Justin Thomas finished the game with 4 rushing yards on 13 attempts -- not exactly a great mark. However, he also finished 7 of 13 passing for 141 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. As far as running the ball, Thomas suffered a lot of negative or no-gain plays. Some of that was due to the offensive line struggling against a fast and talented Virginia front, and on a few occasions Thomas made poor reads and suffered from it (assuming that the plays gave him the option to hand to Days). He hung tough though and didn't make a major mistake in the running game, in particular taking care to eat the ball in favor of making dangerous pitches that could have become turnovers or even touchdowns for Virginia. On the passing end, Thomas was pretty fantastic, completing over 50% of his passes, and putting receivers in positions to catch two more of the incompletions were it not for a drop and a very good defensive play. When the running game struggled at times, Thomas was able to sneak in a pass to get a first down or touchdown. His touchdown pass to Days, in particular, was an impressive showing of patience. There was an interception thrown -- his first since throwing two against Duke a few weeks ago. All things considered, though, it was a solid passing effort from Thomas.
This performance won't make SportsCenter highlights or get Thomas into the Heisman race, but overall it was a solid performance and a solid effort that involved plenty of good and minimal bad.
You know, it's amazing that Laskey going out against UNC had so many people (myself included) worried, only to have Synjyn Days step in and have back-to-back awesome games. Days played extremely tough again and once again turned in a very impressive performance, racking up 147 yards on 24 carries. Days got tough yards at times, and at other times was able to gain yards in large chunks when he found a seam in the defensive front. Additionally, he made an athletic catch and run to score on a ball thrown a bit off-target late in the game. I saw in a comment somewhere that the last couple of games from Days start to make you wonder how good he could have been if he were to have played his entire career at B-Back, and I think it's a completely valid point. His frame and skill set are very well suited for B-Back, though to be fair his time at Quarterback has likely been valuable to understanding his role in the offense that much deeper.
Performances like this every single week from the B-Back spot would make Georgia Tech a very difficult team to beat. The offense revolves around that spot, and Days has now had a second straight game of reminding opposing teams of that.
Though their involvement was more than in the Virginia Tech game, this game had a similar feel to it where Virginia wanted to prevent as much involvement as possible from this crew, and succeeded at that. Plenty of times, Thomas was forced to keep the ball when he would have preferred to pitch, entirely due to defensive scheming. That said, Deon Hill got into the end zone early in the game and the group generally had some nice runs, in particular from Broderick Snoddy. Snoddy led the unit with 7 carries and 52 yards, while Hill, Tony Zenon, and Dennis Andrews added 8 carries for 35 yards. The rocket toss seemed to completely disappear after the first quarter or so, perhaps just a reflection of scheme and having a sizeable lead to protect. Perimeter blocking was pretty good in this game once again, although Virginia's talent on defense proved difficult to overcome at times.
We've seen better games from this unit, but we've also seen much worse. A lackluster stat line will mainly be caused by Virginia's scheme on defense and less risky play as Thomas looked to protect the lead.
This game may have been the best of the year for DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller. It was the perfect example of what wide receivers are meant to do in this offense. Both blocked very well down the field (Waller in particular on a couple of plays) and both took plenty of advantage against one-on-one coverage, finishing with a combined 6 catches for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. Smelter a couple of times was able to shake free from his defender to get open for a pass, and Waller's touchdown catch involved him abusing his defender in one-on-one coverage, using his size to get an advantage and make a great catch. There was also a play in the middle of the game where Waller converted a first down on a kick pass that saw him catch a pass and immediately go right at the defender, running over him with a very physical approach. Later Smelter made a catch, shook a tackler, and took off across the middle of the field for a huge gain.
Overall, this unit had a fantastic game. Again, it may have been the best of the season for them, and I'd argue it may have been the best performance of Waller's career at Georgia Tech. Performances like those two had against Virginia are the types that get guys into the NFL.
This game was a bit of a struggle for the offensive line, which makes sense given the ability of a very good Virginia defensive front. Many times during the game, defenders were into the backfield sooner than they should have been, disrupting plays before they could really develop. Still, the pass protection was pretty good throughout the game, and the run blocking was good at times too -- offering up plenty of opportunities to Synjyn Days in particular. Shamire Devine saw a lot of the field in this game, a great sign looking ahead as he'll be called on to replace the graduating Shaquille Mason next year. Him getting more reps tells me two things: that the coaches are impressed by what they've seen from him, and that his physical conditioning has improved significantly. Those are both very encouraging for a guy who will be one of Georgia Tech's best offensive linemen moving forward.
Again, not a bad game for this unit, but not a great one either. They had a tall task going against a talented defensive front, and hung tough through some occasional hiccups.
