These articles get less and less fun with each passing game lately.
I've got nothing for you. Let's just get into it.
Justin Thomas has played much better games than what he did on Saturday. Reads were botched, he didn't force the hand of defenders on several occasions, and there were some poor throws along the way. Though not entirely his fault, it was his worst performance on the ground since being named the team's starter last season -- he finished with 14 carries for 3 yards. (His season-low on the ground was actually 2 yards against Alcorn State, but that was on 3 carries over just one quarter of the game.)
The team's first drive of the game ended on an interception, after Thomas badly underthrew a pass to Isaiah Willis in heavy coverage. Thomas finished the game with 6 completions on 14 attempts, with two of those going for long touchdowns against blown coverage. The passing element, though, is the biggest missing piece from the offense right now. Until that changes, expect more of the same.
This group hardly managed any production in this game. Marcus Marshall led the team with a whopping 45 rushing yards on 11 carries. Marcus Allen and Patrick Skov managed to contribute a combined 12 yards on 6 carries. They had no room to run when they got the ball, and they proved problematic in pass blocking. Early in the second half, Justin Thomas was forced to call timeout at the line, and upon getting to the sideline, Patrick Skov got an EARFUL from Paul Johnson regarding his blown blocking assignment on the previous play. It was that kind of afternoon.
Marshall probably was as good as we've seen him since the Alcorn State game and provided something of a spark at times. That's the best thing that happened here.
This group was actually OK on the day. Mikell Lands-Davis is still having some considerable blocking issues, but really shows a lot of promise with the ball in his hands and in the passing game. Several players in this group are struggling to make and hold blocks, resulting in defenders getting turned loose far too early in the play and blowing up plays, especially on the edge.
This group needs to be helping more in the passing game, as you saw with Lands-Davis and Clinton Lynch on his long touchdown catch, but it's also on Thomas to get the ball to them.
At least the young guys are getting experience.
Georgia Tech's level of ineptitude in the passing game is due to a lot of things, and the wide receivers are no exception. Receivers are failing to get open, and when pass protection breaks down, they're not coming back to help out Thomas as he extends the play.
Ricky Jeune had two catches for 69 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown. Micheal Summers returned from injury and managed 3 yards on 1 catch.
This group had a few good moments, but for the most part was an unmitigated disaster. It blows my mind how there are some players who are in their fourth or fifth year in the system, are starters, and still are a total liability throughout the game. It's not just one or two guys, either -- it's everyone, and there wasn't really a stretch in the game where it wasn't an issue. There were good plays here and there, but the offense couldn't execute a full drive without having several plays ruined by blocking mishaps. Some of the most senior members of the team are blowing assignments, completely failing to execute their jobs, and are a major source of the issues happening.
It's unbelievable and disappointing, and it's so bad that I wouldn't even know where to start in trying to fix it.
The last time I wrote this article was after the Duke game (thanks again to Kevin for filling in for me last week). In that game I gave this group an F, and said I wasn't interested in entertaining the idea that they may have deserved a better mark. The line performed similarly this week, and I'm grading them similarly.
This group managed less than 100 rushing yards for the first time since September 2009. They managed 14 points by taking advantage of badly blown coverage for a pair of long passing touchdowns.
There was hardly anything else positive to speak of, beyond two long passing plays.
This group can't do anything right now, and it's atrocious to watch.
I didn't think this group was awful, but it certainly could have been better. Adam Gotsis returned after his ejection against North Carolina, looking good and pissed off from early in the game. He was the defensive MVP to me, and played one of the best games we've seen from him in a while. He tied for the team lead with 8 total tackles and recovered a fumble in the end zone to score a touchdown and keep Georgia Tech in the game.
Beyond that, it was...meh.
The announcers discussed early in the game how Georgia Tech is relatively small up front, and it shows. The Tigers eventually wore down the Jackets' defensive front and had no trouble running for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day.
Georgia Tech has bigger problems right now, but the defensive line isn't exactly a strength.
This was the worst game I've seen by Georgia Tech linebackers in quite a while. They played passively, missed tackles, and were a liability in pass coverage. P.J. Davis and Tyler Marcordes combined for 11 tackles, and Marcordes had the Jackets' only sack of the game.
The biggest bright spot here? Brant Mitchell, who's quickly becoming one of Georgia Tech's best linebackers and overall defenders. He specializes in stopping the run, but jumped in front of a Deshaun Watson pass to create a turnover in the third quarter. He also threw an excellent lead block on the first-half fake punt that extended a drive that ended in a touchdown pass. He finished with 4 tackles, all of them being solo efforts.
Beyond him, though, I was pretty unimpressed.
This group was pretty awful altogether, to put it simply. Coverage wasn't good, tackling wasn't good, angles taken weren't good. Multiple opportunities for creating turnovers were wasted. There were several occasions where Clemson receivers blew right past players trying to cover them. It honestly felt like the secondary did more chasing than defending. It also seemed like there were one or two players here that Clemson was happy to pick on throughout the game, and it's hard to blame them considering how little they were stopped.
On top of that, there were multiple injuries throughout the course of the game, to starting safety Demond Smith and experienced backup safety Corey Griffin. It resulted in a lot of playing time for true freshman safety A.J. Gray, who's a good player for being so young but has lots of room for improvement.
Luckily, Clemson's probably the best passing attack this group will face moving forward, with the only possible exception being Miami.
This group forced 3 turnovers and generated 3 more punts. Otherwise, Clemson scored 5 touchdowns and kicked 2 field goals. Their first 5 drives netted 24 points and only one stop, that coming on one of the turnovers.The defense settled in from there, getting stops on four of the following five drives (the exception being a pre-halftime drive where 30 penalty yards helped Clemson to score a touchdown).
The Tigers had over 530 yards of total offense and went 10-for-16 on third down. They probably could have done more damage, if not for their use of backup players on their final couple of drives.
It was an uninspiring and often sluggish performance from the defense, and I shudder to think what might have transpired if they had been unable to generate those turnovers.
Part of what Paul Johnson was referring to when he said the team had a "meltdown" in the first half was a snap going over the head of punter Ryan Rodwell, leading to a punt and scramble that ultimately resulted in a safety against the Jackets.
That's four straight losses for Georgia Tech, and four straight games in which they've had some flavor of special teams meltdown. That's unacceptable, and at that point, nothing else matters grade-wise.
This season is in a nose dive right now, and I've lost all confidence that the team is going to be able to pull out of it. Coach Johnson's postgame press conference gave the impression that he's somewhat in the same place. It would be less concerning if the issues were primarily sitting with the younger players, but that there are juniors and seniors having issues as bad as anyone is highly worrisome. Clemson is a good team (the best team in the ACC right now, hands down) and deserved to win the game, but Georgia Tech did very little to make it difficult for them.
At this point, the team's back is against the wall in next week's Pittsburgh game, which just became a must-win game against a team that's 4-1 (2-0) and coming off of back-to-back wins against Coastal division foes. The team's 18-year bowl streak is in considerable jeopardy as it stands, as they need 4 wins against the following: Pittsburgh, Florida State, @Virginia, Virginia Tech, @Miami, georgia. If there's a cause for confidence, it's that four of those games are at home, where the Jackets have been a considerably better team.
I hope things start to get better, but at this point, I'll believe it when I see it.