The 2016-17 football season for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets was like that of a rollercoaster. They kicked off the season in Dublin, Ireland with a stunning 17-14, victory against Boston College.
The following week they returned home to Bobby Dodd to put a whooping on the Mercer (35-10) and followed that performance with a shock-drubbing of SEC foe Vanderbilt (38-7). Although it was early, the Yellow Jackets were 3-0 and on their way to their first big test: ACC foe and nationally ranked Clemson.
The nationally televised game against the Tigers unfortunately didn’t highlight Tech at its finest. They didn’t look like the team that held on to win in Dublin or the team that the week prior pushed Vanderbilt to the limit. It was this very game that hurled the Yellow Jackets off track. The first turning point of the season.
With consecutive losses to Clemson, Miami, and Pittsburgh, it looked like all hope, the season, and the ACC was lost. But then, something amazing and very rare happened: a second turning point of the season.
The Yellow Jackets turned things around and won five of their last six games to guarantee a bowl match. The turnaround totally rejuvenated the Georgia Tech faithful, players, students, and all the critics of Paul Johnson all of a sudden went mum.
They ended the regular season in the best way humanly possible for a Tech fan: they traveled to Athens, Georgia and beat the University of Georgia in the final minute of the game. They beat Georgia, at Georgia, in the final seconds, crushing dreams and owning bragging rights for a solid year until the rivalry returns to Bobby Dodd in 2017.
After beating the Bulldogs on their home turf, their confidence was high. I myself felt like we were in 2014 all over again when this exact same scenario happened and they went on to the Orange Bowl and crushed Mississippi State. All I wanted at this point after beating Vanderbilt and most importantly Georgia, was to face another SEC opponent and show how overrated that conference was. Then four days later, God blessed us with a TaxSlayer Bowl match against Kentucky.
It was the exact sendoff I had hoped for senior quarterback Justin Thomas. A (9-4) record, a 33-18 bowl game victory, and a victory over an SEC opponent. Thomas had 46 yards rushing, 105 yards passing, and rushed for a touchdown. Georgia Tech dominated the game (23-3) all the way up to the 4th quarter.
And while Thomas had an amazing outing, I’d be remiss to talk about the TaxSlayer Bowl victory and not mention Dedrick Mills or Tech’s defense.
Dedrick Mills, who also won MVP of the game, rushed the ball 36 times for a staggering 136 yards, one touchdown, and didn’t lose a single yard. The combination of Justin Thomas, Dedrick Mills, and Clinton Lynch, terrorized defenses all season with their triple-option package. Wide Receiver Ricky Jeune always comes through when called upon and contributed 59 yards on three receptions.
Defensive Back A.J. Gray led the defense with 7 solo tackles (8 total) while defensive lineman Patrick Gamble anchored the line with 5 solo tackles (7 total) and a forced fumble. D-back Step Durham also stepped up in the secondary with 6 solo tackles and a key pass deflection.
The Yellow Jackets produced 371 yards of total offense in their last victory of the year to cap off a season for the books. To start the season so strong, hit a slump, find their way out of the slump, win their rivalry game, and reach bowl glory is a season that will be remembered for awhile. Not just because of the way they ended their season (like 2014’s season that still gets discussed to this day) but because the old saying, “It’s not over til’ its over!” is actually true. After their three game skid they could’ve easily called it a season from there. Folks were calling for the axe of Paul Johnson and saying the program apexed after the Orange Bowl victory (see how 2014 keeps getting brought up?). But the Yellow Jackets overcame all odds and finished the season strong and most importantly, with trophies.
We’d like to give a massive congratulations to Georgia Tech and their football program. Thank you for an exciting season and never giving up even when the odds were stacked against you. With that, we’d like to say thank you and give a fond farewell to all of the seniors: Austin McClellan, Isiah Willis, Ryan Rodwell, Justin Thomas, Freddie Burden, Marcus Allen, Michael Muns, Francis Kallon, Patrick Gamble, Rod Rook-Chungong, P.J. Davis, Harrison Butker, and Chase Alford.
What a season.