Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Georgia Tech Football: Yellow Jackets Defense Secures First Bowl Victory Since 2004 Defeating USC 21-7

Georgia Tech celebrates a bowl win/ElPasoTimes.com
The bowl game monkey is off Paul Johnson's back. After four failed attempts, including two heartbreaking losses, Georgia Tech finally got a bowl win and it was over the preseason number one USC Trojans 21-7 in the Sun Bowl. And oddly enough, it was the defense that won the game. 

1. Georgia Tech's defense had by far their best game of the season.

The Yellow Jackets held the Trojans to just 3.47 yards per play, besting their 3.74 performance against Presbyterian. Max Wittek's atrocious accuracy certainly helped, but Tech also shut down USC's running game allowing just 98 yards on the ground. The 205 yards of total offense was their lowest of the season by 75 yards (280 yds vs Stanford).

2. Georgia Tech won the line of scrimmage, especially on defense.

Where was this defensive line play all season? Yellow Jacket defenders were getting off blocks to slow down the run and getting enough pressure on Wittek to make him uncomfortable standing in the pocket long enough to take shots down field.

3. Charles Kelly may have earned himself the Defensive Coordinator job with the Sun Bowl performance.

Johnson said he would not make a decision on the full-time DC until after the bowl game. Based on the number of other schools hiring defensive coordinators in the last month and the amount they are paying those DCs, the delay in the decision pointed to Kelly getting one more audition for the job. I think Kelly can be a good hire and should definitely be retained, but Johnson should not base the decision just on this game.

4. Speaking of the defensive coaching staff, I wonder how many will be retained?

Kelly will be for sure, but beyond that is uncertain. Former defensive line and current linebacker coach Andy McCollum is also the recruiting coordinator, but his DL unit was non-existent until the Sun Bowl. Supposedly he is one of the better recruiters but I think the lack of talent on the defensive side is the biggest reason for the struggles so how good is he? Dave Wolkosky taught special teams in the first half and then defensive line in the second half. Considering it is first season he may get a pass. Joe Speed. I have no clue on him other than he is a Navy guy.

5. The Secondary covered and tackled well all game.

Again, Wittek's poor throws certainly aided but the Jackets three deep coverage along with a moderate pass rush prevented the Trojans from going deep like they love to do. Tech had a season high eight pass breakups. Rod Sweeting played like a Senior should and was awarded the game MVP. Backup Safety Chris Milton was never taken advantage. As well as the defensive backs played it is even more remarkable that the best player Jemea Thomas did not make a significant play.

6. Tevin Washington leaves the program on a high note.

The Senior didn't have a great game, but he did the things you need not to lose it. Washington struggled early on with USC's athleticism and speed and was replaced by his backup Vad Lee. But after Lee turned it over for a second time Washington was a steadying force consistently moving the chains enough to allow Tech to play field position with the three club wind blowing in El Paso.

If everyone of Georgia Tech's players worked as hard as Tevin has in his career they would have won a lot more games the last two years

7. As Vad Lee ascends to the starting QB role expect more tweaks in Johnson's offense.

While he showed significant progress in running the option, Lee remains most comfortable in the shotgun with a run/pass play call. I would expect Johnson to run more shotgun out of the pistol next year with a heavy dose of zone read. I also expect Johnson to air it out more as Lee possesses a much stronger arm than Washington. And as good of an athlete as Lee is, his backup Justin Thomas is likely a better one. The future is bright at Quarterback.

8. Fans are happy as long as you win once a week.

Yes, Yellow Jacket fans are not happy with a 7-7 record, but it makes the record more bearable if you win your last game giving you a happy memory for the next eight months. Beating a program like USC, as disappointing as their season was, also means a lot too to a program like Georgia Tech. Johnson will be largely cheered at basketball games and it makes the ticket sale calls a little easier to get renewals coming off a bowl win over Southern Cal.

9. I used to think Lane Kiffin got a bad rap, but I am starting to see the light.

When Kiffin was at Tennessee I thought he was right to pound his chest a little bit about the Vols because the program had fallen off the national map and needed a jolt. I understand why he left when USC opened even if it was after just one year in Knoxville. I thought he would return the Trojans to prominence this year. But to take this talent to a 7-6 record is remarkable. Kiffin can still recruit, but his play calling, development, and motivation skills are way under USC's level. He enters next season as number one on the hot seat list.

10. Georgia Tech is not that far off.

Paul Johnson often says his program is not that far off. Those comments are hard to believe after a 41-17 loss to BYU or a 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State, but in the Jackets last two games they came six points away from winning the ACC and then beat the preseason number one team by 14. The Yellow Jackets simply need a few dynamic playmakers on offense and defense in order to compete each year for ACC titles and have a chance at nine wins. But it is tough getting those players on campus due to the academic restrictions and lack of majors. Johnson is hoping the improvement in graduation rates and APR scores will give him the needed latitude on a few players in recruiting.

That is my thoughts on Georgia Tech's victory over USC in the Sun Bowl. What are yours?

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