There are plenty of reasons to explain how Georgia Tech found a way to lose to The Citadel on Saturday.
Too many penalties. Inability to keep the ball on offense. Poor kicking game. That’s just three of the factors that contributed to the shocking 27-24 overtime loss to a previously winless FCS program it had beaten 10 straight times.
But when it came time to pointing fingers on Saturday, coach Geoff Collins fell on his own sword.
“Today is tough. It (stinks),” Collins said. “But we’re going to get better from it. I explained the reasons why it happened and I’m going to leave those in the locker room. Externally, it’s all on me. Blame me. I understand the inner workings of that locker room. It’s a work in progress. It’s going to be really good eventually. We just have to keep a good attitude while we’re doing it.”
Despite the external trappings that Collins has made part of his program — the ever-present Waffle House cup, the sideline Juice Squad, the 404 Takeover — the Yellow Jackets are still figuring things out on the field.
“Look at the loss today and it’s going to hurt and I imagine I’m going to look bad — and that’s fine, I can take it,” Collins said. “I understand what this program is going to look like and I’m proud how hard they fight to make it happen.”
The Yellow Jackets played from behind all day, never taking the lead against The Citadel. It took a 34-yard field goal from Brenton King at the final buzzer to send the game into overtime. But King missed a 46-yarder and allowed the Bulldogs to win the game on Jacob Zodek’s second field goal of the day, a 36-yarder that set off a crazy celebration in the southeast corner of Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Tech wound up with eight penalties — twice more than its first two games — for 80 yards. One personal foul at the end of a play gave The Citadel a first down. Another came after David Curry intercepted a pass and prevented the Yellow Jackets from flipping the field.
“That is uncharacteristic of what we’ve shown the first two weeks,” Collins said. “That’s on me and we’ll get that fixed because it was really clean football the first two weeks of the season, then today for whatever reason there were some costly penalties that affected the outcome of the game.”
The time of possession was insane. The Citadel, running its triple-option — the same kind that Paul Johnson ran at Georgia Tech for 11 seasons — accumulated 320 yards rushing. More importantly, the Bulldogs kept the football for 41:50, compared to only 18:10 for Georgia Tech.
The kicking issues flared up again. Wesley Wells apparently won the job this week in practice — that’s where everything is decided, Collins has said — but he missed an extra point. That was the first time Wells had missed a kick in two seasons; he had been 41-for-41 on extra points and 9-for-9 on field goals.
From that point, the kicking job went to Brenton King. He kicked the extra point in the fourth quarter and booted the field goal to send the game to OT. But King had to try a 46-yarder in overtime after The Citadel made two stellar defensive plays to push the kicker into the fringe area of his range, and he missed.
There were good things that happened for Georgia Tech. Quarterback Tobias Oliver ran for 92 yards and surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career. He is the eighth quarterback to reach the milestone. Tailback Jordan Mason gained 78 yards and scored two touchdowns. Jalen Camp caught two passes, including a 33-yarder for his first career touchdown.
Georgia Tech takes this week off before making a trip to Philadelphia to play Temple, where Collins had been the head coach.
“We’re going into a bye week and we’ll get the things rectified very quickly,” Collins said. “The attitude, the demeanor in that locker room was appropriate. They were upset. They want to get better. They don’t want to put that kind of performance out there. So, they’ll be committed to getting better when we get back to work on Tuesday.”