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Tuesday Thoughts 9/5: Tantalus

In which we hit the ground running with mythology references this season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Aflac Kickoff Game - Louisville vs Georgia Tech Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello and welcome to the first edition of Tuesday Thoughts in 2023! On a weekly basis you’ll find me here, giving my somewhat-formed thoughts on what’s going on with the football program.

A quick programming note for those that have read before: in years past I’ve had section titles directly derived from stupid things Geoff Collins has said. Since he is thankfully no longer employed here, I will maybe be slowly changing over my sections to new ones, though I haven’t 100% settled on a final list yet. As we go through the season and I play around with it please let me know in the comments what y’all like and don’t like!

Ready? Okayyyy let’s go.

Game Recap in Three Sentences

After a huge second quarter, a 15 point halftime lead slowly evaporated in the second half.

OC Buster Faulkner’s debut offense managed to score 34 total points, our most against P5 competition since week 7 of 2021.

The defense held Louisville to just 1 for 11 on third down conversions but still gave up nearly 500 total yards.

Above The Line of the Week

  1. Our ability to somehow always find RBs that can make an instant impact. This week (and hopefully this whole season) it was Jamal Haynes and Trey Cooley.
  2. Lobster rolls. Just delightful.
  3. Haynes King. He wasn’t earth-shattering or anything, but in his first game he managed to eclipse 300 passing yards (we did this once last year and three times TOTAL in the Collins era) and throw 3 TDs (another thing we haven’t done since week 7 of 2021). There’s definitely some things to work on, but all in all I’m calling this a successful debut.

Unformed Thought of the Week

There were entirely too many commercials in that game right? I feel like I watched 2-3 plays at a time and then got treated to 4+ minutes of commercials. Not only that, but the same 3-4 commercials over and over again; if you’re going to inundate me with ads at least give me some variety, don’t make me listen to Damian Lillard sell Gatorade 25 times.

5 Star (7 Star, 5 Star) Developmental Program Haiku of the Week

Bird mascot with teeth
Mercedez Benz is our curse
Please try to win games


Almost exactly a year ago I started the 2022 season with an article titled Deja Vu in which I lamented the fact that we seemed to be playing the same games over and over again with no real substantive changes. Can I plagiarize myself? Nothing about the Louisville game was new; sure maybe the faces were different, but the experience was the same as countless other games we’ve seen over the last several years (I’m not just talking about the Collins era here, this extends into the Johnson era as well). Letting winnable games slip away is as synonymous with Tech football as the option used to be. I have to ask: are we being punished for some misdeed? Are we living a Greek tragedy?

Tantalus’s story goes something like this: welcomed to Olympus to dine with the pantheon of gods, he decided to steal the nectar of the gods so he could give it to humans and make them immortal. This was a big no-no for Zeus, so in an effort to regain his status Tantalus did what any rational person would do: he Sweeny Todded his son into a bunch of little pieces and tried to feed him to the gods. Shockingly this did not go over well and Tantalus was thrown out of Olympus and then upon his death was condemned to be pushed for eternity. He was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree; whenever he reached for a fruit, the branches would pull away just out of his reach, and whenever he bent down for a drink the waters would recede. We get the word “tantalize” from him: to torment or tease someone by presenting something desirable but continually keeping it out of reach.

That’s how I feel.

At the end of the first half it felt so close. The offense was clicking and the defense was holding Louisville to FGs and no third down conversions. It wasn’t perfect, but we were firmly in the driver’s seat. From that point on though it was one mistake after another. We gained just 21 total offensive yards in the third quarter while Louisville scored 10 points to make it a five point game. After a solid drive, we missed a short FG and then immediately let the Cardinals march down the field to take the lead. At this point things aren’t great, but it’s still a winnable game - all we have to do is score (even just a FG!) and play one or two good defensive drives. Instead, we drive into the red zone, fumble, and then on the very next play give up a 74 yard rushing touchdown to deepen the hole. And oh yeah, our next drive is a three and out. Classic stuff.

There’s about 10 mistakes in the final 20 or so minutes of this game, but perhaps not committing just one of them could’ve led to us escaping with the win. Maybe replacing one wrong with one right could’ve been the difference. Making the field goal. Scoring at all in the third quarter. Not fumbling and coming away from the red zone with at least 3 points. Not giving up the backbreaking long score off of a missed tackle. Holding the ball on offense for more than three plays at a time. Any single one of these could’ve saved us but no; when we reached for the win it was pulled away, just out of our reach. Same as it always is.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of watching wins fall through our fingers like sand. I’m tired of watching our toughest opponent be ourselves. I’m tired of getting caught up in the 10 minutes of playing to our potential and ignoring the nagging voice in the back of my head that says “they’ll find a way to lose this, just watch”. I’m tired of discovering week in and week out that my hope is unfounded. Wins get dangled in front of our eyes and then snatched away at the last second; it’s worse than just outright losing. If there is such a thing as eternal punishment then this is it. Where could we be right now as a program if we converted just one or two more of these games per season? What butterfly effects would those wins have? Would we feel less cynical and bitter about the future of college football if we knew our place in its future was more secure?

Are there positives to take away from this game? Absolutely. But man is it hard to focus on them when you throw away a winnable game like that in a season where you actually have a chance to make a bowl game.

Look Ahead

Up next is SC State (9/9, 1:00pm), a reset opportunity right when we need one. SC State is bad even by FCS standards so this should not remotely be a challenge for us (please don’t make me regret saying this). This is a good chance to take a breath, slow down, and fix the fundamentals. Let’s figure out the offensive identity a little more, work on tackling, and hopefully come away with a 30+ point win.