Normally, the best players for the Jackets are highlighted on Wednesday in the Waffle Awards (my failing of that last week aside) but this week there isn’t a whole lot to highlight other than just a small sample of plays.
Jahmyr Gibbs: Gibbs was the only consistent piece of the offense this game with 90 total yards from scrimmage. His longest run was for 19 but anything with a positive gain was a win as he had to shed tackles and beat defenders to the outside on most plays. There are going to be games where Gibbs can will this team to a win. Clemson isn’t going to be one.
Jalen Camp: His lone reception was the only score on the day that kept the game tied briefly in the first quarter. Camp was able to get inside of Clemson’s Mario Goodrich and burn him in the deep middle of the field for a 59-yard touchdown reception.
Zamari Walton: Walton was picked on early by Trevor Lawrence but Walton got a pick of his own when Trevor threw under duress and heaved up a pass that Walton came down with. It ended Lawrence’s year-long streak of no picks and kept him 14 pass attempts shy of Russell Wilson’s ACC record.
Charlie Thomas: Travis Etienne is one of the best backs in the nation and doesn’t put the ball on the ground often. Thomas did a good job to rip the ball from Etienne as he had it tucked with both arms before going down. It kept Clemson off the board on their first drive while threatening the red zone.
Now let us address something that reared its ugly head this week and that is the division of this fan base and direction of the program. It got pretty heated among fans, journalists (professional ones), former players, and even current players’ parents among the Twitter world after the game. Now social media has always been a cesspool of hot takes and irrational thought but it seems a divisive fissure has developed between schools of thought on the expectation of Georgia Tech Football.
When coaching changes occur there is a natural reaction to hope for better. Collins was brought in to reignite a program in a major city that had all but forgotten its existence because of a crowded region of football dominance. Many fans, myself included, were happy to see the new attention local media and even national pundits were giving to Georgia Tech. Recruits that wouldn’t give Tech the time of day were putting them on their Final 5 lists as Tech became a cool destination again in the heart of Atlanta. We’ve already seen some of that pay off in the form of Jeff Sims, Jahmyr Gibbs, Ahmarean Brown, and top transfers coming back home to name a few. Yet some see the struggles so far and already attribute this chapter of Tech football a failure and that simply is too premature to conclude. Look, I roll my eyes now and again when I hear Coach Collins talk about the “biggest transformation in college football” for the umpteenth time after a game of rookie mistakes. But the keyword is rookie mistakes. Phil Steele is a major source of team knowledge in the college football world and Georgia Tech has ranked as one of the youngest teams under Collins. We knew the transition was going to be bumpy and that is why he got a 7-year contract. This is our staff for the near future and we need to learn to support them even when some games turn bad as Clemson did. It doesn’t mean we can’t point out the mistakes we see and expect it to improve over the year. The coaching staff sees them too and are surely learning themselves as this is a young staff on top of that.
The group that seems to think any comment or article that calls out bad plays, play calling, clock management, or other blunders by the team is not being a true fan need to learn that is part of loving football. We all want to see this team win every single week. It just doesn’t always happen that way and we point out what went wrong when it does while highlighting what was done well. I cover this team and while I by no means have any business coaching a team I do have a good understanding of the game and some of my fellow writers have even more. A few played at Tech and some assisted with game prep by studying opponents film. We’re not insulting a player by calling out that someone in the secondary broke off from a receiver with no help to pick them up (which happened a lot against Clemson). That is an error on one of the players misreading an assignment and analysis is going to state that fact.
We also need to understand what is Georgia Tech’s past and appreciate it while understanding what is possible in the future. To those who try to act like Coach Paul Johnson wasn’t good for this program need to accept he is the fourth-best coach behind Dodd, Heisman, and Alexander. The teams from 2009 and 2014 should be in the discussion as some of the best in Tech’s 128 years of football. In a time where recruiting stars had a lot to do with winning games, Johnson was the exception. Few coaches understood the Xs and Os like him and he could scheme defenses into oblivion. Georgia Tech has been lagging behind other regional schools in resources in a changing landscape and Johnson was the equalizer for over a decade. This brings me to my final point of what can we expect going forward.
College Football has been changing since the turn of the millennia. Where once there was a sizeable group of blue bloods has been trimmed down to the powerhouse dynasties that rule recruiting and thus the playoffs. It’s why Johnson’s ability to steal wins from top teams became more uncommon. He was simply facing farm teams for NFL talent in Clemson and UGA. Tech had to combat that by starting to pull in top players that those teams couldn’t sign. There is still a missing piece that falls to the fans though. Georgia Tech isn’t in a position to out battle Clemson, Bama, UGA, and others because of revenue. Athletic Director Todd Stansbury understands this and that is why he launched the AI2020 campaign even before Collins was hired. Most of us can’t donate huge chunks of cash but a of lot these programs are built up by small increments from a large multitude of fans. Even if you don’t donate or buy season tickets, single-game tickets are a great way to help out Athletics and show the fanbase supports the team by showing up to games despite the record not to mention makes BDS a better home-field environment for our Yellow Jackets. See a cool shirt or other merchandise that you can spare some cash for? Those dollars work their way back to Tech and make them more attractive to name brand apparel. They are small steps to a larger goal. The ceiling right now as it stands should be Coastal titles and hopefully a NY6 Bowl on occasion. We have to help out if we want to talk about beating Clemson for the ACC and playoffs.
So I will leave you with some do’s and don’ts on how to make being part of The Swarm a great experience:
- Show up to games when you can. It’s a fun experience and shuts up dumb fans of other teams making snide comments about our attendance.
- Tell the world where UGA can go when asked “What’s the Good Word?”
- Wear White and Gold to games make a unified look across the stands.
- Be vocal at the games. Yell on third down, do the chants, bob up and down to the Budweiser song.
- Donate small amounts to the A-T Fund if you can. Every bit helps lift the program, not just football.
- We’ve all joined the Tech fandom at different times and have different experiences. Learn from the old ones and the old ways.
- Veteran fans should learn to enjoy new things that may become old traditions. Buzz came about by a student getting a costume made and running past security a long time ago.
- Show love to your players even in a painful loss.
- Insult players or fight with other fellow fans via social media or stadium.
- Needlessly bash previous regimes.
- Cuss and scream, especially when kids are around you at the game.
- Make opposing fans feel unwelcome. The annoying ones on Thanksgiving weekend too.
- Stop supporting your team because they are going through a rough patch.