Kyle is right. This was one of the more deeply satisfying victories over Georgia Tech in recent memory. Which is saying something because, perhaps you've forgotten Tech fans. we've beaten you a lot. In fact, the last time Georgia Tech won back to back games against Georgia none of the Lord of The Rings movies had been released yet. Wow.
And go ahead and insert your "Florida owns you" comments. Until Paul Johnson starts coaching in Gainesville and Josh Nesbitt starts circumcisng little Filipino babies that's not even an actual argument. Georgia Tech last beat Georgia with a full compliment of eligible players in 1990, before many of the Old Gold players were even born.*
Gloating completed. Now, on to the actual analysis.
- Washaun Ealey and Caleb King have combined for 1073 total yards over the past 6 games. That's partially a tribute to their development, but largely a tribute to their offensive line. If Stacey Searels changes the current lineup of Boling, Glenn, Jones, Davis & Davis you should probably drive to Athens and kick him in the shins. Go ahead. I'll even come speak at your funeral. But that group opened holes a Georgia Tech graduate could run through. Some part of me also thinks that some credit for those guys' development has to go to Bryan McClendon. I find it hard to believe that our tailback rotation matured in spite of his influence.
- Speaking of the offensive line, Josh Davis has been a largely overlooked asset during the second half of this season. That line seems to have gelled when he came back from injury. But I think a lot of it has also been the fact that King and Ealey have grown tremendously as runners. Washaun in particular seems to have grown accustomed to the speed of the college game.
- The best part of the offensive gameplan? It didn't rely on Joe Cox to do much of anything. Frankly, this is the offense I assumed we'd see during the first game of the season, not the last. Run the ball and don't ask the Ginger Interception Dispenser to do too much. I imagine we'll see much of the same early next season as Aaron Murray gets his feet under him.
- Dear Vance Cuff: Tackling 6'3, 230 pound Bebe Thomas around the shoulder pads is incredibly poor form. It will never, ever work. And you did it twice. That's how I know you learned it from Willie Martinez. He's big on repetition.
- Speaking of Willie, his defense played a better game than they did against Tech last season. I think any reasonable observer could see that. But make no mistake, there were still plenty of 3rd and 4th and long conversions that were killers. There was a pass interference penalty that kept Georgia Tech driving late. Josh Nesbitt was 6 of 8 for 135 yards and a touchdown throwing on a bum ankle before that last ill-fated series. Think about that for a moment. A lot of Georgia fans are still wondering why Johnson decided to throw the ball 4 straight times at the end. I think the reason was because Georgia had previously exhibited absolutely no ability to stop it. Also overlooked is the fact that if Thomas did not drop that 4th down pass, he would have easily had the 1st down and more. And we would likely be having a very different group conversation right now.
- Jon Dwyer had 33 yards on 14 carries, an abyssmal performance for the best tailback in the ACC, possibly the country. That says a lot about Owens, Weston, Atkins and crew clogging up the A gaps. Oh, and Caleb King would like for all those writers to revisit their comparisons of he and Dwyer right about now.
- Also worth noting was the effort Justin Houston put up. I lost track of the number of times he kept contain on the corner and forced Nesbitt to pitch for minimal gains. When defending the option you want to 1) stop the dive up the middle, 2) contain the QB keeper, then 3) contain the pitch man. Houston took care of #2 all night long, which requires a lot of agility and awareness. He may have been the defensive MVP, in my opinion.
- Reshad Jones's interception was just a thing of beauty. I've been as hard on Reshad as anyone since last season's Tech game. And he's had some bad moments this season, no doubt. But I'm glad for him that he got his moment of redemption. I would be surprised to see him back next season, certainly if changes are made on the defensive staff.
- Speaking of which, I've worked up a list of possible replacements for Willie Martinez, but I'm holding off on posting it since we have no confirmation that our current defensive coordinator won't be back. However, I'd like to note that when rumors began swirling last week that he was leaving, no one would from the Athletic Association came forward to deny them so far as I know of. Which is usually a dead giveaway. Also, Coach Richt did not conduct his usual Sunday teleconference, and it was announced that the team won't conduct any bowl practices this week (HT: David Hale). Taken as a whole, that all signals to me that something's up.
- Quintin Banks deserves a ton of credit. He was injured all of 2008, most of 2009, then came in and played great in both run support and coverage late. I for one have absolutely no qualms about seeing Banks and Rambo at safety next season. I have no doubt they will play better than Evans and Jones, especially if they have proper coaching. Wink, wink.
- Mike Bobo also deserves credit for the gameplan. Earlier this season I chided him for pursuing balance for balance's sake, rather than gaining yards. In this game he started by running 13 straight times. Talk about breaking your tendencies. I know that some of you want Bobo out along with Willie Two Thumbs. I think that's folly. This is the same guy who's offense was absolutely turbocharged last season and which improved throughout the season in 2007. The fact is that if any starting quarterback in the Mark Richt era not named Joe was running the show, this season looks a lot better.
- Wasn't it appropriate that the player who tried to prematurely drench Coach Richt in Powerade (and appeared to get a good dressing down in return) was Bryan Evans? The same Bryan Evans who was no longer in the game because of a possible head injury. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. As you would expect, Evans took a poor angle and the bath missed its mark. Story of his life.
I'll be back later this week as Willie-Watch 2009 continues. Until then . . .
* Yes, there was that 1998-2000 3 game streak. But I would propose that Georgia Tech fans can either a) agree that those victories, won with multiple academically ineligible players, do not count, or b) forfeit the right to make jokes about our school's academic standards. I like to think Jan Kemp would approve of this tradeoff. Joe Hamilton would too, if someone explained to him what "forfeit" and "academic" mean, and he wasn't too high to understand it all.