Justin Thomas was anything but perfect on Saturday, but did an outstanding job of persevering and did a great job running the option for the most part. He finished 6 of 16 passing, but did so while spending most passing plays outside of the pocket and avoiding pressure against a talented georgia defensive front. He also lost his favorite target, DeAndre Smelter, early on in the game and ended up finding Deon Hill and Darren Waller for his last three completions. He finished with only 34 yards rushing on 12 carries, but had a couple of really clutch runs at times that extended drives or got the team into field goal range.
There were also the two turnovers, but I think he got screwed by the referees on both, so I won't be holding that against him.
Overall it was a pretty good game for Thomas, who hung in there and continued to make plays at times when most people would have been rattled. Him staying cool under pressure was a difference-maker in the game's outcome.
It took a while for them to get going, but once Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days started finding some holes in uga's defensive front, they were consistently gashing the defense. They ended up with a combined 42 carries for 234 yards, good for over 5.5 yards per carry. The pair struggled to find running room for most of the first half, but in the second half they absolutely took it to a fatigued georgia defense that had spent a lot of the game on the field, especially after halftime.
These guys were probably the offensive MVP's for Georgia Tech. They're the ones who carried the team in the second half and led them to victory. Great performance.
It was a fairly pedestrian day for the A-Backs, with 54 of 70 carries going to the quarterback and B-Backs. When given opportunities, though, they shone. Deon Hill and Charles Perkins were the main targets here, combining for 11 carries and 104 yards and featuring a few big plays along the way. Hill also added a couple of catches, including one fantastic grab where he was able to get his foot down before falling out of bounds.
Maybe the most improved A-Back this year, Dennis Andrews also got in on the fun with 3 carries for 22 yards. He also did an outstanding job blocking, as was noted by the announcers a couple of times. That's a huge turnaround for him, and it's a good sign for next year that we're seeing him come into his own with 4 senior A-Backs set to graduate this fall.
Again, they weren't the focal point of the offense, but that's not really out of the ordinary with how the offense works. These guys were solid all-around and made big plays at times. I'm happy with how these guys played.
When DeAndre Smelter went out of the game, I'll admit, I saw the rest of the game as grim. Smelter is possibly the best player on the offense -- a guy Justin Thomas goes to any time he's in trouble, and a player who has a knack for taking a pedestrian 5-yard gain and busting it into 30 or 40 yards. Well, he did just that early in the second quarter, but it was exactly that play that also ended with him getting injured on a bit of a freak play where he was down, but no whistle was blown, and then he got tackled a second time. He wouldn't return to the game, but hopefully will be ready to play next weekend against Florida State. He finished with 3 catches for 44 yards and a 7-yard run on a reverse.
Darren Waller made the heart-stopping play of the game when on 2nd and 5 from the uga 7 yard line, Thomas threw a quick pass to his side. Waller fought off Damian Swann and went up to get the ball for a touchdown. (It worked out well for the 6'6" Waller, and not so well for the 5'11" Swann.)
I would have liked to see a little more involvement of Waller and Micheal Summers as the game went on, but clearly that wasn't necessary to win this contest. I thought the blocking by this crew was pretty rough for the first 20-25 minutes of the game, but they really turned it on and got after it in the second half -- that made a big difference in hitting some runs on the perimeter.
Solid effort from this group, and I think they did about as much as they reasonably could have with where balls were being thrown and how much they were being asked to do. Even without their biggest playmaker, they did their part in creating success on offense. I was happy with how they performed.
If the game ended after 15 minutes, this section would not be pretty. At the beginning of the game, they were really struggling to get a push against the talented defensive front they were facing. Plays were getting blown up before they could gain any ground, and the offense gained just 36 yards on their first two drives -- a total of 12 plays.
After that, things really came to life. Of the next 6 drives, only one went for less than 8 plays or 63 yards, and they ran a combined 64 plays for 385 yards -- just north of 6 yards per play. The offensive line was getting a great push up front, the B-Backs were getting yards in bunches, and Tech was in business. They wore down the georgia defensive front and began running the ball at will, reminiscent of the Florida game from about a month ago. Pass protection was a struggle all afternoon, but at the end of the day there wasn't a single sack allowed.
The Jackets finished with 399 rushing yards and another 64 through the air, for a total offensive output of 463 yards. When your offense is that potent, it usually means the offensive line was doing something right. It wasn't always pretty in this game, but these guys got the job done.
As I said, there were some big numbers put up in this game, and the offense really owned the middle 30 minutes of this game. In the second and third quarters alone, they combined for 21:22 in time of possession, they were 5/10 on third downs, they scored 2 touchdowns, and worked the ball down the field consistently. It was that stretch, in my mind, that made the fourth quarter and overtime successful. Georgia Tech ran 86 plays in this game, which was more than any other uga opponent had run. Additionally, 70 of those were running plays -- ten more than their next-highest total in Jacksonville.
This how the Paul Johnson offense is meant to run. It was in full effect. Georgia Tech got yards consistently, held on to the ball, and wore down their opponents in true "death by a thousand cuts" form.
I want to stop for a second and let you think about something. Coming into this season, the defensive line had been ravaged by ineligibility and transfers and dismissals. It's a thin unit that's running short on bodies and depleted in talent after losing Jeremiah Attaochu to the NFL and two other seniors to graduation last year.
