1. The Curious Case of the Missing Pass Rush
Louisville quarterback Jack Plummer threw 31 passes on Friday. He was not sacked once. As far as I can recall he was only seriously pressured a handful of times. He was holding I was not particularly impressed with Plummer. He missed some easy throws and generally didn’t make too much happen. But he had all day in the pocket which really helped him out. Losing Keion White to the NFL was always going to hurt, but Andrew Thacker and the defensive line have to figure something out here to get pressure.
In addition to the zero sacks, the GT defense also didn’t record a single tackle for loss. The front held up better against the run than they did the pass, particularly on some clutch third down stops in the first half, but to be a very good defense you have to be able to create some plays. The only major defensive play was an interception in the waning seconds of the first half.
2. Haynes King Gets Off To An OK Start On The Flats
I thought Haynes King did alright in his debut here at GT. He made some huge mistakes (we’ll get there), but I thought he looked decent throwing the ball and showed that he could make things happen with his legs. I was most impressed by a deep ball to Abdul Janneh in the second quarter. Janneh ran a go route and with Louisville playing zone he had a cornerback underneath him and a safety rotating over the top. King threw a nice ball in between the defenders that gave Janneh an easy catch without getting hammered right after the catch. He had another nice throw to the sideline to Chase Lane early in the fourth quarter. Both of those throws required some solid arm strength and he made it look easy.
He also had a couple nice runs. He is definitely fast and can make some defenders miss. I would like to see him slide earlier than he did in the first quarter when he drew a targeting penalty on a late slide.
Unfortunately there was some bad. He had two bad turnovers and both were the result of poor pocket presence. The first came on the first drive when a defender from the blindside hit King in the middle of a throw. King threw it straight into an offensive lineman’s helmet where it bounced up directly into a defender’s arm. The second also came when a blindside rusher and sacked King, forcing a fumble. On both of these I don’t think he noticed the defender until too late. The interception was a little bit unlucky. He got hit pretty quick and it took a weird bounce to be an interception. But the fumble was his fault. He was in the pocket too long and holding the ball in a vulnerable position. He didn’t seem to ever see the defender coming. This is something to keep an eye on.
3. Secondary Tackling
The defensive strategy seemed to be to lay off the receivers and prevent the big plays in the air. This is a fine decision as part a bend-but-don’t-break strategy which sort of worked this game (Louisville was 1-11 on third down and settled for three red zone field goals). But, part of that is that you need the corners and safeties to tackle. You can’t let screens and low-risk short throws turn into medium sized gains. And that’s what Georgia Tech did. Tackling is hard, the other guy is trying really hard to avoid getting tackled, but this was not the best effort.
This was a particular issue in the second half. The cornerback would first reach the receiver 3 yards after the line of scrimmage, but it would become a 10 or 20 yard gain. This was a consistent issue for the team. If Tech is going to play this type of scheme then they’ll need to do better at getting guys on the ground.