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Advanced Stats Review: GT vs. NC State

This was a game that went according to expectation, but it’s disappointing to see the same points of failure plague us.

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Jeff Sochko/Tim Cowie Photograph

Final Score: NC State 23-13

FTRS Model Prediction: NCSU by 10

Projected EPA Margin of Victory: NCSU by 15.5

GT Win Probability (Based on Success Rate, Yards Per Play, and EPA): 19%

Georgia Tech took the field in Raleigh Saturday afternoon without 10 Above the Line players, due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 protocols. The defense was hit harder by the losses but fought to keep GT in the game; the offense ran the ball well again but could do nothing in the passing game. Across the board, NC State was the better team, and Georgia Tech approaches its final two (scheduled) games looking another 3 win season in the face.

Although this game was lower scoring than we had predicted, our projection model actually hit the point differential on the nose. Neither team turned the ball over, and NCSU’s advantage in the passing game proved to be the difference.

Success Rate Comparisons and Individual Player Advanced Stats

GT NCSU Success Rates

Success Rate O GT Offense D NC State Offense National Avg
Success Rate O GT Offense D NC State Offense National Avg
Down 1 45.20% 1 41.90%
2 32.00% 2 50.00%
3 52.60% 3 50.00%
4 0.00% 4 0.00%
Qtr 1 20.00% 1 40.90%
2 51.90% 2 64.30%
3 52.40% 3 41.70%
4 26.70% 4 40.00%
Pass P 36.80% P 48.80% 41%
Rush R 45.00% R 40.70% 42%
Overall 41.00% 45.60% 42%
Success rate is the baseline metric for efficiency. As a reminder, a successful play gains 50% of the needed yards on 1st down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down.

Georgia Tech’s rushing attack once again carried its weight, while the passing game faltered. On defense, GT struggled to consistently stop both the run and the pass. As we saw last week, Georgia Tech was able to build on its strengths and increase its success rate from the first quarter through the third, but the inability to consistently throw the football proved to be the offense’s undoing in the decisive fourth quarter.

GT NCSU Rushing Performance

Running Backs Carries Rushing Success Rate Highlight Yards
Running Backs Carries Rushing Success Rate Highlight Yards
Sims 6 0.83 43.5
Griffin 2 1 14.5
Mason 21 0.43 37.5
Smith 8 0.25 19.5
McCollum 1 0 0

As expected, the offense missed star running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Jordan Mason carried the load admirably, putting up a respectable 43% rushing success rate. The difference, of course, comes in finishing explosive runs. Last week, Jahmyr Gibbs put up 72 highlight yards on just 6 carries; Mason managed 37.5 highlight yards on 21 carries. Dontae Smith unfortunately wasn’t able to match Gibb’s explosiveness, succeeding on only 25% of his carries and adding just 19.5 highlight yards. Jeff Sims was excellent in the run game, succeeding on 5 out of 6 called runs including 43.5 highlight yards. The offense would have benefitted from him taking a few more carries.

GT NCSU Receiving Performance

Receivers Receiving Success Rate Avg Target Air Yards Targets % of Team Air Yards YACatch
Receivers Receiving Success Rate Avg Target Air Yards Targets % of Team Air Yards YACatch
Camp 1 11 2 8.30% 0
Sanders 0.78 13.89 9 47.17% 30
Carter 0 13.8 5 26.04% 0
Harris 0 8.5 2 6.42% 1
Griffin 0 -3 1 -1.13% 0
Mason 0 2.5 2 1.89% 3
Smith 0 2 1 0.75% 0
McCollum 0.5 8 2 6.04% 4

Perhaps more surprisingly, GT may have missed Gibbs even more in the passing game than in the running game. Gibbs has been an explosive target out of the backfield this year and has been an effective safety valve for Jeff Sims on many third down plays. This week, the running backs had no successful receptions on four targets. The entire passing game came down to Adonicas Sanders; he had 7 successful receptions out of 9 targets and added 30 yards after the catch, compared to 8 for the rest of the team. Malachi Carter has been a massive disappointment over the second half of the season, and Jalen Camp is not able to effectively get open often enough against man coverage. Without weapons like Gibbs and Ahmarean Brown, Jeff Sims did not manage a single completion more than 20 yards down the field.

