Today, we’re going to get all caught up on Helmet Stickers for the season so far. Last week, I posted an article about several of the possibly-unnoticed key plays made by some of our players in the Virginia Tech game. To reiterate, the purpose of Helmet Stickers is to give recognition to outstanding individual efforts that change the game but don’t necessarily show up on the stats sheet.
Since the first (and only) edition of Helmet Stickers was for the Virginia Tech game, let’s take a quick look at the Wofford, Tulane, and Georgia Southern games and some of the plays that helped secure us the W.
Try to remember all the way back to August 30, when the Jackets welcomed Wofford to Atlanta for what we all thought would be a good old-fashioned romp to kick off the season. I don’t think I need to remind you all what happened. But believe it or not, there were a couple of bright spots from that game.
Our first Helmet Sticker for the Wofford game goes to redshirt-senior DT Shawn Green, who made quite the impact on the defensive line. Green recorded a career-high four tackles, including two for loss. However, while his line play was impressive, we are giving him this Helmet Sticker for his blocked PAT at the end of the first half, which allowed the Jackets to take a 10-9 lead into the locker room at halftime instead of a tie. Sure it’s one point, but when that one point is the difference between leading and being tied, it makes a big difference.
The second Helmet Sticker goes to A-back Broderick Snoddy for making a great heads-up play with under 10 minutes left in the game. The Jackets had a 24-19 lead and were facing 2nd and 6 from their own 24. Justin Thomas was strung out wide on an option play and facing a tackle for loss that would set up a 3rd and long situation. Thomas made a late pitch to Snoddy, who had seen the trouble forming ahead of time and adjusted his speed to be in position to make a play. The pitch actually travelled forward and was ruled as a pass, but Snoddy roped it in and took off up field for 64 yards down to the Wofford 11, setting Zach Laskey up for his second rushing touchdown on the day.
The Tulane game was another head-scratcher of a performance that led us writers to grossly overuse the phrase "A Tale of Two Halves" for the second week in a row. However, just like the Wofford game, there were positive takeaways.
Our first two Helmet Stickers come on defense. True freshmen KeShun Freeman and Lawrence Austin both had career firsts in this game – Freeman recorded his first sack, and Austin got his first interception. This is particularly notable since it was their first college road game. Both came at key times in the game, too; Freeman’s sack ultimately forced a punt late in the first half that set up the Jackets for a last-second field goal drive to take the lead into the locker room. Austin’s pick came on Tulane’s first drive of the second half and put the Jackets in good field position for a drive that ended with a Tony Zenon touchdown run and put Tech up two scores.
Our third Helmet Sticker for this game goes to none other than "Touchdown Vulture" Tim Byerly, for getting the tough yard when we needed it. Twice. He also led the team on a 60-yard death march that lasted 6:25 and ended with time expiring at the Tulane 12. Byerly was able to take over late in the game and exert his will on a tired Tulane defense, securing us the win.
"Cardiac Jackets" was all too apt a headline in the AJC the day after this game. The Jackets blew a 25 point lead, only to steal a win late in the game. You better believe our first two helmet stickers are going to Jamal Golden and Keshun Freeman for their late-game heroics on defense. Georgia Southern had 1st and 10 inside the Jackets’ 30 with 4:30 left in the game and a 38-35 lead. The game looked just about over, until Jamal Golden flew in from the secondary and blew up an option play, swatting a pitch out of the air. Freeman jumped on the ball quickly and secured the turnover for Tech, which set up a game-winning drive. Who here remembers the last game-winning drive Tech had before this game? Me neither.
Our third and final Helmet Sticker for this game goes to none other than Justin Thomas himself. Look, I know I said I would ignore the stats and look more for players with one or two key plays, but you can’t ignore the fact that JT got us our first game-winning drive in a looooong time (and he did it again a week later! How great). With the game on the line, he told his teammates "Don’t worry, I got this," and he wasn’t lying. Justin has proven to us that he’s a gamer and can make things happen. And for that, I think it’s fair to give him a Helmet Sticker. Don’t you?
Any other notable performances we missed? Who do you think deserves a Helmet Sticker?