Yellow Jackets facing more storms than one this week

Georgia Tech, now with a new defensive coordinator, travels to No. 17 Miami on Saturday
Tech head coach Brent Key watches the action on the field with coaching staff during the half of an NCAA football game against Bowling Green Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Daniel Varnado/ For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Combined ShapeCaption
Tech head coach Brent Key watches the action on the field with coaching staff during the half of an NCAA football game against Bowling Green Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Daniel Varnado/ For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Georgia Tech once appeared like a team ready to make a run at its first bowl game since 2018. But what a difference a week can make.

Tech sits at 2-3 going into October. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a demoralizing, 38-27 home loss to Bowling Green in which they were soundly beaten in all aspects. On Sunday, Tech coach Brent Key announced Andrew Thacker would no longer be the team’s defensive coordinator and that linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer would assume that role.

Key’s team may now be flying straight into the eye of the hurricane, in more ways than one. Tech, after a tumultuous weekend, travels to play No. 17 Miami on Saturday.

“It’s disappointing any time you lose whether you’re coming off a win or a loss. We know we have another opponent next week, another opportunity,” Tech safety LaMiles Brooks said. “We’re gonna go into this week, starting (Sunday), preparing the same way that we have and hopefully the results are in our favor.”

Brooks has been part of a defense that has, to this point, struggled mightily. Its performance Sept. 23 at Wake Forest, in which it held the Demon Deacons to 16 points, forced five turnovers and recorded eight sacks, looks like an anomaly rather than the norm after five games.

The Jackets have one of the nation’s worst units when it comes to third- and first-down defense (105th and 102nd, respectively), red zone defense (119th), scoring defense (103rd) and total defense (112th). Only Louisiana Tech and North Texas have allowed more rushing yards per game than Tech’s 224.2.

Saturday’s showing was even more alarming given the context. Bowling Green came into the day having been held to 14 points in its last two games. It had averaged 107.3 rushing yards in the last three contests and had turned the ball over seven times in its past two games.

The Falcons’ 31 points (seven of their 38 came courtesy of a pick-6) were a season-high against an FBS opponent.

“Just gotta tackle better. And that was an emphasis for us from Week 1. And it’s something that we need to figure out,” Tech linebacker Paul Moala said after the game. “Credit to them, (running back Terion Stewart) for Bowling Green running hard and running downhill, but for the most part that’s on us.

“We have to work on tackling technique and make sure we’re driving our feet on contact. We didn’t do that well today.”

The BGSU loss actually wasn’t Tech’s worst game in terms of tackling. According to Pro Football Focus, the Jackets graded out worse in losses to Louisville (44.7) and Ole Miss (58). The site ranks Tech 68th nationally when it comes to tackling.

But poor tackling in just one of many issues for the team’s defense, Key said Saturday.

“It was everything. It’s from top to bottom,” he said about the defensive breakdowns. “When you go back and watch the film, 90-95% of what you’re doing is confirming what you’ve already seen, what you’ve been addressing. But when you have some epic failures like we did today, there’s some major things we have to get fixed.”

Tech will face a well-rested Miami team that had the weekend off after a 4-0 start. The Hurricanes have wins over Miami (Ohio), Texas A&M (ranked 23rd at the time), Bethune-Cookman and Temple. Miami has allowed only 50 points in four games and a touchdown or less in three of its victories.

The Jackets have played Miami every year since 2004, save for the 2020 season, and are 13-14 against the Canes. Tech is 3-7 in its trips to south Florida, last winning at Miami in 2019 in a double-overtime thriller.

Coming out of south Florida with a victory Saturday was going to be a tall task for the Jackets anyway. It looks all that much tougher after a loss few had seen coming.


  • Tech opened this week as an 18½-point underdog to Miami.
  • The Tech offense ranks 17th nationally in passing (300 ypg), 19th in total (467.4 ypg), 21st on third down conversions (48.5%), 26th with 117 first downs, 27th in sacks allowed (1.2 per game) and 33rd with 13.6 yards per completion.
  • Tech quarterback Haynes King ranks fourth nationally with 15 passing TDs, eighth with 96 points responsible for, ninth with 331.2 yards of total offense per game, 10th with 1,480 passing yards, 12th in passing yards per game (296) and 23rd in passing efficiency (164.3).
  • King’s 15 touchdown passes are the most in a Tech season since Justin Thomas threw 18 in 2014. King is tied with Frank Broyles and Shawn Jones for seventh-most TD passes in a single Tech season. Eddie McAshan and Reggie Ball are tied for sixth with 16.
  • Tech receiver Eric Singleton Jr. is now 12th nationally, and second among ACC players, with five receiving touchdowns.
  • The Jackets’ 12 opponents are a combined 37-19. Tech’s two wins were against teams that are currently 4-4, its three losses against teams a combined 11-4 and its remaining seven games are against teams that are a combined 22-11.

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