Let's look at this game through a set of grade-outs and MVPs.
Offensive Line Grade: B+
Tech's offense largely works as a function of its offensive line. When the line is effective, the offense is effective -- when the line's having a tough game, the offense is having a tough game. Today, the line played a great game, opening up holes inside for B-Backs David Sims and Zach Laskey and protecting QBs Tevin Washington and Vad Lee when passing. The reason they only score a B+ is that they were the culprits on a play that ended horribly for the offense. Midway through the second quarter, Lee faked a rocket toss before looking to run a counter option, only he was blown up from behind resulting in a lost fumble. Look at that play again -- 3 members of the offensive line almost looked as if they had missed an audible and were running a different play completely, which allowed USC's defensive front to get into the backfield untouched. Other than that play, a very impressive performance by the O-Line as a whole.
Wide Receivers Grade: B
Not a particularly impressive game from these guys, but they probably fell victim to 35-40 mph winds that made passing very difficult. Of them, only Jeremy Moore and Chris Jackson had catches, but to be fair they made a huge impact at the time that they happened. The blocking didn't jump off the screen at me either -- they may have made mistakes, they may not have....I just didn't notice. Overall they made a few good plays on the afternoon, and didn't make any major mistakes. That's good for a B in my book.
B-Backs Grade: A+
Probably the best game of the year for David Sims and Zach Laskey. They combined for 23 carries and 159 yards -- yes, our B-Backs averaged nearly 7 yards per carry. Their success was crucial to the success of our offense today. They benefitted in the 4th Quarter from our defensive success -- USC's defense had spent a lot of time on the field and was clearly pretty gassed. Also, don't forget that David Sims did a great job slipping out of the backfield to catch Tech's first touchdown! Overall, I don't think we could have asked for any more from these two today. Just an incredible game altogether.
A-Backs Grade: A-
The speed of USC's defense prevented the A-Backs from getting much going on the ground today -- largely successful runs to the outside were few and far between, and mostly resulted from QB's faking a pitch to open up some room. Overall, they had an underwhelming 12 carries for 41 yards. They also suffered in a pretty big way from the early loss of Orwin Smith for the first half. That said, they did a lot of great blocking to support the rushing attack, and made 2 receptions in the passing game, including Orwin Smith's HUGE 17 yard catch-and-run in the second half to put Tech up by 14. At the end of the day, these guys were probably the biggest dark horse unit on offense, making lots of contributions that weren't easy to notice and weren't expected of them, but were a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Toss in a major play by an ailing Orwin Smith, and these gues make a solid A-.
Quarterbacks Grade: A
It was an interesting afternoon for our Quarterbacks. We started with Tevin Washington, who couldn't get anything going at all on two drives. Then we went to Vad Lee, who brought our offense some success. He added a spark and led them down the field for their first touchdown, even getting a couple of first downs on a drive that ended in a punt. After the touchdown, the offense kept moving, yet pretty consistently stalled out after weird play calls or turnovers (Vad Lee fumbled and threw an interception). After halftime, Paul Johnson was quoted saying they'd start the half with Vad and go from there. Well, the first offensive possession after halftime started on the USC one yard line after a huge punt return by Jamal Golden, so Tevin went in and ran his favorite play twice (the "snap, hesitate, find a hole, run through it" play) for a touchdown. Then Vad came in for one more drive, gaining a total of 3 yards on 3 plays, and that was the end of the day for him. The rest of the way, Tevin looked much better than he had in the first quarter -- the offense moved well, he made good reads, and made few mistakes (if any). What started out looking like it would be a long game for Tevin Washington and his partner-in-crime ended up being an impressive performance for both of them, as Lee got the ball rolling and Tevin kept it in motion. Oh, and by the way, who expected them to combine for 2 passing TD's?? A solid all-around performance for these guys. Great job.
Offensive MVPs: David Sims and Zach Laskey
Seriously, what these guys did cannot be praised enough. We haven't seen that sort of B-Back production since Anthony Allen left, and maybe since the days of Dwyer. Without them having phenomenal games as they did, this game might not end how it did. Great work.
Offensive Out-performer of Expectations: Tevin Washington
Even at halftime, fans were reluctant to see the senior on the field. It's been a recurring theme amongst fans the past few months that they believe in freshman Vad Lee over the 2-year starter Washington. He came out flat, unable to compete with a USC offense loaded with athletes. Then Lee started showing his youth, making mistakes and needing to be bailed out. Here I picture an old, Revolutionary War-era scene from a naval ship, wherein the old captain has had success, but has been removed from power in favor of the young gun. It looks good for a while, things run smoothly under new leadership. Then, things start going south and there's some uncertainty around the ship, just in time for the old captain to show up, taking the reigns again and getting things back on track. That's what we saw today -- a veteran who'd been made aware by the masses that his time was up, but who neglected to listen and showed everyone that he still has a lot of value to bring to the team. Thank you for 4 great years, Tevin Washington. You've contributed a lot more to this program than most make a habit of acknowledging, and we all deeply appreciate it.
Who are your MVP's, readers? Did anyone get a better or worse grade than they deserved? Were you as impressed with our performance as I was?
Defensive article to come tomorrow. Time to get the New Year's party started! Enjoy this win, Tech fans!