Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee was nearly in tears after losing to Georgia. With two weeks of perspective, he is able to take a more clear-headed perspective on his performance that day.
In the loss, Lee played one of his best games of the season, completing 11-of-23 passes for 232 yards with two touchdown passes against two interceptions with completions of 68 and 43 yards. He also ran 14 times for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
“I feel like that’s what I came to Georgia Tech for,” Lee said Thursday following Tech’s first bowl practice. “Chuck the ball downfield and manage the game, run the ball well and have a balanced approach. I really enjoyed the game plan and I really felt comfortable out there.”
Lee acknowledged his mistakes, including a costly fourth-quarter interception. But his play against the Bulldogs has given him a boost as Tech prepares to play Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 in Nashville, Tenn. He said the offense recovered some swagger against Georgia and built momentum.
Lee said he felt comfortable making pre-snap checks and reading the Georgia defense. He credited the offensive line for its protection and the wide receivers for their aggressive work downfield.
“We were able to show what we can do as a whole unit, as an offense,” Lee said.
Quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook said that while no one was “jumping up and down” about Lee’s performance because of the game’s result, he saw positives as well.
“When he needed to run the ball, he stuck it up in there a couple times,” Cook said. “He got better at some things and put some balls out where (receivers) could catch it. He made some strides in that game. I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
Cook said that during bowl practices, footwork both in the passing and running game will be priorities for Lee. He has a bad habit of throwing off his back foot, which limits his ability to drive the ball downfield.
Less practice: A year ago, Tech began bowl practice Dec. 6, less than a week after playing in the ACC title game. Thursday’s practice ended an 11-day respite. With no final exams, Lee was able to go home for a few days. The change in procedure was due to changes in the NCAA recruiting calendar.
A rules change was made this year to extend a “dead period” — in which coaches are not allowed to make face-to-face contact with prospects — from Dec. 16 through Jan. 15. Previously, there was a window in the beginning of January for visits, but the change was instituted to limit intrusions on recruits during the holidays and to give coaches a break.
A result is that coaches have spent more time on the road in the first two weeks of December, making practice impossible.
Tech will practice 11 times prior to the Music City Bowl. In the past, 15 practices was closer to the norm, though the widely accepted understanding that NCAA rules limit teams to 15 is incorrect. There is no limit beyond the normal NCAA rules for the standard weekly and daily limits.
Homecoming: For his final college game, Tech offensive lineman Will Jackson is going home. Jackson is from Knoxville, Tenn., about 180 miles by car from Nashville. Jackson said he knows about 30 family members or friends who will be watching him play.
Jackson and guard Shaquille Mason are the only two players on the Tech roster from Tennessee.
“It’s nice to actually not to have to be going to (previous bowl destinations) El Paso or Shreveport, somewhere that’s so far away that only one or two family members can come,” he said.
Jackson said he grew up a fan of the Tennessee Titans and has seen Titans games and past Music City Bowls at LP Field.
“I’ve got a lot of familiarity with it, so it’ll be nice to actually play there,” he said.
Diplomas: Tech completes final exams on Friday. Commencement exercises are on Saturday for bachelor’s degree candidates. Team members Corey Alford, Christopher Crenshaw, Euclid Cummings, Jay Finch, Robert Godhigh, Isaiah Johnson, David Scully, Jemea Thomas, Brandon Watts and Louis Young will graduate. Johnson and Young will earn their degrees in 3 1/2 years.