This is no time to quibble about the relative worth of a win. Quibbling is not a luxury afforded Georgia Tech and Geoff Collins just yet. The 404 convincingly beat the 470 on Saturday in a battle of adjacent area codes just when the Yellow Jackets so very badly needed a dose, any dose, no matter how small, of affirmation.
True, Collins has snug shirts older than the Kennesaw State program. And Saturday was the first time the six-year-old FCS Owls played a Power Five opponent. But we said no quibbling, remember?
In the process of beating KSU 45-17 on Saturday, Tech began spackling over last week’s loss to Northern Illinois. It won a game it simply couldn’t lose, not when defeat would have left it with crippling self-esteem issues.
It got a sweet passing performance from a quarterback making his first start. And as the game wore on, it became increasingly effective at stopping the triple option – so, bring on The Citadel, the Jackets are ready to seek their vengeance. Only they must face another South Carolina-based team next week, one from the hamlet of Clemson.
Collins certainly is not one to quibble or equivocate after any kind of win. From his penthouse built upon a rainbow’s peak, the view of all victories is the same – proof that his now 7-17 regime is on a championship trajectory. And, yes, that includes one over the feisty FCS team based 25 miles north on I-75. He is bent on never letting any victory pass without converting it to messaging.
“Two years ago,” Collins said, “we were in a very similar game against a triple-option team that runs it really, really well and took a loss in overtime (the aforementioned Citadel). I think it shows the growth and development in this program to beat one of the top teams in FCS and play at that high a level under adverse circumstances.” What the adverse circumstances were is unclear.
As to what awaited Kennesaw State this day, the pregame coin flip was to scale. The Owls sent out two linemen to midfield who were both of the 6-foot, 240-pound persuasion. Meanwhile, there in the middle of the Jackets contingent was their one-man jumbo package and Aaron Judge impersonator, 6-7, 314-pound offensive tackle Devin Cochran. The visual of a physical mismatch was stark.
Sometimes bigger and faster just wins. The Tech roster obviously had signed an NIL deal with physics this Saturday.
The Owls could head back home knowing they played to a draw in the fourth quarter (it was 14-14 in the fourth) and won the time of possession stat, as is often the case with option-oriented teams. Three turnovers were too many when perfection was their only chance.
The biggest benefactor of facing that little team from 25 miles up I-75 was quarterback Jordan Yates, subbing this day for Jeff Sims. No other Tech quarterback had thrown for four touchdowns in his first start before Yates, who overall was 17-of-23 for 254 yards and no interceptions. The redshirt freshman could do no wrong against these defenders in their bright French’s-mustard-yellow jerseys and helmets.
“Jordan’s energy, his presence, who he is in our program, who he is in our locker room, I’m really proud of him. He’s worked really hard for this game to happen,” Collins said.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
What this says about the future of the position here, I couldn’t tell you. No one’s going to bait me into a quarterback controversy, not today. My knees are shot, and I can’t jump to conclusions like I used to. Yates’ work in a game-and-a-half against Northern Illinois and Kennesaw State is in no way conclusive. Any more than was Sims’ brief outing a week ago before getting hurt. This dough still needs to rise.
For now, take some comfort in the knowledge that Collins just might have himself a choice to make, which is perhaps better than no choice at all.
On defense, Tech would be happy to force three turnovers every week. Go ahead and put the Jackets down for that now, they’ll agree.
While the option can chew clock and spit out yardage, when it faces a properly opportunistic defense, a lot of those yards turn into empty calories. Here introducing Tech’s rush end Jordan Domineck, who more than did his part to make the world safe against the triple option.
With about four minutes left in the first quarter, Domineck burst through the line and met Owls quarterback Xavier Shepherd just as he was of a mind to pitch. Domineck reached out and batted the ball away, ran it down at the 30 and took off 70 yards the other way. For good measure, he planted the pursuing Shepherd with a left-handed stiff-arm on the way to scoring. It was a pure incident of power and speed. And better the first moment to bookmark for the 2021 Tech highlight film come a week late than not at all.
Dealing with the upset at home by Northern Illinois had to be like trying to digest a bramble. The Jackets schedule is difficult enough without the ambush loss.
So, yeah, they needed this Saturday. “I was very proud of the coaching staff we have and the leadership we’ve developed in this program, the resiliency, the focus, all of those things were on display this week,” Collins said. “Really proud of the guys, their resiliency, their focus, their competitiveness.”
With Clemson, North Carolina and Pitt on the docket the next three weeks, no blaming the coach for finding as much joy as he could, where he could. If that came in beating an FCS foe, who are we to quibble?
About the Author