ATLANTA — The Al Groh philosophy, in a nutshell, goes as follows: minimize mistakes defensively and the wins will stack up.
Apparently, his Georgia Tech defenders weren’t listening.
Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t avoid being bitten by the mistake-bug. In a losing effort during a conference showdown with Miami, defenders gave up two quick scores, were penalized at inopportune times and had sporadic lapses in communication that hampered some of their best efforts.
“One of the things that you have to do to play really good defense is to be a team that doesn’t make many mistakes,” Groh, the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator, said. “Some of the mistakes that we made (Saturday) were harmful in going against the team. Against a big, strong, talented team, those mistakes shine.”
On Miami’s first two series of the game, the Hurricanes pushed the Yellow Jackets around during a pair of 88-yard drives that both resulted in scores. The first ended with a 12-yard run by Miami freshman running back Lamar Miller, and the other was capped by a 5-yard rush by veteran Damien Berry.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Johnson said of the two drives.
Following the Hurricanes’ 14-0 lead, posted with the game barely 10 minutes old, Miami went on to roll some more.
In the third quarter, after the Yellow Jackets finally broke through and brought the game to a 14-10 score with a touchdown and field goal of their own, the Hurricanes got an even bigger offensive explosion.
One play after Georgia Tech’s score, the Hurricanes answered with a 79-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Stephen Morris to receiver Leonard Hankerson. The reception was the longest touchdown Georgia Tech had given up in five seasons, and it helped a receiver go over 100 yards in a game for the first time against the Yellow Jackets this season.
“We thought he was the best receiver in the league coming in and he played like one,” Johnson said.
Hankerson finished with three catches for 132 yards. He also had one for 45 yards that, like the 79-yarder, resulted from a busted assignment in the secondary, Johnson said.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t appear to lose anyone from the game, but several changes were made to their starting rotation due to injuries from the previous game against Virginia Tech.
All week, Johnson speculated that some of his injured bigger name stars like defensive tackle Logan Walls, receiver Stephen Hill and guard Will Jackson would be game time decisions. He was true to his word.
Hill was listed as Questionable, while the other two were ruled Out, but available if necessary. All dressed, with Hill even enjoying considerable action.
In Hill’s place, however, senior Kevin Cone started, and redshirt freshman Jay Finch took over for Jackson on the offensive line. Big, physical T.J. Barnes took over for Walls at defensive tackle.
Cone enjoys a first
In addition to Barnes getting his first start of the season and once-backup quarterback Tevin Washington starting for the first time in place of injured Joshua Nesbitt, Cone enjoyed a first of a different kind.
Early in the third quarter, as the Yellow Jackets attempted a comeback, the receiver caught his first touchdown pass, a 22-yard strike from Washington.
Getting to the ball, however, was a bit of a journey.
“It was kind of funny, I didn’t hear the play and I actually didn’t know what the play was,” Cone said.
As the Yellow Jackets were lining up, he found himself shouting at fellow receiver Tyler Melton, trying to figure out what the play was. Melton didn’t answer, and so Cone began using his logic in order to get open.
Cone said the base play that he did hear was one where he knew Washington was slated to roll out of the pocket. Expecting his quarterback to do that, Cone decided that his best method of course would be to go out and up and look for the ball toward the end zone.
“Thankfully, I got open and scored,” Cone said. “It was the route that I should have run, and I should have run it better. But, it worked.”
Cone transferred to Georgia Tech after having started his career at Shorter.
1990 team honored
The Yellow Jackets on Saturday also celebrated the 20th reunion of their 1990 national championship team before and during the game.
That year, Georgia Tech earned a share of the national title with Colorado after going 11-0-1 and winning the Citrus Bowl over Nebraska. In addition to beating Georgia that year, the season has most been remembered for the Yellow Jackets’ thrilling late-game win at Virginia, capped by a field goal by place-kicker Scott Sisson.
On hand was a majority of the 1990 team, donning the blue uniforms that they wore under head coach Bobby Ross throughout that season and others during Ross’ tenure.
At halftime, Ross — wearing a gold polo — led the 1990 Yellow Jackets onto the field, where they stretched the length of it, from goal line to goal line. As the current Yellow Jackets trailed Miami 14-3, Ross made a desperate plea to the home fans.
“(At the Citrus Bowl) we looked up and were amazed to see it was all gold,” Ross said into a microphone. “You got behind us and helped us win that game. Now get behind these Yellow Jackets and help them win this game.”
In addition to that appearance, Ross joined former Yellow Jackets Jeremiah McClary and Darryl Jenkins as honorary captains for the pregame coin toss. They were escorted by season captains Joshua Nesbitt and Brad Jefferson. Nesbitt was out of game uniform and sported a blue sling around his broken arm.
For the first time in two seasons, the Yellow Jackets donned navy blue jersey tops as part of the celebration honoring the 1990 team.
Worn with white pants with a gold stripe and gold helmets, the Yellow Jackets sported the look after having previously worn them for the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Like Saturday’s game, the final score was similarly stunning as Georgia Tech was dominated 38-3 by LSU.
A staple of the 1990 team, the navy-colored tops were evident in the Citrus Bowl win over Nebraska.
In addition to the losing effort against LSU, the Yellow Jackets’ previous appearance in them was equally as horrid. In 1994, the last season they wore blue tops, the Yellow Jackets finished 1-10.