The offense scored on its first three drives, jumping out to a 21-7 lead after their first 19 plays went for 191 yards -- just upwards of 10 yards per play. They scored on their first drive after halftime (which has been a pretty major trend under Paul Johnson) and finished with just over 400 yards of offense. The other thing about this game, that we haven't gotten used to saying in recent years, is that we looked better passing the ball than our opponents did, and they like passing the ball. Synjyn Days and DeAndre Smelter both had a huge game, and plenty of others had solid performances. It wasn't the best game we've seen this offense play, but it was still a solid output against one of the better defenses we'll play against this season.
This unit had a really solid game, certainly one of their better outputs of the year. KeShun Freeman and Adam Gotsis were fantastic again, while Pat Gamble was moved to defensive end and had a great game from that spot. Freeman was credited with 5 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble. He also broke up a pass and blocked a punt, not to mention other plays he made that won't show up on the stat sheet. Gotsis had 3 tackles and an awesome interception that resulted from a pass tipped by Pat Gamble. It was neat because Gotsis was cut blocked and kept from the backfield, but in perfect position for where the ball came down.
This group was pretty awesome, though plenty of that won't show up on the stat sheet. A performance like that each week would go a long way in defensive outputs.
P.J. Davis continues to blow up before our eyes. He recorded 5 tackles in this game, including a sack and a forced fumble. He was all over the place on defense, as has become his custom. Quayshawn Nealy only recorded 3 tackles, but still was constantly in on plays in different capacities. His stat line for the season won't blow anyone away, but Nealy is still doing a nice job of contributing to the defense. Additionally, these two lead the team in tackles, and by a decent margin. Davis has 56 solo tackles and 68 total tackles, while Nealy has 43 solo tackles and 59 total tackles. (For reference, Demond Smith is third on the team with 37 and 47.)
Aside from the two usual suspects, Beau Hankins, Anthony Harrell, Tyler Marcordes, and Tremayne McNair contributed to an overall solid effort from this crew. The grade is inflated from a B by a good day from Davis and consistent pressure on blitzes that made a big difference.
It was an interesting day from this unit, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. There were a lot of really good plays, but at times they were saved by poor plays by Virginia's offense. D.J. White led the team in tackles with 6 and broke up a pass, while Jamal Golden complemented two tackles with a brilliant interception that saved a touchdown. At the same time though, there were a lot of receivers roaming open in the secondary. The final passing line may not reflect that, as Virginia's receivers dropped around a dozen passes throughout the course of the game. That, which is to say that Virginia's struggles with passing the ball may have been more self-inflicted than a result of good secondary play. The only thing about that is that I don't think those "deficiencies" (if they can be called as much) were a shortcoming of the defensive players so much as the scheme. That'll be something to continue monitoring in future weeks.
The one thing I did like was how much this unit provided pressure to the QB on blitzes, as with linebackers. There were more chances taken in this game, and I do think it had something to do with the Virginia quarterbacks being out of rhythm.
It wasn't an exceptional game from this unit, but it wasn't a poor game either. I think I was satisfied with the way the players played, but not necessarily with the scheme they were provided with.
Regardless of how individual units played, the most important statistic of the game for these guys is that Virginia's offense finished with 10 points. Quite a few times in this game, the defense came up with a huge play in a big situation, and they limited Virginia and its talented stable of running backs to only 22 rushing yards. From there, Virginia only managed 262 passing yards, for a total offensive output of under 300 yards -- a great mark for a defense that has struggled in certain games this year.
I'm not sure what more we could reasonably ask for from this unit. Solid overall performance that we'd love to see on a week-to-week basis.
In poor conditions for field goal kicking, Harrison Butker remained on the sideline in this game except for kickoffs. Of those six kickoffs, he had two touchbacks, three well-defended returns, and one that went for 34 yards -- overall a pretty good day for coverage. Additionally, Ryan Rodwell had three punts -- two were solid, one was influenced adversely by the windy conditions. Jamal Golden returned two kickoffs -- one for 25 yards, one for 10.
It was a mixed bag here, but overall a pretty average game. Not outstanding, but not bad either.
It was a complete team win against Virginia, the likes of which we haven't seen a ton of in recent years. It was honestly refreshing to see the whole team playing well at the same time. The offense was scoring and the defense was holding, and that against a team that gave UCLA and a Taysom Hill-strengthened BYU team. UVA's four losses prior to this one were by a combined 24 points to UCLA, BYU, Duke and UNC. This loss was by 25 points. That's an awesome performance, and a confidence-inspiring one as they go into a dangerous environment in Raleigh next week.