When I was six, I learned how to ride a bike. Nothing fancy... but I could guide it with the handle-bars and peddle relatively fast. Nonetheless, I had to take it slow on turns and walk it down hills. One day I thought it was time to test my limits. I went down the biggest hill I could find. (This is back when wearing helmets was only a suggestion). Needless to say, I scraped the skin off the right side of my face when I hit the pavement. And right before we had picture day the next morning at school.
Though painful and woefully beaten up, that trip was completely necessary. My life was not over. In fact, I learned a lot about myself, what I needed to work on to make it down that hill safely and that my mother could still give me a whippin' even on the way to the hospital.
For many of the young players in Tech's offensive rotation, going down that hill was necessary. We'd all love to learn great lessons without experiencing the pain of a loss, but many times it is simply unavoidable. Notre Dame is good... but not great. Tech's athletic ability and speed matched up quite well. But the 2015 team does not have a wealth of seniors and leadership at every position, so this loss becomes a hard lesson the team has to learn from.
What we learned on the perimeter
It's a shame about Qua Searcy being injured. We saw a player that could not only make people miss, but proved to be proficient catching the ball and getting open.
I don't know how much Clinton Lynch was expected to contribute, but he looks to be developing into a gritty player who will continue to compete. The touchdown saving tackle he made after the fumble gave Tech the chance to stay in the game and possibly to tie is they recovered the onside kick.
Brad Stewart is proving you don't have to be 6-4, 220 lbs. to be physical. The true freshman delivered a punch to safeties and corners that made you shiver. He might not have blocked the right guy every time, but whoever I attacked, he put on the ground.
Despite Ricky Jeune's physical abilities, he seems to lack the confidence of so many Tech receivers in the past. Though he's a sophomore, this is his most significant playing time. Knowing what to do is part of gaining experience. But knowing what you're capable of probably takes a little more time.
Running the Ball
Justin Thomas is confident in his abilities for good reason. He knows how to attack a defense. But Coach Johnson eluded to getting downhill quicker and put pressure on speedy defenders to make a decision. It cleans up the pitch key so Thomas won't pitch off the wrong player as he said in the press conference.
Johnson talked about how hard Patrick Skov ran, while missing some opportunities for some very big gains. "He's got to run with his eyes open," Johnson said in Monday's press conference. Though Skov is older, he spent four years being treated like a fullback instead of a primary ball carrier. So his duties at Stanford were to simply get the tough yards... not take it to the house. He'll get better, but I also see Marcus Marshall becoming more of a complement to Skov. Marshall's vision, balance and mindset is that of a running back who looking to score every time he touches it. If Marshall can secure the ball better, I think Skov could learn a lot from his running style.
It doesn't matter how expensive and sturdy a chair is... if you constantly jump up and down, eventually it will break. Other than the long touchdown run, the Jackets' defense played fairly well and kept the team in the game. They had to play with a lot of pressure since the offense was grossly ineffective for most of the game. Still, I thought they got good pressure on passes and up the middle to stop the run. There were a couple of catches (push-offs by receiver Will Fuller that only Doug Flutie and myself seem to notice) for big gains, but ultimately that didn't kill your chances at winning the game.
It's Cliché Time!
Even though every goal remains in front of the team, they are evenly matched against every team from here on out. That means that their focus can't be on beating Clemson or winning the Coastal Division. The Jackets have to focus solely on getting better each game and beating Duke.
Johnson said their preparation and attention to detail must be with the same intensity they'd have in facing some of the tougher opponents like Notre Dame. Duke is strong defensively and is better than their 10-point performance against Northwestern this past week. But the Jackets need to establish their confidence and take the fight to the Blue Devils. Tech will be short-handed with several injuries, but they know how to play. Defensively, don't' let Duke gain any confidence. The A-Backs and receivers just learned the level of intensity they must have to block well on the perimeter. If they apply those lessons, Duke's secondary could be in for long afternoon.
... Not related to anything... I still despise Brian Van Gorder.