There were glimpses of what could have been in both of Georgia Tech’s losses this season.
The Yellow Jackets were up by 15 at halftime in the season opener against Louisville, in large part because of their 28-point second quarter. While Ole Miss set the tempo for much of Saturday’s game, Tech pulled within a score twice and trailed by a touchdown with just more than 10 minutes left.
But late surges by both opponents put victory out of reach for the Jackets.
“I’m tired of telling these guys they have a chance to be a good team,” coach Brent Key said. “We are a good football team. Now, you’ve got to go out and play like it consistently throughout the whole game.”
Louisville outscored Tech 26-6 in the second half. Ole Miss put up 38 to the Jackets’ 20.
Now, Tech looks to put away these late-game struggles by focusing on composure and consistency. Key said he told the team about the importance of finishing drives and plays and plans to work on these skills this week.
Key knew Ole Miss – which ranks 11th nationally in total offense – would hit explosives, but said Tech needed to do a better job at limiting those plays. The Rebels had little trouble advancing in the fourth quarter, gaining 200 yards on only 13 plays.
How do the Jackets plan to contain explosives? An emphasis on negative plays is one factor, Key said. Tech had only three tackles for a loss Saturday. Ole Miss had seven.
“We’ve got to be able to create negative plays,” Key said. “(If) you get (the offense) off track, now it’s second-and-12, second-and-13. It’s a lot harder to earn that first down within the drive.”
Another focus is overcoming adversity, Key said. Tech has improved at “not quitting when something bad happens,” Key said, and he plans to continue emphasizing that approach.
After Saturday’s loss, quarterback Haynes King said staying composed will help the Jackets going forward.
“We can’t let one little play, one little drive get us down,” King said. “We’ve got to keep our composure and keep our head up and keep moving.”
Execution remains an emphasis for Tech, as well. The Jackets’ offense focused on execution before the South Carolina State contest, which King said was important in their ultimate victory.
King said Tech has to find ways to execute and convert on third and fourth downs to find success on offense late in the game.
Execution has been a problem for the defense at times, too. After Saturday’s matchup, safety LaMiles Brooks credited Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin for his smart play-calling in the fourth quarter. But he said the Rebels’ late surge also came down to the Tech defense’s inability to execute.
Now, the Jackets look to put their late-game struggles behind them as they prepare to play Wake Forest on Saturday.
“We didn’t execute when it was needed the most (against Ole Miss),” Brooks said. “This game is behind us. We’re back in the lab, and we’ll try to prevent that next week.”