About Georgia Tech, we can only ask: How do you lose THAT game?

TaQuon Marshall at the bitter end. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

This should have been one of Paul Johnson’s finest hours. Georgia Tech heaped 655 yards of total offense on the nation’s No. 25 team. TaQuon Marshall, a quarterback making his first collegiate start, ran for 249 yards (a record for a Tech quarterback) on 44 carries (a Tech record for anybody) and scored five rushing touchdowns (ditto). The Yellow Jackets did not trail in regulation, twice leading by two touchdowns. They nearly doubled an opponent from the high-falutin’ SEC in yards and did double it time of possession.

But here this what-the-heck game was, in double overtime with Tennessee having finally nosed ahead. Then Tech scored yet again with what can only be called disdain, whereupon the famously daring Paul Johnson took what we should be calling a famous dare: He went for two when he didn’t have to go for two. He did it because he’s Paul Johnson, sure, but also because it made absolute sense.

“I just thought we had a better chance of getting a 2-point conversion there than we did of stopping them,” Johnson said. “They’d scored twice on three plays in two overtimes. When they got rolling the second half, there wasn’t much stopping them.”

Given eight months to prepare for Johnson’s stylized offense, the favored Volunteers had forced one Tech punt since 7 ½ minutes remained in the first quarter. The game was still a game only because the Jackets missed two field-goal attempts, one being blocked at the end of regulation, and lost two fumbles, one by J.J. Green that led to Tennessee’s tying touchdown with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter.

“The last fumble killed us,” Johnson said. “We’ve got the game under control down there.”

The Vols essentially had stopped the Jackets once since roughly 8:15 p.m., and now it was nearing midnight. Going for the deuce was the right decision, and maybe Tech ran the right play. Off counter action, forever a PJ staple, Marshall took the snap and spun right. Alas, the right guard and right tackle didn’t quite do what they were supposed to do, meaning block people. Marshall was met at the line and driven sideways.

Falling, he flipped the ball to B-back KirVonte Benson, who appeared to snatch the rushed toss — was it a pitch or a pass? — an inch above the turf. The immediate ruling was an incomplete pass. Even if it had been reviewed and deemed a catch, Benson was halted short of the goal line.

Think about that. Tennessee’s defense had barely made a play all night, and at win-or-lose time it made two.

Johnson: “We pitched the ball late. If we do it right, even if we don’t block the guys, we can still pitch it and the guy has a race to the end zone.”

Then: “We screwed that up. That should have been a walk-in. … We screwed that up, so we don’t deserve to win.”

Then: “I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a game where you run 96 plays and gain 655 yards and lose.”

This wasn’t just any loss. This came on Labor Day night in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the only football being played on the final night of the holiday weekend. This was Johnson’s third swing in the span of three games at a team from the SEC East – he’d won the first two, beating Georgia in Athens in November and then Kentucky in the TaxSlayer Bowl – and he should be 3-for-3. But lousy kicking and a collapsing defense undid everything, and it’s not the first time in Johnson’s time here we could say as much. Heck, it’s not the 10th.

“It’s a game we should have won,” Johnson said, telling no lies.

Someone asked if his defense had gotten fatigued. “From what?” he said, incredulity in his tone. He then noted, correctly, that his offense hogged the ball for 41 minutes and 27 seconds to Tennessee’s 18:33. If your defense is frazzled by that, you need to change your conditioning regimen. You might also need a new defense.

Johnson: “If they wore down in this game, they better get their butts home.”

Oh, and the missed field-goal attempts. What can be done about that? “Try a different kicker, I guess,” said Johnson, who deployed the walk-on Shawn Davis on Monday. “The last one he kicked head-high.’

All the way until the failed final play, this was a Johnson classic. He took a new quarterback (Marshall, who wasn’t revealed as the starter until the game commenced) and a new B-back (Benson, in for the jettisoned Dedrick Mills) and bled 655 astonishing yards from them. Before Monday night, it was possible to believe that this coach would never find a better administrator of his option than Justin Thomas. Midway through the third quarter, you half-wondered why Marshall hadn’t been starting ahead of the Thomas the past two seasons.

At halftime, this seemed the most lopsided 14-7 game ever. When it became 21-7 and then 28-14, you figured it was over. When Green burst inside the Tennessee 10 inside the final five minutes, you figured a field goal would clinch it. When Marshall carried inside the Vols’ 20 inside the final 10 seconds, you figured this 37-yard kick would break the improbable tie and leave Johnson 3-for-3 against the SEC East.

