The good: keeping Georgia Tech from scoring a touchdown three times when the Yellow Jackets got into the red zone. Three of those situations occurred in the first quarter. Two Georgia Tech drives stalled and Travis Bell hit two field goals for a 6-0 lead. A third field goal was blocked by Trevor Laws, the fifth-year senior's fourth blocked field goal in his career.
The bad: Tashard Choice's 196 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Irish knew the ball was going to No. 22 of the Yellow Jackets and Notre Dame had no answer. The senior tailback scored on runs of 22 yards in the second quarter and seven yards in the fourth quarter. Choice averaged 7.5 yards per carry and set a school-record with his eighth straight games of 100 yards on the ground or more. The Irish's rushing average as a team: -0.2 yards, helped by nine Georgia Tech sacks.
"We have to find where we really gave up a whole bunch of those yards on a few long outside runs," head coach Charlie Weis said. "I think that's what it's going to come down to. I think that's going to be a whole bunch. I don't know that there's four or five runs that are going to go for 150 yards. But a whole bunch of them are going to be zeroed down to a few plays.
"One of the things in a 3-4 defense you have to be able to do is set the edge. And "set the edge" means don't let the edge get caved in where they can get to the corner. I have to watch it first, but obviously when guys turn the corner and there's no one in sight, that that's not a good thing. It's one of the many issues that we're going to have work on rectifying."
The Irish players know there's a lot of room for improvement.
"At the start of the game you play with a lot of emotion, but as you get into the game, the game slows down and you start to get a feel for it," outside linebacker John Ryan said, who ended the contest with three tackles. "Georgia Tech came out and they were very aggressive, playing very physical immediately and we got outplayed."
***A key play in the contest occurred in the second quarter. Georgia Tech, up 9-0 with under four minutes remaining before halftime, faced a crucial 3rd-and-9. Yellow Jackets quarterback Taylor Bennett could not connect with Greg Smith on the play, creating what looked like fourth down and a certain Georgia Tech punt.
But a personnel foul was called on defensive end Justin Brown for hitting Bennett in the head area. The senior was also ejected for his action on the play. Not only did Notre Dame lose their starting defensive end. The Yellow Jackets later scored on a Choice 22-yard touchdown run to make it 16-0 a few minutes before intermission.
"Obviously I didn't see it happen," Weis said. "But here is what I do know: I do know he had a third down stop at a critical time in the game, and next thing you know, the guy is getting called for hitting somebody in the face and getting thrown out of the game.
"But I have to have faith that the officials, for them to throw somebody out of the game, he must have done something not very smart, he must have."
***Georgia Tech not only won the battle on the scoreboard. The Yellow Jackets were superior in the punting game, as well. There were two highly acclaimed punters on each roster. Durant Brooks of Georgia Tech and Geoff Price of Notre Dame are two of the best in the nation at their position.
On Saturday, Brooks clearly was better than Price. The Yellow Jackets punter booted three balls for an average of 46 yards per boot, including two inside the 20-yard line. Price struggled for his standards. The fifth-year senior punted seven times on the day for an average of 38.3 yards per boot. None of those were placed inside the 20-yard line.
***Junior safety David Bruton and senior linebacker Maurice Crum tied for the team lead in tackles with nine each. Bruton had the only Notre Dame sack on the afternoon. It was the junior's first career sack.
***Notre Dame was shutout in the opening half for the first time since September 11, 2004 against Michigan State. It's the second time in Weis's head coaching career at Notre Dame that the offense has not put up any points in a half. In the 41-14 Sugar Bowl loss to LSU, the Irish did not score in the second half.