Looking for answers, Georgia Tech might have one in James Graham

A day after Georgia Tech became the first ACC team to score two or fewer points against a team outside of a power conference (or Notre Dame) in more than a decade, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude took a thorough review of the Yellow Jackets’ play in their 24-2 loss to Temple on Saturday. He was not dismayed by what he saw. The play of quarterback James Graham likely had something to do with that.

“There’s a lot of good stuff to build on,” Patenaude said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of things we’ve got to get corrected. I really don’t think the score was indicative of how we played.”

As the Jackets resume ACC play Saturday, facing North Carolina at home, any sort of scoring, whether indicative or not, would help. Tech ranks last in FBS in points per game at 13.5, 130th of 130 teams. The Jackets’ yards-per-play output, 4.65 yards per snap, ranks 118th.

Fans may disagree on his assessment of how indicative the score was of the overall performance, but there likely would be a unanimous agreement that the Jackets need to get things corrected.

The play of the offensive line is at the core of the Jackets’ struggles, in part because of the incessant shuffling that has been required by injuries. Offensive tackle Jahaziel Lee and center Kenny Cooper have been sidelined for the season in the past two games, and guard Mikey Minihan has missed the past two games after starting the first two. Backup Scott Morgan has missed the past three. Walk-on center William Lay most likely will ascend into the starting job against North Carolina.

Beyond the injuries, players are having to learn new techniques and a different playing style after having been trained in former coach Paul Johnson’s offense.

The protection was at times overwhelmed by Temple’s front, but, “I thought for the most part they were pretty good,” Patenaude said.

On Saturday, Graham was inconsistent in his first prolonged action, in relief of starter Tobias Oliver. Patenaude said that Graham was “as good as anybody in the country (on one play) and then the next play threw it into the third row.”

He showed it in a third-quarter series after Tech fell behind 21-0. On the opening play, Graham sprinted out and placed a pass on the sideline for wide receiver Jalen Camp for a 12-yard gain. On the next play, he rolled out left and had receiver Adonicas Sanders wide open downfield after a double move. Hit as he threw, Graham’s throw was about two yards too long for Sanders, who appeared to slow down to track the ball. Two plays later, he was way too high to wide receiver PeJé Harris on the sideline. On the next play, second-and-10, he was high again on a short hitch route to receiver Malachi Carter.

On third-and-10 from the Temple 46-yard line, he rolled out right again and, this time with time to plant and throw, he fired a rocket to wide receiver Ahmarean Brown at the 5, just over the reach of a Temple safety. Brown bobbled the ball, and was judged to have stepped out of bounds before he secured it. A clean catch would have made it a 41-yard gain.

Patenaude was encouraged, and his comments Tuesday suggested that more playing time is in store for Graham. Patenaude said he made some “NFL throws,” notably the comeback route to Camp on the sideline. He has to continue to mature, but Patenaude appreciated that Graham came in Sunday wanting to watch game video with him. When the team practiced Tuesday morning, Patenaude called a play for Graham that he had missed on against Temple. He nailed it.

“That’s the kind of growth you’re going to have with a young ‘Q,’” Patenaude said.

Graham has grown tremendously from the spring, Patenaude said, but still “needs to take 10 more steps before he really understands what he’s doing, and he’s really going to be prolific.”

It sounds like Patenaude might be ready for him to take those steps.

“I think we’re on the right track, and I think you can have a special player with No. 4 throwing it around,” Patenaude said.