Tomorrow the Hoos hit the road to face Georgia Tech. Virginia has secured their first winning season since 2011 and technically the Coastal Division is still in play with a win for the Cavaliers (as long as Pitt loses). In order to get more dirt on the matchup with the Yellow Jackets, we chatted with Josh Brundage of From the Rumble Seat (@FTRSBlog).
You can check out my answers to his questions here.
Let’s get to it!
Streaking the Lawn: Georgia Tech has had some huge games (LOL Louisville and Virginia Tech), and some that were a little dicier. What’s your take on this GT squad? Exceeding your preseason expectations, or are they about what you thought?
From the Rumble Seat: The Louisville game had perhaps my favorite moment of the season, where in the 4th quarter with the game well out of hand, the refs flagged the entire GT bench for a personal foul for some reason. The cameras cut to CPJ and he was cackling with the QBs and giving out fist bumps. It was so disrespectful haha.
As far as season expectations go, we’re both behind where we thought we would be preseason, but ahead of where we would be after the 1-3 start, so there’s plenty to be frustrated and excited about either way. I think the learning curve under a new DC was steeper than we thought it would be, and it certainly looks like that played into both the USF and Pit losses. This team has grown so much over the course of the season, that I would be willing to bet those are both victories if they were played now, but oh well.
I think 8 wins will be the peak for this team, which has certainly improved from last season but still disappointed in some ways, but the future is certainly trending the correct direction.
STL: TaQuon Marshall seemingly has been at GT forever. What do you like about his play as of late?
FTRS: It’s only his second year as a starter, but it seems like he finally has a firm grasp on the offense and can do everything asked of him. He’s been able to hit open receivers pretty consistently this year, which is an improvement, and his reads in the option game have improved, though they could still get better. He overcame the mental block from last season that prevented him from being able to pitch to his left on triples, so that’s helped open things up as well.
I think the best thing about Marshall has been his leadership even when he hasn’t been playing. His backup, Tobias Oliver, started and played the whole VT game, and he also took over the UNC game when Marshall was struggling. Marshall was often the first to congratulate him after scores and has been nothing but supportive when he hasn’t been in the game. What could’ve been a QB controversy has just been both players supporting and cheering for each other, and that’s due to his leadership.
Marshall has been struggling with some sort of nagging foot injury all season, so don’t be surprised to seem him occasionally spelled by Oliver, even in a close game.
STL: Virginia’s defensive line is depleted thanks to injury. Who should Virginia fans be on the lookout for that could potentially cause problems defensively?
FTRS: On our O-line, it’s definitely Parker Braun. I can’t find the quote, but during the ACC media days over the summer, an opposing coach called him a “ball of knives” in the offense. He’s pretty mean up front. Tech has no problem running the ball up the middle for the length of the field if the O-line is getting push there.
On the perimeter, the play from our A-backs has been stellar this year. The starters of Clinton Lynch and Qua Searcy have been close to flawless whether they’re blocking for each other, carrying the ball, or being used as slot receivers. They’re both seniors, and they’re playing like it. They’ve opened up our perimeter game a lot this season, and it’s been fun to watch the A-back position, basically regardless of who is on the field.
STL: Bryce Perkins, Jordan Ellis, and Olamide Zaccheaus have been dangerous and capable of making big plays offensively. How do the Yellow Jackets slow them down?
FTRS: It’s going to have to fall to our D-line getting pressure and getting off of blocks. Our LB core has honestly been a disappointment so far this season, though some of that could be attributed to a new scheme. If UVA’s QBs have all day to throw the ball, or our D-line can’t shed run blocks, it’s going to be a long day for the GT defense. We have a pretty talented secondary, but if Perkins and Co are given all day to throw, that’s not going to matter much.
In general this season, the defense has only had to make a couple stops or force a couple of turnovers in order for us to win games, since the offense has been so good about holding onto the ball and converting scoring opportunities. Miami only had 3(!) possessions in the second half against us last week, so even getting one stop from the defense can be the final nail in the coffin against the flexbone.
STL: Ok, prediction time! How do you see this one playing out?
FTRS: Basically every single opponent scores on their opening drive against us, so you can go ahead and count a TD for the Whos the first time y’all have the ball.
After that, it always seems like our defense figures things out and we just go from there. