Utah 30, Georgia Tech 27 OT
- The offense worked, but Georgia Tech simply didn't win. Take that as a step forward.
- It was the defense and special teams that collapsed. The Yellow Jackets had a 14-point lead with seven minutes to play, and with an elite running game, everything should've worked out fine. Instead, the defense couldn't stop the Utes late, blew it on a 4th and 14 play, and Justin Moore missed a game-winning field goal attempt.
- But again, the offense worked even though Utah had weeks to prepare to stop it.
- If there was any sort of MVP race, John White would have to be in the team photo. Jon Hays might have thrown for 193 yards and three scores, but this was John White's win with a grinding 115 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
- Tevin Washington is a special playmaker who deserves the offseason hype he'll receive.
Georgia Tech fans are going to be grouchy about Paul Johnson losing another bowl game, but next year is when it should all come together. All five starters are back on the offensive line, Washington, David Sims, and Orwin Smith are back in the backfield, and several key defenders return. The 2012 ACC will be loaded with veteran teams, and this will be one of them.
- Utah needs Jordan Wynn to return and be as good as expected. The entire receiving corps is back and the secondary should be terrific. The building blocks are there to be sneaky-good in the Pac-12 South. After a rough and rocky season – to go cliché – this really might be the moment when the program is about to make a big move building off the momentum of this comeback.
- I'm sorry about that. Utah will probably take it one game at a time, too.
Utah sure is a plucky bunch. This is the kind of blue-collar, no-nonsense team that can never be counted out as long as Kyle Whittingham is on the sidelines. He is one of the most underrated head coaches in the entire country.
Where were you all year, Preston Lyons? The Georgia Tech B-back saved the best game of his career for the final game of his career, emerging as an unlikely star on the ground.
With time to prepare, Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator Al Groh called a great game in the Sun Bowl. His kids limited the damage of Utah RB John White, while flooding the pocket with constant pressure.
The Utes desperately need a full recovery from QB Jordan Wynn, who missed most of the season with a bum shoulder, because Jon Hays is just not the answer. He's had enough time to develop, yet still looks like the wide-eyed JUCO transfer who's struggled since getting on the field in October.
Utah NT Star Lotulelei is the best pro prospect in this game—if not the West Coast—that absolutely no one outside of Salt Lake City knows about. He's the kind of 325-pound space-eater in the middle of the line that NFL coaches absolutely crave.
By Matt Zemek
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, with their triple option offense – an offense DESIGNED to protect fourth-quarter leads – led the Utah Utes by 14 points with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter on Saturday afternoon at the venerable Sun Bowl stadium in El Paso, Texas. They weren't just leading by two touchdowns, either. They led a Utah team that had proven it could not throw the ball down the field. Utah and quarterback Jon Hays enabled the Colorado Buffaloes, after all, to snap a four-year road losing streak on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Utah demonstrated a manifest inability to pitch and catch with any appreciable degree of consistency. Moreover, the fact that a pick-six gave Tech its 14-point bulge only underscored how much of a challenge it was going to be for Utah to make a comeback.
And then it happened: Utah came back. Utah threw the ball. Georgia Tech couldn't get one first down with its option offense. Tech played bump-and-run coverage on a game-deciding 4th and 14 play inside the final two minutes. So what if Utah coach Kyle Whittingham punted with 2:55 left in the game on 4th and 3 from his own 25? So what if Whittingham kicked a PAT and very nearly allowed Georgia Tech to win with a field goal at the end of regulation? Georgia Tech persistently found ways to come up short… that's a skill which is supposed to be reserved for the likes of Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt, but obviously, Georgia Tech can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, too. Paul Johnson worked wonders at Navy. His 2009 ACC title is becoming an increasingly distant memory in Atlanta.
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- Georgia Tech now has seven straight bowl losses and it is becoming apparent that teams that are given time to prepare for the Jackets attack fair much better. The triple option is much easier to defend when given nearly a month to prepare.
- This was a tale of two different paths both of these teams were in coming to play. Tech started the season out hot--winning its first six, but limped across the finish line. Utah, on the other hand, started a little slow getting its feet wet in the new Pac-12--but got things humming at the end of the year. The team on the upper trajectory won.
- Boise State and TCU have gotten all of the love as the darlings of non-BCS conference football, but Utah should have been in the same discussion. Since the Urban Meyer days, the Utes have had solid seasons on almost a yearly basis, been a serious player in its conference, and won bowl games--even against the likes of Alabama.
- Like Boise State and TCU, we'll now see how playing in a living, breathing BCS conference will affect its win total and perception. So far not bad by making and winning a bowl game--but something tells you that Utah would like to aim higher.
- You get the feeling that the Yellow Jackets will never get over the hump to be an elite type of program under Paul Johnson. The style of play and game planning just don't seem to be consistent as you never know what kind of effort Gtech will come with game to game.
By Terry Johnson
Please follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball
- This game demonstrates precisely why bowl games exist, and why they will continue to exist – even if the NCAA implements a playoff. This was a well-played game by both sides that could have gone either way.
- Excellent call by Norm Chow to go back to the fade on 4th and 14 with just 1:39 to play. The Utes will miss him calling the plays next season.
- John Hays' performance demonstrates that for all of the statistics that exist to examine QB play, the only one that matters is how he performs with the game on the line.
- Give Kyle Whittingham credit for winning this game. Almost everyone – myself included – thought that he was conceding the game when he called a punt on fourth down with just 2:52 to play because the Yellow Jackets would run the clock out with just one first down. However, Whittingham opted to believe in his defense, and they responded by stopping Tech on three plays to get the ball back.
- Who says the Pac 12 cannot play physical football? The Utes defensive line took over the game in the second half by winning the battle up front. Very few teams were able to do that against Tech's O-line this season.
- All season long, Georgia Tech has dispelled the myth that option teams cannot throw the football. They did so again today, as Jackets burned Utah deep several different times, and managed to use their short passing game during the final minutes of the game to set up a game-winning FG try.