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Post Furman Bisher likes Taylor Bennett’s chances at Carnoustie

Wednesday July 11, 2007

I guess the AJC felt as if they couldn’t let Mark Bradley’s column go unanswered, so they woke Furman Bisher up to write some sort of response. The result is one of the more timid, mealy-mouthed, and noncommittal columns you’ll ever read from someone paid to be an opinion columnist. Of course it’s July and we don’t know what Tech and Georgia will look like in November. Who cares about Saratoga? This is the South, the preseason magazine have hit the stands with their prognostications, and we’re talking college football a month before practice starts. Either dive in and embrace it or go into hiding until the British Open.

But Bisher quickly leaves the subject of this year’s Tech-Georgia game and turns wistful as he joins in the "what if Taylor Bennett had played more" fantasy. It’s not the first time Bisher’s been down this road. He declared that Chan Gailey owed the Tech old guard an explanation after the Gator Bowl.

In Bisher’s efforts this time to paint this picture of a golden arm left "chained to the sideline", he takes some pretty big liberties with recent history. First, he lauds Bennett for "(keeping) the ship afloat against Connecticut," a game in which Bennett completed 11 of 30 passes for 142 yards against the formidable Husky defense.

I can’t believe that I’m not piling on Reggie Ball here, but it’s not as if he was without accomplishments after his freshman season. It’s true that he didn’t have the expected progression from that impressive debut to a mature, consistent, and efficient signal-caller. He was famously bad against Tech’s most important opponent. He did manage to beat teams like Clemson and Miami twice, added a win this season on the road over Virginia Tech, a second win over Auburn, and got his team into the ACC Championship Game. He reminded no one of Vince Young or even Joe Hamilton, but Bisher’s claim that Ball "was better when he got there than when he left" doesn’t stand up.

Bisher makes a reference to the 2004 Georgia game. "When Ball was crashing — and oh, how many crashes he had, not the most crucial of which was losing count of the downs and making a throwaway pass against Georgia — why not Bennett?" Well, for one, Bennett was redshirting in 2004 as a true freshman. He didn’t see his first game experience until 2005. Placing that "crash" completely on Ball is another questionable recollection. That series was a meltdown of the entire Tech offense, culminating in Ball’s blunder but highlighted by confusion on the sideline where offensive coordinator Patrick Nix inexplicably ordered Ball to spike the ball on third down.

That 2004 Georgia game does provide a good lesson in this grass-is-greener game. Bisher asserts that "Chan Gailey stubbornly stuck with Ball," but Gailey did try someone else when Ball was struggling, even if it wasn’t Bennett. Damarius Bilbo got a chance against the Dawgs and was even worse. 3 completions, 10 attempts, and 29 yards. Gailey eventually gave up and went back to his starter. The quarterback position was up for grabs several times during Ball’s four years, and each time he held off the competitors. Against challenges from Bilbo, Pat Clark, and Bennett, Ball stood out time after time. Tech’s own official site declared the position up for competition entering the 2005 spring practice, but Ball emerged again with a clear-cut victory.

We finally come to Bennett’s masterpiece – the 19-for-29, 326 yard performance in the Gator Bowl. I’ve talked about that game here recently, so we’ll avoid going back over that ground. What Bisher doesn’t tell us is that Bennett’s "dazzling day" in the Gator Bowl fizzled as the game went on. The nascent Young-to-Rice of Bennett-to-Johnson combination was held scoreless for the final 28 minutes of the game.

Bisher believes that "Georgia Tech hadn’t seen a passing combination like (Bennett and Johnson) since Joe Hamilton and Harvey Middleton." Hmm. Johnson’s performance against West Virginia certainly was a great final performance. He had 9 receptions, 186 yards, and 2 touchdowns. It was also hardly his only explosive performance of the season. He had six receptions for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns against a much better Virginia Tech defense. He had 9 receptions for 168 yards against NC State. He shredded Virginia for 165 yards and 2 more touchdowns. Was it really the quarterback?

We’ll let Bisher build Bennett up and watch Tech fans cling onto the hope that it just has to get better with Bennett. Behind Choice and another quality defense, I think they’ll be rather good actually. Bennett might just turn out to be better by default if he avoids the disasters that plagued Ball, but I’m not convinced that Bennett will be the right answer in those times when Tech needs the quarterback to carry them. It will be an entertaining story to watch in the fall especially knowing that the best quarterback in the state still is in Athens.

2 Responses to 'Furman Bisher likes Taylor Bennett’s chances at Carnoustie'

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  • #@$!%#$@$!%@$. You just had to go and be all rational and level-headed, didn’t you? Can’t a fella dream a little? Let a Jacket fan keep his high hopes at least until September!

    Seriously, I think what has Tech fans excited is not so much the Ball-to-Bennett transition, as the Nix-to-Bond. Pat Nix came up with some nifty plays last season, but couldn’t execute in crunch time. And not to take culpability away from Ball, but I think Reggie’s lack of development had more to with his position coach than with lack of effort on Ball’s part.

  • “…especially knowing that the best quarterback in the state still is in Athens.”

    Sorry, but this remains to be seen. Sometimes I can see through my dislike for UGA and understand how certain players or seasons are hyped. With respect to Stafford, I fail to see it. He failed to impress as often last fall as he impressed. He saw little if anything to justify the hype that he was the next great Bulldog. Perhaps he will be, but that is yet to be seen.

    As for Taylor, we have little of him. However, what we have seen looked as impressive if not moreso than anything we saw from Stafford (to be fair, I did not see Stafford play against Auburn as I was at UNC for the Tech game that day). That does not prove anything either, but I think it leaves the door open that Bennett might be the real deal. I would have never though Goose Godsey would have wound up as effective as a QB as he was based on his early appearances, so trying to call this horse as definitely as you have this early is just not possible.