A Comedy of Errors
Welcome back to another round of The Upper North Perspective!
I am not sure any of us really want to be here after that shellacking on Saturday at the hands of North Carolina, but here we are regardless.
This past football Saturday was a pretty rough day. For Georgia Tech supporters, Saturday could not get much worse. The Yellow Jackets were destroyed by North Carolina to open the day, and there were little to no silver linings as the day went on to help soothe the pain of the loss.
As I discussed here last week, this Georgia Tech football team has little to no margin of error every single week if it wants to achieve a win. When the no-room-for-error Jackets have as many breakdowns as they had this past week, a result of 48-20 at the hands of a good football team should not be that surprising; however, I think we are all a bit surprised and disgusted that it went this way.
Mistakes were happening all over the field against UNC, and though I see some areas of the team needing more attention than others, there are issues to be cleaned up across the board. Today, I look at the biggest errors that affected this team on Saturday and what needs to be cleaned up if the Jackets want to have any shot of beating Virginia Tech this week.
Red Zone Offense
This point is primarily focusing on the red zone offense in the first half though there were other failed opportunities in the second. Don’t get me wrong. What the offense did in the first half would be more than sufficient most weeks, but it just was not enough against UNC.
Down 17 to 7 at the beginning of the second quarter, Georgia Tech had 2nd and goal on the one yard line with a chance to pull within three. Instead of punching it in, Shamire Devine drew a holding penalty pushing the offense back to the 11 and crushing momentum. Two plays later, the Jackets left the red zone with only three points to show after a Harrison Butker field goal.
After pulling the score to 20 to 17 later in the second quarter, the defense gave up a bomb on a missed read to allow a quick strike TD that put UNC back up by 10 in just two plays. With the ball back, the Jackets drove down the field quickly and had 1st and 10 at the UNC 18. Instead of hitting the next play for a first down, Justin Thomas moved past the line of scrimmage and pitched the ball a yard forward to the AB waiting to receive the pitch. Great play, but unfortunately, you can’t do that. Illegal forward pass forces a loss of down and moves the offense back beyond the 20. The O never manages to get momentum rolling again, and the subsequent Harrison Butker low-trajectory field goal gets blocked. Zero points to show for it going into the half and preserves the ten-point lead for UNC.
This team is not good enough to consistently leave points on the board and expect to win. Not to mention, the two scores could have been the difference between being down by ten at the half and possibly going into the half up by one point. On top of that, Tech got the ball back after the half. Without those mistakes, the conversation could have been a lot different today.
There were two turnovers in the game with both coming in the second half. Unfortunately, the two turnovers came on back to back possessions and pushed the game from being 34 to 20 all the way to 48 to 20. It didn’t take long either. UNC converted both turnovers into scores in 2 minutes and 19 second on the first and 53 seconds on the second one.
Both turnovers were on the mesh exchanges between the QB and BB. For the QBs, one involved JT and the other involved Matthew Jordan. As for the BB, Dedrick Mills was involved on both. Seeing as how I do not know the specific play call on either, I am going to assign equal blame all around for the turnovers. The most important part of this is that the ball needs be cared for a lot more than it was during that stretch on Saturday. The efficiency in this area needs to improve and quickly.
I do not know if Tech would have come back if the fumbles had not taken place, but the opportunity would have been there. It is the second time this year, including Miami, that a bad stretch of turnovers has effectively sealed the Jackets fate, and the third time this year, including Duke, that it has completely changed the game.
The offense needs to find a way to limit the turnovers. When a turnover does happen, the team needs to work on the mental toughness to prevent the mistakes from snowballing.
Third Down Defense
I am going to have a difficult time talking about the last two topics, so they will each be a little shorter. You see, there is not a need to deep dive into specific plays from the game on the last two subjects, but I still feel a need to discuss both.
Third down defense is absolutely horrendous right now. I do not think I can remember a time where I rarely get excited for a third down to show up on defense, but this year has changed that. Back in the day, or any year outside of this year, I used to feel fairly confident when forcing the opposing team into a third down situation. I knew that more often than not the Jackets defense would come up with a much needed stop, and the offense would be trotting back out onto the field.
That feeling is no more, and I am not exaggerating. More often than not, the opposing offense is actually converting third downs on this GT defense than them finding a way to force a fourth down. Do you know how deflating that is? Yeah, of course you do. You are living through it as well.
Outside of the fan perspective, can you imagine how tough that has to be for everyone on this team? The defense, the offense, the coaches, everyone..which actually leads me to my final point.
Defensive Play and Scheme
The defensive philosophy needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed quickly. Bring in the run-stoppers in situations that call for it. Bring in a set of pass rushers on passing situations. Don’t show blitzes in the gaps that you are going way too early in the play clock. Adjust coverage depths to mirror what the situation calls for on the field. Play matchups in coverage.
Find a way to call a smart football game. Find a way to put your players in the best situation to succeed. This group can succeed. The ability is there, but they need to be given an opportunity to display it.
At the end of the day, what does it hurt to change philosophies a bit going down the stretch? Can it get much worse than what we have all been subjected to the last two weeks against Duke and UNC?
Here is the thing. Everyone knew that the offense could not afford to leave ANY points on the field against UNC. Nobody should have that pressure on them week in and week out. Marginal improvement week over week is all Tech fans really need to see. Changes need to happen. Immediately.
It is not too late for this defense to close the year strong. A big test is coming against Virginia Tech, and then there is an opportunity to close out the year against Virginia and Georgia. A markedly improved three game stretch with even more improvement in the bowl game would go a long way for the confidence of this team heading into 2017.
This team needs to find a way to correct the mistakes going into this weekend at Virginia Tech. The margin for error is once again slim to none, and the team will need a virtually mistake free game on both sides of the ball to get the win. We have all seen that this team has the capability to play at a high level. Adjustments need to be made for it to happen though, and I am anxious to see what, if any, changes are made.