After historic loss, Collins confident in Georgia Tech’s direction

Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics

Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins discusses his faith in the development of the team and program, despite historic loss to No. 1 Clemson.

Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics

It’ll take more than the most one-sided loss in ACC history for Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins to relinquish hope for the season. Three days after losing 73-7 to No. 1 Clemson – setting the record for largest margin of defeat in a league game – Collins spoke with conviction about his belief in his team’s potential.

“We had a bad day Saturday,” Collins said Tuesday on his weekly videoconference. “That does not change where this program is going, that does not change where this program is headed.”

Collins made note that the loss to Clemson – in which the Tigers scored more points on the Yellow Jackets than any team since 1894 – followed Tech’s 46-27 win over Louisville on Oct. 9, in which the Jackets set scoring and yards-per-play highs for Collins' tenure while winning the turnover margin 3-0.

“And the biggest thing that I can say is, we’re much better at every single phase than we ever were at any time (last season),” he said. “We continue to get better. We’re bigger, we’re faster, we’re stronger.”

Tech plays at Boston College on Saturday in a game in which the Jackets are slight underdogs and given a 30.8% chance of winning, according to ESPN’s metrics. Tech had a slightly smaller chance (28%) against Louisville before prevailing, the most impressive win of Collins' tenure.

It was after that game that Collins said that, while picked to finish last in the ACC, the Jackets have “a chance to be really good in the present,” a statement he didn’t back away from Tuesday.

“I’ve got a ton of confidence in this team, a ton of confidence in these players, a ton of confidence in these coaches,” he said.

Collins painted Saturday’s loss, in which the Jackets were outgained in yards 671-204, as an instance in which the Jackets were not able to capitalize on forcing two Clemson first-quarter turnovers and also allowed the Tigers to start two first-half drives within 20 yards of Tech’s goal line off two Tech turnovers, leading to 10 points.

Further, Tech game-planned to stop Tigers running back Travis Etienne, the reigning back-to-back ACC player of the year. The senior was limited to 44 yards on 11 carries in only the third game since the start of his sophomore season in which he failed to produce a run of 10 yards or more.

However, the Jackets could not impede Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who amassed 391 yards and five touchdowns (against one interception) in the first half.

“We had a couple of busts, and then we just had some matchup things that happened to us against elite players,” Collins said.

Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker made mention that his defense had poor eye discipline, meaning players let their line of vision stray from their assignments – a wide receiver, for instance – and perhaps fell for a ball fake, which enabled that receiver to run by them.

“We came in on Sunday, talked about eye discipline being the biggest, most critical issue,” Thacker said. “That starts with coaching and moves its way down to the players' responsibility and us all being accountable right there. So plenty of issues for us to solve.”

Thacker said that players responded appropriately Sunday when the team gathered for meetings and practice.

“Everyone came in with a mindset of moving forward,” he said.

Thacker said that coaches and players reviewed Clemson’s explosive plays on offense and said, “I think we all identified that we collectively allowed to happen.” He acknowledged that there were “some painful moments where we were very honest with one another.”

On Monday, the players' off-day, a large number came in for extra preparation for the Boston College game, followed by a Tuesday practice – the most physical of the week – in which the energy level was “what it’s supposed to be for us to move forward,” Thacker said.

Perhaps all is not lost. From 2010-19, there were 11 ACC teams that lost league games by 50 or more points, according to sports-reference.com. (Tech administered one of those blowouts, 56-0 over Syracuse in 2013. The 2013 Orange of coach Scott Shafer lost two league games by 56 points that season.) Of those 11, six went on to bowl games, including the 2013 Syracuse team.

“I’m just really proud of these guys, the way they’ve handled it – a bad situation – and come back and know that we’ve got another chance, another opportunity on Saturday against another really good team to show what we can be and what we can do,” Collins said.

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