It’s Year 3 at Georgia Tech, and the clock on Geoff Collins is ticking

Georgia Tech Geoff Collins is held back by an assistant coach in the late in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021 at Bobby Dodd Stadium  (Daniel Varnado/ For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

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Georgia Tech Geoff Collins is held back by an assistant coach in the late in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021 at Bobby Dodd Stadium (Daniel Varnado/ For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

If you can’t see progress in this Georgia Tech season … well, you’re not alone. Geoff Collins said he sees progress, but he’s the coach who was hired to take the Yellow Jackets into the 21st century, football-wise. Todd Stansbury said he sees progress, but he’s the athletic director who handed Collins a seven-year contract. They hold a vested interest in proclaiming that all’s well, even if the record suggests otherwise. If the empty seats at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday are any measure, their views would seem in the minority.

Tech lost to Boston College, which had won once since September. The Yellow Jackets heard boos from some of the patrons who deigned to show up. The stadium was half-filled.

Tech led by 14 points with 13:52 left in the first half. By halftime, they trailed 28-21. They were positioned to draw even with 8:59 to play, but kicker Brent Cimaglia smacked a PAT try off the right goalpost. By the time Tech got the ball again, the Eagles led by eight. They added a field goal with 25 seconds to go.

Tech is 3-7 with the toughest games on its schedule remaining – first at Notre Dame, then against Georgia here. The Jackets won three games in each of Collins’ first two seasons. They’re 9-23 on his watch. Under Paul Johnson, Tech had three losing seasons in 11. Under his successor, they’ve had three in three.

After last week’s narrow loss at Miami, Collins turned snippy when asked the only question that matters, which is: After nearly three years, why isn’t your team any better? His briefing post-BC was much more somber. Early in his remarks, he said, “Hurts. Frustrating.”

Later, he would say: “Frustrating. Hurts.”

He also said: “We have a lot of good players in that locker room.”

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

If you’re inclined to give Collins the benefit of some doubt, that’s the hook. Tech has more talent than it did in Johnson’s final seasons. What Tech doesn’t have is anything that could lift this young talent. If Jahmyr Gibbs doesn’t have the ball in his hands, Tech isn’t very good at anything. It entered this game 10th among 14 ACC teams in yards gained, 12th in yards allowed. It was 62nd among FBS teams in total offense, 113th in total defense. Note: Collins was a defensive coordinator at Mississippi State and Florida.

Boston College outgained the Jackets 505 yards to 343. Quarterback Jeff Sims was injured. Jordan Yates, who’s a pretty fair backup, did mostly OK, but a poor decision that became a poor throw that became an interception inside the BC 5 kept Tech from gaining second-half traction. Tech punted only once, but it found ways not to score.

Example: Tech was so confused on a third-and-3 early in the third quarter that it had to call timeout. Boos were heard. More boos were heard when a false start after that timeout made it third-and-8, which went unconverted, which prompted a Cimaglia field goal that left the Eagles in front.

Said Collins: “There were critical, critical plays that cost us this game.”

As AJC colleague Ken Sugiura noted this week, Collins didn’t have to remake the entire roster after taking over for Johnson. The stylized offense was junked, yes. The defense under Johnson was standard-issue. It also was not much good. This defense is worse. Pitt came here in October and scored 52 points. BC, which is 2-4 in ACC play, scored 41.

Collins again: “Three of their scoring drives, they had third-and-11-plus.”

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec needed only 20 passes to throw for 310 yards. That’s an average of 15.5 yards per pass, which is ridiculous. Five BC receivers had receptions of 24 yards or more. Oh, and the Eagles’ Patrick Garwo rushed for 104 yards. Couldn’t stop the run. Couldn’t stop the pass. Against Boston College. Ouch.

Asked if he needed to take a more active role – Falcons followers know this as pulling a Dan Quinn – in the defense, Collins said it was an internal issue and offered no real answer.

Said safety Tariq Carpenter: “We’ve been so close. That’s the part that hurts.”

To its credit, Tech hasn’t been blown out since the Pitt game Oct. 2. It has also wasted a run of six consecutive games in which Gibbs has scored a touchdown of at least 50 yards. (Saturday’s feat was a 98-yard kickoff return.)

Under Johnson, at least on offense, Tech was coached well. Under Collins, there’s not much indication that the Jackets are coached well anywhere. There’s no chance Stansbury, having invested so much in the purported #404Takeover, will pull the plug so soon. If you’re going to rebuild around better recruits, those recruits need the chance to grow together.

At some point, though, a coach must show he’s more than a recruiter/salesman. He needs, you know, to coach. Or pretty soon those prospects will focus on the won-loss record and think, “Maybe the grass is greener outside the 404.” Tech better start winning in 2022. In the grand scheme, there can be no real progress without W’s.

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