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Back Seat Coacher: Syracuse, Louisville, and an idle week

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Tech will be licking their wounds this week in preparation for Lousiville

North Carolina State v Georgia Tech Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

On Saturday, September 26th, 1-1 Georgia Tech headed north to take on the winless Syracuse Orange in the Carrier Dome. Tech entered the afternoon the favorite and left on the other side of a 37-20 loss.

Through Week 4, the SP+ has Georgia Tech ranked 63rd overall, 94th on offense, 40th on defense, and some how 69th in kicking even with the weekly blocked kicks fiasco. Pressley Harvin III and Jahmyr Gibbs are really saving the data there.

Looking ahead- Louisville is 37th overall, a surprising 12th on offense, an unsurprising 74th on defense and 60th in kicking.

In the rear view

The offense

The first data points that jump off the page are turnovers and penalties. The Yellow Jackets committed five turnovers (one fumble, four interceptions) and 15 penalties for 104 yards. Countless times throughout the afternoon, the Jackets were flagged for a false start or motion penalty that killed a drive’s momentum.

Above- This is on both the right tackle and the QB. The Tackle doesn’t identify a blitzer to the QB, and the QB never sees the defender walk up and allows himself to be hit blind sided by the blitz. Sims was going to provide some growing pains for Geoff Collins’ crew but these multi-interception games are going to have the coaches looking at other options.

Freshman QB Jeff Sims struggled against the Syracuse pressure averaging only 6.2 yards per pass attempt, tossing four interceptions, and fumbling once (Tech recovered). Sims did average 5.1 yards per carry (including sacks) and scored on the ground.

Above- For all of the times Sims can leave you wonder what he’s even seeing on the field, here he goes through his rhythm, and two read progressions before scrambling and executing a fine scramble drill completion.

Another freshman, Jamyr Gibbs ran for 5.8 yards per carry while logging explosive plays both on the ground and through the air. Gibbs has been a Freshman All-American quality performer through three games. Malachi Carter, Ahmarean Brown, and Jalen Camp all had an explosive reception, too.

Above- Later, Sims and Gibbs connect on a wheel route for a TD and you think of how great this program can become if their acquisition and development continue to find success. They’re both true freshmen who have stepped up into big time roles in Atlanta.

The offensive line helped the run game average 5.3 yards per carry and contributed to two touchdowns, but while allowing only one sack they allowed eight hurries on the QB.

The defense

The Tech defense surrendered 8.1 yards per pass attempt and two touchdowns to Tommy DeVito and four yards per run with two touchdowns on the ground. ‘Cuse wound up with a 100 yard rusher in Sean Tucker, and two receivers averaging over 20 yards per catch, both with touchdowns, in Nykeim Johnson and Taj Harris.

Above- what happened to the linebackers? There’s a giant hole in the defense on 3rd and two... if it was 3rd and long I could understand but 3rd and two is a run down, even for Syracuse. The Air Raid typically calls a pass and lets the QB check into a run. If the QB saw that bubble in the middle he could’ve checked into the easy first down and more due to not finishing through the whistle.

The defense showed flashes but two data points really stood out to me. First, GT came away with only one sack and two QB hurries against an Air Raid team that threw the ball 24 times. Now, that’s a low number of attempts for Syracuse but they stuck with what was working and it was the ground game.

Above- DeVito was able to unload a few deep bombs and on most the Tech cornerbacks were burned. Again, for all of the great plays the defense made, they would give up too many explosive plays to overcome the poor offensive showing.

The other point was the number of explosive plays allowed. For three games Tech has been good on 1st and 2nd down only to give up a big 3rd down conversion, or a long touchdown. Six players had at least one play of 15+ yards, and while ‘Cuse was only 5-of-16 on 3rd down they converted one of their two fourth down attempts.


On down the road

The idle week

Through the idle week, the GT coaching staff has to clean up the mistakes that are being made through not just film but actually getting out on the field and walking through assignments. Both the offense and defense could use some mental-skills time in order to clean up errors.

The Mental Toughness of this program is going to show. Focus is more difficult on an off week, and especially difficult under the duress of two straight blowout style games. Penalties, turnovers, kicking woes, and health have to be priorities.

On offense

Louisville is going to run a fairly standard 3-4 defensive look which should be familiar to Georgia Tech fans from past Tech defensive coordinators. The Cards typically have four on the line, but a stand up, edge rushing type of linebacker is the fourth man. Linebacker Dorian Etheridge has 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Above- Kenny Pickett has never been mistaken for Drew Brees but the Cards defense allowed him plenty of time to go through his reads and find an open receiver off of a pivot concept.

Above- In the run game, Pitt didn’t run that well but an outside zone should look familiar to Tech fans, too. When Pitt’s left tackle turns his butt and takes his defender up field, the RB has great vision to cut inside of that block and make a big play from it by waiting to bounce outside until he passed the line of scrimmage.

On defense

One positive heading into the idle week is that Tech’s upcoming opponent has been struggling, too. The Louisville Cardinals are 1-2 and are suffering through Malik Cunningham’s turnover issues at quarterback, and one of the worst defenses in the country. Cunningham is completing just under 60% of his passes, while averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, but he has tossed five interceptions with only seven touchdown passes.

Scott Satterfield loves motion, using tight end and multiple running backs, and the triple option. More familiarity for Jackets fans. Jet sweeps, play-actions off of sweeps, and zone based options are the Cards bread and butter on offense.

Above- you can get a look at standard fare for Louisville on offense. Motion, an insert from the h-back, and an explosvie run.

Running back Javian Hawkins is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has ran for three touchdowns on the season. Wide receivers Braden Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick have been explosive threats averaging 28.8 and 16.5 yards per catch, respectively. The star, Tutu Atwell, has caught a team high three touchdowns.

Above- Pitt, also a 4-2-5 defense, was able to get to Louisville’s QB Cunningham, without having to bring extra pressure. If the Cards O-Line is struggling, that could help Tech in the back seven by getting pressure with just the front four linemen.

Data: The Panthers held Louisville to 1-of-10 on 3rd downs, picked off three passes, and came away with seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and five QB hurries. The Yellow Jackets defense, which has played well in waves, really needs to come alive after the idle week. Then again, the offense needs to support the defense, too.

Prediction: Louisville by 3.