Tech falls to Iowa in first Orange Bowl berth since 1967

Tech’s football team fell to Iowa in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 5, 24-14 in Miami. The loss ends the Jackets season at 11-3, with two of the losses coming in the last three games. The Jackets now have a 3-3 all time record in the Orange Bowl, with the last win coming in 1952.

This loss also marked Tech’s first appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game since the system was introduced in the 1998 season.

“We just never had any consistency on offense…. It is hard to get consistency when we were not on the field that much. We could not string together first downs [in the first half],” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.

The Jackets were stagnant on offense during the first half, only picking up one first down and 32 yards. Of the 20 plays ran by the offense, 13 of them were rushes by junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt.

The A-backs only had two rush attempts in the first 30 minutes.

“We had a hard time blocking them on the inside, and it made it tough to run on the perimeter. And we could never hit a big play in the passing game,” Johnson said.

Out of Nesbitt’s nine passing attempts, the junior only completed two. Both completions went to junior B-back Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer also had 14 attempts on the ground for 49 net yards.

“We were just shooting ourselves in the foot. We were just having penalty after penalty after penalty. Mistakes after mistakes after mistakes. If you have those, there is no way you will have the opportunity to have a big play,” Dwyer said.

The Jackets had nine total penalties on the night, setting Tech back 68 yards. But the Jackets hung close with the Hawkeyes, at one point reducing the difference to a three-point margin, until the end of the game when the mistakes began to catch up to the Jackets.

As the second half began, it appeared that Tech’s offense had finally gained some traction. The Jackets drove downfield on a 12-play, 44-yard drive that took 7:10 off the clock to move into range for a 41-yard field goal attempt. With the wind blowing, junior kicker Scott Blair’s attempt sailed wide right, leaving the score at 14-7 in Iowa’s favor.

After the Jackets picked up their first offensive touchdown of the night with 12:30 to play, putting the score at 17-14, the defense forced the Hawkeyes to punt on the next series. Kick returner Jerrard Tarrant attempted to return an Iowa punt from the Jacket’s four-yard line, but only managed to get it to the 10-yard line. On the first play of the offensive series for the Jackets, Nesbitt threw an interception.

But again the defense stepped up and stopped Iowa on a fake field goal. On the first play of the next drive, Dwyer tried to reverse back to the side, but was initially met by Iowa defenders in the end zone. Though the B-back was able to avoid the safety, it put the Jackets on their own one-yard line, effectively ending the drive.

Tarrant’s highlights of the night came during the first half when forced a fumble during the first series against the Hawkeyes and recovered it for the Jackets. Later in the half, had had an interception returned for a touchdown, putting the Jackets on the board as they cut the lead to 14-7.

The corner was defending both receivers on Iowa’s two early touchdown passes, though.

The bowl game marked the final game in a Tech uniform for three starting seniors: left tackle Brad Sellers, right guard Cord Howard and outside linebacker Sedric Griffin. They were three of six scholarship seniors on the roster.

Additionally, four Tech juniors, including Dwyer, declared for the NFL Draft and so have also played their final games for the Jackets.