Editor's Note: The following is a Front Page'd FanPost. Enjoy.
One of the many struggles in being a Tech sports fan is the lack of bowl victories for our team. We've made a bowl game every season since the 1997 season, which is a really good streak of 14 straight seasons (this season makes 15). The problem lies where you look at our record in those 14 straight bowl games, in which we are 5-9 without a win since 2004 (against Syracuse, with the other 4 coming against Tulsa, Stanford, Notre Dame, and West Virginia). It's such a let down to get to the end of the season, high on your team, ready to get raging drunk and watch your football team beat someone's face in one last time, and then see them get beat by a team they're favored to win over. It gives fans a reason to doubt, it gives obnoxious rival homers a reason to keep barking at you about how irrelevant your team is, etc.
And now our head coach is Paul Johnson. In his 3 seasons at Tech, he has done a number of things that multiple predecessors failed to do:
1) He beat georgie, 45-42. (A day I will tell my grandkids about one day....assuming I ever graduate from this place.)
2) He beat Florida State (hadn't happened since '75), and then went and beat them at their place the next year.
3) He beat Virginia in Charlottesville (hadn't happened since 1990).
4) He won an ACC Championship and got the team to a BCS Bowl. (Screw you, yes he did.)
However, one thing he's failed to do is win a bowl game, and so now the option automatically doesn't work whenever people have extra time to prepare, right? We got whipped by LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl 38-3, we got beat by Iowa in the Orange Bowl 24-14, and we soiled the field in Shreveport against Air Force and lost 14-7.....what other explanation could there be? It's so obvious, the option clearly won't work when other teams have extra time to prepare, right?
Wrong. Not so fast. Optimism after the jump.
I want to start this by throwing out the Independence Bowl. That game was an absolute shitshow. (The season was an absolute shitshow.) I watched that game surrounded by my mother's country-bumpkin family, holding my tongue with everything I had for fear of letting words come out of my mouth that would have me forever excommunicated from the family. Nothing. Went. Well. We crapped the bed, and nothing else can be said.
But now that we're not thinking about that game any more, let's look at the other two bowls in which Johnson has coached our Yellow Jackets -- the '08 Chick-Fil-A Bowl, and the '10 Orange Bowl. I want to look at something not directly related to our team, and its impact on why we lost -- the opposing defenses.
As much as anyone wants to argue that the option doesn't work or does work given a week or 10 days or a month to prepare, one thing I've learned is that this offense does have an Achilles Heel, and it comes in the form of a great defense. One that can win almost all (if not all) one-on-one matchups, especially up front, and one that is disciplined regardless of the offense in front of them. The two defenses we faced in those two bowl games were two great defenses. Want proof? Check this out:
2008 LSU Starting Defense
DE Tyson Jackson - Kansas City Chiefs
DT Charles Alexander - Free Agent, Arena League (Injury concerns)
DT Ricky Jean Francois - San Francisco 49ers
DE Kirston Pittman - Undrafted, St. Louis Rams, released (injury concerns)
SLB Perry Riley - Washington Redskins
MLB Darry Beckwith - Undrafted, San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Free Agent
WLB Kelvin Sheppard - Buffalo Bills
LCB Chris Hawkins - Undrafted, Tennessee Titans
SS Chad Jones - New York Giants
FS Curtis Taylor - San Francisco 49ers, currently a free agent
RCB Jai Eugene - undrafted
So maybe not the most impressive, but still, you're looking at a defense where over half were taken in the NFL draft, where only one guy has seen no time in the NFL (he's in the secondary), and where the front 7 included 4 guys who were drafted, 2 who would've been without injury problems, and one who's played for two teams at the next level.
2009 Iowa Starting Defense
DE Adrian Clayborn - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#20 overall pick)
DT Karl Klug - Tennessee Titans
DT Christian Ballard - Minnesota Vikings
DE Broderick Binns - Senior at Iowa, #20 ranked DE prospect for 2012 draft
SLB AJ Edds - Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts
MLB Pat Angerer - Indianapolis Colts
WLB Jeremiha Hunter - New Orleans Saints
LCB Shaun Prater - Senior at Iowa, #6 ranked CB prospect for 2012 draft
SS Tyler Sash - New York Giants
FS Joe Conklin - no NFL record could be found
RCB Amari Spievey - Detroit Lions
So now we're looking at a defense that had 8 guys drafted and will have two more drafted this year, for a total of 10 NFL prospects. By scoring 14 points, we outscored 5 other opponents of theirs....think about that. The only two games they lost, they were without their starting QB (and even then, one was an overtime loss to Ohio State in the Horseshoe).
So what does this all say? What I'm getting at is that not winning bowl games under Johnson has largely been a function of the opposing defenses. We've learned this -- get beat up front and we can't function. Both of those games, we had a mess made out of us up front and scored an aggregate 17 points (7 off of a pick-six in the Iowa game, if I recall).
I think that if we play coherently (unlike Shreveport) and have a match-up that doesn't put us at a major disadvantage (unlike the other two), we have a legitimate chance at winning bowl games under Paul Johnson. I'm looking forward to what we can do this year in the post-season, likely in the Sun Bowl.