The first shadow has fallen over the era of good feelings at Georgia Tech. It had to happen, but who knew it would be this soon?

You lose to an 0-2 FCS team, only the second time in all of Tech’s long history losing to someone from that lower weight class, and it is impossible for Geoff Collins to look as bright and shiny and uplifting as he did just a day ago.

Not saying that he can’t get back that rosy glow, but it will require a bit more polishing.

Against The Citadel on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets compounded the transgression of a 27-24 overtime loss by how they went about the losing.

For instance, the three unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties within a six-minute span of the second quarter, indicating that Tech at least was able to successfully install the taunting part of its defense this week. The Jackets couldn’t do it against Clemson because, well, they’d just get laughed off the field. And presumably it was just too hot against South Florida to expend the energy. But against this humble FCS opponent, they seemed more than ready to write checks with their mouths that their bodies couldn’t cash.

“The thing I’m disappointed in, and I blame myself, are the penalties,” Collins said. “The first two games we had only four penalties. And there were some times today some frustration set in, some chippiness set in. And we cost ourselves early in the game.”

There was the continued interchanging of quarterbacks Lucas Johnson and Tobias Oliver that seemed to ignore the fact that Oliver was the more effective option this day (as in averaging 8.4 yards per carry in 11 attempts). That held right to the end as Collins changed out the two on the final, confusing possession of regulation as well as their lone three-play possession in overtime. That would seem to sew dissonance rather than rhythm behind center.

Collins will riff on how, in his system, there is no set player at any position. “We don’t talk like that,” he said postgame when asked about who’s Tech’s quarterback moving forward. “You notice out there today there were probably six safeties who played in the game. I don’t see people sitting here asking me who is going to be the starting safety moving forward. We don’t think in those terms.” 

Perhaps he should until the day the safety handles the ball during every play he’s on the field.

And, you know, when you are getting plainly beaten by The Citadel – Tech never led in the game – having your non-competing players carry on a constant dance party on the sideline (the Juice Crew, a Collins innovation), seems, well, almost unbecoming for guys who work so hard during the week in practice.

The “$ Down” – as in Money Down – placards the team hoists on the sideline on every third-down play faced by its defense just didn’t work, either. The Citadel was 8-of-16 on third-down conversions. 

And, then, there’s this, the unkindest cut of all: Getting beat by the very offense that Collins was brought here to remedy.

Welcome back to the days of Paul Johnson and the triple option – the lopsided time of possession (41:50-18:10 in favor of The Citadel), the great advantage in rushing yards (320-183, The Citadel) and even the return of the chop blocking penalty (called once on these Bulldogs). All that was turned on Tech now, all those memories of Johnson’s 11 years were turned inside-out. 

Georgia Tech losing to an option team is like having the ex-wife drop by your place to rehang all the honeymoon photos.

It’s like suffering the hangover nine months after your last drink. 

You’re not supposed to get beat by the old habits you’ve put aside. Yet there was Tech suffering the death by a thousand handoffs and pitches that is the triple option.

An offense that gained 225 yards a week ago against Elon went for 350 against a Tech defense that forgot all the scrimmage habits of just a season ago.

A defense that allowed an average of 33 points per game to Towson and Elon held Tech to 24 points, just six in the first half.

There may have been all manner of puzzlement over Tech’s last possession of regulation and the officials’ decision to run off precious seconds at the end. I’ll not debate that issue because the Yellow Jackets put themselves in that muddle with their play. 

At the end, the new coach conceded, “Blame me, I’m good with that.”

OK, it’s a deal.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.
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