And then, even when the Jackets trailed by a point and aligned itself to go for two, you figured: They’ll make it; they’ll win it; they deserve it. But they didn’t make it, didn’t win. They deserved it, but football – like life itself – isn’t fair. The better team lost. We should be placing this one on the highest shelf of Johnson’s many notable victories, but Tennessee somehow wound up with 42 points to Tech’s 41. Somehow the Jackets are 0-1.

One non-conference loss on Labor Day shouldn’t ruin a season, but this is a game Paul Johnson will be replaying in his sleep the rest of his born days. And every time he’ll wake up screaming.

Reader Comments 0

148 comments
USA&UK;,JOBS
USA&UK;,JOBS

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SoGaBee
SoGaBee

AT Last, a good column from Bark.  Hey, we lost but we gave it a really good try.  And we should win most of the rest.  SoGaBee

ElderSage
ElderSage

Bad loss, but I actually feel better about the team than before the game. I had figured 5-7 was best without Justin Thomas, Marcus Marshall and Deidrec Mills. Now, except for Clemson, I think they can line up with everybody else on the schedule, beat some of them and win 7 or 8.


Taquan may have had the best game of any QB in the Johnson era.

Mulk
Mulk

@ElderSage You should add Butker to your list of players that will be missed.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Mulk

I sure as hell won't miss him after that clutch 53-yarder vs UGA a few years back.

Mulk
Mulk

@DawgNole @Mulk He hid a lot of Tech's deficiencies by kicking the ball in the end zone. Tennessee must have averaged 30 yards on kick off returns

pbtidwell
pbtidwell

GA TECH TEAM 0-0,  GA TECH COACH 0-1.

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Uncle-Billy
Uncle-Billy

Two fumbles, a missed field goal and a blocked field goal came into play.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Uncle-Billy Were all those things CPJ's fault?...I will blame him if that FG kicker is as bad as he looked.

Big Wally
Big Wally

I would say Sumlin at Texas AM, is on borrowed time.  Losing a game like that when he was already on the hot seat. He's toast.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Big Wally  Texans are usually a pretty tolerant bunch, but I think Sumlin may have used up his chances. If he leaves Texas A&M he will quickly  be hired by another team. A head coach is only as good as his assistants. Not pointing the blame at anybody but it just happened to GT and there's not really anywhere to place the blame for either team. A&M, Texas, and the State of Texas took some hard hits this past week

Big Wally
Big Wally

If you folks keeping picking on TO, he's going to change his account and show up as Ohio, just so he will have someone on his side.  Sad, isn't it?

TideDawg
TideDawg

It would appear that Falcons loss to the Patriots set the tone for come from behind wins for the 2017 season. Texas A&M...WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED???? Georgia Tech...????? I'm going to give the Tech players credit. They fought hard but ran out of gas. I don't know if a coaching decision lost that game or if the players just couldn't finish. Either way, Tech played a great game and lost. Twice, Tech had control of that game and I thought they couldn't lose. It looked like Tennessee was expecting that 2 pt.  play call. The QB didn't have a chance. It doesn't matter how much you dislike a team or a coach, you have to respect a great effort from the players.

Mulk
Mulk

@TideDawg All the QB had to do was pitch the ball - one of the options. Nothing wrong with the play and if Tennessee knew it was coming, nothing in the previous 4 quarters indicated they could stop it.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Mulk @TideDawg  Well genius, what do you think happened on that play, when they couldn't stop it for 4 quarters, but stopped it when it meant winning the game.

Mulk
Mulk

@TideDawg @Mulk Fortunately for you, it doesn't take a genius to read the article. If you read the article, Coach Johnson was very clear on what happened. 


I am not taking anything away from Tennessee, after all, they held Tech to 655 yards.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" leaps to mind. GT special teams did not look ready to play.  Coaching staff and the Head Coach clearly bear a lot of that responsibility. Still, there's no way as a Head Coach I'd let the offense walk off that field in that game feeling responsible for the loss, which is PRECISELY what he did, putting them in that position. Extremely poor decision.

JKToole
JKToole

@DawgDadII When has Paul Johnson not blamed his players, instead of blaming himself, for a loss?

Has it ever occurred?

TOJacket
TOJacket

@JKToole @DawgDadII Darn...thought you were going to enlighten me again with some fun facts...maybe more about Joe Montana?

