Flashes of improvement were overshadowed by special teams errors, avoidable penalties, and an inability to manage the clock.
I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, but I’m having a hard time with this one. Clearly, Georgia Tech still has a long way to go. There is no doubting that… buuutt it kinda felt like we looked better. Maybe? For the most part, the defense looked good (Clemson’s first touchdown was a gift from our special teams), and at times the offense showed promise. Here’s the problem – we lost by 31 points. And another problem – our head coach still doesn’t fully understand clock management. When you’re only down by two scores with 13 minutes left in the game and you have zero timeouts left, you’ve done something wrong.
The only thing that was consistently executed the entire night was Operation False Start. Someone fact check me here, but I’m pretty sure we were called for 84 false starts… At one point in the third quarter, it looked like we were going to be called for another one, but they actually called offsides. From my point-of-view, it looked like the other 10 million false starts we committed, but the refs must have been feeling generous. Either way, there’s a great chance Brent Key has that unit running sprints or doing counting exercises next practice. In all seriousness, this ailment killed numerous drives when Georgia Tech had a chance to maintain a little momentum. It is inexcusable. The stadium wasn’t even that loud. I could hold full-on conversations with all the people around me for the vast majority of the night.
Regardless, I’m not that mad, and that’s why I’m struggling so much. Am I really okay with a 31-point loss? Is that what we’ve become? To set the scene, we’re playing a team that is expected to run us out of the stadium. They have more 4 and 5-star athletes, they make the playoffs consistently, and they’ve had our number for the better part of a decade. But we get the ball first with a chance to strike early. Great. Is a deep shot to try and shock the defense and take momentum the worst call in the playbook? Maybe not… but when the game plan should be about controlling clock and finding rhythm, launching highly contested passes towards an extremely well-covered receiver makes you scratch your head. Or if you’re me after a lengthy pregame, laugh out loud.
To my surprise (and delight), the Yellow Jackets hung tough. Despite that first-play interception, a strong defensive effort highlighted by consistent run support and a timely fumble recovery kept Clemson off the scoreboard in the first quarter. From an offensive standpoint, the most successful plays early on were short, quick passes and screens, erasing much of the deficit between the trenches. The second quarter, on the other hand, started to give me flashbacks of 2019-2021, and I already told y’all that I would wait until mid-September to get upset about sports. Operation False Start was in full effect and a blocked punt eliminated any chance the Jackets had at keeping momentum on the good side. After that blocked punt, three tough stops from inside the 5-yard line were finally forgotten as Clemson punched the ball in the endzone. From that point forward, a game within reach felt out of hand.
In the second half, a stop and an early score from Tech ended up meaning absolutely nothing as Clemson controlled the clock, blocked another punt, and scored 27 unanswered points to put us out of our misery. The thing that hurt most about this one was the brief restoration of hope. 14-10 halfway through the third quarter? I’ll take that any day.
Some players that stood out to me:
- Dontae Smith: He’s going to continue to be an X-Factor offensively. He had a number of solid runs, broke multiple tackles, and caught a few well-timed passes out of the backfield for positive yardage. He’s a shifty dude. Love watching him play.
- Kenan Johnson: Got beat a few times in the first half, once on a third down and once for a touchdown. Seemed like the play broke down both times and he just lost his man. For a team that gave up as many passing yards as we did last year, the secondary has to improve.
- EJ Jenkins: Physically, this guy is a weapon. Dropped a few passes which hurt, but hope to see some good things from him down the line.
Jeff Sims, after the interception, went 63% through the air for 164 yards and a touchdown along with 41 yards rushing. Short passes. Rhythm. That’s at least part of the formula. He did almost lose a fumble in the third quarter, but it’s not on the stat sheet, so let’s not talk about it.
- Best Stat of the Day: We lost to a Top 5 team.
- Worst Stat of the Day: 2/16 on third down. Not much to say here. Between the false starts and the dropped passes, this number had an opportunity to be much more palatable, but it wasn’t.
We’ve got a short week coming up. The Jackets play under the lights again on Saturday as the Catamounts from Western Carolina travel to Atlanta. Don’t take this one for granted. Go Jackets.