The Yellow Jackets took the field this afternoon adorned in white bottoms and tops, shoes to match and all capped with white helmets featuring a gold GT insignia. It was all for Georgia Tech’s annual Whiteout Game, but it was really for so much more. And as if granted a blank slate -- yes, one that even wipes from memory that game from last week -- the Yellow Jackets, led by their fiery first year head coach, Geoff Collins, put on display a bold sample of what their vision for the future of the Yellow Jackets looks like. There were definitely some struggles and it wasn’t a pretty game. But by the end, the Yellow Jackets won 14-10 over the South Florida Bulls securing what would be the first win of the Collins Era.
Lucas Johnson got the starting nod at the quarterback position. An important aspect of Tech’s offense is the ability to run the ball. However, with a QB like Johnson in the game, there’s a legitimate passing threat. For a good portion of the game, though, it was Tech’s running that helped put them ahead.
In the first half alone, the Yellow Jackets were out performed by the Bulls, gaining only 40 passing yards compared to USF’s 76 yards. And as mentioned earlier, it was the running game where the difference came into play. In that first half, Tech out-rushed the Bulls 101 yards to 20. By the end of the game, they had 181 yards to the Bulls 93, nearly double the yardage.
Tech has a huge advantage in having three quarterbacks with varying skill sets. With a dual-threat like Tobias Oliver in the game, USF didn’t seem to know what to expect. Going forward, facing more difficult teams and defenses, it may not be possible to just rotate QBs according to the situation.
The defense may be the brighter spot of this team. One thing it did very well was pressuring the Bulls’ quarterback and breaking up plays. This is partly due to good coverage by the secondary and solid play by the defensive line. The Bulls have some fast receivers and their speed, at times, proved to be a bit much for Tech defenders who struggled on the edge (particularly obvious on screen plays).
The defensive line did a solid job. A late goal line stand proved crucial. Overall, it was very disruptive and did its job and stopping the Bulls.
Just Keep Improving
In his pregame press conference for this week’s game, head coach Collins said the team would continue to focus on improving on all aspects of the game, from communication to fundamentals.
It seems a major part of the problems on offense includes the team’s inability to decide if it’s going to be a run-heavy or pass-heavy team. When rotating a quarterback like Oliver in, who is a running threat, it all but telegraphs to the defense that a running play is coming up. Likewise, when a better passing quarterback like Lucas Johnson is on the field, the defense can anticipate a passing play. Often though, the quarterbacks didn’t seem to be comfortable in the pocket and would panic and scramble. This is something that will need to change.
On at least one play, there were two quarterbacks in, which, to an extent seems like a very sensible strategy. Over time, this team will improve and so will its ability to do a better job at pass protection. The team can run the ball well, as proved by Tech running back Jordan Mason’s performance. But for this team to be the team it wants to be, it will have to find ways to improve its ability to move the ball down the field. And that will require a more effective passing game.
One quick note. The special teams did a wonderful job taking advantage of muffed punt receptions on at least one occasion. Also, the defense did force a critical turnover late in the game on a goal line stand. Perhaps these and the fact that Tech used penalties to its advantage are the most important takeaways from this game.
For the Yellow Jackets to have continued success, they’ll have to make improvements in several key areas. In the post game conference, Coach Collins spoke about the team’s resilience and willingness to keep getting better and playing situational football. “Stay in the moment, and make really good decisions.” said Collins.
Playing situational football means the identity of this team will be hard to determine. “We inherited a roster that’s built a certain way...and we have to play to those strengths,” continued Collins. So, there’s no telling what to expect for next week’s game against the Citadel. For now, the best advice is to expect anything. Perhaps that could play to Tech’s advantage.