CFN Bowl Analysis ...
Air Force 14 ... Ga Tech 7
Inexcusable. Absolutely inexcusable.
It's one thing for the Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech offense to not work well against a team like Iowa in the 2010 Orange Bowl, but there's no excuse and no reason whatsoever for it not to roll up Air Force.
The two teams play similar styles offensively, obviously, but the difference is that Georgia Tech is loaded with BCS-league, ACC players while Air Force has maybe, and this is a reach, ten players talented enough to earn FBS scholarships out of high school. The Yellow Jackets are bigger, stronger, faster, and ten times more athletic, and they should've been able to do what the Falcons were able to do, only far better.
There were times when the Georgia Tech showed the difference with a few dominant plays that Air Force simply couldn't deal with. But for the most part, Tech never took control of the game, couldn't throw the ball a lick, couldn't' get Anthony Allen rolling, and couldn't outplay a team that should've had far more problems holding up.
The four turnovers had something to do with it.
The one neutralizer in the equation was mistakes, and Georgia Tech made them with muffed punts, a Tevin Washington fumble at the end of a long, sustained drive, and the Falcons' game-sealing interception. Air Force didn't turn the ball over and committed one penalty. It played mistake-free, threw the ball better, and held up at times when it seemed like Tech was about to turn things around. This was a fantastic win for Troy Calhoun and Air Force, and it might have been a killer for Johnson and Tech. This might be the moment when the pressure is put on Johnson to show he can win a bowl next year.
- Air Force has had major kicking issues, but Zach Bell came through hitting two of his three field goal chances.
- The Falcon bolting out of the stadium before the game might be the highlight of the bowl season. It was something right out of The Simpsons.
- The Georgia Tech offense needs a true dual-threat playmaker. It might have been without its top receiver, Stephen Hill, but there wasn't anything happening with Tevin Washington dropping back to throw. It's not like Josh Nesbitt was a major bomber unless it was last year when Demaryius Thomas was hitting the home run, and Johnson's goal has to be to find someone who can offer more of a threat to hurt teams that cheat up to stop the run.
- ACC, the pressure and the spotlight are on. This one is going to hurt in terms of national perception.
- Tech punt returner Daniel McKayhan had a tough job filling in Jerrard Tarrant and made two key mistakes, but the loss can't be pinned on him. The rest of the team screwed this up and should've more than made up for the errors, including the killer deep in Yellow Jacket territory that led to Air Force's winning score.
Air Force is fortunate that some larger program or NFL organization hasn't swooped into Colorado like, err, a Falcon and left with coach Troy Calhoun.
While it'll never generate much national pub, Calhoun is one of the rising young stars of the coaching ranks. He was at it again in Shreveport on Monday, beating what was supposed to be a more talented opponent in a bowl game for a second straight year. Last year, Houston was the victim. This December, it was Georgia Tech. The coach just does things right, putting out a product that isn't all that sexy, but one that plays with outstanding fundamentals and discipline. Air Force doesn't make many mistakes, certainly of the mental variety, and gives up little room on defense. Like their leader, the Falcons won't wow you, but they will frustrate and wear you down. It was mentioned this evening that the academy has around a half-dozen players who had scholarship offers from bigger schools. That it's won at least eight games in each of the last four seasons is a testament to the man calling the shots on the sidelines.
- Yeah, he needs some work on his mechanics and the competition isn't all that deep, but Air Force's Tim Jefferson is the most talented passer of the nation's option quarterbacks. He has a nice pocket presence, has good zip on his passes, and throws well on the move.
- Georgia Tech just isn't the same team without Joshua Nesbitt behind center, which has been the case ever since he injured his arm in early November. Maybe Tevin Washington becomes that guy in 2011, but the Yellow Jacket offense lacked punch in Shreveport, producing just one play of more than 25 yards.
- All games should be this deliberate and fast-paced. Sans any annoying delays or a slew of penalties that lead to a four-hour saga, Air Force and Georgia Tech was akin to watching a neat pitcher's duel between Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
By Matt Zemek
Losing a bowl game is okay. Losing a bowl game because the other team proves to be excellent in every phase of competition is even more acceptable. Losing a bowl because of – no, not one – two muffed punts plus a fumble inside opponent's 10-yard line? That's pretty hard to take.
On top of all those realities, what really has to sting the losing Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets after a 14-7 Independence Bowl debacle against the Air Force Academy is that a full month off did absolutely nothing to change the Yellow Jackets' worst tendencies. Poor kicking? Poor kick returning? A penchant for fumbles at all spots on the field? A habit of making a hash out of red-zone trips? All those problems, which had accompanied Georgia Tech through 12 regular-season games (12 games that did not produce a winning record), followed coach Paul Johnson's team to Shreveport, Louisiana. Yes, Josh Nesbitt was unable to play in this game, but even with a backup quarterback in the saddle, one would think that Tech could have gotten out of its own way at the very least.
Full credit to Air Force, and especially its defense, for remaining persistent when Tech was on the verge of snagging a 14-6 lead late in the third quarter. Full credit to a Falcon force that endured the traumatic loss of its mascot (a smart bird that really just wanted to avoid watching a train-wreck of a football game but then arrive in time for the victory celebration at the end) and was able to reunite with its winged friend for a victory lap in Louisiana. However, the first story of this game is that Georgia Tech lost it more than Air Force won it.
True, the Falcons' Jonathan Warzeka made several key mistakes that, if avoided, could have buried the Jackets in the first half, but the Rambling Wreck committed even more miscues on Monday. Given its limitations under center, Georgia Tech didn't possess as much run-pass balance as Air Force, and that's the very reality which made the Yellow Jackets' defensive dominance of the Falcons even more surprising. This game was truly Tech's to win, but the Tevin Washington fumble inside the 6 and the pair of muffed punts gift-wrapped this Independence encounter for Air Force.
--The Mountain West is doing some good work in the bowl season, owning a 3-1 record, but let's not get too excited about that mark. San Diego State's win over Navy is a high-value scalp, but wins over 6-7 UTEP and 6-7 Georgia Tech don't exactly stir the soul. The ultimate verdict on the MWC will come in the Arroyo Seco on New Year's Day, when TCU tackles Wisconsin.
--Troy Calhoun did not play the percentages in this game, eschewing field goals and going for first downs in situations that generally called for field goals. Here's what's wrong with such an approach: nothing. What do these teams and coaches have to lose in the Advocare Independence Bowl in Shreveport on a Monday evening in late December? If a bowl game is all about having fun and the stakes aren't high, why not take chances and let loose? Teams don't get more money for winning the game (especially not the players… right, Ohio State?) Let it all hang out unless you're in a BCS game or another contest when something of appreciable importance hangs in the balance, like a conference's reputation or a (beloved) coach's job.
-- See, Georgia Tech, how hard it is to back up one really good ACC season with another? See how hard it is to perform well one year after winning a conference title? Now you know, Yellow Jackets, how impressive it is that USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Boise State have been over the past several years. Now, America, one can more fully appreciate what it means to win a conference championship with considerable – nay, absurd – regularity. We'll all see how Georgia Tech responds in 2011. Virginia Tech, sitting in the ACC, will be especially interested in the Yellow Jackets' answer to this subpar year.