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Monday Morning Quarterback: Georgia Tech Upsets the 'Noles in Dramatic Fashion

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All of a sudden, defense and special teams are...a strength?

The Austin twins crossing the goaline together
The Austin twins crossing the goaline together
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Joey is traveling today, so I'm filling in for him here on the MMQB. I was watching it in person, so I'll do my best to work off the box score and memory, as the game has yet to be posted online in full as of writing this.

Quarterback

This seemed like another week where Thomas still didn't have his best game. He threw interceptions to end Tech's first two drives, but then seemed to even out afterwards and not force anything. He was quick and decisive with his reads, and he seems to be doing a much better job of making his pitch-key commit to him.

Thomas was only 4/10 passing but was again running for his life most of the time when he dropped back. He finished the game passing for 67 yards with 2 interceptions. However, one of those completions was a gorgeous throw in the final minutes of the 4th quarter to convert a critical fourth down to Brad Stewart on a wheel route.

Overall, I thought he managed the game and offense well. He rushed for 88 yards, with 60 of those coming on his gorgeous touchdown run in the first half.

My only real gripe with Thomas would be the sack he took earlier in the 4th to put them out of field goal range. Tech ending up punting instead of tying the game at that point, but that could also fall on the play calling.

Grade: B-

B-Backs

It was a relatively quiet day for the B-Backs as the Florida State defense keyed on stopping them first. There was almost never any room up with middle with Charles Kelly focusing on stopping this group foremost. The FSU defensive tackles were also largely blowing up the Tech guards much of the night, which muddled the dive read for Thomas.

In the end, this group rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries, which is good for a solid 4.2 yards per carry. Nothing staggering here, but this group did just enough to keep the defense honest.

Grade: B

A-Back

I was pleasantly surprised with this group in this game. It seemed like the FSU defense strung most triple option plays to the pitch, and this group used those opportunities to put up some pretty good numbers. This group accounted for 89 yards on 16 carries, which is good for 5.6 yards per carry.

The perimeter blocking was much improved compared to previous weeks, and even rocket tosses seemed to be an almost automatic 5 yards throughout the game.

It wasn't a stellar day for anyone on the offense in particular, as Tech rushed for only 261 yards on the day, but I thought the 3 A-Backs who played had the best game of the offense.

Grade: A-

Wide Receivers

This is the position group that I think the offense still needs the most improvement from if we're going to see the bowl streak continue. There were several almost-big-plays that would've come to fruition had the receivers been able to hold their blocks longer, or at all. It's been an issue all season and was only slightly improved on Saturday against the ‘Noles.

Not helping this position's ranks was that the leader of the group, Micheal Summers, went out early in the game with injury and did not return.

On straight passing plays, the receivers struggled to get separation from the FSU corners.

My biggest gripe with the wide receivers is that they don't a good job in the scramble drill whenever Thomas has the pocket collapse around him. If you've watched any Tech games this season, you would know that this happens just about every time he drops back to pass.

The scramble drill is simple: run your assigned route at first. Then, if the play continues and your quarterback is running for his life, you run deep if your route was shallow, and vice versa. There were several times where Thomas was scrambling that this group was often standing around and not continuing to fight to get open. That's unacceptable.

For all the negative things I've said about this group though, they did step up in big ways when they were needed. Ricky Jeune caught a monster 33 yard pass from the endzone on third down to keep a drive alive, and we already covered Brad Stewart's clutch 4th down grab late in the 4th.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line

This group seems to be steadily improving as the season goes on. It seems the play calling change, where the offense doesn't huddle and has plays relayed in from the sideline, has helped with assignments. It looks like their blocking assignments are being called from the sideline after the defense lines up. This is a major change from the previous 7 years under Johnson, where the linemen themselves largely dictated them.

The offensive line didn't play great, but they played well enough to keep Tech in the game. Behind them, the offense averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

Pass blocking seemed slightly improved, but still was not great by any means. Thomas had time on the 2 throws that mattered, but he seemed to once again be running for his life most of the game when he dropped back.

Grade: C

Offense

Overall, the offense did enough to win. It wasn't spectacular, but they stepped up when the game was on the line and made some clutch plays. They controlled the ball on long drives and kept Dalvin Cook and the FSU offense off the field. The amount of youth in this unit is overwhelming due to injuries, but the future of the offense under these youngsters is very bright.

Grade: B-

Defensive Line

We're going to do this in the form of a letter.

