5 Thoughts Orange: Georgia Tech 49, MSU 34

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team after the Capital One Orange Bowl

Dec. 31 Capital One Orange Bowl
Georgia Tech 49, Mississippi State 34

And You Care Because … Georgia Tech scored the first 14 points of the game on a three-yard Synjyn Days run and a 41-yard Darren Waller touchdown grab, and the O didn’t slow down from there. Mississippi State kept up the pace in the second quarter with 13 straight points on two Evan Sobiesk field goals and a five-yard Dak Prescott run, and following a Tech touchdown from Justin Thomas on a 13-yard dash with 29 seconds to play in the first half, MSU took the momentum into the locker room on a 42-yard Hail Mary grabbed by Fred Ross. The Yellow Jackets took it right back with a Days 69-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second half. Thomas ran for scores from 32 and 15 yards out, and the game was in hand. De’Runnya Wilson caught two fourth quarter touchdown passes for the Bulldogs, but a Days four yard touchdown run kept Tech well ahead.
What Else? Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas completed 7-of-12 passes for 125 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 14 times for 121 yards and three scores
- Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 33-of-51 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns with a pick, and ran 15 times for 47 yards and a score. MSU WRs Joe Morrow, De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross all caught more than 100 yards worth of passes
- Georgia Tech RB Synjyn Days ran 21 times for 171 yards and three scores
- Total yards: Mississippi State 605 (453 passing) – Georgia Tech 577 (452 rushing)
Game Rating: B

By Pete Fiutak
1. Sometimes teams have the Georgia Tech offense figured out, and sometimes the thing just works.

It was a great year for Mississippi State, and it was special being ranked No. 1 and coming so achingly close to being in the playoff, but with a loss to Ole Miss and a loss to the Yellow Jackets like this in the Orange Bowl, yeah, it really does sort of wipe away most of the positives while showing just how far the program has to go.

Or maybe Georgia Tech was just really, really sharp.

Dak Prescott threw for 453 yards and Mississippi State outgained Georgia Tech 605 yards to 577 – it’s not like it was a total wipeout. The Bulldog defense – particularly the secondary – had problems all season long, and while it was the front seven and the run D that wasn’t close, this was simply a buzzsaw that cowbell ran into.

Between this loss and the Ole Miss disaster against TCU, the SEC backlash is about to come, and rightly so, but don’t lump the Orange in with the Fiesta. The Bulldogs actually did show up in a lot of way, and Georgia Tech played better.

For those of us who love the option, thank you, Paul Johnson.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. Mississippi State has known for 25 days that it would be facing Georgia Tech, home of Paul Johnson’s vaunted triple-option ground game. And all that time to prepare, study film and gameplan didn’t make a darn bit of difference.

So much for time being the Yellow Jackets’ kryptonite. The Bulldogs could have had another month, and the results would have been the same. Tech belted the one-time top-ranked team in the mouth … over and over again. It piled up more than 400 yards on the ground, led by converted QB Synjyn Days and current QB Justin Thomas, an evolving prestidigitator as the pivot man of Johnson’s attack.

In a night flush with surprises, none was bigger than the way Tech owned the line of scrimmage, mauling a Mississippi State front seven that was supposed to make the Yellow Jackets a little wobbly at the knees. It didn’t. In fact, it got abused, an evolving trend involving SEC West teams over the past 24 hours. And while Thomas or Days will earn the MVP nod, the real heroes, from left to right, were Bryan Chamberlain, Trey Braun, Freddie Burden, Shaq Mason and Chris Griffin.

Georgia Tech is going to finish in the top 10 this season, a year that began with Johnson on the hot seat. Like tonight in Miami, the surprising results throughout 2014 would not have been possible without the play of an O-line that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves.

E-mail Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFB
3. The SEC has seen better days. Just hours after Ole Miss got the doors blown off of its bowl hopes by TCU, its state-mate and rival Mississippi State literally got beat up by a Georgia Tech team that showed the Bulldogs that physical football does indeed exists outside of the SEC.

Dan Mullen’s crew simply had no answer for the running game of the Yellow Jackets. As the game wore on, the defensive front seven wore down and provided little resistance against an offensive scheme that is tough to crack in the first place. But in this one, surprisingly it wasn’t so much missed assignments. No instead it was more like a bully taking lunch money from the Bulldogs, then tying them to the flagpole in their BVDs for all to see.

Georgia Tech may not ever get into the College Football Playoff because of the one-dimensional nature of what head coach Paul Johnson runs, but that same schematic philosophy on offense can result in a beat-down of anyone, on any given day.

4. What’s next for Georgia Tech
The offense will keep on rolling with QB Justin Thomas returning to lead the way, but he needs new backs to help the cause with Synjyn Davis, Charles Perkins, Tony Zenon and Zach Leskey all gone. The team had to get by late in the year without DeAndre Smelter, and now it’ll have to deal with life without him full-time along with the loss of Darren Waller. On the plus side, the O should be great losing RG Shaquille Mason but getting everyone else back.

DT Adam Gostis and DE Keshun Freeman are back up front, and Demond Smith and top tackler P.J. Davis return at linebacker for what should be a strong front seven. Three starters return to a solid secondary, losing big-hitting SS Isaiah Johnson. In all, nine of the top 11 tacklers are back. PK Harrison Butker is a returning weapon, while P Ryan Rodwell is back after a decent year.

5. What’s next for Mississippi State
This might be the high point for Mississippi State for a while considering all the key parts gone. QB Dak Prescott will return, but RB Josh Robinson has decided to leave early for the NFL. Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway will likely combine forces to take over the rushing duties. Three starters are gone off the line including C Dillon Day and LT Blaine Causell. WR Jameon Lewis is done along with Robert Johnson and TE Malcolm Johnson, but De’Runnya Wilson is a big target returning.

The defense gets gutted up front with three starters gone and only end Ryan Brown returning. Is Benardrick McKinney turning pro? The linebacking corps could use him, but Beniquez Brown will be back on the outside. CB Jamerson Love and SS Jay Hughes have to be replaced, but safeties Deontay Evans and Kivon Coman are back along with CB Taveze Calhoun. PK Evan Sobiesk is a solid kicker, and excellent P Devon Bell is back.


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