Another great game by the Yellow Jackets means another wealth of players and plays to pick from for this week’s Superlatives! Interestingly enough, a majority of the offensive production came by way of just a handful of players this week, while the defense’s stellar performance was spread out among over a fairly large percentage of the two-deep. Synjyn Days and DeAndre Smelter both had dominant performances all game long, but there weren’t really any single defensive players who really racked up video game numbers. That’s totally fine with me – if the defense plays best by committee like this past week, then by all means. Go right ahead, Ted Roof.
Player of the Game (Offense)
Justin Thomas – The speedster QB didn’t really wow us this weekend with his speed, but that was due to several factors. Synjyn Days was tearing it up, the defense was bringing a lot of pressure and keying in on stopping anything on the edge, and, quite frankly, he didn’t need to run it much. Justin went 7/13 for 141 yards and 3 TDs with 1 INT – but what the stats don’t show is how well he distributed the ball and read the option.
Synjyn Days – Just a week after setting a new career-high for rushing yards, Synjyn went ahead and set the bar even higher. The senior rushed for 147 yards and 1 TD on 24 carries, while also reeling in a low, slightly off-target pass for a 17-yard touchdown reception. Synjyn busted two runs for 30+ yards, flashing great speed and power on the edge. Honestly, he looked like Jonathan Dwyer for the second weekend in a row. I can’t wait till we have Laskey back – a two-man B-back rotation doesn’t get much better than that.
DeAndre Smelter – Smelter is simply too big and too physical for any single corner to cover him. He is a man among boys out there. The wideout reeled in four catches for 107 yards and an 18-yard touchdown. He also dealt some pretty punishing blows on blocks. But we’ll talk a little bit more about that later!
Play of the Game (Offense)
I hope you like touchdowns. I know it seems to cliché to have the four Play of the Game candidates all be touchdowns, but each of these touchdowns was truly significant and special. They weren’t ordinary touchdowns. Hear me out!
Deon Hill’s 14-yard TD run / DeAndre Smelter’s Devastating Block – This was the first score of the game. Deon Hill takes the pitch and scores from 14 yards out on a pretty good read by Justin Thomas. However, if you were just watching the ball, you probably missed the block that Smelter puts on Virginia safety Quin Blanding, the top-ranked safety recruit in last year’s class. This is just one example of how DeAndre Smelter is the complete wide receiver package.
Smelter’s 18-yard touchdown reception – Just another physically-dominant catch. On 3rd and 7 from the UVA 18, Smelter gets his defender turned around when he looks for the fade and makes a quick curl on the goal line, where Justin hits him almost immediately. And when Smelter catches the ball inside the five, I think it’s usually safe to say he will be getting in the endzone – he is too big to stop.
Waller’s 11-yard TD reception – On the first play of the second quarter, the Jackets face 3rd and goal from the 11. Virginia had just scored less than two minutes earlier, cutting the Jackets’ lead in half at 14-7. Waller is lined up wide on the far side of the field. Justin takes the snap and, wait, what?? A fade route? We’re running a fade? Anyone know the last time we ran a fade? That’s a serious question. Somebody answer it. Anyway, Justin throws a beautiful jump ball to Waller towards the back corner of the endzone, and Waller uses his superior height and ball-hawking skills to make the snag in one-on-one coverage for the touchdown.
Synjyn Days’ 17-yard TD reception – As if to attach a crowning jewel to the masterpiece of a game Synjyn Days had put together through the first three and a half quarters, the B-back roped in a low pass on the flat and practically walked into the endzone from 17 yards out on 3rd and 14. This was the Jackets’ final touchdown on the day, but a great one nonetheless. A B-back with hands is a very dangerous thing.
Player of the Game (Defense)
PJ Davis – The sophomore LB put together another diverse and impressive statline, recording 5 tackles, 1 sack for 10 yards, and 1 forced fumble. PJ got the GT defense started on the right foot by sacking Virginia QB Greyson Lambert for 10 yards on the very first play of the game.
KeShun Freeman – The true freshman continues to turn heads, earning ACC defensive lineman of the week honors for his efforts against Virginia. Freeman had 5 tackles, 1 sack for 6 yards, 1 forced fumble, and was a member of the GT D-Line No Fly Zone – he was one of three defensive linemen to swat a pass at the line of scrimmage. Freeman’s tip ended up falling into the hands of Gotsis for the interception, too.
Pat Gamble – While Pat’s statline isn’t the most glamorous – the redshirt sophomore recorded just two tackles and a pass deflection (No Fly Zone!!!!) – Pat started this game at defensive end instead of his usual defensive tackle position. His presence was most certainly felt by the Virginia offense – Pat pressured Virginia’s Greyson Lambert all afternoon and really made a significant difference on defense before going down with a lower leg injury. The x-rays fortunately came back negative. Get well soon, Pat!
Adam Gotsis – The Aussie recorded three tackles and one interception, his second career pick. It came off a KeShun Freeman tip halfway through the third quarter, when UVA was driving in GT territory. The senior also played a major part in run-stopping, and was one of the main reason’s UVA’s offense was held to just 22 yards rushing.
Play of the Game (Defense)
Jamal Golden’s INT in the endzone – Virginia was trailing 28-10 near the end of the third quarter and was threatening to cut the Jackets’ lead to 11 from the GT10. UVA’s Lambert dropped back to pass and threw a strike to the left side of the south end zone, but Jamal Golden was waiting in man coverage. In almost the same place he made his game-clinching INT vs. Miami a month ago, Jamal made another game-clinching pick.
KeShun Freeman’s tipped pass/Gotsis’s INT – We talked about it earlier, but we’ll talk about it again. Gotsis made a sensational diving catch after KeShun Freeman opted for the pass deflection instead of going for the sack, giving the Jackets the ball at their own 42 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
PJ Davis’s Sack on the first play of the game – Not only did PJ get the sack, he also forced Lambert to cough up the ball. UVA recovered, but it was still a tough hit that Lambert definitely wasn’t going to forget anytime soon.
Pat Gamble’s Pass deflection on 3rd and 8 in the red zone – The DT-turned-DE made a great effort on 3rd and 8 to force UVA to go for it on 4th down from the GT10. The very next play, Jamal Golden would make an interception in the endzone.
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