Hi. If you're a frequent reader of this site, or particularly of our "Monday Morning Quarterback" articles, you'll notice that this article is going to go a little bit...off-script. For those new to the site, the "Monday Morning Quarterback" is the weekly article where I go back and grade each position group on their performance from the weekend's game. I'll also grade the Offense, Defense, and Special Teams as a whole, all on your typical scale of A through F (with pluses and minuses thrown in for good measure).
This week, we're not doing that. I don't want to grade the team on Saturday's performance. It feels irresponsible to do so. The team continues to play with less than a full deck of cards, and continues to see that deck dwindle. Also, frankly, I probably don't want to dive into this performance any deeper than you do.
Instead, I want to reflect on how outstandingly bad this season has been, and how this game was a seemingly perfect microcosm of the entire year.
Coming into this game, I really liked Georgia Tech's chances, and felt a little strange about having confidence in a team with so much negative momentum. I felt like their effort throughout the season had been consistently excellent, and another game along those lines would end in a win against a team who had quit after their coach had been fired and they had their doors blown off by UNC the week before. A full 60 minutes of effort would result in a frustrated and dejected Miami team, and Georgia Tech would prevail.
It started out well! The defense forced a three-and-out to start the game, and the offense went on an explosive 6-play, 62-yard drive that would end in a touchdown.
Just like this season, after a strong start, it was all downhill from there.
Just like this season, injuries played a considerable role in that.
It's funny, in a bit of a sad and painful way -- just this week, I was writing a column, but never ended up posting it. The concept was "The Case for Benching Justin Thomas", with the argument that his health is far more important to this team moving forward than the outcome of its final two games. I talked it over with a couple of friends, though, and decided not to post it -- it would be a bad coaching move that sent the wrong message to the team, not to mention what could have potentially been were they to find a way to win the final two games. Also, there's this rivalry game coming up this week that is still pretty important.
Turns out, that decision was made early in the Miami game, although it really wasn't even a choice. Thomas suffered a head injury of some variety during the course of that first drive, and would not return. Injuries had struck again, as they have all season.
Redshirt freshman backup QB Matthew Jordan (technically the third-string quarterback, but currently second-string after he moved back to quarterback from his early-season position of A-Back when true second-string quarterback Tim Byerly was lost for the season in practice after the first game of the season) came in to relieve Thomas, and did an admirable job. In his first in-game action since the end of the Clemson game, Jordan managed 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and finished 4-for-8 passing for 59 yards and an interception. He made mistakes, which should come as no surprise given his experience level, but overall performed admirably given the situation. (By the end of the game, Jordan's jersey was torn up after the beating he took.)
Just like the rest of the season, that effort wasn't enough.
Just like the rest of the season, untimely turnovers helped to do the Yellow Jackets in. Jordan's second drive at the helms saw him take the offense 56 yards in 12 plays, all the way down inside the 5-yard line. The drive's final play, unfortunately, saw Jordan lose a fumble. (One of 2 fumbles lost by Georgia Tech, and one of 9 fumbles by the offense all day. Yes, you read that correctly -- NINE fumbles.) The ensuing drive for Miami went all 97 yards needed for a touchdown, and required only 6 plays. What should have been a 14-7 lead for Georgia Tech was actually a deficit by the same score.
Georgia Tech's ensuing possession was, again, moving well. They went 15 yards in four plays, and were in position for another first down after a 6-yard carry by Patrick Skov.
Just like the rest of the season, they didn't catch a break.
Skov was in the middle of a pile on a play that probably should have been blown dead for a stoppage of forward progress. It wasn't, and the ball was stripped from Skov's hands. It was returned 46 yards for a touchdown on the play.
(The cherry on top? Jordan injured himself on the play, and there for a minute we had a moment where we thought we were all going to see walk-on fourth-string QB Chase Martenson in the second quarter of an ACC game.)
That's what this season has become: a ridiculous series of mistakes and missed opportunities, made worse by several unfortunate breaks, and accentuated by injuries to make it all worse.
This season has been far, far less fun than I thought was possible. (What's amazing and sad is to think of what it may have been if not for Lance Austin's return against Florida State.) As a fan, I don't find myself angry. There's nothing comical about what's happening.
I'm just sad. Sad, and exhausted. I'm ready for the season to just be over.
There's nothing worth breaking down and grading at this point. This is a team now playing without its starting quarterback, its backup quarterback, several running backs, a starting wide receiver, an offensive lineman, its best defensive player, a defensive tackle with 3 starts, and a veteran linebacker. They're giving it their all, and it's not enough, and there's no real good reason for it.
The season has been a disaster from the get-go, and I think there are several fans who will join me in being happy when it's over next Saturday. I'm emotionally spent and need time to recharge. I'd imagine several fans out there feed the same way.
I know that the team does.