Brent Key was pulled out of an offensive game plan meeting on Oct. 4 and told to walk up the hill to Georgia Tech’s administrative offices. When Key, the offensive line coach, got there, he learned head coach Geoff Collins had been fired. Key, a Georgia Tech graduate who started at guard all four years on The Flats, would be the head coach for the remainder of the season.

As he walked back down the hill toward the football offices, Key, 42, immediately identified his first priority as the head coach of his alma mater. Before Key could even think about Georgia Tech beating an FBS opponent — something that hadn’t happened since a game at Duke nearly a year earlier — he had to fix one glaring issue. So he headed straight for the office of linebackers coach Jason Semore. Semore, known to his friends as Boogie, instantly knew what Key wanted to discuss.

Something had to be done about Georgia Tech’s punt protection.

The Yellow Jackets had four punts blocked in their first four games. A block two days earlier at UCF had been returned for a touchdown and erased a Georgia Tech lead just before halftime. Clemson had blocked two punts in the season opener. Ole Miss had blocked one near the start of a 42-0 blowout.

Of all the things Georgia Tech had done wrong over the course of a 1-3 start, punt protection was the most consistently bad.

But it didn’t have to be. Key determined to change it ahead of a game that Saturday at defending ACC champion Pittsburgh. So Key asked Semore a question that doubled as an assignment: “What’s the best thing we can do in four days to fix this problem?”

“He looked at me like I was crazy,” Key said.

Yet they pulled it off. That Saturday, all of Georgia Tech’s punts got away clean. There were no crushing momentum swings, and the Yellow Jackets stunned Pitt 26-21. The following week against Duke? Six more successful punts. (Though one wasn’t covered particularly well.) Georgia Tech won 23-20 in overtime.