clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Georgia Tech Football: GT Defense vs. FSU Advanced Stats Review

Georgia Tech’s defense couldn’t match the speed and physicality of Florida State on Saturday

Georgia Tech v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Final Score: Florida State 41, Georgia Tech 16

Model Prediction: FSU by 22, GT to cover: Incorrect

Projected EPA (Offense and Defense) Margin of Victory: FSU by 19

GT Win Probability (Based on Success Rate, Yards Per Play, and EPA): 3%

Georgia Tech suffered its first thorough beatdown under Brent Key amidst quarterback uncertainty and disappointing play across the board. The offense was about as hapless as we expected, but the defense was much worse than it had shown in recent weeks. Georgia Tech benefitted from about 7.5 points of turnover luck, scored a meaningless touchdown with no time left, and still lost by 25. The box score number that told the story of this one is that Florida State had 24 points at the half, while Georgia Tech had 24 yards. Let’s dig into some more of the numbers to try and understand what all went wrong for Tech in Tallahassee.

Advanced Stats Comparison

Florida State dominated this game across the board. The only meaningful advantage for GT in this game came in EPA/rush, and that happened only because Florida State’s number there was wildly impacted by two fumbles on running plays. Otherwise, Florida State controlled the game from start to finish.

When Florida State Had the Ball

This was Georgia Tech’s worst defensive showing of the season against the pass and perhaps the worst overall. Poor tackling was a point of emphasis after the game, and the numbers back that up. PFF graded GT’s tackling at 28.7 against the Seminoles; the previous season low was 55.3. FSU met or exceeded most of their season averages against a Georgia Tech defense that we were increasingly excited about. This game reminded once again of some of the athletic and physicality deficiencies that come out against more talented offenses. UNC and UGA will test Tech at the those same pressure points in coming weeks.

Rushing Defense

On a down to down basis, this was Georgia Tech’s second worst rushing defense game of the season, ahead of only Ole Miss. As mentioned above, the EPA/rush number is extremely misleading because of the two costly fumbles by FSU, including one that included a long return by Charlie Thomas. Without those two plays, FSU’s EPA/rush would have been more more like 0.25, which is about an 80th percentile performance. The opportunity rate of 57% (percentage of runs that gained four or more yards) tells the much truer story; that’s a 99th percentile performance from the FSU backs in that category. Georgia Tech also stuffed only 5% of Seminole runs, which is anemic.

Looking at run defense on an individual basis, the first disappointing things to notice was the lackluster performance by one of the young guys we had pegged to watch for the rest of the season: Trenilyas Tatum had a meager 26.4 run defense grade. The walk-on defensive tackle Jason Moore had the run best defense grade for GT, but that was mostly against FSU back ups. Amongst starters in the defensive front, Keion White led the way at 70, Noah Collins came in at 67.2, Ace Eley at 62.9, Charlie Thomas at 59.1, Kyle Kennard at 55.8, and D’Quan Douse really struggled at 49.6. The front didn’t fit gaps and finish plays like it had in previous weeks.

Defensive Disruption

From a play-finishing perspective, the defensive disruption was almost non-existent. In run stuff rate, the GT defense put up a 12th percentile performance and only a 20th percentile performance in havoc rate. The one bright spot was that the pass rush was effective again. The pressure rate was above average, and that pressure really affected Jordan Travis. Travis had a 47 passing grade and 2.6 yards per attempt when pressured but had a 92 grade and 13.5 yards per attempt when not pressured. Keion White also led the way here with five pressures, while Eley added three and Akelo Stone and Kyle Kennard had two each.

Pass Coverage

Continuing the theme of the day, the pass coverage was also the worst it has been all year. At the team level, the defense had really bad performances in EPA/pass allowed and CPOE allowed. Travis completed deeper pass than we would normally expect, and then the secondary struggled to get guys to the ground. After holding UVA receivers to less than three yards after the catch last week, FSU receivers had 7.8 on average. Allowing a high average depth of target, a high CPOE, and high yards after the catch is a bad, bad recipe.

Breakout star LaMiles Brooks was solid, pacing the secondary the way with a 69.9 coverage grade. In his few snaps subbing for Brooks, Derrik Allen continued to really struggle. The lack of depth in the secondary we identified last week reared its head against Florida State. Elsewhere in the backend, Clayton Powell-Lee was ok at 61.2, K.J. Wallace just under replacement level at 58, Myles Sims down at 56, Zamari Walton at 52 before leaving with a foot injury, and backup Kenyatta Watson struggling at 49. The one other noticeable grade here was Keion White all the way down at 28.7, almost entirely because of the sim pressure play that led to a touchdown pass to Toafili, which Coach Key talked about extensively in his postgame press conference.

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.

As always, we’ll take a look at the most helpful and hurtful plays for GT.

Most Helpful Plays

  1. 10.32 EPA - Charlie Thomas fumble recovery on 3rd and Goal for FSU, returned to FSU 24
  2. 5.87 EPA - Zach Pyron 32 yard touchdown to EJ Jenkins on 3rd and 13 in the third quarter
  3. 5.21 EPA - Toafili fumble recovered by Noah Collins at the GT 34

In a roundabout way, these plays highlight just how dysfunctional the GT offense was on Saturday. Even with two hugely impactful fumbles, the offense couldn’t move the ball at all in the first half and unsurprisingly failed to convert the Thomas return into a touchdown. The Jenkins touchdown was a fun play but came after the game was all but over. Georgia Tech’s didn’t put up anything meaningful in non-garbage time in this one.

Most Hurtful Plays

  1. 6.51 EPA - Jordan Travis 78 yard touchdown pass to Johnny Wilson
  2. 6.05 EPA - Jordan Travis 62 yard touchdown pass to Lawrance Toafili

These two plays highlight the defense’s immense struggles covering and tackling, as both included poor tackling attempts after medium length completions that allowed these plays to turn into long touchdowns. This defensive performance looked too much like 2021; hopefully, it was a blip on the radar and not a harbinger of more to come.

Tracking Season Goals

*I set these goals for the 2022 season in some of my offseason preview work. We will be tracking them as we go this year.

GT Season Goals vs. FSU

Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
GT CPOE >= 2% 1.00% -4.50%
Pressure Rate Allowed <=26% 39% 34%
Run Rate on 2nd Down and Long <=40% 47% 56%
Average Depth of Target >=9 7.7 9.1
Defensive Passing EPA/play <= 0.08 0.43 0.03
Defensive Havoc Rate >=18% 12% 16%
Defensive Pressure Rate >= 27% 33% 30%

Every single goal was missed in this one except for pressure rate; the Keion White led pass rush continues to be improved and impactful. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else to appreciate in this game. All of the offensive goals continue to sit well under water for the season, and there’s not much reason to expect improvement at this point in the year.


  1. This was an unsurprising offensive result coupled with a very disappointing showing on the defensive side of the ball. The offensive line makes it nearly impossible to sustain drives for any quarterback right now, and the defense folded to FSU’s physicality and speed. It was good for Zach Pyron to get reps, but he’s far from being ready to lead a winning effort against a good opponent. At this point, it looks to be a tossup whether we get Sims or Pyron in Blacksburg.
  2. Looking forward, not much changes for the outlook of the team. This was an expected loss, even if it was a bit more lopsided on a play to play basis than we thought. Virginia Tech looks to be about a coin flip, and Miami is almost there as well as the Hurricanes’ level of play continues to decline. The most likely outcome is grabbing one win out of the last four; getting stuck at three again would be a tough pill for the fanbase to swallow, but a new coach has his work cut out for him either way.