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Tuesday Muse-day 10/1: Bro, I’m Straight Up Not Having a Good Time

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In which we talk Terrapins, NFL stadiums, and report cards.

Georgia Tech v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Game Recap in Three Sentences:

A dismal 14% third down conversion rate doomed the Jackets as the offense continuously sputtered out.

Turnovers were an especially big deal with Tech fumbling on the goal-line while going in for a score as well as allowing a fumble recovery to be run back for a touchdown.

The defense played okay, holding Temple to just 127 passing yards and 17 offensive points.

ATLeast We Ain’t Them of the Week

It’s tough to think of how things could get worse, but I’d say that Maryland and Nebraska both had pretty much the worst weekends possible. The Terps got shellacked in a 59-0 beatdown by Penn State, giving up 619 yards in the process. The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, embarrassed themselves on national television in a 48-7 loss to Ohio State that was the biggest ever by a school hosting College GameDay.

Above The Line of the Week

  • The secondary. The lone bright spot unit on Saturday, the secondary played sneaky well against a Temple passing offense that had been lighting it up in their last three games.
  • Having your own football stadium. I am obviously in no position to make fun of Temple at this point, but it must be awful to go to a tarped-over NFL stadium for home games. For those keeping track, the Bobby Dodd Boyz are 1-1 this season against teams that don’t play in their own stadium. Take that as you will.
  • Pumpkin beer. Just delightful.

Stat of the Week

35 pass attempts.

I point this out because it’s still hard to wrap my head around. We ran 70 plays against Temple, and exactly half were passes. #BalancedOffense. The problem is that we only completed 14 of those 35 attempts (40%). 40% was fine under Johnson when we were only passing a few times in a game and just looking for a couple big plays but it is absolutely disastrous in an offense where you are attempting passes in an effort to gain yards and move down the field consistently.

5 Star (7 Star, 5 Star) Developmental Program Haiku of the Week

Darkness creeping in

The weights of the world press down

Football is the worst

Bro, I’m Straight Up Not Having a Good Time

We’ve officially completed the “beginning” of the season (i.e. first third) so let’s check in on how things are going.

Things aren’t great. We sit at 1-3 with our only win being against a very bad USF team (in a game we definitely could’ve lost…). Our three losses span the entire spectrum of “okay that’s fine” (Clemson) to “wow this sucks” (Temple) to “can I ever wear a Tech shirt again in public” (The Citadel). The offense is struggling hard, the defense isn’t as good as people thought it would be, and our #GriT and #relenTlessefforT seem to be getting us nowhere. Shall we go deeper?

Offense

If you asked me to rate the offense 1-10, I think I’d go somewhere around a 2. Some stats:

Offensive Stats Through 4 Games

Stat Value
Stat Value
Points per game 13.5
Total yards per game 289.8
Passing yards per game 126.3
Rushing yards per game 163.5
Completion percentage 48.3%
Yards per rush 4.1
Yards per completion 12
Turnovers per game 2.3
First downs per game 16.5

If you’re wondering if 13.5 points-per-game is the worst in FBS, it is. Yards-per-game is 7th worst, first-downs-per-game is 13th worst, and turnovers-per-game is 12th worst. Simply put, this is becoming one of the worst offensive seasons that we’ve had in recent history. We just can’t move the ball and we can’t score. I’ve been a big proponent of the “we won’t be good this year so don’t expect anything” mindset but I gotta say, I didn’t think it would be this bleak. It appears that our offensive transition is much harder than we thought. I’d like to call out a few of the major problems that I see:

The offensive line is nowhere near where it needs to be. This unit looks lost in just about every facet of the game. They aren’t creating running lanes and they aren’t protecting the QBs. Normally I think we’d look to run the ball a lot more, but the line isn’t giving us the opportunities.

Turnovers have been, in a word, devastating. Putting aside the absurd rate of 2.3 per-game, they have been extremely untimely. We’ve seen multiple fumbles in the redzone and even multiple on would-be scoring plays. When they aren’t happening in the redzone they’re either happening deep in our own territory or killing developing drives.

The quarterback situation is confusing. Just when you think one QB has settled into a rhythm, he gets pulled for another guy. We’ve attempted 87 total passes so far this season and the share of those amongst the three QBs is 37%, 33%, and 30%. The only real differentiator between the three is that Oliver has run the ball much more than the others. It seems like Tobias is the guy, but just when you think that’s the case it isn’t. I think many of us would prefer picking a QB and sticking with him for the rest of the season. Let someone gain experience and confidence rather than treating the position like a revolving door.

The play-calling has been frustrating to watch. I don’t profess to know much about offensive theory, but it just feels like we’re stubbornly trying to call system plays for the sake of change rather than going with what might work for our personnel. I tried to keep track of the number of times we’ve run the ball out of the shotgun in short yardage situations and I lost count. The OL isn’t strong enough to hold up on long-developing pass plays. The two things I’d like to see are quicker passes and more opportunities for players in space. Let our QBs get comfortable with the quick passes and let’s try to chip away at the yardage with high-percentage plays. For players in space, I’d like to see us get Ahmarean Brown the ball as often as possible and let him make plays.

In terms of overall offense, we rank 120th in SP+. Yikes. This is uncharted territory for us as Jacket fans and I really hope we can at least crack the top 100 as the season progresses. Being in the same offensive territory as Rice, Akron, UTSA, and UTEP is not good under any circumstances.

Defense

While the defense has certainly been far better than the offense, I still don’t think it’s nearly as good as I would expect it to be with solid talent, defensive-minded coach, and aggressive scheme that we have.

Defensive Stats Through 4 Games

Stat Value
Stat Value
Points per game 28.2
Total yards per game 392.3
Passing yards per game 136.8
Rushing yards per game 255.5
Completion percentage 54.3%
Yards per rush 5.2
Yards per completion 12.4
Turnovers per game 2.8
First downs per game 20.5

The rush defense has been killing us. 255.5 rushing yards per game is 3rd worst in the FBS, ahead of only Kent State and UTSA (yuck). Travis Etienne torched us, we couldn’t stop The Citadel, and Re’Mahn Davis put another torch to our already-charred rubble. Stopping the run is one of the most stressed philosophies in all levels of football and through four games we have shown zero ability to do so.

On a more positive note, the secondary has actually been somewhere been good and very good. 136.8 passing yards per game is 6th best in the country, 54.3% completion allowed is 18th best, and four interceptions through four games is a strong pace. We clearly have our best talent in that unit and it seems like the more aggressive scheme has really benefited them. I think this is going to be a fun group to watch over the next few years.

Wrapping it all together we’re sitting at the 41st best overall defense according to SP+. For the most part I’m pretty pleased with this, especially considering how bad our defenses in recent years have been. If we can tighten down the run defense over the rest of the season I think we have a good shot at being somewhere in the top 30.

Overall we are rated as the 92nd best team according to SP+. If that percentile (i.e. out of 130 total teams) holds, it’ll be far lower than any season in the Johnson era and our lowest since since the early 90s.

I’m getting sad typing all of this out, so let’s wrap it up by saying: The first third of the season went about as poorly as it possibly could. Not much looks good, but there are a few things that give me hope we can sneak at least one more win out of this season.