Originally created 11/28/01

Disappointing finale for Georgia Tech



ATLANTA -- When Georgia Tech vs. Florida State was postponed until Saturday by the terrorist attacks, it supposedly was going to decide the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The winner also figured to have a chance for the national title.

Not now.

Instead, it's a matchup of unranked teams that probably will determine if the Yellow Jackets play in the Tangerine or Seattle bowls. That's after the Seminoles accepted a bid to the Gator Bowl on Monday.

"I've never been to Seattle, but I've heard it's beautiful," Georgia Tech's Ross Mitchell said with a straight face Tuesday.

If the game had been played as scheduled Sept. 15, both teams would have been undefeated. Georgia Tech was 3-0 after a record-setting 70-7 victory over Navy, and Florida State easily won its first two games by a combined margin of 84-20.

But when the ACC rescheduled all of its games that weekend, it left the Yellow Jackets with three weeks of inactivity because of an already scheduled bye Sept. 22.

"Football is a rhythm game," said Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary. "What it did for us is make us temper our practices. The players, they're done with preseason, now you have three weeks where you go against each other.

"I thought we lost our edge there because of the lack of competition."

Both teams struggled after the break and enter Saturday's game with four losses each. The Yellow Jackets (7-4, 4-3 ACC) lost to Georgia for the first time since 1997, and the Seminoles (6-4, 5-2) were blown out by Miami and Florida.

Mitchell wouldn't put the entire blame of the layoff, though.

"We certainly had a lot of momentum," Mitchell said. "Everybody would like to say we'd be 11-0 at this point if it hadn't been for the postponement, but you can't say that.

"I'd like to be able to blame it on anything, but the fact of the matter is ... that we had some slip-ups and we've got to make the best of what we've got now."

Making the best of it means Georgia Tech should play in its fifth straight bowl, the longest streak since 1951-56. That's after the Yellow Jackets went five years without reaching a bowl, a streak stopped by Mitchell and the 1997 team.

"I'm one of five or six players that have been here since the last time we had a tough year, when we went 7-5 and went to the Carquest Bowl," he said. "The younger players have never been subjected to anything less than an eight-win season. They don't know what it's like.

"That was a good year for us, but since then it seems like it was just the biggest letdown ever because we've been winning eight, nine, 10 ball games a year."

Despite the disappointment, Georgia Tech will accept any bowl invitation.

"I always leave that to the senior class," O'Leary said. "I asked the senior class Monday night, ... and it was unanimous to go to a bowl. I look at it as a reward for the kids. You're 7-4, and you're not as happy was you'd like to be, but we still have an opportunity to have a great season."