Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tech / Maryland - The Day After the Loss

Yesterday was an interesting day for me, watching the Jackets lose to Maryland 28-26. In terms of the 2007 Georgia Tech football season, something inside of me died on Saturday. Hard to describe. Just a mix of frustration, sadness and reality when you now know that halfway through the season, you are effectively out of the ACC race. Now the fight is for bowl pecking order, to see if we can somehow pull out 6-8 wins for the season. Oh yeah, and beating the mutts.

Don't get me wrong. My support for the team is still there. My passion is still there. However, much of my hope died. I have to re-configure my expectations from here on out. When you have this many experienced players returning to a team that won the ACC Coastal last season, you have every reason to have high hopes. Of course, with high expectations comes vulnerability. My vulnerability was exposed and now I'm left to deal with an incredible disappointment.

Of course the disappointment I feel is nothing compared to what those players and coaches are going through. You know they are hurting and disappointed. After all, they are the ones who gave the blood, sweat in tears to prepare - not you and I. They are the ones that put their bodies on the line. They are the warriors who battled in the trenches. Unfortunately we have lost too many battles and the war is lost. All we have left is to win a few more battles and get a mid-tier bowl game.

You know, every team at Georgia Tech is special..... and every year the team is different. Different players, different personalities, sometimes different coaches. I love this year's team. I love Tashard Choice's guttiness. I love Darrel Robertson's tenacity. I love Philip Wheeler's speed and fearlessness. I love Daryl Richard's leadership on and off the field. I love Durant Brooks' foot. I actually love watching the special teams for a change. I love what Coach Kelly has done there. I love glimpsing the future by watching young people make their mark like Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer and DJ Donley. This is a fun team to watch and each player and coach is part of the reason.

What I don't love is the lack of answers. What I don't love is losing. Who does? It hurts. How can you "fix" things that are wrong? How do you fix a fumbled punt and a 'pick 6' that leads to one loss? How do you "fix" secondary coverage that basically led to the other two losses? How do you "fix" all the in-opportune penalties? How do you "fix" a defense that only seems to buckle down after being punched in the mouth a couple of times? How do you fix a passing game? How do you call the right plays at the right time?

It would be nice if there were easy answers to these questions. Some of it comes down to the plays being called by our coaching staff. Some of it comes down to execution by the players. Some of it comes down to the opposition just making a play. There are many reasons things don't happen the way they should.

I will say this and I'll get off my soapbox. The "can-Chan" crowd is out again. This is just me talking, but calling for the coaches head is just lazy. It's basically saying - I don't know what's wrong but I want someone to pay. The most popular player is the back-up QB AAANNNDDD the head coach you don't have. Is Chan Gailey's offensive philosophy fairly conservative? Yeah, it really is. Is that frustrating at times? Yeah, it really is......... By not letting Taylor Bennett attempt more throws on that last drive, they were basically playing in a way to avoid exposing as many weaknesses as possible.

However, did Taylor Bennett's 2nd half passing breakout against MD give you the confidence that he would have completed the key pass that would have gotten us closer to a TD - or even to the endzone? Well, in hindsight, it's obvious we should have tried something different. But who's to say? Speculate is all you can do. Coach Gailey and John Bond made a decision based on days and days of film study of this team and watching in-game tendencies. They made the call they thought would work. It didn't. You really think you would have made the right call? Would you be happier had we attempted a pass and thrown an INT? Would you have been happier at least going out in a blaze of glory? I seem to remember a few Reggie Ball game ending INT's doing just that same thing. I don't seem to remember post-game talk shows with fans saying - "hey, we may have thrown an INT, but I like the fact that we went out going for the gusto!!". Bottom-line is that none of like losing. Second guessing what didn't work after the fact is a WHOLE lost easier than figuring out what will work before the fact.

Would we have won more games the past 5 years had Coach Gailey been an offensive wild-man? Who the heck knows - but I doubt it. I really doubt it. Maybe we end up with one 10 or 11 win season and a bunch of 5-6 win seasons. I don't know. Are we going to be better off with a different coach? I really don't think so. I just don't see it.

Folks - winning does wonders. Remember the mutts last year. Incredibly disappointing season until they rattled off three wins against good teams (including us) to end the season. The fans came into this year with a tremendous amount of hope and excitement - primarily driven off the wins to end the prior season. Now, I love nothing more than the fact that they are on the verge of being out of the race for their conference title. However, if this Tech team runs the table, beats UGAg and wins a bowl, ends the year with 10 wins - you're feeling good about this team. Yes, the ACC title is basically gone, but if they end the season by running the table the last 4-5 games, we will all be feeling pretty good.

................. and this team is capable of running the table. Maybe Taylor Bennett's 2nd half against Maryland was the real thing. Maybe the passing game has "clicked". If so, anything is possible. We just have to keep riding the ride. Are we going to beat Miami a 3rd year in a row? Odds seem low, but we know they are not a great team. Will we beat VaTech a 2nd year in a row? Don't know - but let's get behind them and find out. Will we slip and lose to either Duke or UNC? Will we finally break through and slap the mutts? I will sure be cheering with the team to find out.

So, my hopes for this season are now different. The ACC title hopes are gone, but my passion for Georgia Tech has not changed. My love for this group of players is no different. My support of the coaches will not change either. Let's wait until the season is over to try and see if the program continues to go in the right direction. Let's not damage our recruiting efforts with cries for coaches heads please. I"m just going to do the right thing and support the team.

Many. losing sure stinks.