"Hi! I'm 2014 Georgia Tech football, and I have DirecTV!"
"I'm 2015 Georgia Tech football, and I have cable."
Yeah, it's looking like that five games into the 2015 season. I don't think anyone foresaw the Yellow Jackets losing in three consecutive weeks to Notre Dame, Duke and North Carolina. Heck, not many had Tech losing three games all season. That's not important any more. What is important is that this team is 2-3 and needs four wins for bowl eligibility and now needs Duke and North Carolina to lose a few games for Tech to remain alive in the ACC Coastal Division.
The first 28:30 of the ballgame for the Yellow Jackets was great. They were up 21-0 and seemed to have righted the ship of the 2015 season. Not so fast. With 1:29 remaining in the second quarter to the end of the game, Georgia Tech was outscored 38-10. Ouch. Looking at this game as a whole, there aren't a lot of positives to take away. They lost to a team that lost to South Carolina. They blew a 21 point lead in the second quarter and a 4-point lead going into the fourth quarter, all on their home turf. The defense allowed 413 yards, with 356 coming after five minutes remaining in the second half.
Chris Milton blocked another punt, so that was cool.
Justin Thomas is a great quarterback when his team is up. But, like all quarterbacks, when his team is down all eyes are him to make something happen. You saw some of the best Justin Thomas of the 2015 season in the first half. Then you saw a quarterback that couldn't get the offense going in the second half. It's not his fault. It's hardly fair to criticize him.
Thomas' offensive line is non-existent at times. His backfield hasn't helped him out much in the past three weeks either. Thomas finished 12/21 passing for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception. That was good for a 46.4 QBR. He also had 18 carries for 56 yards with two rushing scores. He was decent on the ground and decent enough through the air to make this system work. His fumble was a big game changer as well. Unfortunately Tech needs their junior quarterback to play a near flawless game in order for them to win and Thomas hasn't been able to do that. He's the least of your worries when it comes to offense.
Patrick Skov, Marcus Allen and Mikell Lands-Davis combined for 16 carries and picked up 56 yards on the ground. That was good for 3.5 yards per carry. The offense of Georgia Tech rolls with the play of their B-backs and play was not great on Saturday. Notice that Marcus Marsahll didn't get a carry in the game and that Skov led the team unit with 15 carries.
The offense rolled in 2014 when you had Laskey and Days both being effective to never give the opposing defense a break. The Yellow Jackets don't have that through the first five games of 2015. This unit has to produce for this offense to be successful. Under Johnson, the Yellow Jackets have survived with less talent at quarterback and still won, but the B-back has always produced. It's not all on the B-backs, as they need someone to block for them and the offensive line isn't doing that.
The remaining 26 carries went to the A-backs and they picked up 149 yards. That was good for 5.7 yards per carry. Clinton Lynch led the A-backs in yardage with 48 yards, while Isiah "Ike" Willis lead the unit with nine carries. There was no Broderick Snoddy and still no Qua Searcy, but this unit, in my opinion, played well. Sure, you're used to seeing more out of the A-backs at Georgia Tech, but with Snoddy out and an offense line that is about as effective as a screen door on a submarine, I'm fine with their performance on the ground.
When it comes to blocking, however, that's a different story. They didn't block the perimeter again, which gave Thomas little time to make much happen.
A lot of hate is getting put on the receivers and, in terms of blocking, it's warranted. I think that Ricky Jeune and Brad Stewart are going to be very good receivers here at Georgia Tech, but they need some seasoning. They combined for six catches and 74 yards, and you would think that this unit will get a big lift once Michael Summers returns. Not great numbers, but serviceable.
Georgia Tech needs to block. Yes, the big plays get all the love, but they only happen when there is blocking involved.
I don't even want to talk about this unit. I thought this would be the strongest part of the team in 2015 and it's been awful. Was Shaq Mason that big for this offensive line? Did he play all five positions at once? This quote from Joey Weaver last week summed it up:
"As an engineer, it's pretty absurd to think that I can take out 20% of a machine, replace it with parts that are at least somewhat comparable, and then get an output not even close to what I had before."
I'm not going to spend time here. It's the same as it was last week. Tech should have put up more yards and points off of a lackluster UNC defense. Sure, they played well in the first half, but were abysmal after that. I'm not going to give them an "F," but you could argue they deserve it.
