As with most college football teams that had gaudy offensive numbers during their initial non-conference games, those numbers generally go way down once the regular season conference play begins. So the Yellow Jackets are following the same reality as are the majority of the BCS teams. Except for one very important difference; they remain one of only a dozen undefeated teams after six weeks of games including 3 conference encounters. So while we all would like to see our Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets put a 56 to 0 thumping on every opponent the remainder of the season, at this stage it becomes an endurance contest of just get a win. Much like Paul Johnson likes to say; as long as we have more points than our opponent at the end of the game.
While Maryland came into this game with a record of 2 and 2, including a 38 to 7 trouncing at home courtesy of the Temple Owls, let’s not forget that they almost came back to defeat a very good West Virginia team, and lest we forget they opened the season on Labor Day with a victory over the Miami Hurricanes. I know, I know, Miami came into that game with a bunch of suspended players but the Terrapins did what you are supposed to do; win the game. Given that Maryland beat the Hurricanes and gave the Mountaineers a tough game, they are a very competitive team as Georgia Tech discovered.
At the moment the Yellow Jackets are going through the part of their ACC schedule against teams that according to the pre-season experts were not expected to challenge for any conference championships. On a side note, those Demon Deacons from Wake Forest are currently tied with Clemson for the lead in the Atlantic division of the ACC, and we are tied with the Duke Blue Devils for the lead in the Coastal Division. How ironic that all four of the teams currently tied for first place in the ACC were expected to be nothing but road kill for the pre-season champions; FSU and Va. Tech. With another critical Coastal Division game coming up this Saturday at UVA, perhaps now this team is starting to realize that they have to keep playing full throttle for the entire 60 minutes.
So while I was sitting in my seat at BDS watching the Yellow Jackets offense, I kept hearing the stadium announcer saying; “tackle by Vellano.” In fact he was saying it over and over again to the point that I thought the Terps had one heck of of an active linebacker on their team much like All American Luke Kuechly of Boston College. It turns out that Joe Vellano is a 6′ 2″ 285 DT who was all ACC second team last year. After the game, I checked and saw that he made “twenty” tackles, including 14 solos for the afternoon. He was a one man wrecking crew on any play run in either the A or B gap and apparently was not blocked very well by any of the Yellow Jacket interior linemen.
It is rare for an entire defensive line to have anywhere near that many tackles for a whole game. While the aforementioned Luke Kuechly leads the country in tackles averaging about 15 per game, he is expected to make tackles as the defensive linemen’s job is to keep offensive linemen tied up on the line of scrimmage enabling the linebackers to make the majority of the tackles in either a 4/3 scheme that Maryland uses, or the 3/4 that Georgia Tech employs. Making this particular performance by Mr. Vellano that much more impressive. That kid can play some football in the trenches.
Guess what? He was a 2 stars player coming out of high school in Albany, New York. Last season when he was named all ACC second team he had a total of 63 tackles for the entire season, putting even more perspective on his demolition performance yesterday at BDS notching 20 for the day. He was the main reason the interior running yardage was not very good at all in the game. So while everyone was obviously amped up to play against those future NFL DT’s that manned the trenches for the North Carolina Tar Heels a few weeks ago, apparently those 310 Lbs. future pros were unable to match the effort of 2 stars Joe Vellano against the triple option offense.
The Outland trophy winner and every other major defensive player of the year award won by Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska a few years ago never had a game where he made 20 tackles and he was a first round selection in the NFL draft. I am emphasizing this particular performance to highlight a reality of college football; you better come prepared to play your best game every week as anyone can win and anyone can lose a game on any given Saturday. Rankings don’t matter as the unranked team looks forward to having an opportunity to defeat a highly ranked team as that will be their lone highlight in an otherwise unremarkable season. Just ask Kansas last year who went 3 and 9 even though they knocked off Georgia Tech when they were ranked # 15 in the country. By the way the Jayhawks were pasted 70 to 28 by Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Remember the pre-season coronation of FSU as ACC Champions and making it all the way to the BCS National Championship Game this season? Well the wheels fell of their championship wagon after that loss to Oklahoma in the second week of the season and they have not won a single game since losing to Clemson, and again last Saturday for the second time in four years to Wake Forest. At the moment the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets go into every game with a bulls eye on their backs and every team, especially the teams that received no pre-season kudos, are gunning to knock them off and make the ESPN highlight show.
For the moment they are fortunate to win these last two games as the Yellow Jackets have apparently still not gotten the message from Coach Paul Johnson and the rest of the coaching staff that great teams look to become better each week regardless of the opposition. Perhaps now they will realize how fast the trip will be out of the rankings if they don’t come out each and every week and play with the same attitude displayed by the Wolf pack and the Terrapins. I want to see one of Georgia Tech’s defensive linemen come out and dominate a game by making 20 tackles in one of these next six games.
As far as the performance in the game, the Al Groh defense has stepped up their play nicely each and every week by coming up with critical stops when they are needed the most. Considering that the defense was down 3 linebackers going into this contest, I want to congratulate the players who stepped in and played well enough to preserve a win on a day when the GT offensive line was not up to the challenge presented by a non first round NFL DT. Linebackers Quayshawn Nealy (interception); Chris Crenshaw; and true freshman Nick Menocal (QB sack) all made plays when they were sorely needed to preserve this victory.
So now it’s time for the Yellow Jackets to realize that there are no slam dunks for the ranked teams, only disaster if they fail to come out and play each game from this point on as the most critical game this season. We will find out this Saturday at UVA if this past week’s performance has shown them that they must retain their focus for 60 minutes or run the risk of defeating themselves much like they did last season at Kansas. My hunch is; lesson learned and they will come out and explode at UVA as I know CAG has a real warm spot for defeating the Cavs. Just win!