Already_Older
Already_Older

I disagree that this will be one that keeps CPJ awake at night for years to come.  Yes, they should have won.  But this was the first game, and a non-conference game, not the Falcons losing the Super Bowl.  Had this been for the NC, or even the ACC Championship, then I would agree.  Here, I think he just gives the other kicker a shot.  

(The call I question was the first fieldgoal attempt.  I would have punted it and made Tennessee go the length of the field.)

I would have been concerned if we got blown out.  This game showed that we have playmakers, even without our #1 A-Back playing.  Tech will be okay this season.

John1993
John1993

@Already_Older This team can play with anyone, but it's time for our defense to be more accountable. They got sloppy in the 4th quarter.  Kudos to the Offense for a great game, we wore out that Tennessee defense.  They stole that game!

AdmiralObvious53
AdmiralObvious53

Notice kids it's NOT Paul Johnson's fault if you lose.  BUT it's to his credit AND NOT YOUR'S if you win.  To quote Henry Kissinger "Can't they both lose?"  And it looks like The SEC East has it's new Mark Richt...Butch Jones...recruits great and wins too much to fire because well you previously had Derek Dooley and Lane Kiffen as your coach but will never be in the conversation as a National Title contender.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@AdmiralObvious53 Kids....these are 18-23 year old young men for god sake...PC is out of control in the world today.

AdmiralObvious53
AdmiralObvious53

@TOJacket @AdmiralObvious53 TOJACKET...pay attention!  Unlike your coach I'm not blaming the players..AND again pay attention!  Do you need someone to read these posts for you while you gum your applesauce?


TOJacket
TOJacket

@AdmiralObvious53 @TOJacket Attention!! Admiral...the players were smiling after the game...they love CPJ...the players are the one who "execute" the plays...not going to fast am I?...if they don't make a block and that man tackles us on the 2 point conversion then it "was" the players fault...glad I could school you some this morning.

Zengulliver
Zengulliver

Butch Jones can't carry Mark Richt's jock. That's insulting to Richt. And I'm a jackets fan.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

New tech excuse alert! "Our d was gassed as the should be".

Your D is soft as they always are and your coach is overrated.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

You "lose" it because you are tech. Most arrogant and overrated coach in the land and no defense.

SEC rolling over the ACC per the norm in 2017.

Mulk
Mulk

@twelveofthirteen Coach Johnson is a proven head coach - not "let's see how he does this year" like some other coach in this state. Proven head coach.


The defense does suck, however.

dawg fan
dawg fan

The bottom line is this guy loves to flap his gums about anyone and everything except Paul Johnson. He'll go on sanctimonious diatribes about how overrated the SEC is or how much his players suck but if you ask him about Paul Johnson he gets testy and defensive. I don't have a whole lot of respect for it.

He seems to only "tell it like it is" with everyone except himself.

John1993
John1993

@dawg fan Looking forward to whipping those sorry Dawgs again! This time we get them at home. 

Zengulliver
Zengulliver

We've got a coach, puppy dawg. Better worry about that coach you've got that's never coached before.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@John1993

At home???

Care to share what your home record is vs "those sorry Dawgs" since 1999?

BTC
BTC

Time to start winding down the CPJ era.  Not calling for an immediate firing, but preparations should be underway to create an orderly transition...

Atlanta Doc
Atlanta Doc

@BTC Be careful what you wish for. You must be Georgia fans trying to get rid of a guy who can beat you.

Already_Older
Already_Older

@BTC "Time to start winding down the CPJ era"?  Why?  Because of a one point, double over-time loss to a top 25 team?  One that you more or less dominated the whole game until the very end?  The first game for a new QB and B-Back?  Without your starting and most productive A-Back?  That kind of thinking will get you a Lane Kiffin or Derek Dooley.  Or a Ray Goff.  And the verdict is still on on Kirby.  We know he can recruit, but still waiting to see if that is enough to make up for coaching.

JKToole
JKToole

@BTC What? Are you kidding? I hope they make Paul Johnson "coach for life". UGA owns him: 3-9 lifetime? Never won at home?

TOJacket
TOJacket

@JKToole @BTC Once again JK...facts...UGA 6-3 against CPJ...man I know how proud you guys must be...Haha!

TOJacket
TOJacket

@JKToole @BTC Exactly...pretty good record against a top 10 and 5 recruiting team compared to 50-70 recruiting team...but your dumba$$ already knows that.