On Sunday, Georgia Tech linebacker Quayshawn Nealy had no desire to watch any football. He was feeling down about the Jackets’ 42-10 loss to rival Georgia and said he stayed in his room, “just chilling.”
By Monday, Nealy said he was over it.
He didn’t have much choice, and he’s not the only one.
“I mean, it's one of the toughest games of the season basically just because it's Georgia,” he said. “But I mean, it's no different than any other game we had to flush down this season. We've just got to move forward and look past this. It was a big loss, but we have something bigger to play for, which is the ACC championship. So everybody's mind is really focused in and dialed in on this.”
Both Georgia Tech and Florida State have had to quickly move on from what could be arguably their most disappointing losses of the season in preparation for Saturday’s Dr Pepper ACC championship game. The Jackets were beaten soundly by their in-state rivals, and Florida State turned the ball over five times in a humbling 37-26 home loss to Florida. Players within both programs have insisted this week that they have put those performances behind them and have refocused on the task at hand -- getting to the Discover Orange Bowl.
“Yeah, it's something we've just got to snap out of it,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said on Sunday. “You understand your goals and your vision, and one of them is a conference championship with a BCS berth on the line and you have do that, and hopefully the maturity of our team will be able to push us through that. And I'm sure they'll be sore, they'll be hurting today. They'll be down today. But tomorrow when we get ready and juiced up, we've got to be ready to roll and get it done.”
For Florida State, the loss to the Gators snapped a two-game winning streak in the series. For Georgia Tech, it was an all-too familiar situation, as the Yellow Jackets also lost to Georgia in 2009, the week before they played Clemson for the ACC title. That season, the Jackets overcame the 30-24 loss to Georgia with a 39-34 win over Clemson to win the league title, which was later vacated because of NCAA sanctions.
As Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington pointed out, though, the Yellow Jackets have had to overcome far more this year than one loss to a bitter rival. Georgia Tech had to dig out of a 1-3 hole in league play midway through the season, and overcome the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh during the bye week.
They’ve already bounced back from a three-game losing streak in September and a loss to BYU in October. Consider this their November challenge.
“We've been able to play through adversity the whole season, so this is just another pivotal point of the season that we can push through adversity, just come back this week with a lot of energy, correct the mistakes that we made in the last game and just seize the moment, realize the opportunity ahead of us, that we've got a chance to play for the ACC championship, and that's the No.1 goal for us,” Washington said. “We've got a lot still to play for.”
So does Florida State, which is looking for its first ACC title since 2005.
“It's tough, but at the same time, having a mature team and having a mature outlook on what we do as football players and as competitors, we understand we have another game next weekend,” FSU quarterback EJ Manuel said on Monday. “That game is tough, as well, because it's a championship game, and it's something that hasn't been done here at Florida State since '05, and you just have to move on. It's a process, understanding why you made those mistakes, and you can't go out there and do it again next week.”