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Tuesday Muse-day 10/22: Hope Springs Eternal

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In which we talk Northwestern (ha), tears, and growth

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Game Recap in Three Sentences

A game in which Tech scored both a defensive and a special teams (sort of?) touchdown, the offense also managed to have a good day with 345 total yards.

Penalties almost doomed the Jackets, with 9 total for 82 yards.

Keeping with the season theme, the defense tightened up in the second half and pitched a shutout in the final two quarters and overtime.

#404 Swag Champion of the Game

(The return of the segment!)

Pressley Harvin III - our favorite son threw a B O M B 41 yard touchdown on a fake punt late in the first quarter. I’ve praised PH3 many times on the internet, but I really can’t do it enough.

ATLeast We Ain’t Them of the Week

Northwestern. For a brief period this game was only 7-3, then the Buckeyes threw up 45 straight unanswered points to finish the game 52-3. The Wildcats were held to 5-of-18 on third downs and a brutal 42 passing yards. Northwestern actually held the ball for longer, but wait for it.... that’s just because Ohio State had 4 touchdown drives of 3 or fewer plays hahahaha. Ohio State is an absolute wagon right now and Justin Fields is so much fun to watch.

Above The Line of the Week

  • Jordan Mason. Mason balled out on Saturday, tallying 141 yards and 1 TD on 20 carries.
  • Having our own stadium. I know I said this after USF too, but watching another game take place in an empty Floridian NFL stadium made me sad all over again. What’s crazier is that Miami is absolutely a program that could have an amazing stadium atmosphere if they just had their own stadium like a normal team.
  • Miami tears. “Official” sources put our biggest rivalries (after UGA of course) at Virginia Tech and Clemson. I say nay to that; I have never felt strongly about either of those programs, but I hate Miami. It is just so fun to beat them and I’d argue that they are by far our most emotional in-conference rivalry. They have one of my least favorite fanbases and seeing them upset is such a good feeling.
NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Stat of the Week

32:24. This was our time of possession time from Saturday. Now I know that TOP isn’t a super valuable statistic by itself (see above Ohio State vs Northwestern), but I think it deserves a bit of a deeper look here. So far in 2019 we have won the TOP battle twice - against USF and now against Miami. I don’t think it’s a huge coincidence that we’re living and dying by TOP. Winning TOP is an indicator of two things: the offense is sustaining drives and the defense is getting stops. As a non-explosive team struggling with consistency, these two core football functions are of a heightened importance to our success. The deeper numbers on this game back this up (shout out Akshay for putting these together): Tech ran 6.7 plays per drive in this game compared to Miami’s 5.8. While that is a little surface-level and out of context, it does indicate that we were controlling this game better than we have been all season.

I think the difference here is that “normal” teams have a zillion factors that go into what they’re doing and whether or not they’re successful at it. For us, we want to simplify and distill the game down as much as possible (sustain drives, get stops), and TOP is an indicator that we did a decent job of that. I would wager that our final W-L total lines up exactly with our final TOP battle W-L at season’s end.

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

Silly games are fun
The state of Florida weeps
We ain’t dead yet y’all

Hope Springs Eternal

The drive at the end of the second half to score was one of the best things I’ve seen from Tech in a while. Too many times we’ve been on the other end of that; too many times we’ve seen our hearts ripped out at the worst times. This time it was our turn. We went 80 yards on 6 plays in 3:22, a pretty flawless execution of the “burn down the clock and score at the end of the half” strategy. This kind of cut-throat closure is a hallmark of good teams and it’s thrilling to see us do it so well. Look at these six plays:

James Graham to Ahmarean Brown for 5 yards

Jordan Mason 12 yard run

Jordan Mason 14 yard run

Jerry Howard 4 yard run

Jordan Mason 5 yard run

James Graham to Ahmarean Brown for 35 yard TD

That’s just beautiful. It’s productive offense that drains the clock and then hits the touchdown dagger. It was a gorgeous few minutes where everything came together in harmony. It was also crucial to us coming away with this victory and represented what I hope is a fundamental program shift.

I talked about this after USF: we have been very bad in recent history at winning close games. The difference here is that Miami is a real ACC opponent and it turns out that USF is very bad (okay, Miami might also be bad, but it’s still a different level). I’ll repeat this sentiment: the 2018 team would’ve lost this game. As Miami was driving down the field late in the fourth I was feeling that familiar anxiety build up in my chest. Instead we blocked the field goal, Jordan Mason dominated overtime, and the defense held up when it mattered most. It subverts everything this program has conditioned us to expect in recent history. This team feels different. It really feels like this team is ready to compete no matter what and it really feels like we’re onto something special.

CGC has been telling us repeatedly that the team is getting better and this feels like an inflection point on that scale. This feels like one of those “get right” wins that can hopefully spark a couple more. It feels like a win that proves to the players that they’re on the right path. I mentioned this in the Mailbag last week, but there are definitely a couple of winnable games left on the schedule. Virginia Tech and NC State jump out as possibilities: VT is a weird team that has pinballed around between “okay” and “super bad” and NC State has basically lost all of their games against real opponents. We also get both of them at home. There’s a path for us to get to four wins; let’s go do it.