Notebook: Early errors haunt Georgia Tech's offense

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Three touchdowns couldn’t wipe away the mistakes that haunted Patrick Skov.

The Georgia Tech fullback fumbled and went the wrong way on consecutive plays in the first quarter. The drive ended with a missed field goal and completed a sequence of inconsistent play that hampered the Yellow Jackets multiple times in a 30-22 loss to Notre Dame.

“We were not doing a very good job,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said of his offense. “It was like popcorn. One guy you'd get fixed, then the other guy would mess up.”

Skov took responsibility for his blunders early in the game. With the Yellow Jackets marching into Notre Dame territory, Skov fumbled but quickly recovered on second-and-2 at the Irish 18-yard line. On the next play, third-and-1, Skov went one way to start the option while quarterback Justin Thomas went the other way and was immediately tackled. Skov would redeem himself with a four-yard gain on fourth down, but the momentum of the drive was killed.

“Everybody else got the play right,” Skov said. “I got it wrong. I have no excuse.”

Skov wasn’t the only one with mistakes to his name. Cornerback Chris Milton got beat by Will Fuller in one-on-one coverage for a 46-yard touchdown pass, kicker Harrison Butker missed two field goals and punter Ryan Rodwell launched wayward punts of just 22 and 32 yards.

“The first half was awful,” Johnson said. “We gave up two long pass plays, our kicking game was atrocious, missed two goals, punt the ball sideways a couple times, then we can't do anything offensively. It was disappointing the way we played.”

Skov scored all three touchdowns for Georgia Tech — a five-yard run to tie the game in the second quarter and two touchdown catches in the final minute of a comeback effort — but wasn’t able to secure his first victory in Notre Dame Stadium. The graduate transfer played three seasons at Stanford and was part of the Cardinal team that lost in heartbreaking fashion in 2012 and 2014.

He left South Bend with a bad taste in his mouth once again.

“Nightmares,” Skov said of his memories of Notre Dame Stadium.

In denial?

A clearly frustrated Justin Thomas had few answers for what went wrong with the Georgia Tech offense. The redshirt junior was limited to 27 yards on 11 carries and completed only eight of his 24 passes.

“I couldn’t tell what was going on,” Thomas said. “There wasn’t a lot of running room whoever had the ball.”

Thomas didn’t seem too impressed by Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith either. When asked if it seemed like Smith, who finished with five tackles, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and a 17-yard return on a fumble recovery, was all over field, Thomas brushed off the question.

“Not really,” Thomas said. “We’re running the ball at him so he’s going to be everywhere. He was just at the right spot at the right time.”

Failing up front

Notre Dame’s offensive line dictated the physicality when the Irish controlled the ball. Georgia Tech’s defense managed just one sack and was gashed for 215 rushing yards.

“They’re one of the good offensive lines you’re going to go against,” said Georgia Tech defensive tackle Adam Gotsis. “We put them in the same boat as Georgia, Clemson, Florida State. A good group of guys.”

Steady protection allowed redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer to be comfortable in his first career start.

“He did a good job,” Gotsis said of Kizer. “If I was him, I’d feel pretty comfortable as well having that O-line in front of me.”

Third-down struggles

A week after the Notre Dame offense failed to convert a third down against Virginia, the Irish defense flipped the script against Georgia Tech.

Inefficiency on first and second down put the Yellow Jackets in tough positions.

“What happened, when we tried to throw the ball early, if you don't complete them, you put yourself behind the eight ball,” Johnson said. “Nobody could make a play. Nobody could make a play in the passing game. Couldn't even shake loose. Couldn't throw it where they could catch it, whatever.”

Georgia Tech finished 3-of-15 on third-down conversions.

Guarding Fuller

Chris Milton appeared to be in good position, but Will Fuller still beat him.

The two went up for a pass from DeShone Kizer on third-and 20 from the Georgia Tech 46, but Notre Dame’s star receiver came down with it and finished the play in the end zone.

“I knew it was third down, and I let him get behind me a little bit and he just made a play on the ball,” Milton said.

Milton was matched up with Fuller throughout the game but couldn’t keep him in check. Fuller finished with six catches for 131 yards.

“He’s a good receiver. We knew that coming in,” Milton said. “Coach gave me the call to guard him, and I let him down a couple times.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame’s James Onwualu (17) and Matthias Farley (41) bring down Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas (5) during the Notre Dame-Georgia Tech NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN