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

Georgia Tech was aggressive and competitive, and that made COFH fun to watch for the first time in years.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Final Score: Georgia 37, Georgia Tech 14

Model Prediction: UGA by 45, UGA to cover: Incorrect

Projected EPA (Offense and Defense) Margin of Victory: UGA by 26.9

GT Win Probability (Based on Success Rate, Yards Per Play, and EPA): 4%

Georgia Tech led after the first quarter, trailed by only three at the half, and competed into the third quarter until two crucial mistakes opened the flood gates against the best team in the country. The Jackets were more competitive and more resilient than Vegas or most models would have expected; hats off to the staff and players for that. We said going in that we wanted to see a level of aggression that would be risky but also signal a drive to compete, even against such a tough opponent. We got that on both sides of the ball, and it made COFH fun to watch for the first time in years. Let’s dig into what the numbers have to say about Tech’s final game of the 2022 season.

Advanced Stats Comparison

The only categories where GT held an advantage are connected to the game flow and play calling decisions, but those numbers do help tell the story of the game. Georgia Tech threw the ball aggressively, including on first down and second and long plays. After last year’s pitiful game plan of run, run, throw short, it was great to see some boldness in the play-calling. On defense, GT faced a steady barrage of rushing attempts and held up remarkably well against the pass other than on one play.

The huge imbalance in the field position numbers shows how tough the spots were that the defense faced for most of the day. Georgia started its average drive almost at midfield, and the defense did quite well to keep them at 20 points through the late third quarter. Looking at the metrics where UGA did hold an advantage, some of the margins are much smaller than would be expected, particularly in the passing game. GT also nearly matched UGA in explosive play rate, although the efficiency numbers went heavily towards Georgia.

When Georgia Had the Ball

GT held Georgia to right around its season averages in EPA/play and success rate and below its average in yards per play. The UGA offense was slightly better than its average in explosive play rate, stuff rate allowed, and havoc rate allowed. Given the caliber of defenses Georgia has played, holding them to about their averages was a good showing for the GT defense.

Rushing Defense

As we imagined, the run defense had a tough day. The defense ended up with a below average run stuff rate, while allowing well above average opportunity rate and line yards allowed. Georgia was able to hit its average EPA/rush, and it would would have been even better without the late Carson Beck fumble. The Dawgs also hit 4 explosive runs (1.8 EPA or more), which was more than I hoped or expected. Overall, the team run defense grade actually ended up at a worst of the year 46.

At the individual level, the best grades against the run came in the secondary, which usually doesn’t augur great success. Clayton Powell-Lee led the way at 78, followed by Kenan Johnson at 74, Zamari Walton at 67, and LaMiles Brooks at 64. The linebackers had a pretty rough day against the run, with Charlie Thomas grading at 50, Ace Eley at 52, and Trenilyas Tatum playing a lot more but also ending up at 50. Keion White had the best day amongst the front, grading out at 69. Zeek Biggers was also solid at 63, while the rest mostly struggled. D’Quan Douse finished at 56, Makius Scott at 54, Sylvain Yondjouen struggled at 44, Jason Moore was at 47, and Kyle Kennard finishes things out at 48. As expected, it was a tough time stopping the run.

Defensive Disruption

After markedly improving in most disruption metrics over the second half of the year, Saturday was tough. The defense managed only an 8th percentile havoc rate and a 22nd percentile pressure rate. That pressure rate came while blitzing on 55% of Bennett’s drop backs; the extra guys simply couldn’t get home. Keion White and Ace Eley managed 2 pressures each, while no one else ended with more than 1. Of course, this was a very tough offensive line for GT’s defenders to penetrate against. There’s not a weak point for Georgia up front, Tech doesn’t have the athletes to win those battles, and the difference was too much to scheme against on Saturday.

Pass Coverage

This year’s biggest improvement continued again on Saturday. The secondary, even with two true freshman starters, acquitted itself well. Holding Stetson Bennett to a negative CPOE is outstanding. Given the limited number of drop backs Bennett took, the EPA and yards per drop back numbers were pumped up significantly by the one 83 yard play. Otherwise, the pass defense was smothering. That one wheel route seems like a design flaw; FSU was able to get Keion White one on one on a nearly identical play, and Georgia took advantage of White simply not having the foot speed to keep up with a back on a play like that. UGA averaged 9 yards after the catch, but without the wheel play, that number would have been down at 4.3, which is quite good.

