Loss stuns, pains Yellow Jackets

EL PASO, Texas — They trudged off the field, dazed, frustrated and bewildered. Even the jaunty Ramblin’ Wreck, trailing Georgia Tech’s football players off the Sun Bowl Stadium field, seemed to poke along sadly.

The Yellow Jackets’ Sun Bowl loss, in particular the fourth-quarter power outage, was a miserable finish to what had been a week of fun, good spirits and determination to break Tech’s bowl losing streak.

“This is definitely the worst game,” wide receiver Stephen Hill said. “Painful, definitely. I’m hurting.”

Regrets over what might have been were many.

“We couldn’t seal it on defense,” said inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, who produced the play of the game with a 74-yard interception return for a score. “They kept running the ball on us, and [we] just couldn’t finish.”

In Nealy’s opinion, the Tech defense eased up as Utah mounted its comeback.

“I felt we did pretty good [defending Utah running back John White] until the fourth quarter — because we got so relaxed,” he said.

Guard Will Jackson couldn’t put his feelings into words.

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “This is probably one of the top two losses I’ve experienced in my life.”

Jackson said offensive players encouraged each other to “mash the gas,” break Utah’s will and run out the clock. Utah rose to the challenge. Jackson said that Utah’s tackles, Star Lotulelei and Tevita Finau, were “by far” the best two tackles that Tech faced this season.

“We just weren’t able to do it,” he said, “but complacency definitely wasn’t an issue.”

In four possessions starting at the end of the third quarter, quarterback Tevin Washington could lead the Jackets to only one first down. With 2:41 left, Tech faced a third-and-4 play from its 26-yard line. Utah had spent two timeouts already. A first down would go a long way to finishing off the Utes. Coach Paul Johnson called a “follow” play that gave the Jackets confidence in the huddle.

“It was open all day,” Washington said.

However, Washington was brought down as he pitched the ball to A-back Roddy Jones, and the ball fell short. Jones had to scramble to recover the ball. The ensuing punt was returned to the Tech 24, setting up the game-tying touchdown. It should have been a first down, Washington said.

“Just hurting,” Washington said of walking off the field. “We went out there, I think everyone played their hardest, left it out there on the field. We wish we could have had better results.”