Note to self:
The next time you have to pick the winner of a Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech football game, remember that Bud Foster owns Paul Johnson.
They’ll play at Lane Stadium next year and it’s almost automatic that I pick the Hokies at home, but here’s what I saw going into last night’s game in Atlanta:
Georgia Tech was coming off a 28-20 victory over North Carolina in which the Yellow Jackets had scored the final 21 points. The Hokies were coming off a 29-21 triple-overtime victory over a visiting Marshall team that had multiple opportunities to win the game.
And, as I look at Georgia Tech’s upcoming schedule, which includes games with both ACC newcomers, Syracuse at home and Pittsburgh on the road, I can see both of those teams having trouble with a Georgia Tech scheme that they haven’t seen on a regular basis (hello, cut blocks). But this is Johnson’s sixth year as Georgia Tech head coach and he’s in the same division as the Hokies, who go against him every year.
Foster, the Hokies’ defensive coordinator, made some pregame comments about how ludicrous it was that the two Techs had only five days to prepare for each other, but I also heard a postgame interview in which he said the Hokies had so many veterans on defense that there was very little teaching required.
AS I WATCHED the game, I couldn’t help thinking about Al Groh, the former UVa head coach who was the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator before he was fired by Johnson late in his third season.
I’d give anything to know what Groh was thinking – and, eventually, I hope to ask him – when Johnson decided to run the ball on fourth-and-2 from the Yellow Jackets’ 33 with more than eight minutes remaining and the Hokies leading 17-10.
First, may I recommend Mark Bradley’s column on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution site and the comments – 194 and counting — that accompanied it: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/mark-bradley/2013/sep/26/if-he-jackets-look-terrible-whose-fault/
I’ve seen Johnson run the ball on fourth down in his own territory on other occasions and thought it has to be driving the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator, currently Ted Roof, up a tree.
(I can’t see Roof and not think about the round of golf he was the Duke head coach and played golf with then-VT beat writer Randy King at an ACC outing. Roof hit so many balls into the woods, according to King, that he was resorted to using range balls).
But back to the real story:
Georgia Tech entered the game ranked 11th in the country in rushing offense, with an average gain of 5.22 yards per carry, but this wasn’t Elon or Duke the Yellow Jackets were playing. Nor was it North Carolina, at least defensively.
While the Yellow Jackets had 42 rushing attempts for 129 yards (3.1 yards per carry), by my count 18 of those runs were for 1 yard or worse. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I would have passed the ball, however …
There are 123 programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision (previously Division I-A) and I bet at least 120 of them would have punted in that situation. I wasn’t the least bit surprised that Johnson tried to run for the first down, but as good as the Hokies’ defense was, it also looked like Georgia Tech’s O-line wasn’t up to its normal standards.
TURNING ON THE computer this morning, I spotted an e-mail from a self-described regular reader who challenged my statement in Thursday’s UVa Insider that I didn’t think the Hokies would be a heavy favorite over Virginia in Charlottesville.
His point was that the Hokies had given No. 1 Alabama a decent fight before losing to the Crimson Tide 35-10 in the season-opener, while No. 2 Oregon had crushed the Cavaliers 59-10 in Charlottesville.
So, what would the odds have been if Virginia had played host to the Hokies on Thursday night in Charlottesville. Tech by single digits, I’m guessing.
But, that wasn’t really the point. My point was that results prior to Thursday night – specifically lackluster Tech showings against East Carolina and Marshall – would have made a Tech-UVa match-up seem much more competititve on paper than the recent history of the series (nine straight Tech wins) would suggest.
If the Hokies look less beatable after Thursday night, the good news for UVa fans is that Georgia Tech looks more beatable.