Overall, PFF had the team coverage grade at 64, which is about average for GT for the year. At the individual level, Powell-Lee once again showed out and led the way at 73, Myles Sims, was close behind at 70, Charlie Thomas was solid at 65, LaMiles Brooks had a bit of a down game at 64, and Zamari Walton was still above average at 63. Making his first start and getting his first significant defensive snaps, Rodney Shelley understandably struggled at 42.

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. 5.7 EPA - 4th and 9 from the UGA 41, 34 yard pass from Gibson to McCollum on the opening drive of the game to set up a score.
  2. 4.7 EPA - 4th and 1 from UGA 24, half back pass from Dontae Smith to Malachi Carter, which was a fun ending to Carter’s long career on the Flats
  3. 3.5 EPA - Carson Beck fumble in garbage time

It’s fitting that Georgia Tech’s most impactful play was the one that had fans roaring and excited early on. Last year’s best EPA play for GT against UGA was worth 1.53 EPA. Actually trying to and hitting a couple of explosives in this one was real progress. The other two most helpful plays for GT came in garbage time, but it was good to see the team continue battling once things got away.

Most Hurtful Plays

  1. -4.6 EPA - Jamie Felix fumble on 1st and 10 at GT 25, as the game was getting out of hand
  2. -4.3 EPA - 83 yard pass from Stetson Bennett to Kenny McIntosh on 1st and 10 from UGA’s 13
  3. -3.7 EPA - 44 yard Kendall Milton TD run in 4th quarter
  4. -3.4 EPA - Shanahan fumbled snap, UGA takes over on GT 17
  5. -3.0 EPA - Kenny McIntosh 45 yard run on 1st and 10 to GT 35 to setup UGA’s first touchdown

The biggest helpers for Georgia were two massive GT mistakes and three chunk plays that were largely responsible for three Georgia touchdowns. Jamie Felix played well for GT down the stretch of the season, and it had to be disappointing for him to put the ball on the ground in that situation. It was frustrating to have another blunder with the punt team on a self-inflicted wound. Overall, special teams cost GT about 7.0 Expected Points on Saturday.

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. UGA

Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
GT CPOE >= 2% -6.90% -4.60%
Pressure Rate Allowed <=26% 21% 33%
Run Rate on 2nd Down and Long <=40% 31% 53%
Average Depth of Target >=9 7.3 8.3
Defensive Passing EPA/play <= 0.08 0.45 0.03
Defensive Havoc Rate >=18% 8% 16%
Defensive Pressure Rate >= 27% 20% 31%

Georgia Tech was almost certainly never going to win this game, but looking at our goals helps show that the staff had a plan to at least try and win, unlike last year. Throwing the ball down the field aggressively was responsible for GT’s game-opening touchdown and kept UGA from sitting on all of the short stuff they had to expect. The offense finally threw at an above average rate on second and long plays instead of basically conceding those drives. On defense, the blitz rate was enormous, even if those plays didn’t get home as much as we would have liked.


  1. Things got away in the second half, but this was still the most competitive Georgia Tech has been with Georgia since 2016. There’s two ways to read that: on the one hand, it further reminds of the gulf between the programs, but it also speaks well of the players and staff to finish the year with effort and determination. Two weeks ago, people were asking if the final two games of the year would be worse than last year’s 100-0. Instead, the margin in those games was only 35-54 against GT.
  2. The defense acquitted itself well, dealing with tough field position situations throughout the day and holding an excellent Georgia offense to about its season long averages. The two defensive possessions after the botched punt snap and the Felix fumble were especially impressive; it sure looked like the pass to Bowers was on the ground on fourth down, which would have been an even more just result for the defense in that spot after stuffing UGA multiple times.
  3. The offense, even with the personnel limitations, maintained aggression and took risks. It was good to see that kind of game plan in comparison to last year’s, which felt like it was based on trying to end the game as quickly as possible. I’m glad the coaches and team came with fight, even as it’s obvious how undermanned Tech is against Georgia.
  4. Now, we turn to the coaching search, the transfer portal, and early signing day. J Batt has tremendous responsibility and pressure on his shoulders to help shape the next era of Tech football. Information is still murky, but he seems intent on identifying a coach who can do the hard work of building this program back from what Geoff Collins caused it to become. These are anxious days for fans, but the new administration will need our support and resources. It’s time to look ahead and come together.