ATLANTA — The mood around Georgia Tech’s Callaway Plaza on Tuesday afternoon seemed slightly different than it had been the previous seven weeks.
Subdued wouldn’t really be the appropriate word to describe it, but emotions nonetheless were held in relative check.
Few Yellow Jackets players and coaches walked back toward Bobby Dodd Stadium from Rose Bowl practice fields with any hurry in their steps. And when they spoke to reporters after approaching, there was a certain kind of ease to the tempo of their speech.
No, it wasn’t nonchalance. It was instead the type of easygoing pace that suggested they had made a certain peace with the way things had been, but were optimistically hopeful for a brighter future.
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Just take Sean Bedford’s words.
“We haven’t lived up to our expectations this year. I don’t think anybody would mistakenly believe that we have,” the senior center said. “We just have to really put in a lot of hard work into improving that.”
With a loss last Saturday to Clemson, the Yellow Jackets (5-3, 3-2 ACC) still remain in the hunt for a Coastal Division title and a berth into the ACC championship game. The only thing is that the road has become harder to reach that destination, and they likely will need some help somewhere within the next few weeks to make the goal happen.
That doesn’t change the fact, however, that after many imagined a much stronger start to this campaign for Georgia Tech, the reality of the two conference losses and a third to a down Kansas team seems mind-boggling.
To some, it has been the type of harsh break from preseason expectations that have caused them to start calling this a lost season and a year of transition. Team Internet message boards have been ablaze the past few days as fans have been debating what all has gone wrong with their beloved program and just where they believe the program seems destined to be headed.
Such concerns riled one player to the point that he took to Twitter to ease the panic.
Through his @Ant_Allen18 handle, Yellow Jackets B-back Anthony Allen said the following to doubters Tuesday evening: “Dear GaTech fans, don't talk bad about my team. We see every word you say. I have enough trouble trying to keep their heads up now. Thanks.”
Like the senior running back, Bedford cautioned those who believed last weekend’s loss marked the beginning of the end. With four games left the regular season schedule and Coastal Division teams that still have yet to face one another, much can happen between now and Nov. 27, he said.
“It’s easy to lose sight of that because this season hasn’t lived up to our expectations at this point and coming off the tremendous success that we had last year, there’s a little bit of a hangover period,” Bedford said. “(When) people don’t see the same sort of success right away, there’s a certain willingness to kind of get caught up in the minutia of the moment and lose sight of the larger goal. But that’s something that the guys who have been there — the seniors, the juniors, the upperclassmen — really have to do a good job of making sure everybody keeps their eyes on the prize and really focuses at what’s at stake here.”
Bedford said he has checked the conference standings and is paying attention to the ACC race. There are still some not-so-wild scenarios at play that can propel the Yellow Jackets into the conference title game.
“I know we’re very much alive and that’s part of my job this week, is to make sure everybody else realizes that,” Bedford said. “We still have four games to play that are guaranteed, and you better believe we’re going to play them as hard as we can.”
Head coach Paul Johnson hopes his team does, because he can’t take too many more weekends like the three he has already experienced this season.
“I don’t know about worked up, you get frustrated, though,” Johnson said. “I’m competitive, I hate to lose. I hope more people hate to lose. It’s been my experience that if you hate to lose enough then you don’t lose a lot.
“When I lose, I’m miserable.”