1. It was not a good day for pretty much everybody on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Justin Thomas at times looked hesitant, and at other times seemed like he was trying to take the whole offense on his shoulders. With a well-executed game plan and a raft of talented players, Notre Dame was ready.
“I think we were probably as aggressive as any defense that we had watched on film,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Being very aggressive was an important element within the plan itself.”
It was the least effective offensive showing since the 2013 Music City Bowl against Ole Miss.
The downfield blocking, which is often the catalyst for the big run plays that this offense frequently produces, was not there. Credit goes to Notre Dame, certainly, but as noted earlier this week, the Jackets have not been sharp in that category yet.
2. The Tech defense gave up two costly plays early – the two long third-down conversions on pass plays to Will Fuller – and then home run to running back C.J. Prosise but otherwise wasn’t bad. (Which, granted, falls along the lines of, “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”)
The Jackets forced a turnover, kept Notre Dame to 4-for-11 on third downs (36 percent) and had two strong showings when backed into the red zone, once when D.J. White intercepted quarterback DeShone Kizer in the end zone in the second quarter and the other when they held the Fighting Irish to a field goal after a fumble gave them the ball on the Tech 18 in the third quarter.
But, obviously, in a loss, it wasn’t enough.
“We played good, and then there were plays here and there (that weren’t). We can’t do that,” linebacker Tyler Marcordes said. “We’ve got to play a complete game and execute every play.”
3. Special teams was mixed. Kicker Harrison Butker missed his two field-goal tries, both makeable attempts (30 and 43). Tech could have gone into halftime tied at 13 but instead trailed 13-7. The punt team netted 39.4 yards, a pretty good average, helped by a 51-yard punt by Ryan Rodwell in the first quarter.
Jamal Golden returned three punts for 43 yards, which lowered Notre Dame’s net to 31 yards. With the offense lagging, a big play would have been most opportune, but it didn’t happen.
4. Overall, it’s obvious to say, but the overall play just wasn’t good enough. Notre Dame’s players were hard to block, Tech’s players didn’t do things to help themselves block them, Thomas wasn’t on his game as he has usually been and the Irish played a strong pass coverage game. Defensively, it was for the most part passable, and a player like Fuller is going to make plays, but if making someone else win the game for Notre Dame, it didn’t work.
Left in South Bend, Ind. – a chance to show itself a veritable contender for the College Football Playoff, to earn a memorable win on the road over a top-10 name-brand opponent, to give a national audience an eyeful of what the offense that has become so synonymous with Georgia Tech. It’s not the end of the world, by any means. There’s still the entire ACC season and the Georgia game to play. But these opportunities don’t come around often.
It’s jarring, because the team finished 2014 so hot and steamrolled its first two opponents, but it happens. Tech had an opportunity to make a statement, but instead retreated. What matters now is how the Jackets respond to the setback.
“We have to play better,” Johnson said. “If we play (against Duke) like we played today, it won’t be pretty.”