Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia Tech played a fantastic game and overcame a ton of adversity in beating the country's preseason #1 team in the Sun Bowl.
Paul Johnson just won his first bowl game as head coach of Georgia Tech, and I don't think he could really be any more proud. The amount of adversity that this team overcame to achieve this victory is just astonishing.
September saw a team with high hopes for itself lose twice after holding leads late in the fourth quarter, and then subsequently lose to Middle Tennessee State at home in a game that wasn't even close. October saw this team lose its defensive coordinator, and then get killed by BYU in its Homecoming game. November saw this team fumble on its first possession against in-state rival georgia, and never come close to being back in the game.
And yet, somehow, this is a team that was within one drive of beating Florida State for a conference championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl, and now a team that has beaten the preseason #1 team to accomplish something that this program hasn't since 2004.
This is a team that saw injuries in bowl practice to leading tackler S Isaiah Johnson, in the first half to arguably its best defensive player Jeremiah Attaochu, and arguably its best offensive player Orwin Smith. This is a team that turned the ball over 3 times (including a wild fumble off of a punt that hit one of our blockers in the back) and was penalized 8 times for 88 yards -- at times some of the weirdest calls I've seen all year in any game. This is a team that, given all of that, had to play an opponent loaded with 4- and 5-star players all over the field and somehow try to manage a win.
They did manage that win. This is a team that came out of the gates ready to put the streak of bowl losses to bed. They're sick and tired of hearing about how a team with weeks to prepare can easily stop their high school gimmick offense. They could have given a damn who they were playing today, preseason #1 or not.
These guys came out and shut down USC more than anyone could have ever asked them to. The defense held USC to 205 yards of offense (107 passing, 98 on the ground), forced three turnovers, refused to let Max Wittek develop a sense of comfort, denied Silas Redd from even getting started on the ground, and held USC to a combined 3 for 16 on third and fourth down.
Oh, and that gimmicky high school offense that anyone with half a brain can stop with 4 weeks of preparation? 369 yards of offense (including nearly 300 on the ground alone), two passing touchdowns regardless of what was expected of them, 6-13 on third down, 18 first downs, 4.7 yards per carry, and, perhaps most importantly, over 36 minutes of possession.
Like I said, I don't think Paul Johnson could really be any more proud of this team. They just played their best game of the year, and it couldn't have come at a better time. It was a phenomenal performance by the Yellow Jackets, and I'll be extremely disappointed in anyone who says otherwise.
Stay tuned. In the next hour, I'll be posting some offense and defense-specific posts. We've got a few fantastic performances to discuss.