Dear D-Line,

So, where did you guys come from? We've missed you most of this season. You guys were pure joy to watch on Saturday. You got pressure in coverage situations rushing 3! Just 3! It was amazing. It seemed like every time Golson dropped back to pass, one of you was in his face to introduce yourselves. He landed on his back with one of you big fellas on top of him after just about every throw.

You even held the vaunted rushing attack of Dalvin Cook to just 82 yards on 17 carries. Only 82! I'm so impressed!

Then there was Gotsis. Adam, you were an absolute monster. You were borderline unblockable. There was nothing stopping you from tackling whoever had the ball. You played out of your mind. It was glorious.

Defensive line, you guys played one of the most hateful, angry, beautiful games I've witnessed from a Georgia Tech defense in a long time. Hopefully we'll see you the rest of the season.

Grade: A+

Linebackers

I feel like we didn't see too much of this group, largely because Florida State operated out of 4 receiver sets for much of the game. However, their presence was definitely felt. It wasn't all the defensive line stopping runs and getting pressure on the quarterback. These guys did a really good job of staying in their lanes and limiting the FSU rushing attack. They also did a great job coming off the edge and up the middle when asked to blitz.

They weren't the stars of the night, but they played a huge role in one of the best defensive showings in recent memory.

Grade: A-

Secondary

The secondary seemed to excel in their bend-don't-break mode. Golson was only able to complete 20 out of 30 passes for a very pedestrian 7 yards per attempt. I don't remember any blown coverage, and it seemed like Golson was throwing into tight windows for most of the game.

Part of this group's success was the amount of pressure generated by the front 7, which didn't give Golson much time to find an open man.

Oh, they also had a critical endzone interception to prevent FSU from sealing the game in the 4th quarter. (Fun fact: that was Golson's first turnover of the season.) That was pretty crucial in the grand scheme of things.

The longest completion Florida State managed on this group was for 22 yards. I'll take that.

Grade: A

Defense

If I had told you after the Pittsburgh game last week that the Georgia Tech defense would outplay the offense against FSU, would you have believed me?

This group limited the #9 team in the nation to 16 points! And 10 of those points came off of extremely short fields after Thomas' 2 interceptions. They held the Seminoles to a field goal after being faced with 1st and goal from the 3. If you credit FSU's only offensive touchdown to their defense, which returned an interception to Georgia Tech's 2-yard line, then this group gave up 9 points to FSU. Think about that. They didn't give up a touchdown - just a handful of field goals - to the number 9 team in the nation. That's just mean.

In what was thought to be an unthinkable feat, this group almost single-handedly won the game for Georgia Tech.

Grade: A+

Special Teams

*30 for 30 voice*

What if I told you that Georgia Tech special teams and defense would be the difference in a game against a top 10 team? ESPN Films present: "The Miracle on Techwood Drive: How a 2-5 team managed to end a 28-game conference win streak".

Obviously there's a lot to cover here, but in the midst of the chaos, I would be remiss if I didn't note Butker going 3-for-3 on field goals, including a 53-yard bomb that tied his career high. All 3 kicks came at crucial points in the game, and I was very impressed with him.

There were no major meltdowns.

Punt coverage looked great.

Every kickoff was a touchback.

And of course, this happened. Let's all watch again, shall we? I know you're not tired of it, and may never be.

Grade: A+++++++++++++

BONUS: Crowd

One of the most underrated contributors to this game was the crowd. The white-out, sellout crow was loud and rowdy the entire game. The crowd noise was loud enough to result in several false starts from the Florida State offense in the second half. Most of those false starts came on their final couple of possessions, where they were trying to reach field goal range to put the game away.

The crowd was a huge factor, and we might've seen a different result in this game were it not for the noise and resulting penalties. Nice job, fam.

Grade: A++

Overall

This looked like an entirely different team than the first half of the season. The defense looked straight nasty. The special teams were rock solid and the play of the year in college football this season. The offense looks to be steadily improving.

It's a credit to the coaching staff that after dropping 5 games, this team didn't give up. It's even more impressive when you consider the injuries and youth this team is playing with.

The offensive adjustments seem to be paying off. The defense looks dramatically improved. The special teams might be turning into an asset.

Does one game define a season? No, it does not. However, this game could very well be the turning point that gets the team back on track as they fight to keep the bowl streak alive.

Tech looked good this weekend. Bobby Dodd looked good. The field got stormed. What an incredible night.

Grade: A+