Monday Morning QB - Did We See Some Defense?

Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Jemea Thomas and the defense stepped up in the 2nd half...

Congratulations to Georgia Tech for being selected to play in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against the Trojans of USC!

This past Saturday, Georgia Tech lost a hard-fought game to FSU in the ACCCG by a score of 21-15. The strange part was that the Defense and Special Teams played well enough to win. In fact, Tech shut out FSU over the final 35 minutes, but an Offense that had trouble all night against an athletic FSU defends proved not enough to bring home the hardware. We will delve into some of the top performers on each unit...

DEFENSE

For about 25 minutes, I think many Tech fans thought "oh no, here we go again" as FSU racked up big plays en route to 219 yards (7.8 yards/play!) and 21 points on their first 4 drives. But then some halftime adjustments were made, but more importantly, the Defense started to play nasty. It wasn't just making good form tackles, it was punishing the Offense for catching a ball on our side of the LOS! It was selling out their bodies, taking good angles, staying in their lanes, and frankly...just wanting it more. In the last 35 minutes, Tech shut out the Noles while limiting their offense to only 94 yards (3.1 yards/play).

Solid defensive performances were turned in by several. Jeremiah Attaochu continued his hot play with 2 sacks and 9 tackles. Jabari Hunt-Days made 8 tackles, including an absolute stick on FSU's Kelvin Benjamin that jarred the ball loose and recovered by Rod Sweeting. Jemea Thomas also had a big game with 8 tackles (including a terrific play on the edge that might have turned into a big play for FSU) and beautiful 1-handed INT that set up the Offense for its last drive. And finally, Emmanuel "Too Tall" Dieke came through with a sack, fumble, and recovery...which eventually led to a Tech TD. The defensive line really came to play in the 2nd half.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The strongest ST performance of the season...without question. So many positives to draw from. Chris Tanner and David Scully were 3-3 on FGs, including a career-long 47-yarder from Scully. Kickoff coverage, arguably the worst ST unit, did not allow FSU to return it past their own 30. Aside from his 1st quarter shank, Sean Poole uncorked two 55-yard punts and a sweet rugby-style pooch kick that Tech downed on the 6-yard line. While not having any opportunities to return a punt, Jamal Golden came through with 29 yards per kickoff return and good starting field position for the Offense.


OFFENSE

Now we get to the more frustrating portion of Saturday's performance. I made the comment over some emails that the Offensive performance felt as inept as it did against BYU. In that game, BYU ran their Safeties up to the LOS and continually snuffed out perimeter plays. What was sorely missing then was also missing on Saturday...a credible passing threat (more on that in a sec). Without it, Tech was repeatedly ran down from behind on jet sweeps, pitches off the Triple, counter-option, and any play we called that went to the perimeter. Their MLB played about 8 yards off the ball to be able to not get cutoff on the backside, and we did not make them pay enough up the middle with our B-Backs. Granted we did run a bunch of dives, with David Sims repeatedly finding success in the middle on 19 carries for 91 yards. Nonetheless, FSU's defense repeatedly put Tech into 3rd-and-long situations, not surprisingly leading to an abysmal 3rd down conversion rate...only 4-for-15. Without converting 4-for-4 on 4th down, there wouldn't have been much scoring.

Tech repeatedly missed on opportunities to score TDs, including two poor passes from Tevin, the first that pushed Jeff Greene out of bounds, and a second that overshot a wide-open Robbie Godhigh in the end zone. From a speculative standpoint, I really think this game needed to be Vad Lee's. While he only threw 1 deep pass (and connected to Darren Waller), the passing threat he could have presented to FSU's defense might have opened things up more had we kept him in. Aside from a nice run off the Triple in Tech's first scoring drive, Vad also looked hesitant and was tackled a few times behind the LOS. I will continue to say it...we need to pass it more. Especially when athletic defenses shoot 9 guys up to the LOS...there's no excuse not to run play-action.

My last bone of contention was the momentum-killing trick play that saw Synjyn Days throw a poor pass off the pitch back to Tevin...only into double coverage and intercepted by FSU's Xavier Rhodes. The play before, Jabari Hunt-Days had forced a fumble to give Tech the ball back. At 21-6 midway in the 3rd quarter, I don't understand taking the risk. If we would actually run Synjyn more at A-Back, then it's plausible. FSU watches film too, they know he was the backup QB last year. It doesn't take a defensive genius to say "stay home on the backside if he gets the ball because he might throw it". When he's the likely starter at A-Back next year, and getting 5-10 touches a game...I would have no problem with that play. Maybe that's hindsight talking, but that turnover from the Defense could have brought us closer and sooner, and not have had to get out of character towards the end.

So Tech fans, how did you see the game? What are your thoughts about our Bowl opponent?

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