South Bend, Ind. — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Georgia Tech-Notre Dame game column, which can be found here. Tech lost 30-22. It wasn’t that close.
1. No fun with numbers: Through three quarters, the Yellow Jackets had gained 195 yards. Except for one 48-yard burst by A-back Broderick Snoddy, the Notre Dame defense made Tech work in bite-sized increments. In coaching terms, the Fighting Irish kept the Jackets behind the chains, which is a bigger deal when you run so much better than you pass. Tech’s first 12 possessions yielded seven points, two missed field goals and seven punts. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly credited his scout team — which had, he said, christened itself “Swag” — with giving his defense a spirited look at Paul Johnson’s spread option, but the cold truth was that Brian VanGorder’s defenders were both well schooled and hugely talented. Not many ACC teams are both. Clemson, yes. Florida State, yes. But nobody else.
2. Paul Johnson’s take on the first half: “(It) was awful. We gave up two long pass plays; our kicking game was atrocious — missed two field goals, punt the ball sideways a couple times — (and) then we can’t do anything offensively.” Not to put any ideas into the coach’s mind, but he’d make a pretty fair sports writer. All of the above was true. Harrison Butker’s two misses — from 30 and 43 yards, this from the man who sent the Georgia game to overtime from 53 yards away — brought major deflation. The defense did a fair job standing up to Notre Dame’s interior rushing until C.J. Prosise broke his 91-yarder in the final seven minutes, but Tech cannot hope to win against a stout opponent when its kicker keeps missing and its offense isn’t even halfway up to snuff.
3. That Tech stayed so close for so long had much to do with Notre Dame. Two Irish turnovers — the first an end-zone interception by D.J. White on which Kelly admitted first-time starter DeShone Kizer had been fooled by Tech’s bracket coverage — kept the Irish from building a working lead, but the Irish defense had such a grip on Justin Thomas and Co. that it mattered not. And, for the first time this season, it became clear that the players around the Tech quarterback aren’t as good as those who carried the team to 11-3 and the Orange Bowl title.