Who’s better? Nesbitt, Jackets answer Dasher’s verbal barb
ATLANTA — Somewhere between “Broadway Joe” and Ray Buchanan, apparently, there’s Dwight Dasher.
Middle Tennessee State’s flashy, ever-elusive quarterback with a cannon of an arm and seeming missiles attached to his legs, Dasher last week joined the rather exhaustive list of athletes who have made proclamations before actually playing a game. Sure, it worked for Joe Namath, who accurately predicted his New York Jets would win Super Bowl III.
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But the tactic didn’t work for Buchanan and his Atlanta Falcons nearly a half-century later, and, in a slightly altered form, it didn’t work for Dasher on Saturday afternoon.
On Thursday, in an article that appeared in The Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Dasher went out on the boldest of limbs and proclaimed himself better than Joshua Nesbitt, the Yellow Jackets quarterback he was to face two days later.
“We’re similar players, but we’re different, too, because I’m better than him,” Dasher said in the story. “I’m better. He just has more hype. He knows that, or he should know that.”
Dasher went on to add that he knew Nesbitt was a good signal-caller and didn’t want to take away the credentials that come with being an ACC champion, a 3,000-yard passer and 2,000-yard career rusher.
Apparently, that addendum wasn’t enough for the Yellow Jackets.
“Me and (inside linebacker) Brad (Jefferson), we took that real personal, because that’s our quarterback,” Georgia Tech linebacker Julian Burnett said. “We’re taught in our locker room not to give another team’s locker room material.
“It’s not just about Nesbitt, that’s a statement on the defense saying that he was going to come out and run all over us, and we couldn’t have that. So we just came out and played our game.”
Burnett had eight tackles, while Jefferson had six and a pair of sacks.
Cornerback Dominique Reese was so bothered by the statement that in addition to hearing defensive coordinator Al Groh read the article during the week, he went back on his own and reread the story in the hours before Saturday’s game.
“How can he say he’s better than Nesbitt?” said Reese, who also sacked Dasher and caused him to fumble. “We like the confidence, but that just meant we had to come out and play harder.”
Following the game, Nesbitt, when asked about Dasher, responded with a question of his own.
“Who?” Nesbitt said.
“Dwight Dasher,” the reporter repeated.
“Who is that?” Nesbitt said.
Jokes aside, Nesbitt eventually said he felt like he played his game and didn’t do much talking before the action began.
Upon further review of the article in question, however, Nesbitt — whose Greene County team lost to Dasher and Charlton County in the 2005 GHSA Class AA semifinals inside the Georgia Dome — did take the liberty to assert his position as top-dog quarterback.
“He’s a good player. He can run or he can sit back and pass the ball,” Nesbitt said in the story. “But I’m not about to say that another man is better than me because he’s not. I’m better.”
Tarrant, Reese lead secondary
It was an afternoon to remember for the Yellow Jackets secondary.
In addition to Reese, who finished with a six-tackle showing and one of his best afternoons of the season, safety Jerrard Tarrant came through for Georgia Tech in crucial ways, as well.
Barely four minutes into the game, Tarrant jumped in front of an ill-advised Dasher pass, and carried the interception several yards downfield to set up the Yellow Jackets’ first score of the day.
“Dwight always looks at his receiver the whole time, so I just kind of read him and just made a play on the ball,” Tarrant said.
He later had another interception that resulted off an intense cornerback blitz from Reese. Dasher was apparently flustered by the rush and passed into a spot where Tarrant could make another play.
“Any time I can get back there and hit the quarterback when he’s not looking, that’s fun,” Reese said. “We just want to put pressure on him. Even if I don’t get there, I want to make him hurry up and throw the ball when he didn’t want to so the DBs can make a play on the ball.”
Burnett also had an interception, as did true freshman safety Isaiah Johnson.
Drops remain a concern
Embry Peeples offered no excuses. He only asked for forgiveness and offered a promise to fix his pass-catching future.
Against Middle Tennessee State, he had two drops—both likely touchdown finishes—and appeared to lose a third in the sun and didn’t finish running out his route for the long ball. Head coach Paul Johnson wasn’t pleased with the miss and the drops.
“He said, ‘Come on, I know you can make that catch,’” Peeples said, recalling Johnson’s brief conversation with him following the one miss. “I said, ‘I know, you’re right, Coach. I’ll make it next time.’”
Johnson added, during his postgame news conference that Peeples ought to have “left his feet” for that one, as he was right on the goal line when it appeared he seemed to lose it in the glare of a late afternoon, southwesterly sun.
“I lost it for a minute, and then caught it again at the last second,” Peeples said. “But it was too late.”
In addition to his two drops, the A-backs had one more from Roddy Jones. Peeples said he and his teammates must finish those plays off, because Nesbitt is putting them right there for them.
“The passes are there, we just have to finish them when they come to us,” Peeples said. “With our offense, the playaction pass is going to be there.”
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson had hoped late last week that offensive tackle Phil Smith would have been able to return in a limited capacity for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday, but that was not the case.
The sophomore was still hampered by an ankle injury he suffered against Virginia last game, and did not dress against Middle Tennessee State.
One Georgia Tech player was lost during the contest, however, as defensive end Jason Peters went down with an unspecified injury in the first half. Johnson said he hoped it wasn’t serious, and that his staff would know more about it in the coming days.
Real men wear pink
October is national Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the Yellow Jackets have lent their support to the cause in both their October home games.
Last week, against Virginia, players began wearing pink wrist bands, playing gloves and mouthpieces. Against Middle Tennessee State, they stepped those efforts up even more.
Most of the Yellow Jackets donned pink-colored wrist bands, socks and mouthpieces. The officials got into the action, too, wearing pink whistles. There were also a pair of pink ribbons painted at both 25-yard lines.
Tech hall class honored
Georgia Tech on Friday inducted its newest group of Hall of Fame inductees, with PGA Tour golfer Matt Kuchar and former basketball player Drew Barry among the honorees.
Following the Friday night dinner, the group was also honored at halftime Saturday.
In addition to Kuchar and Barry, former Yellow Jackets All-America pitcher Chuck Crowder, football All-American Chris Brown, cross country All-American Beth Old and track All-American Jonas Motiejunas.
Wanamaker trophy on hand
The PGA championship trophy, the Wanamaker Trophy was at Georgia Tech, displayed before the game inside Bobby Dodd Stadium’s attached Edge Athletic Center.
In addition to being graced with the trophy’s presence, the Yellow Jackets golf team at halftime received their ACC championship rings. The golfers won the conference title last spring.
Georgia Tech last had three or more interception in a game two seasons ago, when the Yellow Jackets beat Clemson on the road. That day, they had four. They entered Saturday’s game with just two interceptions as a team on the season. … A-back Orwin Smith’s 41-yard reception in the second quarter was his longest catch of his career. Smith’s 20-yard first-quarter touchdown run marked the third time this season he has scored on his first touch of a ball game. … Scott Blair’s 9-for-9 field goal-kicking streak was snapped early, when he missed a 40-yard attempt.