If misery loves company, the local populace must be ecstatic. Rarely has local despondency been so rife.
Fifteenth-ranked Georgia Tech gave new meaning to the term Ramblin’ Wreck by losing to Kansas, 28-25. The very same Kansas that one week earlier managed to lose to the North Dakota State Bison, 6-3.
No. 19 Georgia failed to score a touchdown while losing to South Carolina, 17-6. The very same Gamecocks that just one year ago surrendered 41 points to the Dogs.
The unranked Atlanta Falcons managed to complete the trifecta with a disquieting 15-9 overtime loss to Pittsburgh. Like Georgia, the Falcons failed to score a touchdown. Unlike Georgia, the Falcons lost to a team deploying its third-string quarterback.
How did this unfathomable series of losses occur? Each game was mystifying in its own right. Watching the contests unfold offered no answers.
Perhaps that’s because the answers were so simple. A close look at some of the post-game quotes of the participants offers an amazingly coherent look into what went down. All quotes were transcribed from the official post-game press confrontations by cstv.com and steelers.com:
Kansas coach Turner Gill: “It’s just one ballgame. We’re here to be successful over a long period of time, many, many years. One game doesn’t define our program; two games doesn’t define our program.”
Tech coach Paul Johnson: “I think they played well. It didn’t surprise me. We’ve got to go back and I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys ready to play. Clearly, they think it’s a walk in the park sometimes.”
Kansas wide receiver Daymond Patterson: “You heard it everywhere: social websites, through the media in the paper, people just talking on campus, people calling you on your phone. We knew we played about as bad as we could. The only thing we could do was get better than last week. We really went out there and focused this week. We had really great practices and it really paid off today.”
Tech center Sean Bradford: “We knew coming in that this was a team that didn’t play to their potential last week. We knew they were going to be fired up and ready to go, and if we gave them an inch they’d take a mile. All in all, they outplayed us and outhustled us today.”
Answer: One team, utterly embarrassed a week ago, took the field determined not to let it happen again. The other team, certain it was playing the same team it saw on film, took the field with no determination whatsoever. The ensuing result becomes predictable.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier: “I think the biggest reason it was a good win for us is not so much in beating Georgia but dominating the line of scrimmage. We haven’t been able to control the line of scrimmage the way we did today.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the story of the game was. Number 21, Marcus Lattimore, was certainly the most dominating player in the game. Coach Spurrier did a nice job planning for that young man to carry the ball. They just kept feeding him.”
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore: “Our offensive line was in better shape than their defensive line. We knew coming into the game that the ends were playing wide, and we could gas them up the middle. We just kept gassing them because they played wide and couldn’t figure it out.”
Georgia free safety Bacarri Rambo: “They had great play calling. The running back was running pretty good, making good plays and all. We couldn’t stop them. We were missing tackles. We just have to go to practice Monday and get better.”
Answer: Imagine, Steve Spurrier embracing a game plan where you just line up and blast into the opponent, and the better team wins. It helps that Carolina had a running back prepared to play. Georgia had a running back that hadn’t played a game in nine months.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: “It’s great to get a hard-fought win. I like the way our group rode the emotional roller coaster of staying on task throughout. I thought we stayed together and played team football, and we did it until the very end.”
Falcons coach Mike Smith: “I thought it was a well-fought game, especially for 60 minutes. I thought the teams battled toe-to-toe. Unfortunately, we didn’t do a very good job in any phase of the game in overtime.”
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward: “We executed our game plan the way we wanted to. We just pounded and pounded, and at the end of the day, we ended up winning the game from it. We called that play maybe 15 times throughout that game. Everybody executed the play, had a hat-on-a-hat. Springing a guy open like that, I get just as excited as catching a touchdown.”
Falcons defensive end Kroy Bierman: “They came out kind of fast. We kept them out of the end zone, and they kicked a field goal. We got into some rhythm there. For four quarters, we kept them out of the end zone. We did a good job of matching them. At the end, it’s unfortunate, but they made the play. Give credit to them.”
Answer: Sometimes, it just comes down to which team makes the play at the end. It’s a simple game.
Three simple games, really.