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Tuesday Thoughts 10/13: Running Up the Score is Fun

In which we talk trick plays, navy, and being classy

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

There’s always something special about Thursday or Friday night games in Bobby Dodd, and it’s good to see 2020 can’t take that away from us. Win aside, that was a fun game to watch. Both teams played well and finally winning the turnover battle was the difference maker for the Jackets.

Game Recap in Three Sentences

46 is the highest point total Tech has reached in the Collins era, and they did it with a very balanced attack and some timely big plays.

Turnovers were the difference maker, with Tech earning 3 while giving up none.

Jeff Sims played his best game of the season, passing for 249 yards and 2 TDs while adding 60 yards and 1 TD on the ground.

#404 Swag Champion of the Game

Ahmarean Brown got himself an awesome highlight reel play by throwing a touchdown on a trick play at the end of the first half. I’m trying to think of the last time we ran a play like that and I’m really not coming up with anything (lemme know in the comments if I’m missing one), and it was neat to see some genuine creativity work well.

Uniform Rating

I’m still going back and forth on how I feel about all-navy, but currently I’m leaning towards liking them. The gold really pops on them and I think all-navy is definitely better than just navy pants or something.

ATLeast We Ain’t Them of the Week

Every SEC defense - what the heck happened? I thought y’all played defense over there?

Above The Line of the Week

  • Punt fakes. PHIII went viral on twitter yet again by wonderfully selling a botched snap on our converted fake punt. Just like the trick play, it’s cool to see us be more comfortable trying stuff like this.
  • Night games. I mentioned it in the introduction, but night games in Bobby Dodd really are special. The 20% crowd felt loud on TV, the new LED lights were cool, and the players elevated their game. What more could you ask for?
  • A clean turnover sheet. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Stat of the Week

4. We’re now on a streak of 4 straight games with 400+ yards of offense. The last time that happened in a single season was during a run of 5 games in 2014 of 483, 611, 612, 409, and 549. If we can hang on to our 453 yards/game average it would also be the highest season mark since 2014.

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

Ah, Friday night lights
Running up the score is fun
Card’nals don’t have teeth

Running Up the Score is Fun

Spare me the “it’s not classy” lines - if you turn the ball over in your own redzone and THEN call a timeout with 30 seconds left it’s your own [DETERMINATION] fault. That’s a ridiculous timeout to call as we’re running down the clock up 12 at home. Either punt from your own 20 or let the clock burn and go home.

Ranting aside, when was the last time we got to run up the score on someone? It’s been a while and I almost forgot how good it feels. It’s the feeling of control, the feeling that you know with 100% confidence that you are walking away from this game with a W. It’s a level of certainty that we just haven’t had in a year and a half and I would kill for more of it; I want it injected straight into my veins.

This feels like a bit of an inflection point for the Collins era, a milestone on our path to sustained national relevance. In Year 0 any success was gravy. There were no real expectations and no high stakes - the team was just finding its identity and getting reps. We played a few good games, but we didn’t look particularly great in any of them. Now in Year 1 things are looking a little better - the offense is finding its rhythm (450 yards per game vs 287 in 2019), we’ve identified our young stars to build around in Sims and Gibbs, and we’re starting to dictate games a little more. Florida State was a good hard-fought win. Syracuse was a bit of a relapse, but UCF saw us hang with a ranked team for a while. And now Louisville is the next step - taking a close game and blowing it wide open in the second half. With 90 seconds left in the first half it was a 7-21 game. We then went on a 39-6 run. That is a marked improvement in game control. Being able to do something like that is another level up from where we’ve been recently. It’s like a weird Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: first we need to get wins however we can, then we need to hang in games and win some, then we need to win games with certainty.

And no, Louisville isn’t exactly cream of the crop competition, but they are a solid Power 5 conference opponent with decent expectations of their own - SP+ projected them as a 6/7 win team. Being in a position to run up the score on them is no joke.

Now here’s the challenge for the rest of the season: match expectations. We have 7 games left. Of those, SP+ favors us in three (BC, Duke, NC State). Also keep in mind that we always play Pitt and Miami close. If all we do is win the ones we’re favored in and lose the ones we aren’t (respectably of course) then I’ll be perfectly happy to finish 5-6. Don’t let this Louisville game be a flash in the pan. Show that we can shoulder expectations and win conference games. This season is the litmus test - if we can get 5 wins now then I’m confident we can shoot for 7 or 8 in 2021.

Look Ahead

Up next is the Clemson war machine - Saturday, noon, ABC. Look, there’s a good chance this game is rough. The Tigers just dismantled a very good Miami team and have looked to be in late-season form already. Still, I think there’s a good chance we can hold our own and make it respectable. Clemson opened as 26.5 point favorites and that feels about right. I honestly would feel pretty good about something like 14-40 or 17-45. It would represent a big improvement over last season’s 38 point gap and as long as we lose well (limit turnovers, sustain good drives, make a few defensive stops, don’t get blown out), I’m happy to move on to the rest of our schedule.