Originally created 10/18/01

Burns' mistakes prove costly in loss to Maryland



ATLANTA -- Joe Burns is only a junior, so when Georgia Tech's seniors held a players only meeting Sunday to talk about the team's latest defeat, he wasn't allowed to speak.

He didn't need to.

"I could see him, he had tears in his eyes," safety Chris Young said.

Burns had fumbled on the Yellow Jackets' possession in overtime against Maryland, allowing the Terrapins to escape with a 20-17 victory and prompting the meeting. He also ran out of bounds on a third down play late in regulation, stopping the clock and giving Maryland a chance to tie the game.

Two critical plays, two critical mistakes.

"As a player, you dream of being in a situation like that," Burns said. "And me not coming through, I put more pressure on myself than I needed to."

He wasn't the only one disappointed with his performance. Callers to Atlanta sports talk radio shows blasted him, and his own call coach called his decision to run out of bounds "stupidity." Three people also sent e-mails, taking what Burns called "cheap shots."

He wouldn't say what was in the e-mails, but said he received 12 others that were supportive.

"That comes with it," said Burns. "Whenever you're doing bad, you know who really cares about you."

One of the people who cares is Young, Burns' roommate for four years. Young had a similar experience earlier this year against Clemson, blowing a coverage late in the game and allowing the Tigers to rally for an overtime victory.

"I couldn't sleep after the Maryland game, I felt so sorry for him," Young said. "I know how it feels to be in that position. Joe wasn't really listening to anybody, but he listened to me.

"I told him the game shouldn't have ever been in that situation, the position where his mistake was highlighted."

There was enough blame to go around. The defense let Maryland drive down the field in the final minute for the tying field goal, and Burns' fumble in OT came when a Tech lineman was pushed into the backfield and collided with him.

"I told the team, anybody not at fault, please stand," said coach George O'Leary. "I didn't see anybody stand. That's the way you've got to treat it.

"I don't take losses very easily. That needs to hurt and it does hurt, but we've got six games left. I sure as heck am not going to keep pointing back to those two plays."

Burns got away from campus this past weekend, hoping to leave his troubles behind. He didn't bring his cell phone and barely spoke to his parents.

"They almost called the police to go look for me," Burns joked.

He spent the time getting ready for Tech's final six games, including games with Georgia and Florida State.

"I just wanted to get some time off to think and not let it get me down," he said. "If I'm one of the leaders of this team, then the team is only as weak as one of its leaders is. I had to get my mind together and just come back and get after it again."

Burns and No. 23 Tech (4-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) get a chance at redemption Saturday, facing North Carolina State (3-2, 1-2) at Bobby Dodd Stadium. It's an important game for both teams, which are tied for sixth in the ACC.

"As I said to Joe, you can do one of two things now," Tech coach George O'Leary said. "Go feel sorry for yourself, which you're not going to get any sympathy from me for, or bow up and let's go. I think that's what he's going to do."