Paul Johnson did do something right on Saturday.
He moved Al Groh off the sideline and into the coaches’ booth upstairs.
This spared Groh — at least temporarily — from the invective pouring forth from disgruntled Tech fans as Middle Tennessee State rolled over the Yellow Jackets, 49-28.
And how did this move affect the Tech defenders? "Not at all," linebacker Quayshawn Nealy told ramblinwreck.com after the game. "Last week, we had problems getting the play calls faster, and we thought that helped out."
They may have gotten the play calls faster, but the calls weren’t any better. Tech allowed more points against MTSU than it did against Miami a week earlier. No small feat there, since the Hurricanes rang up 42. The Jackets’ porous defense also dispelled Johnson’s notion that the defensive play against Miami was an "aberration."
Added Nealy, "It just came down to doing your job." Which the Tech defenders haven’t done in the last two games. If that’s an aberration, it’s lasted for almost half of Tech’s season.
Rather than cite poor play calling or inept scheming, Johnson chose to criticize Tech’s tackling. "That’s probably as bad a tackling game as I have seen," Johnson told ramblinwreck.com. "We really haven’t tackled very well for the last two weeks now."
Whose fault might that be? "We have so many tackling drills in practice," Nealy noted, "and we emphasize it so much. We were prepared to tackle because we practiced it so much. But guys were just missing tackles. I don’t know what to say about that."
MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill did. "Offensively, I think we imposed our will on them," he told ramblinwreck.com. And that’s no disrespect to Georgia Tech." No disrespect at all. Just stating the obvious.
"To be able to run the ball the way we did," Stockstill added, apparently still mystified at his offense sliding through Groh’s defense like a hot knife through soft butter. "We had some tough, physical, five, six, seven, eight-yard runs. I thought Benny ran extremely hard, ran behind his pads."
Did he ever. Benny Cunningham, the Blue Raiders back whom the Tech defense elevated into the Heisman Trophy conversation, ran 27 times for 217 yards and five, count ‘em, five touchdowns. Yikes!
And get this: MTSU didn’t use anything but solid football to beat Tech. Stockstill again: "Funny thing, we had a third and half a yard early in the game, and we tried a trick play. It was covered and we throw it away and get an intentional grounding called on us.
"That’s the last thing we did. Everything else was hard-nosed, physical, right at you. I don’t think they stopped us in the second half. We were very consistent."
Which raises another disturbing issue. The halftime score was 21-all. While lolling about the lockerroom during their 20-minute respite, the Jackets should have realized that they were in a real game against a worthy foe.
So they went out and got drilled, 28-7, in the second half. How so?
"I thought our conditioning was a factor in the game," Stockstill continued. "We kept pushing, we kept pressing, and we kept coming after them. On defense, we were relentless. We were fast off the ground. We didn’t lay around."
Whoa. Now, there’s an indictment. Or perhaps just a coach a tad carried away by the enormity of his team’s upset.
Then again, didn’t Tech lead Miami a week ago, 36-19, only to be outscored, 23-0, over the games’ final 20 minutes? Maybe this is another one of those two-week aberrations.
Or is it neither? "We had a couple bad breaks," quarterback Tevin Washington told ramblinwreck.com. "I think we had it about our times in the second half, and I think on two drives we had a fumble on a pitch, and the other we had an interception. I think we had bad breaks."
Sorry. I may be old school, but I am steadfast in my belief that turnovers are mistakes, not bad breaks.
Washington sounded equally confused when asked if Tech suffered from the lingering effect of the Miami loss. "I don’t think so. I think we just didn’t come out ready to play today. Collectively, as a team, I think we could have done a better job of getting up for this game."
On this final point, Johnson agreed. "We just weren’t ready to play. I thought we did all kinds of things, said all kinds of things this week, to get them ready. But we just weren’t."
And so it goes.
So many issues, so few answers.