Geoff Collins: Those not seeing Tech’s progress ‘don’t want to see it’

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

To Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins, the progress that his team is making in his third season is unmistakable. Even as the Jackets labor to win more games than they have in each of the past two seasons – three – he believes it should be entirely clear to anyone who has watched them play.

“I think we’re showing progress,” Collins said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “I think the team that you see out there competing every single week, we’ve grown, we’ve developed. I think it’s obvious the growth and development in this program. If you can’t see how much we’ve grown, how much we’ve developed, you don’t want to see it.”

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It followed comments that Collins has made at other times this season about how the team has closed the gap on its ACC competition and needs to learn to win close games.

Collins’ assertion was in response to a question about the importance of improving the team’s win total from his first two seasons, when the Jackets went 3-9 in 2019 and then 3-7 in 2020. After nine games, Tech is 3-6 with three games remaining, at home against Boston College, at No. 10 Notre Dame and home against No. 1 Georgia. (Notre Dame’s ranking by the College Football Playoff selection committee was apt to change upon the new rankings’ scheduled release Tuesday evening; Georgia’s undoubtedly was not.)

The Jackets will be heavy underdogs against the Fighting Irish and Bulldogs. They are favored by two points for Saturday’s game against Boston College at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

With the Jackets on a three-game losing streak, the potential to end the season with six consecutive losses and a third three-win season in a row is not out of the question.

“They’re getting better, they’re competing,” Collins said. “We have to find a way to win these close games. We want to win every game and, obviously, having Boston College, a really good ACC opponent coming into town, the focus is to go play the game the right way, win the game. That is the focus, but we understand that they are a really good team. They have those same motives, as well.”

There are clear markers that the Jackets have improved. Notably, the average margin in their six defeats is 9.7 points. It was 24.9 last year. In 2019, it was 22.4. In five of the six losses this season, Tech led in the fourth quarter or had a possession to tie or take the lead.

The team’s average net yardage – the average number of yards that the Jackets either outgain their opponent or are outgained – has dropped from negative-136.6 in 2019 to negative-69.4 last year to negative-34.3 this year. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs has developed into a superlative playmaker.

On the other hand, the Jackets’ defense, heavy with junior and seniors, has been repeatedly drummed. Tech is last in the ACC in defensive passing efficiency. Of the Jackets’ past three opponents, two have hit season highs for total offense against Tech (Virginia and Virginia Tech) and a third (Miami) recorded its total-offense season high against an FBS opponent. Collins acknowledged Tuesday that two of Miami’s big plays on offense – a 35-yard touchdown pass and a 60-yard pass play off a flea-flicker – were created by mistakes in the secondary.

Further, Jackets’ penalties gave Miami a considerable lift in granting the Hurricanes first downs after two apparent third-down stops and then also pinned in the Jackets after a kickoff return that was advanced to the Tech 39-yard line was brought back to its 13 instead.

“They had the mindset to go down there and play at a high level and they did,” Collins said, speaking of his players. “But just a couple of key plays ended up hurting us in the end.”

And, to whatever degree the Jackets have made progress, wins and losses remain the coin of the realm. It’s why, for example, the team’s slogan for the season is “WIN 21.”

It makes Saturday’s game against Boston College significant, in that it’s easily the Jackets’ best chance to win their fourth game and advance upon the totals from the past two seasons.