Yesterday, we unveiled #10 in our countdown of 2013's top plays, a brilliant run by Robbie Godhigh. Today, our countdown takes us to the air with not one, but two great plays by now senior WR DeAndre Smelter.
The Situation: Georgia Tech is fresh off of a 70-0 drubbing of Elon and a subsequent bye week as they head to Durham, NC to take on the Duke Blue Devils. Yellow Jacket nation is ravenous for football by this point - an FCS school and a bye week to start the season didn't do much to sate the appetite for pigskin that the long, long summer had induced.
Many questions that were left unanswered from the Elon game still linger in everyone's minds: will the Vad Lee from last year's UNC game reappear in his first start against a Division I opponent? Will Paul Johnson really throw the ball more with this team? And if so, who will be our go-to receiver?
Fortunately for us, all of these questions were answered.
The Play(s): Vad Lee and DeAndre Smelter hooked up for two great plays in this game, the first one coming five minutes into the second quarter.
The Jackets lead 10-7 and have the ball just inside the Duke 30 yard line. It is third down and twelve to go, and Vad lines up in the pistol looking to pass. He's got Smelter out wide to his right, but he's covered by Duke's All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell - a tall order for a receiver who six months ago was pitching for the baseball team.
The ball is snapped and instantly a battle ensues between the two; Cockrell sticks Smelter immediately and is with him step for step. Smelter is running a vertical and manages to get a step of separation from Cockrell after about ten yards, but Duke safety Dwayne Norman spots the flawed coverage and comes over to help out.
He's just a fraction of a second too late. Vad Lee threads a beautiful spiral right down the seam and hits Smelter in stride at the five, who carries it in untouched for the score, putting the Jackets up 17-7.
Later on in the second quarter, Tech is driving again and is faced with second and three from the Duke 11. In years past, this is definitely three yards and a cloud of dust territory: no need to take any risks through the air. If an option football team can't move the ball 11 yards in six plays, they don't deserve to win.
Paul Johnson, however, surprised everyone by dialing up a pass. And wouldn't you know it, it's that Smelter kid we were so cautiously optimistic about all summer at it again.
Vad starts under center, but takes a deep drop and rolls right to find Smelter wide open on a quick five-yard comeback. Even more impressively, Smelter has the awareness to feel Cockrell bearing down on him hard from the endzone - without looking, he fakes in and instead turns it up field to his outside, gaining the extra five yards needed for the score with a combination of speed and strength.
We chose these two plays to collectively represent our #9 Top Play of 2013 because they demonstrated almost a new brand of football for this team. Throwing the ball on second in three in the red zone is something that for the past few years really has not been done. Having a QB firing a laser into double coverage down the middle of the field for a touchdown hasn't exactly been commonplace either. Whether or not this trend continues into 2014 will depend heavily on the trust CPJ has in his starter under center, whoever it may be.
What do you think? Can we expect to see more passing plays like these two next year? Come back tomorrow for more Top Plays!