Good Morning! 1-1. That’s all we could ask for after this past weekend. Following a disappointing start in Week 1, multiple potential results clouded the minds of Tech fans, the darkest of which included a loss to our foes from Kennesaw. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Before I grade the position groups and coaching staff, I feel it necessary to mention the scene on Saturday, particularly how well the school honored fallen soldiers, service members, and first responders. As I was watching the game from the corner of the north end zone, I found myself grateful for the opportunity to enjoy what I believe to be the greatest game in the world. That opportunity is a freedom granted by millions who have selflessly decided to serve to this country. It’s crazy to think that a significant portion of this year’s roster was not alive for the attacks on 9/11, but whether it was the standing recognition of service members and first responders, the joint halftime performance of “America the Beautiful”, or the induction of this year’s ROTC, you could feel the respect. You could sense the truth that, no matter your age, Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 is a date this country will never forget.
On to the game. As I mentioned earlier, multiple outcomes were projected in the collective mind of Tech faithful. Maybe in some alternate timeline the Kennesaw State Owls found a way to squeeze out an upset victory over Big Brother from Midtown Atlanta, but not in this one. Aside from a 5-6 minute stretch in the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets played a dominant football game. Jordan Yates led an inspired offense, multiple players from all levels made impact plays defensively, and the special teams unit was nearly perfect. Let’s break it down.
This one is pretty simple. As he demonstrated last week, Jordan Yates is a threat on the ground. A threat that keeps opposing defenses honest. This week, on multiple occasions his mobility allowed him to escape the pocket and either get rid of the ball to avoid a sack or find a receiver downfield. His decision-making was flawless. He completed 77% of his passes for 254 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. And it’s not like he was hitting wide open targets all day long (although one was literally standing in the back of the end zone). He was stepping up in the pocket and hitting receivers in stride, and he made it look easy. He finished the game with a QB Rating of 77.9, one of the highest we’ve seen since Justin Thomas was running the show.
I only wish we would have taken him out of the game at some point in the fourth quarter...
Running Backs: A
As I watched KSU run a variation of CPJ’s offense, I mentally substituted this Tech unit into the classic flexbone we mostly enjoyed for a decade. An A-Back rotation of Gibbs, Griffin, and Dontae Smith with Mason at B-Back... I know, I know... Those days are over. Regardless, this group continues to impress. Those four running backs averaged 5.9 yards per carry and made play after play on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, Yates found the end zone through the air too many times or else this group would have had more scores.
Also, if you ever need a lead blocker for some reason, call Jordan Mason. He was knockin’ heads out there.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
I’m still not used to including tight ends in this analysis... Dylan Leonard, Tech’s 6’5” 250 lb tight end caught a 5-yard out route in the second half to get the big boys on the board. That reception was only 1 of 13 made by this group (RB corps had 4), and five different receivers averaged double-digit yardage. Guys were getting open, holding blocks downfield, and most importantly, catching the ball. I can’t remember a dropped pass from a wide receiver the entire game.
Georgia Tech, the silent Wide Receiver University, has been home to quite a few NFL-caliber pass catchers, but it’s not often we have two legitimate outside threats at the same time. Malachi Carter remains a player that can hurt defenses downfield, but the addition of Kyric McGowan has proven extremely fruitful (thanks Jahmyr!). He finished the day with 5 receptions, 77 yards, and 2 TDs. I don’t hand out the game ball, but he would definitely be in the running if I did.
Offensive Line: B
I admit it, I was pretty tough on this group last week. There’s almost certainly a 0% chance my criticism affected their mindset for this game, but nevertheless it was a much better performance. Some of that has to do with the level of competition, but the unit looked more confident and more dominant for the vast majority of the game. Another positive - penalties were limited yet again.
The only negatives - Yates did have to run for his life a few times, Jordan Mason only averaged 1.8 yards per carry (when he touches the ball, it’s generally right up the gut), and the KSU DL got some pretty easy sacks in the second half.
We gave up 6 TFLs against NIU and only 3 against KSU, so improvement is always a good sign.
Total Offense: A
Overall, Tech was about as efficient as you could be offensively, especially in the first half. As we all know, option offenses thrive on time of possession. The Owls had the ball for 8 more minutes than the Jackets did.
Tech only had the ball four times in the first half, scoring 2 TDs and kicking 1 FG. The last possession was right before halftime. You would have loved to see a 2-minute offense executed to perfection, but the next best thing is limiting mistakes and heading into halftime with momentum, which is exactly what happened.
To start the second half, the Tech offense came out and drove the ball right down the field to take a 31-3 lead and effectively end the game. We wouldn’t punt until the third quarter. Great performance all around.
