Welcome back, Yellow Jacket fans. If you’re like me, the possibility of another 3-win season has sunk in. I believe myself to be a hopeful optimist, and after starting the season 2-2, I really thought this team could piece together a respectable record. The road would be tough, but I thought seven wins was more than achievable. Now, seven is impossible. Six is pretty much impossible (at ND, vs UGA to close it out... oof). Five would be a shock. And four feels like a coin flip. So as a fan, I’m working to direct my optimism towards next year while hoping this team can finish the season competitively.
Last week, I said you wouldn’t find very many positives in the report card, and you might not find very many this week, but I’m going to try. I love watching these players play, I really do. As much as it hurts knowing that five of the six losses this season have been by less than 10 points, I am at least watching every single game to the final whistle (yes... even Pitt). I honestly can’t say that about some of the games in 2019 and 2020. Is that a sign that the program is moving in a positive direction? I’m not saying that. I’m just saying these players are a lot of fun to watch, and Saturday’s game gave us some pretty exciting moments.
Now, on to the grading.
Fortunately, the interception that Sims threw at the end of the first quarter resulted in 0 points for the Hurricanes, but it was a poorly thrown ball and gave Miami possession inside Tech territory with another chance to extend their lead. Right before that play, Sims was tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 7, which isn’t necessarily his fault, but it was a theme of the day as it seemed like he could never get the read option going. He finished the day rushing for -8 yards on 11 attempts (sacks included) and only completed 55% of his passes for 194 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.
Running Backs: A
Man... this was arguably the best performance by this unit all season. Unfortunately, we still lost the game. Despite Miami winning the battle in the trenches for much of the day, Tech’s RB unit finished with 149 yards on 18 carries (8.3 yards per carry) and also tallied 101 yards receiving. The two biggest offensive highlights of the game were a 71-yard run by Jordan Mason and a 50-yard screen play to Jahmyr Gibbs, both resulting in TDs. The third biggest highlight was a 29-yard TD run by Gibbs early in the second quarter to tie the game.
The explosiveness and power of those two running backs is a sight to behold. Dontae Smith has shown his ability this season, as well. This just wasn’t his day.
Wide Receivers/TEs: D+
Georgia Tech ran the ball 32 times and threw the ball 38 times on Saturday. Still, the receiving corps was unable to eclipse 100 yards. To be somewhat fair, 1⁄3 of the pass plays were screens or check-down passes to the RBs, but it never felt like the GT wideouts were able to consistently get open.
Also, late in the game, there was a costly holding penalty against TE Dylan Leonard that erased what would have been a first down. Tech had the ball with a chance to take the lead, but that penalty put them behind schedule and the offense wouldn’t recover.
Offensive Line: C-
If you take away the three explosive TDs, Miami’s front seven all but lived in the backfield on Saturday afternoon. In fact, the success GT had throwing the ball to RBs was in large part due to the pressure Miami was getting up front. Credit to CDP for seeing that. The read option struggled to get going on a consistent basis, and Jeff Sims was sacked three times. The 8 total TFLs match Clemson’s performance against GT and are the second most given up all season (10 - Pitt).
Total Offense: C
Georgia Tech’s three offensive TD’s accounted for 150 of the 329 total yards accumulated on the day. We converted less than 50% of the third down attempts and looked sloppy in key situations towards the end of the game. Penalties were an issue for the second straight game, and fortunately Jeff Sims fell on a few fumbles or else this game could have been way worse than it ended up being.
You never like to be on the bad end of a record being broken, and Bally Sports kept showing Charleston Rambo’s numbers as he became the first Miami WR to reel in 200 yards and a TD in a single game since 2014. This is now the third straight game that featured a Tech secondary being picked apart, only this time it was by a backup QB. After the first play of the second half, which was a 60-yard bomb to Rambo, Tyler Van Dyke had already thrown for nearly 300 yards.
There were some pretty big positives. Juanyeh Thomas forced a huge fumble that resulted in that TD return by Jaylon King. Thomas also intercepted a 2-point conversion and returned it 100 yards the other way to keep GT within striking distance.
Despite most of the damage coming through the air, Miami’s primary RB Jaylan Knighton still found 162 yards on the ground, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The one sack against Miami QB Van Dyke came from a secondary blitz by Juanyeh Thomas, as the linebackers struggled to consistently get pressure in the backfield.
He didn’t kill us on the ground, but there were a few occasions where the Tech defense allowed Van Dyke to escape the pocket and scramble for a first down.
Defensive Line: C+
I’m going with the C+ because although pressure wasn’t great throughout the day, and although Miami found success on the ground when they needed to, the defensive line held strong on two pretty important fourth down stops to give the Yellow Jackets a chance to win. Both of those plays came in the second half. They aren’t considered turnovers, but they were huge plays.
Total Defense: C-
This grade may seem generous when you look at some of Miami’s offensive statistics, but the fumble TD by Jaylon King and the two-point conversion interception return by Juanyeh Thomas were unbelievable plays that helped keep Georgia Tech in this football game. Not to mention the other two fumbles, one of which the Yellow Jackets ended up converting into 7 points, and the fourth down stops I just mentioned.
Special Teams: D+
We’ve seen some pretty exciting special teams by the Yellow Jackets this season. It appeared we would see another display of that on Saturday as Jahmyr took the opening kickoff 38 yards to give the Tech offense a short field. Shanahan had a few punts that pinned Miami deep inside their own territory, but punt coverage did allow one 16-yard return that resulted in a FG for the Hurricanes. I’m never going to be too difficult on a college kicker for missing a 50-yard FG, but grad transfer Brent Cimaglia has been around for a while so you would hope those become more routine as time goes on. It wasn’t a pressure situation or anything... But we did lose by a FG.
Earlier, I mentioned Coach Patenaude exploiting Miami’s aggressive defense for some big plays to the RBs out of the backfield, so I do want to reiterate that. Miami has struggled at times this year, but they are always fast and always talented. I thought there were some moments that showed the coaching staff was outsmarting its counterparts. Defensively, however, there was no answer for the Miami offense. Miami averaged 9 yards on first down. It’s nearly impossible to stop an opposing offense when you’re giving up that kind of yardage. The only thing that kept Georgia Tech in this game was winning the turnover battle.
Also, for the second straight game, penalties have arguably cost Georgia Tech a win. Against Virginia Tech, the penalties actually wiped points off the board. In this game, a really dumb blindside blocking penalty on a kickoff and an unnecessary holding penalty on a first down conversion erased huge plays that would have put Georgia Tech in a position to march down the field and take the lead. Both of those penalties were in the fourth quarter. The lack of discipline in that area falls directly on the coaches’ shoulders.
That wasn’t that negative, was it? Maybe it’s naivete, maybe it’s foolishness, or maybe I’m still riding the high of the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series, but I do believe Georgia Tech is making progress. I also believe it’s taking longer than it needs to, but I think we’re headed in the right direction. In its losses over the past three years, Georgia Tech fell by average deficits of 22, 24, and 9 (2019, 2020, 2021, respectively). That 2021 number is likely to change, and I know the “we only lost by x” argument can be viewed as a loser’s argument, but the players are fighting, and I will be at all three remaining games foolishly cheering on this team. I just hope South Bend warms up a tad...
See you all next week. Go Jackets!