Georgia Tech tries to shake off 2 excruciating losses
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech has trailed for all of four seconds in the second half.
Yet somehow, the Yellow Jackets have two losses.
In a season that could be so much better, coach Paul Johnson must walk a tightrope — yes, he wants his players to be ticked off at their inability to close out games, as long as they don’t let the pain linger into Saturday’s contest against Wake Forest.
“You hope that it hurts,” Johnson said Tuesday. “You try to learn from it, then put it behind you and move on. You can’t go back and change it.”
In the season opener, Georgia Tech squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter against Tennessee, losing 42-41 in double overtime when the Volunteers thwarted a 2-point conversion.
This past Saturday, it was another excruciating defeat at No. 8 Miami. The Yellow Jackets were up 24-16 heading to the final period, but they surrendered a touchdown that gave the Hurricanes a chance and an 85-yard drive in the last 2 1/2 minutes to set up a chip-shot field goal with 4 seconds remaining.
Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-1) was left to ponder what might’ve been, what should’ve been.
“Obviously, we’re frustrated,” offensive lineman Parker Braun said. “Obviously, we’re angry that we lost both games the way in which we did.”
The anguish was certainly evident in Johnson, who got a bit snippy at a reporter’s question about the team’s late-game woes.
“You guys are going to write what you want to write anyway,” the coach said. “Whatever I say, I can’t be right. I try to tell you what happened. But if I tell you what happened, then I’m blaming the coaches. Or if I tell you it’s not the coaches, then it’s the players. Pick one.”
The loss to Miami was an especially tough blow, given it was an Atlantic Coast Conference game and a chance for the Yellow Jackets to gain an upper hand in the divisional race.
Johnson stressed there’s still a long way to go.
“I told the team, ‘We’re halfway through the season. ... Most of your goals are in front of you,’” he said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? If we win the rest of our games and Virginia Tech beats Miami and Virginia beats Miami, then all of a sudden we could win the division.”
The Yellow Jackets return home to face the Demon Deacons (4-2, 1-2), who are mired in a two-game losing streak but coming off a bye week.
“We’re trying to get win No. 4,” Johnson said. “That’s all we’re focused on. That’s all we can control.”
Georgia Tech is the first ACC team to have a pair of one-point defeats in a season since Clemson and Duke in 2006.
No conference team has lost three games by that narrowest of margins.
Against Tennessee, Georgia Tech piled up a staggering 655 yards and had a two-touchdown lead with just over 13 minutes remaining. But Tennessee converted a third-and-9 just before hitting a 50-yard touchdown pass, J.J. Green had a crucial fumble in Vols territory when it looked as though the Yellow Jackets were driving for a clinching score, and Shawn Davis’ 36-yard field goal on the final play of regulation was blocked.
In the second overtime, Johnson passed on a chance to kick a tying extra point. TaQuon Marshall was stopped short, his desperation heave ruled incomplete.
The Miami game followed a similar path, with missed opportunities galore.
In the third quarter, Georgia Tech was up 21-13 and had first-and-goal at the Hurricanes 6. But Clinton Lynch was stuffed for no gain, Marshall was sacked for an 8-yard loss and the Yellow Jackets were forced to settle for a field goal.
Then, after stopping a 2-point try that would’ve tied the game, Georgia Tech got the ball back at its own 45, knowing a couple of first downs would likely ice the victory. The Yellow Jackets failed to capitalize, punting the ball back to Miami at its own 8. The Hurricanes ripped off three first downs, moving across midfield, only to face a fourth-and-10 at the 43 with less than a minute to go.
With two defenders in position to make a play, Miami’s Darrell Langham pulled off a brilliant, juggling catch down the sideline that set up the winning field goal .
“We had all kinds of chances in both games to win,” Johnson said. “When you come right down to it, we didn’t make the critical plays.”