What changed from the Duke game to this game on offense? Other than a hot-start to the game, not much. This side of the ball looks ineffective and it all goes back to blocking. It's hard for Thomas to do his thing when receivers, backs and the offensive line aren't blocking for you. Seriously, this is like writing MMQB against Duke from a week ago. The first two quarters showed promise of what this team can do when everyone is playing their assignment. The last two quarters showed what they've been doing pretty consistently in 2015. On their first five possessions, they racked up 256 yards and four touchdowns (No, I don't count the "possession" with one second left in the first half and neither should you). They then put up 170 yards on five possessions with three points after that. You can't trust this side of the ball until there is consistency. Here are the yards per play each quarter: 5.6, 4.7, 6.9 and 4.2.
At least they improved from last week.
Like the rest of the team, this unit was great in the first half and then couldn't put any pressure on quarterback Marquise Williams and allowed him to have Heisman-like numbers in the second half. Let's not forget that Adam Gotsis was ejected for a targeting call that left much to be desired. Gotsis' departure no doubt changed the tenacity of the line, but was it enough to allow such a large comeback by the Tar Heels? Not in my opinion.
Williams had 15 rushes to the tune of 148 yards and two touchdowns. Ouch. That's bad.
Before Gotsis' ejection, I thought the line played well. It is a bit alarming though to see how it could crumble to pieces if one player goes down.
When you allow the quarterback to rush for 148 yards, that is going to fall on every unit of the defense. Not to mention all the missed tackles that occurred here. The linebacker play was ugly and it didn't get better. I award them no points and may God have mercy on their souls.
I was proud of this unit. Williams had just 134 yards through the air in this contest, which was his lowest mark against FBS opponents in 2015. He also completed just 54 percent of his pass attempts and a 101.1 passer rating, which were also the lowest marks on the season against FBS opponents. The only team Williams performed worse against was a Delaware team that only saw Williams attempt 12 passes. He was gone early in the game and Mitch Trubisky got a lot of work in.
This unit missed some tackles though, and didn't force a turnover on Williams, something that the other two FBS teams had done. This unit looked bad against Notre Dame and pretty good against Duke. It's still too early to know exactly what to expect from this unit, but you have to be encouraged by their play the past two weeks.
It was a tale of two halves for the defense as well. Once Williams was able to get going on the ground, there was no stopping the North Carolina offense. Sure, the Justin Thomas fumble helped set the UNC offense up in some good field position and the bad punt put UNC on the Tech 44. Still, there weren't enough excuses to warrant giving up 31 points in one half of football to the Tar Heels.
It's tough to be critical on this side of the ball, however, because they're the big reason that Tech wasn't blown out by Duke and Notre Dame due to miscues on offense and/or special teams.
Harrison Butker made his only field goal and converted all PATs. Ryan Rodwell got a bad snap, but was still able to punt the ball, albeit just 23 yards.
Jamal Golden had two kick returns that averaged 26 yards and there were no punt returns.
North Carolina had a punt blocked by the mighty Chris Milton and their only return was a kick return that went 21 yards.
This unit was okay, other than the bad snap on the Rodwell punt. Milton's punt block was the most exciting thing that happened as everything else was kind of vanilla. In this case however, no news is good news.
I was excited to pick up this "Monday Morning Quarterback" article for Joey this week. I like getting to voice my opinion on teams and getting feedback on what other people think. After this game however, it feels like I'm performing an autopsy. It's not as fun as I had hoped. At least Georgia lost and all of those fans are ready to make an example of Mark Richt in the Athens streets. So that's nice.
I have been hesitant to press the panic button on the 2015 season and ACC Championship Game, but there's not much choice anymore. This team is in trouble. You realize what's happened, don't you? Someone out there has built a time machine (a weird one) and we are reliving the 2010 season all over again. If you don't remember, Tech came off an Orange Bowl loss to Iowa in 2009 and many predicted them to run the table again in 2010. Yeah, that didn't happen. They finished with a 6-7 record and even allowed Georgia to get to six wins in a weird rivalry game.
This team has no time to sit back and reevaluate things as they have to play Clemson on Saturday in Death Valley. This season could get ugly fast, if some feel that it isn't already. They need to figure it out and do it fast, because the tough part of the schedule hasn't even started yet.
Don't worry, Tech fans. Brian Gregory's squad will hit the courts soon. Fire away!