Two weeks ago today, Georgia Tech fired then DC Al Groh over Defensive issues and liabilities. In his place, Charles Kelly moved up from his Secondary coaching spot to take control over the defense. The issues were clear...
- The inability to stop the opposing team from scoring (46 points/game the previous 3 games)
- The inability to hold on 3rd down (31-of-46 3rd down conversions allowed the previous 3 games)
- Communication, alignment, and responsibilities were confusing and ineffective.
This past Saturday, Georgia Tech beat Boston College by a score of 37-17 in a game marked by improvement in some areas, outright regression in others. We'll address those issues and more in the next few paragraphs...as well as a certain Redshirt Freshman who gave us a glimpse of the future. The game still showed cracks, as BC was gaining momentum in the 2nd half widdling the lead to 31-17 and about to get the ball back...until Tech caught a break when BC's Ameer Richardson inexplicably rammed into Tech's punter Ryan Rodwell after the punt. Tech would go on to run 10 more rush plays, taking about 5 additional minutes off the clock, and put the game away on a David Sims rushing TD.
OK, so the obvious question is..."Did the Defense look any better?". Too early to call at this point, IMHO, since we didn't play a very good offensive team. The disparity in TOP was pretty astounding, and BC's offense only possessed the ball for about 16 minutes. However, Tech held BC to only 1-of-9 on 3rd down, which is good in any game...let alone in a first game after such upheaval. Coming into the game, BC's offense was converting 31% of their 3rd downs, so GT was at least situationally effective.
In those 16 minutes, Chase Rettig went 19-31 for 261 yards, 2 TD-1 INT. Fueled by a strong 2nd half, BC actually gained 6.3 yards per play (better than Tech's 6.2 yards per play). Alex Amidon took advantage of some soft zone en route to 7 catches for 118 yards and a TD...displaying yet another case of an inferior WR blowing by Rod Sweeting for a TD catch (sorry - this is getting old for a guy who's supposed to be our best DB).
I've read on some chatter on Tech boards that the 2nd half performance was troubling. While I don't agree that we were letting the game get away, IMHO I don't think we're very good at zone coverage. Every team, at every level, once they get a significant lead shift their defensive strategy to "keep everything in front of you". In order to be effective at zone coverage, you need to be able to put pressure on the QB within 4-5 seconds whether you rush 3 or 4 guys. Although the team got 2 sacks (Brandon Watts, Euclid Cummings), there weren't any hurries or pressure that forced bad throws.
One thing is clear to me in looking at the numbers...Tech's defense does not play well with a lead. Without the Tech offense controlling the clock, this is most likely a much more competitive game against a very inferior team. In the 1st half, Tech only allowed 123 yards and 3 points. While you could argue that Tech was in "bend but don't break" mode in the 2nd half, Tech ended up allowing 296 yards of total offense to BC in only 16 minutes. 16 MINUTES. Extrapolate that one out to 30 minutes...and I'm not feeling so warm and fuzzy.
On to the more encouraging side of the ball, though not by a lot. Tech did gain 563 yards (includng 391 on the ground) and put up 37 points...and should have had 10 or more additional points if not for repeated Special Teams miscues and a really poor pass by Tevin to Orwin Smith. The offense, under fire at times from a pretty good set of BC linebackers who forced many pitches under duress, put the ball on the ground 4 times (though none were lost).
The obvious buzz about Saturday was the inclusion of phenom Vad Lee in several drives, and saw Vad really lead his first scoring drives (in meaningful game action). Vad Lee had a 24-yard TD run in the 2nd quarter, with juke moves that could only be described as..."dirty". He then uncorked a 45-yard TD pass to true freshman Anthony Autry on the next drive (I love those 1-play drives). He led Tech once again to another drive, only to have a FG missed.
So in case you're wondering...Tevin Washington is 2nd in the nation in scoring at 12.9 points/game. While he didn't have a great game, he helped Tech convert 13-of-20 3rd downs with runs...and a very ugly throw to B.J. Bostic (who made the play of the game). It was another 3rd down throw in the 4th quarter that should have put the game away...but his spiral came up short of Orwin Smith on the goal line and led to yet another missed FG. The QBs as a unit combined for only 6-14 for 169 yards, plus a trick play where B.J. Bostic completely missed a WIDE FREAKING OPEN Darren Waller running the post-corner all by himself.
IMHO, the offensive players of the game were Zach Laskey and David Sims. I don't recall the last time we ran the B-Backs 30+ times in the game, and they accounted for 162 yards on the day and a lot of clock-churning possession. If we could only keep Laskey healthy for an entire game...he's as determined an inside runner as we've had since Jon Dwyer and Anthony Allen.
So in case you haven't heard, we missed some FGs on Saturday. David Scully missed one, and had another blocked...and dating back to Clemson he is only 1 for his last 4 tries (Tech is 2 for it's last 6). It didn't get better once Justin Moore came into the game to replace him. Although making a 32-yard FG, he missed another FG and an XP attempt. Sean Poole, the holder at the beginning of the season, has been injured and forced Moore into place-holding duties. When Moore came in to kick, the place-holding duties went to David Sims. Clearly...this needs to get sorted out before the next game because we may actually need to kick a FG that matters at some point.
Overall, this was not a good showing by the Jackets in all 3 phases. You could say each team's performance on 3rd down really determined the outcome of the game. Tech has to get pressure on the QB, or the Secondary will continually be left out to dry and give up big plays. On offense, the ball cannot be put on the ground that much, and more passes must be completed. Special Teams? Here we go again...
Do you think we'll "look" better against BYU next week?