Four Key Points
Welcome back to the Upper North Perspective! I am pleased to say that this week will be the actual first week that I can provide a perspective from my spectacular seats in the Upper North. It truly was great to be back on the Flats.
After a tough opening week game in a foreign country, our Yellow Jackets found themselves in a legitimate contest against FCS in-state foe, Mercer.
Well…not as legitimate as UGA playing the mighty Colonels of Nicholls State, but it was still a bit more of a challenge than any of us anticipated.
Or was it? Was it really as much of a struggle as it felt like sometimes at the stadium on Saturday? Is all the hand-wringing and frustration from the fan base viable after this “struggle” at Bobby Dodd with the Bears?
Today, I come to you with four key points that I would like to make as we review the first two weeks and get ready for Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Number 1: The Offense is Better Than You Think
This may be an easy point to make, but I am going to make it anyways. Georgia Tech’s offense had eight drives on Saturday and scored touchdowns on five of those eight drives. The other three? Marcus Marshall fumbled on first down as Tech was moving into the red zone on the first drive of the game. There was an errant toss that resulted in a fumble and a large loss to force a punt on fourth drive of the game. Lastly, Quaide Weimerskirch, in all of his hair’s glory, would not stop battling to get into the end zone on his first career carry and fumbled on the next to last drive of the game.
Are fumbles a larger concern? Yeah, maybe, but I truly do not think so. The pitch that resulted in the loss of yardage was a fluky thing that happens to Tech’s offense from time to time every single year. You pitch the ball as much as this offense does, and things like that are bound to happen. Quaide’s fumble? This was just a case of a kid getting too amped up for his first carry for a potential touchdown, and he did not recognize the point where it is best to just go down and live for another play. Marcus Marshall’s fumble? That may be something to watch. That was a concern last year for Marshall, and on a stage where he could take over the position, he chose instead to literally fumble the opportunity away on the first drive of the game. I still have high hopes for Marshall as a player though.
With the rest of the offense, GT is showing increased improvement across the offensive line and displayed an increase in efficiency from game one to game two. Pass blocking held steady and still looks solid which gives Justin Thomas a fighting chance to make a play. JT5 is showing he is on his way back to the 2014 version of himself by making plays each and every time he is given the opportunity. Qua Searcy is really leading the A-Back group and making plays every chance he gets. Qua is displaying what a great athlete he truly is and seems to be providing a presence that has to be accounted for. The offense seems to be getting solid production from the other AB’s and perimeter blocking improved tremendously this game. Ricky Jeune is showing an ability to make adjustments and always seems to have an opportunity to come down with the ball if it is close to him. The rest of the receivers did not show me anything to worry about at this point in time. Matthew Jordan looks serviceable at the very least and actually seems to run the offense fairly well. He pushes the line of scrimmage better than our other QB’s and will benefit when he starts to make the pitch read more effectively. TaQuon Marshall did not have to do much, but he flashed his dynamic athleticism during his opportunity.
This was all without our starting B-Back, Dedrick Mills. I hate that he did not get to play this week, but hopefully he learned his lesson and will come out on fire against Vanderbilt.
This offense is starting to trend in the right direction. This group is better than you think.
Number 2: The Defense is Not as Bad as You Think
Yes, it is easy to look at the frustrating performance from the defense on Saturday and focus on the negatives. Honestly, I was having a hard time dealing with my frustration watching it in the ninety-degree heat on Saturday at Bobby Dodd.
I am not saying there is nothing to be concerned about. I think there are definitely things to watch and monitor as we move throughout the season, but I do not think things are as bad as some Tech fans are suggesting.
Ted Roof came into the Mercer game with a very basic scheme and gameplan. He did not want to tip his hand to future opponents and played a very bland defense to combat the Bears. He has already admitted himself that the game plan and adjustments by him were mistakes. Screens aside, can we really blame Ted for playing Mercer this way? Tech has a pretty tough stretch starting this upcoming week against Vanderbilt. Why show the upcoming opponents each and every trick that you have up your sleeve when you do not really need it?
Having said that, third down defense has to improve. The defense also looked incompetent at times when it came to defending screens. Some of the basics of tackling, proper pursuit angles, and simply players making plays when having the opportunity were also sources of frustration. This group is not that far away from performing at a solid level. High level? It will take some major strides to do that quickly.
There were some bright spots though. This defense did only allow ten points and buckled down once crossing the 25-yard line. Roof’s group did this while also getting a lot of guys playing time. This defense also clearly has the talent to get things done. Our defensive line, primarily our DTs, looked solid on the day. Brentavious Glanton got his first PT and flashed. He earned more time with his play. Brandon Adams showed the potential to be that dominant space eater at DT that Tech has lacked for so long. He just holds his spots and eats offensive linemen up. David Curry flashed at his linebacker spot and forced me to notice him multiple times on the day. The defensive back group is not bad and will continue to get better as the year goes on. The defensive ends and linebackers have to settle in and make plays when in position.
It is not panic time yet.
Number 3: We DO Have Great Fans
This one will not take long. Yes, Saturday was a bit of a dead crowd, but that does not mean the fan base is bad by any means as I have seen suggested in various places. It was Mercer on a very hot Saturday where the fans got shell-shocked pretty early after a fumble and long TD pass. To top that off, this was not the normal crowd that typically is at games. I would venture to guess that a lot of people were still overseas or missed the game on their travels back. With that being the assumption, a lot of seats were filled by people not typically at the games. I know the Tech fan base can be a little bit pessimistic and want to point the finger sometimes, but I think everyone should let this play out before making this a concern. This Saturday will be back to the norm where the small but loud fan base returns to make things difficult for opposing teams coming to Bobby Dodd. I am not worried one bit. Oh yeah, wear Gold!
Number Four: Cautious Optimism
An important thing to remember after these first two weeks it that Georgia Tech is 2-0. 2-0 is huge after a year like last year. It is not time to freak out. I am cautiously optimistic as the season moves forward. It really is crazy how similar this season is setting up as compared to 2014. The similarities between Boston College 2016 and VT 2014 are there as well as Mercer 16 with Wofford 14. Please keep that in mind.
In terms of Vanderbilt, I expect to see a lot of what was seen against Boston College. Boston College and Vanderbilt are very similar to each other in style and physicality. They play great defense and rely heavily on the running games. This is really the right game for this spot in the season. As I said last week, it will give fans a direct and honest representation of the improvements from game one to game three due to the similarities in BC and Vandy.
I want to see the defense perform better on third down. I would also love to see Tech establish the B-Back early and often. I want to see Justin continue to make plays and create big moments for the team. Our offensive and defensive lines will receive a lot of my attention from the Upper North on Saturday. This is truly where the game will be won on Saturday.
Bonus Point: WEAR GOLD! #GoldOut
It is a gold out after all. DO not forget to wear your gold. The official game shirt is actually not that bad and portions of the proceeds from the shirt go to childhood cancer research.
Buy the shirt. Wear it to the stadium on Saturday. Wear it at home on your couch if you are unable to travel to the game. Just wear gold. It is a #GoldOut after all.
Big game this week! It is time to get to 3-0!