The Jackets extended their current win streak to four games with their big 28-6 victory over Clemson last Saturday. And, according to Ben’s #10-ranked COFH game article, 28-6 is the exact same score as the very first game played between Tech and uga, which Tech won. Coincidence? Probably not. Undeniable sign of victory next Saturday? Most likely.
Getting back on track, the Jackets put together their most impressive defensive effort of the season on Saturday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With the way the offense has been playing, the defense was the final piece to the puzzle. Now that we’ve seen both sides of the ball play to their potential, the only thing left to do is to put them together - and the uga game is the perfect opportunity for that.
Getting back on track again (you can tell it’s double hate week), there were some truly great performances on Saturday, particularly on defense. I can already foresee a couple of inevitably close polls for this week, specifically the Defensive Player of the Game category. I’ll let you all decide that, though.
Offensive Player of the Game
Justin Thomas – Justin put forth another one of his routine, high-QBR games, completing 8/11 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown while adding 46 yards on the ground on 11 carries. Justin made several clutch throws on third down to extend drives, and also added a long, 65-yard run to start the second half. Justin has been extremely effective overall this season, even drawing murmurings from ESPN that he is better than Jameis Winston.
DeAndre Smelter – The self-professed Tim Riggins on Twitter had five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown - just another day in the office. He is unstoppable in one-on-one coverage – too physical, too quick, and too athletic. With each passing game, announcers are talking more and more about how DeAndre will play at the next level, how big of a playmaker he is, and how he used to play baseball. Also, did you know Justin Thomas was recruited by Alabama? Small world. Hopefully, DeAndre can get us a big win in Athens as his going away gift, because we are definitely going to miss him.
Synjyn Days – The B-back rushed for 89 yards on 20 carries. Wait, what? Only 89? What gives, Synjyn? Only kidding. Synjyn continued to produce at B-back at an impressive clip, and even pulled off a couple of big runs. The key at B-back is stability and consistency, and Synjyn has been the picture of that recently. Maybe the reason he didn’t break 100 yards is because Laskey came in for a little bit in the second half (to raucous applause – by the way, good to have you back!) and stole some snaps.
There's room here for a write-in! With no other particularly eye-popping stat lines, now is your chance to voice your opinion. Collaborate in the comments, start a focus group, get on Skype, I don't care.
Play of the Game (Offense)
DeAndre Smelter’s 5-yard touchdown reception – In what was the only touchdown of the day for the Jackets’ offense, Justin found Smelter on an over-the-shoulder pass that was nothing short of perfect. Smelter was as covered as you can be in single coverage, but still made a great, Calvin Johnson-esque play in the endzone.
Snoddy’s 46-yard run – Shortly before going down to a season-ending leg injury, Broderick Snoddy flashed his speed on a late pitch, torching one of the nation’s top defenses for 46 yards before finally being taken down. Get better soon, Snoddy! You’re in our thoughts and prayers.
Justin’s 65-yard run – This is one of my favorite plays of the year by Justin. He takes a QB keeper deep into the secondary for a huge gain (nothing we haven’t seen before), but what he does at the end of the run is what makes me so happy. He’s practically toying with Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander (#2); he turns him around four times before finally getting tackled by someone else from behind. It looks to me like he was just out there having fun.
Smelter’s 19-yard catch for first down – I usually try to avoid having two of the top play candidates be plays made by the same person, but this one was unavoidable. Smelter made NFL-level catches all afternoon, and this one was no exception. On 3rd and 10 in Tech’s opening drive, the senior makes an amazing leaping grab and taps a foot inbounds before falling down on the sideline, making a tough first down look easy.
Defensive Player of the Game
Paul Davis – Another day, another tackle. Or thirteen tackles, in this case. Paul Davis continues to lead the team in tackles this season. One could say his key to success is having more tackles than anyone else on the team in practically every game. PJ also had half a sack and a tackle-for-loss for 7 yards. His highlight of the game was when he blew up Clemson’s Nick Schuessler for a five-yard sack.
Quayshawn Nealy – Quayshawn had the type of game you expect from a team captain. 10 tackles, 0.5 TFL for four yards, and 0.5 sack for four yards. As one of the biggest contributors in the defense’s best performance of the year, we can only hope he continues his solid, consistent play heading into the UGA game.
Jamal Golden – The safety notched a modest five tackles, but when you factor in an 85-yard pick-six on top of that, it’s hard to not be included in the Player of the Game discussion. Surprisingly, it was the redshirt-junior’s first pick six of the year. I say surprisingly because Jamal has been clutch in the secondary and is a big part of a defense that has five pick-sixes on the season.
Antonio Simmons – The true freshman had his best game of the year by far, recording four tackles and half a TFL for two yards. Against a big offense, it is exciting to see a true freshman DL make significant contributions early in his career. It’s also exciting to see him develop alongside fellow freshman standout KeShun Freeman. Don’t look now, but the defensive line could be a major strength for the Jackets in the coming years.
Play of the Game (Defense)
None of these plays should come as a surprise to you.
Jamal Golden’s 85-yard pick-six – Domination. On Cole Stoudt’s first throw of the game, Jamal jumped the route and made it look easy, jogging untouched into the endzone to put the good guys on the board.
D.J. White’s INT – The junior reenacted his game-changing INT in Blacksburg from earlier this year. Stoudt tried to deliver a strike down the far sideline, but D.J. White sat on the route and made a great snag at full extension, securing the turnover for the Jackets.
Chris Milton’s 62-yard pick-six – If the game wasn’t already over by this point, it sure was after Chris Milton took advantage of a slightly off-target throw by Cole Stoudt. Milton made a clean interception and was able to turn the corner around Clemson’s offensive line.
Tyler Marcordes’ Sack – The redshirt-junior sniffed out the play-action on his way to sacking Clemson’s QB for a big, 12-yard loss. Watch him blow past the Clemson O-line, check the RB for the ball, and then eat Schuessler alive. No doubt a big play at the end of the game. We students in the south endzone had already sort of figured we had the game in the bag already at this point, but Marcordes’s sack definitely re-energized us.