In Georgia Tech’s most defensively aggressive performance to date this season, the Yellow Jackets beat Wake Forest 30-16. It wasn’t always pretty, but ultimately, the Yellow Jackets came out on top. Let’s dig in and see what went well and what didn’t.
Looking at the overall production, Georgia Tech clearly outplayed Wake Forest, but it was not necessarily the best performance Tech has had this season. The Yellow Jackets finished with a net -10% success rate and 3rd down success rate and finished in the 0th percentile for defensive run stuff rate. The area in which Tech shined the most was the passing game, where Tech finished in the 82nd percentile.
Looking at the second chart, it seems likely that this was one of Tech’s worst rushing performances to date, finishing with -0.13 EPA/play. Haynes had a fine game (0.03 EPA/play) but a low success rate for Haynes King and a bad day for Trey Cooley dragged that EPA number down into the negatives.
Defensively, Tech didn’t seem to have much of an issue stifling the Demon Deacons’ pass offense. Holding a team to -0.44 EPA/play is absolutely insane. It wasn’t the worst performance for an offensive passing attack, but the 10th percentile is not where you want to be.
Opponent-Adjusted EPA/play - Wk 4— Joshua "Bud" Davis, PhD (@JBudDavis) September 26, 2022
▫️A few clear high quality teams
▫️Some interesting names in the 2nd Tier
▫️Iowa (2022): the type specimen
▫️A very crowded 3rd Tier
▫️Give Lance Leipold the Heisman
▫️ND and TAMU trying to hide
▫️The U is back. Way back. pic.twitter.com/aLsVhyDCSo
Opponent Adjusted EPA/play— Joshua "Bud" Davis, PhD (@JBudDavis) September 25, 2023
▫️Oklahoma, USC, Washington... then it gets interesting
▫️FSU, Clemson isn't even one of your toughest 3 opponents
▫️SEC looks as mid as I've ever seen (for now)
▫️Just like we always expect: UCLA & Oklahoma have great defenses pic.twitter.com/MljY5QscXp
I wanted to show these two tweets to give you all an idea of where Tech stands a bit more holistically compared to this time last year. The first tweet is from Week 4 of the college football season last year. Georgia Tech had the worst offense in the country by this measure (even below UConn) and a fine but below-average defense. This is the point in the season at which Geoff Collins was relieved of his duties. Fast-forward just one year, and it’s clear to see just how much Georgia Tech has progressed. They are now slightly above average on defense (which is a bit surprising to me) and average on offense. Keep in mind that this is opponent-adjusted, so that impacts the raw numbers a bit. Either way, this is tremendous progress, and Brent Key has done a great job.
Interestingly, this might have been Haynes King’s worst performance of the season so far. He completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the first time this season and also got a bit more reckless with some of his passes, one of which resulted in his first interception since the first game of the season. Still, though, he averaged 0.22 EPA/play and over 8 yards/dropback. King once again did a great job of spreading the ball around, with nine different players getting catches.
Comparatively to the other quarterbacks in the country, King finished about where he has been, in the bottom-right quadrant. For some reason, PFF is just not a big fan of Haynes King. Of note, there are a couple of other quarterbacks who have consistently been in the top-right quadrant that Tech will be facing in the next couple of weeks. Specifically, one of those is Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke, who has consistently been in the top-right since the beginning of the season.
Georgia Tech struggled with stopping Wake’s running game. On more than half of their runs, Wake was able to gain at least 4 yards. Justice Ellison was a thorn in Tech’s side for the whole game, rushing for 145 yards and averaging 0.28 EPA/play. Thankfully, though, Georgia Tech kept him out of the endzone.
Looking at King’s raw rushing numbers (6 carries, 53 yards), I was a little confused as to why his EPA was so low. After looking through the play-by-play, though, I get it. Four of the five runs (not including the 35-yard run) came on either second or third down where he failed to pick up either the first down or touchdown (whichever is applicable in the situation).
Georgia Tech did a good job of limiting Wake Forest’s explosive plays, but those four rush plays are still a bit concerning. It’s also a bit concerning that without explosive plays, Georgia Tech is also at a net negative when it comes to EPA/play. Haynes King making plays happen in the air with guys like Abdul Janneh and Eric Singleton are making this offense run. This week, tight end Luke Benson even got in on the fun with his 38-yard catch picking up 4.39 EPA.
Yay!!! We finally saw Georgia Tech produce havoc! Andrew Thacker really dialed up the pressure this week, and as a result, we saw Tech’s defense blitz quite a bit. This freed up guys to put Mitch Griffis on his [Aerosmith] EIGHT TIMES. Kyle Kennard picked up four of those, while Zeek Biggers, KJ Wallace, Andre White, and Paul Moala are also credited with at least partial sacks.
The number in this chart isn’t actually even fully accurate (probably a bug in ESPN’s play-by-play data) because it does not account for the third interception or the three forced fumbles. Tech also finished with 10 total tackles for loss. This would put Georgia Tech at 16 havoc plays for a havoc rate of 19.75%!!!
Now, the trick will be if Georgia Tech can continue this performance. If you’ll remember a couple years ago, Georgia Tech had another 8-sack performance against UNC. That game was not indicative of that defense’s season-long performance. That being said, though, if Thacker can pull a few more games like this during the season, it would go a long way to help his chances of sticking around.
Georgia Tech had a successful day kicking. Aidan Birr went 3/3 on field goals and made all three PAT tries. That punting EPA is so low because David Shanahan had one punt accrue -4.46 EPA. This was Shanahan’s punt in the second quarter following Jaylon King’s first interception. My guess is that EPA grades the punt negatively because it killed the chance to get points off of the turnover.
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- The defense had an aggressive performance, but it wasn’t all good. Once again, Georgia Tech struggled against the run and gave up a few big plays. This time, though, it was because they played a bit over aggressively. If Thacker can find a middle ground for his defense, we’ll be in business.
- Even in a down-performance, Haynes King is still really good at quarterback. King is really starting to make a name for himself as one of the best QBs in the ACC. With some more great performances, he’ll get some attention. His performance also makes me feel great about the decision to keep Chris Weinke as the QB coach.
- Georgia Tech needs to chill with the penalties. I don’t know why it didn’t show up properly on GameOnPaper, but Georgia Tech had 14 penalties after coming into the game with the fewest penalties in college football. I know the refs weren’t the best, but that is inexcusable.