ hire so this is not new for me but why the absolute failure on offense and defense? Middle Tenn. State does know how to play football but this is one of thoese games that should hav been winable. I guess this is like what Arkansas is going through (thankfully CPJ is no Coach Smith) but the downward spiral is noticable, even to those outside the program.
We have seen how CPJ recruits (not well) and it is fair to ask what can he do when he gets his kids instead of Gailey’s. Well now we know. His one dimensional offense is better suited for high schools and lower tiered schools, not an ACC school tat hopes to be in the top 1/4th of a weak league.
Oh Well, there is always next year. :(

the red herring

September 29th, 2012
6:35 pm

past time for heads to roll. unfortunately it will cost tech much money to do so. we haven’t had a defensive coordinator since paul johnson took control at tech. we run an offense that is only capable of beating vastly inferior opponents. all of our opponents beat us when they stack the line of scrimmage and we don’t throw enough to have any confidence or success at it. we can win 5 to 7 games per year with this type offense and a good defense— 3 to 4 games with this offense and poor defense. when we play teams that as good or better than us we have little chance of success as run the ball 3 times and punt doesn’t bode well. sigh. will have to listen to the woof, woof, woofs again.

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:36 pm

What the hell happened to UGA’s defense? They looked great, and now they look like us.

UGA = Yawn

September 29th, 2012
6:36 pm

Stadium was half full? Really? I find that hard to believe. Why would any Tech fan want to go to that game – especially after the Miami game – which was the worst I had ever seen. The only way we forced change with Hewitt was to not show up at the games.

bill

September 29th, 2012
6:37 pm

Honestly, I would fire Groh today if it were my choice. This isn’t a fluke. 2 years and 5 games is a good sample of what he is in 2012. Sometimes, the game passes you by…even when you were a head coach at a major university and a head coach in the NFL
Will be interesting to see if PJ is too stubborn to make a move….Lee really should be the starting QB the week after next.No reason to avoid that reality.

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:37 pm

I am surprised the criticism of the offense.

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:39 pm

I went, UGA=Yawn, and stayed for the bitter end. How can you recruit when the fans don’t show up?

Can’t have it both ways.

Jacket Detective

September 29th, 2012
6:40 pm

I am surprised some Virginia fans have not posted “told u so”.

Lee Goza

September 29th, 2012
6:41 pm

I’ve been a Jacket fan for 45 years and I’ve never seen them quit like that…

TO

September 29th, 2012
6:42 pm

I have always supported CPJ. Can’t anymore. This was pathetic. As the head coach, CPJ is responsible for all aspects of his team’s performance. Too often, CPJ has gone to the “defense was the problem” excuse. The defense is his. His failure to act before this train wreck is his problem. CPJ has to go.

Jay

September 29th, 2012
6:42 pm

If this game was shown is black and white, it would be hard to tell GT from a team that played 80 years ago. I am dying to see something modern in the game plan.

doc

September 29th, 2012
6:43 pm

well i came here to say this:

“And the excuse made after the Miami game — that Georgia Tech was two plays from being 4-0 — no longer holds currency.”

you beat me to it mark.

ok, first groh then cpj.

i held my breath long enough, it is done.

i had my apprehensions when chan was fired essentially thinking the tech men behind it had delusions of grandeur. their grandeur was that of 1952. i sat on the sidelines with my grandfather at the 46 yd line 6 rows up from 56 to 65 just off the old cinder track. was taught football by the tech track great buddy fowlkes before he became a politician so i go back a ways. tech has always been good at 6-4 to 7-3 with a sporadic year greater than that during that time. they seemed to forget that is tech and should be the expectations and graceful enough to praise it when it happens. they didnt and this is what they have gotten.

so be it. they denounced former ad who was right on. that wasnt complacency but a reasonable bar if the program is run honestly which it wasnt. they forgot chan had to coach em up to get past that penalty with fewer pieces than his lying predecessor or hand the reins off to the guy that followed who reaped the rewards of his hard work at recruiting skill players.

mark i know you are believer in cpj. surely your doubts about this assessment is beginning to mount?

Jacket Detective

September 29th, 2012
6:43 pm

Could we have said no to the VT early season game?

Jeremy

September 29th, 2012
6:44 pm

CPJ needs to be fired. We need a real coach that can recruit a winning team

Jacket Detective

September 29th, 2012
6:44 pm

Groh has now wrecked two football programs: Virginia and Georgia Tech.

George Stein

September 29th, 2012
6:45 pm

He isn’t going anywhere, TO, so we need to find a new DC and some recruiters (perhaps the same person).