Georgia Tech undermines Geoff Collins’ case that it’s getting better

Coach Geoff Collins cited Georgia Tech’s victory over Louisville as proof that his team can be “really good” now. He didn’t take that back after Clemson walloped the Yellow Jackets last weekend. Collins still was saying much the same after the Jackets went to Boston College on Saturday and undermined his argument.

This wasn’t Tech getting overwhelmed by the favorites to win the national title. This was Tech getting beat 48-27 by Boston College, a ho-hum ACC program that fired its coach in December. That makes three bad efforts in the past four games for the Jackets (2-4, 2-3 ACC).

Syracuse dominated Tech for its only victory in six games. Clemson beat Tech by the largest margin in ACC history. Boston College was an OK team with a lackluster offense through five games, but looked like a juggernaut against the Jackets.

Afterwards, Collins insisted that Tech still is moving forward.

“There is a lot of really good players with the right mindset,” Collins said. "I’m excited to go back to work with them. The final result hurts. When you don’t win, it is painful. But you’ve got to learn from that pain and grow and develop.

“We are going to be really, really good. So just keep working. We’ve got the right guys."

The first task for Collins is making sure Tech’s season doesn’t slide away. BC (4-2, 3-2) looked to offer the best chance for a Jackets victory during a tough stretch. No. 3 Notre Dame comes to Bobby Dodd Stadium next weekend. Tech’s next two games after that are against Pitt, which has won four of the past five meetings, and at No. 11 Miami.

The Eagles buried the Jackets early and kept them down. The Jackets trailed 24-0 after less than 18 minutes and 34-14 at halftime. BC scored on its first five possessions and also had a defensive touchdown during that span. Tech’s first four possessions concluded with a turnover on downs, a lost fumble, a punt and another lost fumble.

“The defense, we’ve got to get off the field and the offense can’t turn it over three times,” senior linebacker David Curry said. “There is no finger-pointing in this locker room. We just have to play well in all three phrases. When we do, we are a good team.”

The Jackets don’t do it often enough. The cascade of errors they made against BC are the same miscues that have held them back all season. There were penalties, turnovers, dropped passes and botched special-teams plays.

In the first half Tech had seven penalties, including on that wiped out a TD on a kickoff return. Tech’s three turnovers set up BC touchdowns drives of 22, 33 and 12 yards.

“Hat’s off to (BC) first and foremost,” Collins said. “But I think the story of the game, and we’ve got to correct this, is the turnovers. ... We had some critical penalties that really cost us.”

That is nothing new. Coming into this weekend, Tech’s 15 turnovers were more than all but two FBS teams.. Only 12 teams committed more penalties per game than the Jackets. Collins and his staff keep talking about cleaning up those areas, but they remain a mess.

A giveaway and an ill-timed penalty undercut Tech’s flash of competitive play in the third quarter. The Jackets cut the lead to 41-21 with a 15-play TD drive (they caught a break when a roughing-the-passer penalty on BC negated an interception). Tech’s defense then forced BC’s first punt of the game.

Tech quarterback Jeff Sims dropped back to pass from the end zone on first down. Eagles safety Jahmin Muse intercepted the sideline strike at Tech’s 12-yard line. BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s third-down pass was incomplete, but Tech was flagged for roughing him.

The Eagles scored another touchdown on the next play. That pushed their lead to 48-21. That was it for Tech, which swapped Sims for James Graham on the next play. Sims was 12-of-18 for 171 yards with two TDs and a rushing score.

“Jeff was playing good,” Collins said. “He took some shots in third quarter, and we just felt it was best to make a change."

Tech’s rough start to this game should have looked familiar to anyone who watched the 37-20 loss at Syracuse. The Jackets trailed 23-6 early in that game with the same kind of sloppy play. At least they rallied to within a field goal of Syracuse before fading. Tech never got within 20 points of the lead against BC after trailing 31-7.

Tech appeared disordered and dispirited from the start. BC defenders were in the backfield soon after the snap on two of the first five plays. The Jackets had two false-start penalties on the drive, including when lining up for a fourth-and-8 play. Punter Pressley Harvin tried a pass to the end zone on a fake, but it fell incomplete (field-goal issues mean that long tries aren’t a good option for Tech).

The Eagles responded with a 10-play, 71-yard touchdown drive. They never faced a third down during that march. Tech’s next drive began with a dropped pass. On second down Sims fumbled the shotgun snap, and BC recovered it.

The Eagles turned that turnover into a touchdown. Tech went three-and-out on its next possession. BC finished its next drive with a field goal after Jurkovec ran for 28 and passed for 30 of the 62 yards. The Eagles were up 17-0 and scored again without running another play.

Tech’s Jahmyr Gibbs ran back the subsequent kickoff 97 yards to BC’s end zone, but a holding penalty wiped it out. On second down, Tech’s Jordan Mason ran into a pile. The ball suddenly emerged on the other side of it. BC safety Mike Palmer scooped it up and ran 33 yards for a touchdown.

The play stood after an official review. Replay could not save the Jackets. Nor could Collins' attempt to get them going with another special-teams gambit.

After BC went up 24-0, Tech got good field position via two 15-yard penalties on the Eagles. The Jackets responded with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Sims to Ahmarean Brown. It seemed the Tech was surging after the terrible start.

Then Collins called for an onside kick that Boston College recovered. (Tech was offside, anyway.) Collins said Tech decided to try the onside kick once the alignment resulted in three of his defenders lined up against one BC player.

“We were trying to gain some momentum and give the ball back to our offense,” Collins said.

The failed onside kick had the opposite effect. The Eagles were just 39 yards from the end zone. They scored a touchdown five plays later for the 31-7 lead.

Short fields hurt Tech’s defense, but BC also drove the field when necessary. The Eagles, a good passing team, decided to use big personnel and run on Tech. They hadn’t broken 100 yards rushing this season but went for 266 against the Jackets. And Tech’s pass rushers had a hard time corralling Jurkovec.

Tech’s offense, defense and special teams all flopped. That’s been the case for the Jackets three of the past four times they took the field. The loss to Clemson was so bad that Collins made it a point to say the Jackets aren’t regressing. Then they went to BC and showed otherwise.