Through the air, KSU had 111 yards on 8 completions. Over the past few years, the Owls have averaged around 20 yards per completion. That’s not hard to imagine when Demaryius Thomas averaged 19.5 yards per completion in a very similar offense.
The Tech secondary held them to under 15 yards per completion, which is skewed by a 39-yard fourth-quarter TD. Safety Wesley Walker was slow to help and let Adeolu Adeleke walk into the end zone. Remove that play, and their average completion yardage is cut down to 10. It wasn’t quite a no-fly zone, but it was a solid performance. The more consistent frustration came in run support. 132 of KSU’s 161 rushing yards were by their slotbacks (CPJ’s A-Backs). Safeties and corners were struggling to get off blocks early in the first half. Fortunately, that was mostly eliminated in the second half.
I’ve officially decided to split my theoretical game ball and give the defensive half to Charlie Thomas. I mean... Wow. He had two interceptions, one of which followed a huge TFL and was a solo-tip drill. Incredible. He, along with Eley and Quez, made life very difficult for KSU’s backfield the entire game.
Those three accounted for 25 of the team’s 61 total tackles and added two big tackles for loss, as well. I think we all would have been satisfied with this unit simply doing its job against the option, but they also made multiple momentum-shifting plays to help seal the win.
A few times, the edge player crashed down on the QB, which is a fine way to defend the option, but the LB corps was often slow to get out and limit the pitch man’s yardage, particularly in the first half.
Defensive Line: A+
There are a lot of good things to say about this group’s performance. On the interior, Djimon Brooks and TK Chimedza acted like two battering rams, allowing Tech linebackers to play their assignments. An effective triple option starts with the ability to establish dominance in the middle, and that threat was non-existent.
The play of the game was made by this unit, as well. After the Jackets took an early 7-0 lead, Jordan Domineck took the momentum and literally ran with it. I would describe the play, but I would be doing it a disservice. Just watch.
I heard Tashard Choice let him sneak into stiff arm drills this past week...
The group also amassed 7 TFLs and 2 sacks. The sacks are particularly impressive considering this offense doesn’t drop back to pass very often.
Total Defense: A
As expected, Thacker had seven or eight in the box all afternoon, with the edge players sometimes spread a little wider to attack the pitch angle on both sides. With about ten minutes to go in the game, the defense had still held KSU to under 200 yards of total offense. 93 of KSU’s 260 yards came on two plays, along with 14 of their 17 points. Obviously you don’t like to give up explosive plays, but it was a mostly dominant performance.
Special Teams: B+
What a turnaround. Cimaglia was a perfect 7/7 on his kicks, Gavin was perfect on touchbacks, two of which were fair catches, and Shanahan had another limited but impressive day punting the ball. Coverage was great the few times it was necessary, and on the flip side, we had a good day returning the ball (highlighted by a 42-yard Gibbs KO return).
The only negative, and it’s a big negative, was giving up an onside kick in the fourth quarter, a lesson quickly learned as the Tech hands team recovered the next attempt.
If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, most of the grades I’ve handed out today are at least partially due to the level of competition. We physically overpowered KSU like we should have. That being said, I have to give the coaching staff credit. This team looked prepared, offensively and defensively. Execution was much improved week over week, and I try to grade the controllable regardless of opponent. Third down defense was outstanding (3-15), penalties were not backbreaking, and the play-calling was effective and balanced. Due to some halftime adjustments, the troubles defending the pitch were nearly eliminated in the second half (except for one play). Sometimes “adjustment” just means “you got chewed out” because I didn’t see a fundamental change in strategy, although Charlie Thomas was lined up wide a few times in the second half, adding a little power and speed to the edge. It also appeared we were crowding the line more often in the second half, walking 5-6 guys up at times.
Only reason I’m not going with a higher score here is because the fourth quarter left a sour taste in my mouth. We won every quarter except the fourth because we let off the gas defensively. Add the successful KSU onside kick in there, and those mistakes are what kill you in close games.
Last note - halfway through the week, Coach Patenaude gave the impression that Jeff Sims would play on Saturday. He was dressed, but didn’t play, and we hope his recovery continues to go well. With that in mind, I think Yates should have and probably would have started anyway. His performances the past two weeks has solidified his status as QB1 in my opinion. We’ll see if the coaches feel the same way heading into conference play.
You’ll never see or hear me complain about a win! This week the Wreck rambles up I-85 for the annual showdown against Clemson. In case you’ve been living under a rock or have limited internet access, they’re still really good. I think zero people will pick us to win, but that’s why you play the game. Just ask Northern Illinois...
See you next week. Go Jackets!