GT NCSU Pass Coverage

Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed
Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed
Thomas 5 2.50%
Carpenter 8 2.25%
Sims 1 47.00%
Walton 9 4.52%
K. Johnson 6 24.95%
Walker 3 23.40%
Jackson 1 66.60%

In the secondary, Georgia Tech was missing Tre Swilling and Kaleb Oliver for the game, as well as Avery Showell, who entered the transfer portal this week. The absence of Swilling loomed large. Zamari Walton was targeted heavily, especially when he had coverage on Emeka Emezie. Walton had two defensive pass interference penalties in addition to giving up 4.5% completion over expectation. Kenan Johnson started in Swilling’s stead and was torched for 25% completion over expectation on 6 targets. Not a single player on the GT defense was responsible for a negative CPOE. This was a team failure in pass defense, with a few notable standout struggles.

Let’s turn now to the full advanced box score to see more about where the game was lost.

Advanced Stats Comparison

GT NCSU Advanced Box Score

Adv Box Score GT NC State National Avg
Adv Box Score GT NC State National Avg
Snap Count 78 69 71.5
# Pass Plays Called 38 41 31
Avg Starting FP 77.2 73.73 70.5
YPP 4.88 5.89 5.7
YPA (incl. sacks, scrambles) 4.45 8 7.39
% of Passes on 1st Down 39% 52% 40.17%
% of runs on 2nd and long 57% 20% 39.80%
Avg EPA/play -0.03 0.18 -0.01
Avg EPA/pass 0.01 0.43 0
Total EPA -2.48 13.05 -0.96
Avg Air Yards / Completion 8.62 11.45 6.14
Air Yards / Attempt 9.81 13.37 8.89
CP 48.15% 62.86% 62.54%
CPOE -11.73% 9.11% 0.00%
Total Line Yards 164 109.5 2.55
Opportunity Rate 55.00% 55.56% 42.42%
Power Success Rate 50.00% 50.00% 68.60%
Stuff Rate (Offense) 27.50% 18.52% 19.17%
Havoc Rate 17% 26% 21.00%
Pressure Rate 22% 34% 30.70%

What made the difference in this one?

  • The Offensive Line: One position that was not missing any starters was the offensive line. It didn’t matter. The unit that was ranked 123rd out of 127 FBS teams by PFF this week showed why on Saturday. They allowed pressure on 34% of called passing plays and gave up a 26% havoc rate, both well above the national average. Though GT succeeded on 45% of its running plays, the OL also allowed a 27.5% run stuff rate. The high success rate was heavily reliant on the tackle breaking of Jordan Mason and the elusiveness of Jeff Sims. Sims had very little time to throw, and GT succeeded on only 50% of its power run opportunities, well below the national average of 69%.
  • Passing Offense and Defense: NC State outgunned GT by a margin of 8.0-4.5 yards per attempt on called passing plays. NC State averaged 0.43 EPA/called passing play, while GT averaged 0.01. Bailey Hockman completed 9.1% more of his passes than expected based on depth of target, while Jeff Sims completed 11.7% less of his passes than expected. NCSU dominated the passing game, and it won them the game.

EPA Highlights

EPA calculates the expected number of points added (or lost in the case of a negative number) on a particular play based on the down and the location on they field. Akshay Easwaran did a great job priming us for EPA this summer. Check out his column here for background.

The EPA totals for this game leave us with a 16 point projected win for NCSU. Neither team turned the ball over, so the EPA margin in this game gives a very good picture of the play to play effectiveness of both teams. Now, we’ll take a look at the most helpful and hurtful plays for GT.

