You Gotta Keep Ya Head Up
As the poet and lyricist Tupac Shakur used to say, “I know you are probably fed up, but you gotta keep your head up.”
And with that, welcome back to another week of The Upper North Perspective.
It is getting a little tense around the fan base these days. So-called “fans” are bashing players. Other fans are calling for heads to roll within the coaching staff, and depending on their own personal vision, their chosen coach or player may vary. After two rough losses, we all are faced with the truth that we have all been dealing with our whole lives. It’s tough to be a Tech fan.
To be totally honest, perspective is key here. For starters, I think the team and coaching staff have earned the ability for us to wait until the end of the year before rushing to judgment on drastic changes and doom and gloom. There are a lot of things that contribute to what is going on around Georgia Tech these days, but if we keep it central to what is happening on the field, maybe things are not as bad as they look after these tough last two weeks.
The football team is at a bit of a crossroads this week. The game against Pittsburgh this weekend almost writes the narrative for the rest of the season.
Being the optimist that I am, I am here to give a few reasons why maybe, just maybe, Tech fans can be a little more positive about the rest of the season. Maybe, just maybe, there is a light at the end of this tunnel with no drastic changes necessary.
Two Straight Losses and a Visit to Pitt
Does this sound familiar?
Yes, I know we cannot live through 2014 forever, but I think there is an important thing to remember from that year for perspective here.
That 2014 group did not start the year all that strong. We all questioned the ability of the team after the first three games. Tech did finish strong at Virginia Tech and came home to win a big game against Miami (more on that next).
That team, however, followed that up with a loss to Duke in which GT was dominated for the most part. Dominated. By Duke. Remember?
Then, North Carolina outscored GT in Chapel Hill with a last minute TD to put the Jackets away. Everyone was humbled. People were back to questioning the direction of the group after two gut-wrenching losses and plenty of tough games remaining. A trip to Pittsburgh was booked for the following week, and this team was at a crossroads. This IS familiar.
What did that Tech team do? They went to Pitt and forced four first quarter turnovers to go up 28-0 and dominated on route to a 56-28 win. The defense became the opportunistic group that forced turnovers the rest of the season at timely moments, and the offense started to kick into high gear.
This was the game that the 2014 group became the 2014 group. Don’t lose sight of that. It is not too late for this team to find their identity and turn the corner.
GT-Miami 2014 vs. GT-Miami 2016
If you look at the box score of these two games, the statistics are nearly identical. I mean, these stats are eerily similar. The defense performed virtually the exact same. Miami had three more total yards in 2016 than 2014, and Tech had 10 more yards in 2014 than 2016. However, Tech lead both years. Tech lagged in 3rd down efficiency this year but still bested Miami. Miami’s rushing stats were almost the same, and they only added forty additional seconds of time of possession.
What does that all mean? Georgia Tech performed pretty much the exact same statistically against Miami with the same exact advantages and differentials in every category but one.
The one major difference? Tech forced two turnovers in 2014, and Miami flipped that script on Saturday. Those turnovers were HUGE in the outcome of the game.
There is not much separating the Yellow Jackets from this top 10 Miami team. Maybe things are not as bad as they seem.
The Defense is Actually Solid
Yes, we all have our frustrations with the defense. The slow-starting-bend-but-don’t-break-but-sometimes-break defense of Ted Roof can be pretty frustrating to watch at times.
At the end of the day though, this defense is playing fairly well. I could pull statistics, but I do not think we really need them again for this topic. The truth is just simply that this defense plays fairly well after the first possession of each game.
Roof and the defense performed admirably against Clemson. Yes, there were some big plays against Miami, but the defense performed fairly well yet again.
The key here is the same key I discussed last week. Roof needs to figure out how to get this group to open games better. If this defense can learn how to start the game strong, watch out.
I will feel very confident when I see a stop on the first possession in the coming games (hopefully this week) knowing that Roof adjusts so well throughout the game. This group will keep getting better all year.
The offense, as a whole, looked better on Saturday and made major progress from Clemson to Miami. There are still issues in blocking, but the effort was much improved overall. There are still a lot of opportunities for improvement, but the great thing is that the improvement has started.
But are you looking for an offensive bright spot since the start of the season? Look no further than Dedrick Mills. This guy does nothing but give his absolute all every single week.
He fights. He plays hard. He runs hard.
Most importantly, he works hard to eliminate mistakes. He wants to be great, and it is very evident in watching his play.
Dedrick has been exciting to watch every single week even when other parts of the team have not been as positive. In the four games he has played, he has run for 300 yards and 7 touchdowns. Mills also delivered a receiving TD on Saturday to increase his touchdown total to 8 TDs. If you consider some of his big runs have been called back due to various penalties, this guy has played off the charts.
Dedrick’s game against Miami earned him the ACC Rookie of the Week honors for the 2nd time this season. He leads all true freshman in rushing touchdowns this season, and he is tied for 5th among all FBS players in scoring per game.
Even if you can’t find positives in anything else, this kid’s development is something to be excited about and a thing to watch as the season progresses. His continued growth is a signal of optimism no matter what.
“Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I’m sure. And if you fall, stand tall and comeback for more.” – Tupac Shakur
The message here is the sky is not falling. The end is not near. There is still hope here.
Georgia Tech is 3-2 with a lot of season left. Those two losses? One was to a favorite for the playoff and another made an appearance in the top 10 this week.
With a win over Pittsburgh this week, literally anything can happen as the season progresses. This team will fight. I have seen it out of Paul Johnson teams for years, and I have no reason to believe this group at Georgia Tech will stop fighting.
This is not the time to give up. This is not the time to get all up in your feelings about things that are over and done. It is not too late for this group.
This is the time to stand up and support this team. It is time to believe that things can turn around, and the ship will be righted. There is a time and a place to deal with potential negatives surrounding this team, but it is too early to know what we have here with this team. There is too much time and too great of a chance for this team to turn it all around.
This team can do it. Just give them a chance, and believe in the process. Take a breath, and maybe you will be surprised at what this team becomes.