Ed. Note: Instead of doing position grading this week (not enough positives to talk about), I'm just going to talk about the game as a whole and where we're at halfway through our season.
Yesterday was awfully frustrating, for a lot of reasons. Some of that was under Georgia Tech's control, some of it wasn't. That was probably the most frustrating part, was that at times it seemed like the team was playing its game and doing its best, and yet that wasn't going to be enough.
Two things, though, that we cannot forget here. First, Duke played a great game. They made plays when they had to and avoided making the big mistake. As bad as it sounds and feels to be losing to Duke, apparently they're fully capable of hanging with most teams and even beating some tougher teams. (See: last season, where they beat Miami and Virginia Tech, and had Texas A&M very much on the ropes.) They pushed our guys around up front (especially when they were on offense, but also some on defense), they ran the ball successfully, and they did a pretty good job of defending the option.
The second thing is that Georgia Tech played a pretty bad game. Justin Thomas had some "young QB" moments, and apparently was injured the entire second half. The team had an unusually poor day in the red zone, still going 5 for 6 but with two cases of settling for a field goal and another of turning the ball over via interception. Speaking of which, there were two other turnovers that were bad -- one a result of a "young QB" moment from Thomas, another being the first instance in a very long time that Zach Laskey fumbled. There were issues getting the fundamentals right for the first time in a while -- things like "snapping the ball in time" and such.
Then, you had the things outside of our control. After a great day of returning the ball, Jamal Golden got injured. That sucked. Corey Griffin was thrown out of the game for just an egregiously bad penalty. There were penalties committed by Duke that weren't called. There were penalties not committed by Tech that were called. (I wouldn't normally get too worked up about a few missed calls, but the ones that were missed were timed in a way that was particularly detrimental, it seemed.)
If there's a positive to take from this game, I think it's that backup QB Tim Byerly was afforded some snaps and had some success throwing and passing the ball at the end. I don't mean it as an impeachment of Justin Thomas, but more that we can be more comfortable in the case that Byerly is needed later on down the road. (I, personally, was never concerned about Byerly, but there were certainly fans who were.)
The bottom line here is that, coming into this game, we were coming off of two huge wins over teams we hadn't beaten in a very long time. We knew we had a young team that could be really inconsistent, and there were comments throughout last week and before that referred to a let-down in the works, just without knowing when or where.
Well, here it was.
It's hard to shine up a loss to Duke, even with them being the reigning Coastal Champions, but I still like where this team is at. Halfway through the season, they sit at 5-1, with two of the five being wins we've been begging for for years. The 6 games they have left before Conference Championship and Bowl Season are all winnable (they always have been), and this team is still set up to do great things. I expect at least one more performance like this one, but I don't think it'll be a recurring theme. The other thing I think we shouldn't ignore is we settled for field goals, turned the ball over 3 times, had everything working against us on a bad day in general...and we only lost by 6. The fact that this team can have so much go wrong and still end up that close is a good sign.
No, they're not going to start 10-0. No, they probably won't be ranked again for a few weeks. That's OK though. They're still on pace to outperform expectations and turn in a solid season. They've also still got the ability to win a conference championship and go to a big-time Bowl game. For a team that was predicted by many to go for 7-8 wins, that's a pretty good performance, I'd say.
Yesterday sucked, but the future is still bright, I say. Do you agree? How is your coping going?