So far, I’ve traversed this work week with the same level of confidence I felt after Saturday night’s win. Typically, the immediate aftermath of victory tends to bolster my confidence, then it fades after a day or so. Maybe what I’m experiencing is a slow-release of years-long backlog. Either way, I like it. I’ve watched the Pitt replay a few times (fast forward through the commercials of course), and the team definitely looked improved. My initial feedback stands. But where do we go from here? Over the past couple years, we’ve had flashes of what I’m hesitant to call greatness, but the light goes out as quickly as it is turned on. Louisville 2020, UNC 2021, even Clemson 2022 for the majority of that game… Coach Key believes the talent is there. What will he do with it? Or what can he do with it?
We’re entering uncharted territory as a program. Coach Key has over half a season and essentially an entire in-conference slate to turn this thing around. He might not feel like he has to prove himself, but based on that post-game interview, you can tell he has pride in this team and wants to show the school, its fans, and the country that we can win. So it’s like a two-month job interview. He’s already kinda been helping with the job, now it’s his job to execute. I don’t know if it’s his job to lose, but for a program that currently owes Geoff Collins more money than I would ever know what to do with AND for a program hunting for a new AD, an easy plug and play could make sense, both financially and from a performance perspective. The AD domino is likely to fall first, then this speculation may not matter, but a new AD might not want to rock the boat anymore than it’s already been rocked in year one. The longest tenured interim head coach in Tech’s history is George O’Leary, who led the Jackets in the final three games of the 1994 season before his seven year reign (Tech was 0-3 in those games). Key is already off to a better start, and will have a mostly full body of work to analyze.
And who doesn’t love an underdog, down-in-the-dirt, comeback story? Undefeated the rest of the way is impossible, a pipe dream you might say. But Brent Key should have plenty of bulletin board material for the players, and maybe even some of his own. When I was looking for the cover photo on this column, most of the pictures that came up when I searched “Brent Key” were of Brent Venables getting the “key” to Oklahoma football, a metaphorical Ferrari that apparently needs a tuneup. Coach Key, on the other hand, has been haphazardly tossed the keys to a beat up ‘87 Chevy that, while its history and charm are unsurpassed, needs more than a tuneup.
If the Jackets win this Saturday, it would be the first time we’ve won back-to-back games since the 2018 season. Bleh. But it would be another hurdle this staff leaps over in the trek towards building a successful program. As crazy as this still sounds, Duke isn’t an easy team to beat, but if Tech can be competitive on the road against Pitt, then we can be competitive at home against the Blue Devils. Maybe we’ll even see some more fans in the stands. A 3-3 record heading into a de facto bye week would be glorious (all things considered), as the following battle is 12 days later in a Thursday nighter against the struggling Wahoos of Virginia. A little rest never hurt nobody. That being said, the Jackets were 3-3 halfway through last year, as well, and we all know how that turned out. I’m only laying this out there because although the confidence I mentioned is riding high, I am still very aware of the challenges this team faces. But I feel MUCH better about our chances. The road ahead ain’t easy, but I’m happily riding along in the rumble seat. Go Jackets.