The last thing that Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins wants to talk about this week is the first thing on everyone’s mind.
Georgia Tech returns from an off week to play Temple in Philadelphia on Saturday. Temple just happens to be where Collins spent the last two years as head football coach.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is 3:30 p.m. It can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.
His ties to Temple are deep — as deep as you can develop in two seasons. He recruited many of the players on the team and coached them up the last two years. He knows there’s a Waffle House a little more than an hour from the campus. And his 3-year-old daughter knows all the words to the Temple fight song.
“But this game is not about me. That’s not what this is,” Collins said. “This is the Georgia Tech football program vs. the Temple football program.
“There are a lot of strong feelings for those people in that organization. They mean a lot to me. When you go through two years and see how we invested in those players … all the things we do to form bonds that are going to last for a long time.”
Collins went 15-10 over two seasons with Temple and took the Owls to a pair of bowl games. The team he left behind is 2-1, which includes a 20-17 win over then-No 21 Maryland, but a 38-22 loss to Buffalo.
“I cheer for them, want to see them have success,” Collins said. “When it’s time to compete, we will do that. When they have success, I take great pride in it. When they don’t, you feel for them. We have to put the ball down Saturday and play a football game.”
The Yellow Jackets are working through issues.
Georgia Tech can’t afford to have the same problem it had with penalties in the overtime loss to The Citadel. Those infractions cost Tech four first downs and 19 minutes in time of possession.
“It was very glaring when our guys saw it,” Collins said.
The offense must find ways to extend drives. Georgia Tech ran only 46 plays against The Citadel. Georgia Tech had nine full possessions in the game; once it got the ball with 15 seconds left in the half and ran out the clock. Four times the Yellow Jackets had to punt and once they turned it over on downs. They were 3-for-9 on third-down conversions.
“We only ran 46 plays. Stretch those out (to a typical game) and that’s 62-65 plays, you’re looking at 500 yards of offense and 40 points,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “We didn’t have the ball as much. What we have to do is be really efficient when we get the ball.”
Patenaude suggested the team will continue to use all three quarterbacks — Lucas Johnson, Tobias Oliver and James Graham —based on the situation. Patenaude has designed packages for each of the quarterbacks and won’t hesitate to use them when it makes the most sense.
“It’s based on what we’re good at,” Collins said. “We’re trying to put the best mix of that together.”
The defense needs to reproduce the effort it showed against South Florida, when they held the Bulls to 261 yards in total offense. The Citadel had 320 yards of offense, but converted 8 of 16 on third down and wouldn’t be pushed off the field.
“I look at the things we need to fix and get better at and attack those things,” Collins said. “We have a belief system in what we do and how to do. Our entire focus on everything we do is one play at a time, one day at a time … never waste a failure and get better.”