UGA blows out Tech as Graham struggles

Photo courtesy of Taylor Gray, Student Publications

It was an electric atmosphere in Bobby Dodd Saturday as Tech took the field against rivals UGA. Tech’s defense came out strong in the first drive, surprising many by causing UGA to go three and out. However, as the first quarter continued, Tech’s defensive strength began to wane as UGA marched down the field. A pass by Fromm setup UGA for a 3-yard run to go up 10-0. From there on, UGA never looked back. UGA’s next drive had the Tech defense on their heels, ending in a 20-yard pass by Fromm for a touchdown.

The story of the first quarter was Tech’s total inefficiency on offense. Failing to pick up a single first down, the running game was shut down early and quarterback and quarterback James Graham struggled to complete passes. Shortly into the second quarter, a fumbled punt reception by UGA put Tech inside the red zone. Tech’s offense got its first conversion of the game, punching their way through a very aggressive UGA defense into the end zone.

But any optimism the Jackets might have had going into the second half quickly died out. UGA separated themselves very quickly, going up 38-7 with four minutes left in the third. The Jackets had no response. The rivalry of hate really began to show itself in the fourth, with players from both sides having to be separated by the refs. By the fourth quarter, any hope of a miracle in Bobby Dodd was gone. The final score? UGA 52, Tech 7.

Collins brings energy despite loss
The decision by Coach Collins to go for an onside kick in the first quarter was certainly gutsy. Throughout the game, Collins continued to show his different style of coaching compared to his predecessor. Tech’s throwing game might have been off, but they continued to try it – occasionally leading to a much-needed spark. Another difference in coaching is the antics of Coach Collins on the sideline. After a botched field goal by kicker Brenton King, Coach Collins pulled him over on the sideline and hugged him, and after a successful onside kick, Collins did pushups to the joy of his players. The difference in energy levels of players is evident as well. Tech’s walk to the field is marked by speakers, screens and smoke machines. The Collins effect might not have made a difference this game, but the changes in team spirit was noted by analysts and fans alike.

Special teams coverage lacking
Tech’s special teams continue to be an issue. In the first quarter, a lack of punt coverage allowed UGA to start their drive within field goal range, and Tech missed a chip-shot field goal in the second quarter. Tech’s special team coverage was lacking, allowing for multiple big returns from UGA. The UGA offense was able to start their drives from midfield making scoring almost a certainty. Looking to next season, Tech will need to improve their coverage skills to compete at the highest level.

Graham’s bad day dooms Tech offense
James Graham struggled to throw accurately throughout the entire game. On multiple occasions, Graham missed open receivers with bad passes. He continues to struggle hitting moving targets or throwing deep. The weak passing game forced Tech to rely mostly on its running game against a formidable SEC defense. Georgia was able to break through the offensive line, causing the young quarterback to scramble out of the pocket and force plays. Graham went just 5/20 with 40 yards passing on the day, and star RB Jordan Mason was held to just 37 yards on 16 carries.