That same unit just held georgia, a team whose living has been made this year by running the ball, to under 200 rushing yards. 194 yards on the ground was their second-lowest total all year, and that's after running the gauntlet of SEC defenses, and even that nasty Clemson defense we saw a couple weeks back. Oh, and what's better about that? Almost all of their rushing yards came in the first half. After halftime, this group was lights-out against that vaunted rushing attack. They manhandled georgia's offensive line down the stretch, got pressure on Hutson Mason, and even got a couple of sacks.
I can't say enough good things about how well this group played, especially considering who they were playing against and what they've had to overcome to get here. That was awesome.
Quayshawn Nealy, Paul Davis, and Tyler Marcordes were pretty outstanding in this game from wire-to-wire. They all were getting involved in making big plays. Davis had a couple of clean, hard shots at Hutson Mason in the passing game. Nealy forced a fumble from Sony Michel that saved a touchdown and broke up a pass. Marcordes recovered a different fumble and had a tackle for a loss. These guys were all over the field, and it made a difference in the outcome of the game. They combined for 12 solo tackles and another 11 assisted tackles.
Solid game from this unit, which played a big role in containing the georgia rushing attack.
I thought this group had a pretty good day. Hutson Mason went 18-for-28 (64.3%), which is his sixth-best mark of the season, and his 194 yards was his fifth-best game in that department. So it doesn't necessarily look great, except that the goal for this game was to contain the run and force them to win by passing. That goal was accomplished, and Mason was unable to get the job done with his receivers. He threw for a touchdown (on a nice throw into a tight window), but in the end would throw a game-ending interception that saw DJ White continue the trend of being opportunistic that this defense has shown all year.
Possibly the defensive MVP of the game was the senior Safety Isaiah Johnson, who had 10 total tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and two tackles for a loss. Johnson was consistently stepping up in run support and doing a nice job of making tackles on the edge before Chubb and Michel could really get vertical. His forced fumble on Chubb was a big effort play too, where Johnson came off the edge and laid the wood on Chubb as he attempted to push into the end zone behind his offensive line. As I said, if I'm picking a defensive MVP in this game, I think it's got to be Johnson.
This unit hung in there, supported the run, and did a nice job of not giving up the long pass. They were also responsible for two or three of the biggest plays of the game defensively. Solid, solid performance here.
I'll be quite honest and say that in the lead up to this game, I was concerned with how well the defense would hold up against the best offense it would see possibly all year. georgia's offense isn't very creative, but it's very good, and I wasn't sure how our guys would hold up against their big, talented offense.
They benefited from a couple of major turnovers inside the five yard line, but overall they were very problematic for georgia once they got settled in. georgia ran for 113 yards and had 165 total yards on three drives in the first quarter of the game. Their final 7 possessions were good for 81 rushing yards and 226 total yards (53 and 198 if we don't count the fake field goal). When you consider that they did that in over twice as many possessions, and that their offense was responsible for just 10 points after the opening drive -- it was a really impressive game for the defense. They stepped up to the challenge and were a big reason that Tech won this game.
I'm really conflicted on this unit. There were so many highs and lows. They had a field goal blocked and an extra point blocked in overtime that could have cost them the game. They also blocked a field goal of their own. They allowed a fake field goal run of 28 yards and a near touchdown. Then they recovered a kickoff 30 yards down the field. But perhaps the undisputed best moment?
Harrison Butker hit one of the longest field goals in Georgia Tech history as time expired to send the game in Athens against our biggest rivals into overtime.
That play will go down in history as one of the biggest in this series' history. The guy has been shaky at times this year, but came through in one of the biggest moments that he possibly could have. That's the stuff Tech fans imagine happening as kids -- the proverbial "two outs, bases loaded, full count, bottom of the ninth, game 7 of the World Series" type of moment that will go down in history and none of us will ever forget.
Weird mix of high peaks and low valleys here. But they got it done when it counted.
There's something that needs to be said here. Last year, it was the Monday afternoon following the georgia game when local sports radio host Matt Chernoff said that he could already tell you what Georgia Tech's record would be this year. He said that we would go 7-5. We would lose to, I dunno, Pittsburgh or North Carolina. And then, as always, we would lose to Virginia Tech. We would lose to Miami. We would lose to Clemson. And then we would go to Athens and lose to georgia.
That enraged me.
I'm heavily considering calling in to the Chuck & Chernoff show on 680 AM and 93.7 FM, between 3pm-7pm on Monday, to remind Matt of that moment and make him eat his crow. He wasn't just wrong about the Virginia Tech game. He wasn't just wrong about the Miami game. He wasn't just wrong about the Clemson game. No, he completed the set and was wrong about georgia. He was wrong about all 4.
And, really, so was most everyone. Everyone was wrong about this team. If I had told you the morning of the Wofford game that this team was going to finish with 10 wins, and wins over all four of the teams that they had been 1-15 against between 2010-2013, you would have thought I was crazy or a homer.
This team was put through the fire and flames in this game. They endured terrible calls in a hostile environment where their backs were pressed so hard up against the wall that they nearly suffocated.
This team doesn't care. They just go out there and win games. Oh, and one other thing...
They're going to win another one next week.
Thoughts on the grades? Too harsh? Too lenient? What were your grades?