Most Helpful Plays

  1. Jeff Sims’s 33 yard touchdown run on 2nd and 10 early in the 2nd quarter. 3.45 EPA.
  2. Jeff Sims’s 10 yard scramble on 3rd and 10 from the GT 25 followed by an NCSU targeting penalty to give GT 1st and 10 at the 50 in the middle of the 3rd quarter. 3.30 EPA
  3. Jeff Sims’s 14 yard scramble on 3rd and 12 from the GT 23 in the first quarter. 2.62 EPA.
  4. The Georgia Tech defense holding NCSU to no gain on a 4th and 1 run at the GT 10. 2.35 EPA.
  5. Jeff Sims’s 12 yard completion to Jalen Camp on 3rd and 10 from the GT 27 on the opening drive of the game. 2.34 EPA.

The three best plays for GT in this game were Jeff Sims runs, although two were scrambles on called passing plays. The lack of explosiveness in the passing game and from the running backs is apparent here. Gibbs was deeply missed.

Most Hurtful Plays

  1. Georgia Tech’s failed 4th and 2 attempt from the NCSU 34 in the middle of the second quarter. -3.49 EPA.
  2. On the subsequent drive, Bailey Hockman completed a pass of 36 yards on 3rd and 5 from the GT 43 to the GT 7. -3.33 EPA.
  3. Bailey Hockman’s 22 yard completion on 3rd and 5 from the NCSU 40 in the middle of the 3rd quarter. -2.90 EPA.
  4. Bailey Hockman’s 33 yard pass on 1st and 10 from the NCSU 12 early in the second quarter. -2.53 EPA..
  5. Jeff Sims’s 4 yard completion to Jordan Mason on 4th and 6 from the NCSU 17 at the end of the 2nd quarter. -2.50 EPA.

Georgia Tech’s most harmful plays of the game came on two failed fourth down attempts and three chunk passing plays from Bailey Hockman. That tells the good story of how this game went very well.

Tracking Season Goals

*I set these goals for the 2020 season in some of my offseason preview work. We will be tracking them as we go this year.

GT NCSU Season Goals

Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Offensive Passing Success Rate >40% 37% 41%
Offensive Power Success Rate >70% 50% 71%
Defensive Power Success Rate <70% 50% 80%
Defensive Stuff Rate >20% 19 18%
Defensive Havoc Rate >21% 17% 16%

As you can see above, Georgia Tech hit only one its five goals on Saturday. Passing success has continued to decline as the season has progressed, which is discouraging. The lack of power success was covered above as just one example of the offensive line’s failure this week. The defensive front did an admirable job considering how much depth was compromised at defensive end, but they ultimately weren’t able to provide enough disruption.

Takeaways

  1. The offensive line is a massive liability, and the answer is not clear. Georgia Tech has started the same five linemen in every game this season. Injury luck and consistency have been on our side. We have not improved, and we have only seen one of the freshmen offensive linemen play, so any expected bump next year is unclear. This is likely going to be a significant liability through next season at least.
  2. Last week, takeaway number 2 was “Jahmyr Gibbs is a generational talent.” This week, it is “Boy, did we miss Jahmyr Gibbs.” In both the rushing and passing games, a significant explosive element was removed. A red zone weapon was on the sideline. I doubt that we will see Jahmyr again this year, and that is going to make things that much tougher for Sims against two stout defenses in the final two weeks.
  3. The most promising source of disruption on the defense continues to be the young defensive lineman. Even without our best pass rusher, Jordan Domineck, there were glimmers of encouragement. Khaya Wright had an early pressure, Jared Ivey had two quarterback pressures, and Kyle Kennard took advantage of his most significant playing time of the season to contribute 1.5 sacks. Keep getting them reps!

Another significant challenge faced the Georgia Tech football team and staff as they faced NC State without 10 key players. Unfortunately, the season-long struggles on the offensive line and in the secondary continued in the Wolfpack’s 10 point win. This was a game that went very much according to expectation, but it’s disappointing nonetheless to see the same failures continue along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield. The talent upgrades must continue, and we need to see improvement in player deployment and development.