Georgia Tech

Maybe things aren’t so bad with the Georgia Tech offense after all. Here’s why.

Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude used an automotive example to explain the need for his young group to see the problems and put them in the past.

He compared the rearview mirror to hindsight, identifying mistakes and leaving them behind. He compared the future to the windshield, bigger and more capable of seeing all the possibilities that exist.

“There’s a reason why the rearview mirror is this big and the windshield is this big,” Patenaude said, using hand gestures to demonstrate the difference. “We have eight games left, a huge amount, and we have to continue to look forward.”

Georgia Tech (1-3) tries again on Saturday against North Carolina (2-3) in the team’s ACC home opener, at 4 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

So, maybe things aren’t so bad with the Georgia Tech offense after all.

That sounds odd a week after the Georgia Tech offense didn’t score in last week’s 24-2 loss to Temple. The two points produced via a safety was the team’s lowest total since 1997. But things may not be as bleak as the statistics might indicate.

“We did a lot of really good stuff,” Patenaude said. “There was a lot to build on, a lot to be corrected. I don’t think the score was indicative of the game.”

The problem was turnovers, specifically where they occurred. Georgia Tech turned it over three times in the red zone. One fumble was scooped up and returned for a touchdown. The other fumble and interception prevented points from going on the board.

“You can’t turn it over three times in the red zone,” Patenaude said. “If we get the first one in, it’s a different game.”

That’s why the team has been hard at work on ball security this week. They began practice with a drill that had ball carriers run a gauntlet while teammates slapped at the ball in an effort to pry it loose.

The quarterback position remains in flux. The staff hasn’t named its starter, but will likely use Tobias Oliver, James Graham and Lucas Johnson, if healthy. Johnson missed the last game with a shoulder injury. Patenaude saw good things from backup Graham. The redshirt freshman from Fitzgerald got his most significant playing time when starter Oliver was dinged up.

Graham threw for 100 yards on 10-for-24 passing, but was intercepted once and sacked twice. Oliver threw for 74 yards and rushed for 68 yards.

Patenaude cautioned fans to temper their expectations on Graham, a four-star recruit who was redshirted last year while he tried to learn the triple-option. This year Graham is being forced-fed the spread and has shown nice progression.

“Inconsistent,” Patenaude said. “He’s electric, as good as anybody in the country, then the next play he throws it into the third row. He’s got to be more consistent. He still needs to take 10 more steps before he understands what he’s doing and becomes prolific.”

Graham may be the most aggressive of the three quarterbacks. He doesn’t mind throwing it deep.

Wide receiver Malachi Carter said, “James has a great arm. He’s great on his feet. He’s real confident in his arm. You always know when James is in there he’s doing to go.”

Whoever plays quarterback this week for Georgia Tech will need to hang onto the ball and create some drives to eat the clock. Otherwise the Yellow Jackets will be tasked with keeping pace with a North Carolina offense that performs at a rat-a-tat tempo.

North Carolina is led by freshman quarterback Sam Howell. In five games, Howell has thrown for 1,168 yards and 11 touchdowns and connected with 13 different receivers.

The Tar Heels have had their inconsistent issues, too. After opening the season with wins against South Carolina and Miami, North Carolina has been beaten by Wake Forest, Appalachian State and Clemson — three losses by a total of 10 points.

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