ATLANTA — Georgia Tech made no secret of the fact that it felt it was on equal footing and indeed superior to some SEC teams leading into its game with Tennessee on Monday night.
After the game, Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson made it clear he felt his football team should have defeated No. 21 Tennessee instead of falling 42-41 in double overtime.
“This doesn’t do anything to our goals other than it’s a game that we should have won, and we didn’t,” Johnson said.
Georgia Tech outgained the Vols, 655-369, running 96 offensive plays to Tennessee’s 59. The Yellow Jackets possessed the ball for 41 minutes, 27 seconds of regulation to UT’s 18:33.
According to ESPN stats, the Yellow Jackets are the 50th team in the past 10 years to rush for 500 yard or more, but only the third to lose.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where you run 96 plays and have 655 yards and lose,” said a dejected Johnson. “That last fumble [at the UT 7-yard line] killed us.”
Indeed, Georgia Tech needs to take a long look in the mirror, whether it was a missed block on the pivotal 2-point conversion attempt, or the Yellow Jackets’ two lost fumbles, or their inability to convert on two field goal attempts.
Ironically, Georgia Tech’s style of play is designed to place an emphasis on execution, and it was Tennessee’s young team that proved better prepared late in the game.
The Vols didn’t turn the ball over, dominated the special teams element and proved to be the better-conditioned team by avoiding mental breakdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Georgia Tech had 4 penalties for 37 yards, while Tennessee had just 2 for 20 yards.
The Vols offense roared in the fourth quarter, gaining 148 of the 326 yards it totaled in regulation. Tennessee scored 14 points to come from two touchdowns down to tie the game at 28 and force overtime.
“The second half, once they got rolling, there wasn’t much stopping them,” Johnson said.
The Yellow Jackets felt pressure to go for the 2-point conversion in the second overtime because of how effective Larry Scott’s offense suddenly had become.
“I just felt like we had a better chance of getting a 2-point conversion than we did stopping them,” Johnson said. “They had scored twice on three plays in two overtimes.”
The loss dropped Johnson to 8-2 in season-opening games at Georgia Tech and snapped the Yellow Jackets’ four-game win streak against SEC teams.
“It’s still going to be in the back of my mind that we should have won,” said Georgia Tech junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who scored 5 touchdowns and had 249 yards rushing on 44 carries. “I really wish the results would have been different.”
Former Knoxville West High School star Nathan Cottrell agreed.
“It’s frustrating, but you have to take the positives and that was our offense,’’ said Cottrell, who had 79 yards on 6 carries, including a 38-yard burst. “Hopefully, we can turn that into some success.”