Watching Georgia Tech has become an attempt to finding a silver lining each week in hopes of spotting a glimmer of improvement on what appears to be a long rebuild. Tonight, the defense did have a more respectable showing adorned in uniforms paying tribute to the once-dominant defenses of the mid-80s known as the Black Watch.
The offense however cast shades of grey over the performance when they failed to move the ball with any consistency. In previous weeks the offense was usually undone by untimely penalties and turnovers. That area of concern was kept in check for most of the game, but instead, poor execution and conservative play calling was the culprit.
Notre Dame would begin the game on a steady drive of 15 plays that burned nearly nine minutes off the clock. Ian Book routinely found his tight ends open in the middle before capping the drive with an 8-yard pass to Joe Wilkins in the back of the end zone. Tech’s only possession of the first quarter would be a short drive that featured Jahmyr Gibbs picking on short running plays.
The Irish looked to be on another long march but Georgia Tech’s Juanyeh Thomas stripped the ball from Kyren Williams and Zamari Walton recovered to return in 93 yards to tie the game at seven. Notre Dame wouldn’t be denied on the next drive as they went back to Williams on several runs and ultimately punched it in from two yards out after a face mask penalty on Tech continued the drive.
Both teams would trade punts before Tech would fail to convert on 4th down at about midfield on a pitch to Gibbs that never had a chance before Notre Dame’s defense overpowered Tech’s line. The Irish would settle for a field goal from the good field position after Tech’s secondary did a job in coverage forcing Ian Book to make three straight incomplete passes. Tech’s final possession of the half would see the clock expire after very conservative play calling that didn’t appear intent on trying to score.
Tech would start the half with the ball and managed to move quickly thanks to a personal foul and a 39-yard pass to Jalen Camp. It would all be for naught though when on the next play Sims would be sacked and fumbled for the lone turnover on the night for the Jackets. Six plays later the Irish would score again on a drive that only featured run plays.
Another Tech drive would be ended by a sack after short gains but the defense would return the favor to Notre Dame by forcing a three-and-out on a sack by Kaleb Oliver. The Jackets had their chance to put up their first offensive points of the game as they reached the red zone on the next drive but a sack on third down moved them back where Jude Kelley would miss a horrible 44-yard kick.
The start of the fourth saw Notre Dame score one last time after Ian Book gashed Tech on a couple of passes. Tech would manage to score on offense midway through the quarter with Jordan Mason coming in and pounding out the end of the drive with a few hard runs. David Curry did manage an onside recovery on the kickoff but the offense failed to do anything with it. Notre Dame would finish off the clock attempting to score on the final play just short of the goal line despite being up 31-13.
While the loss doesn’t look quite as bad as previous weeks on the scoreboard the game was never truly in doubt after the 2nd quarter. At no point did Tech’s offense ever get into a rhythm to threaten the Irish lead. Most of that was due to Sims being pressured and delivering some passes that would miss their mark to open receivers. The usually shifty Gibbs also failed to break away from the defensive pursuit when he was often met in the backfield.
Defensively, the tackling did look better tonight and there was some pass rush including two sacks against what should be one of the better offensive lines in the country. The linebackers still seem to be a weak spot as teams use tight ends over the middle and run support has been spotty.
This game felt like Georgia Tech was just overmatched from a talent standpoint which is to be expected. It was a lot cleaner than last week’s loss and with a bye coming up there will be plenty of time to focus on fixing more of the issues like kicking and blocking. Pitt will be coming to town after and it is a winnable game if the offense is up to the challenge of a normally stingy Pitt defense.