Well that sucked. I mean, there isn't much more to say than that.
It didn't take long either. The Yellow Jackets scored on their first play from scrimmage. And then they scored on their third play from scrimmage. The game was over right there. We scored on our ensuing drive to make the game 14-7, but I don't think any Virginia fans thought we were going to stay in the game. Especially after their fourth play from scrimmage was a 60 yard run by Tech QB Tevin Washington.
Yeah, 4 plays and over 200 yards of offense. That's about as bad as a defense can play, short of not showing up at all. Actually, not showing up might've been in improvement.
The offense wasn't a whole lot better. Under 300 yards of total offense, with nearly half of that coming in the 4th quarter. Just 20 points, with 13 of them coming in the 4th quarter. We lost the turnover battle again, although we did finally force a turnover. Actually, force might be a stretch. But, we did recover a GT fumble. Nevermind that it was 49-7 at this point.
Did anything go right?
Well, we won special teams. That's 1/3 of the game, right?
That big KO return would lead to zero points, because we failed on a 4th and 1. I have never understood why teams line up in jumbo sets on short yardage plays. It seems to me that having 20 people in such a small confined space would actually make it harder to pick up that yard. Especially when you consider that the weakest part of our team is, arguably, the inside of the offensive line. It makes more sense to spread the field out and force the defense to defend 53 yards of width. That will open up more space for the RB to find a lane. A year ago, we averaged 5.5 yards per play. On 4th and 1, 5.5 yards is pretty good. I fear this will continue to baffle me for years to come.
Clearly, I (and just about everybody else) underestimated just how much the new additions to the OL would struggle. It seems to be a combination of missed assignments, missed blocks, and just not getting enough push. I mean short yardage plays are about as simple as it gets. Find the guy opposite you, and push him backwards. There is no read there, there is no line call there. Just push. We didn't win that battle against Richmond, so it isn't surprising that we didn't win it against Georgia Tech.
Some people have called for moving Luke Bowanko back to OG and putting Ross Burbank in at OC. Some have argued that Morgan Moses should move inside to OG and Jay Whitmire should move in at RT. Maybe one of those options would help, I'm not sure. But it seems like something must change.
Luckily, the next two weeks are out of conference games. That gives the team some time to figure things out. The defense won't face anything like what Georgia Tech showed, but that doesn't mean teams won't learn from them. Other teams can run the option, they just won't be as good at it. Even more than that, teams will continue to attack the edges of our defense until we prove we can stop those plays. The offense really needs to get things together. If that means changes on the OL, then let's see it. If that means changes at QB, then let's see that (for record, I don't think a change at QB is going to help much...more on that in a bit).
As always some notes:
- Let's get right down to it. A lot of people are calling for the Phillip Sims era to begin. "Rocco can't throw deep and it makes our offense too predictable." That seems to be the most common refrain. That's ridiculous. Michael Rocco had plenty of arm strength last year. Deep passes don't just magically make things better. QBs need time to let pass routes develop. More importantly, being unable to run the ball means that safeties aren't concerned about the ground game, and they are focused on the WRs. That means we aren't getting guys open downfield. It has nothing to do with Michael Rocco's arm strength or lack thereof.
- Sims looked pretty good in mop-up duty, but let's not get carried away. Georgia Tech was playing second stringers, and a pretty soft easy defense. We still don't know what Sims will look like against a real defense that is disguising coverages and sending pressure. Actually, wait, we do. He looked lost in 2 series last week against Penn State.
- All of that aside, if the OL can't get it figured out maybe we should go with Sims. Sims is undoubtedly the more talented QB. Bigger arm, quicker release, more mobility. Letting him learn on the fly will help in the future. If we can't protect either QB, let's go with the guy who needs the reps. Then again, we don't want Sims getting David Carr disease, where he is so afraid of OL breakdowns that he's afraid to hold on to the ball.
- The defense played scared. Perhaps the coaches (and the media) made too much out of the GT offense. Yes, the triple option is a tough defense is defend. But that doesn't mean it can't be defended. If it was this good, everybody would run it. What you need is defenders who are solid in their reads, and maintain their positions regardless of what happens. Sure, we had guys out of positions, and guys biting on play-fakes. But I can't recall a single instance of a defender knocking a blocker backwards. I can't recall a single good solid hit on a ballcarrier. We played scared, and the Yellow Jackets used that fear.
- I thought we'd be 2-1 at this point in the season. So, in a sense, the season has gone how I expected. That said, the season hasn't gone at all how I expected. There is still some time to turn things around. And there really isn't anywhere to go but up. The coaching staff has a lot of work to do in the next few weeks.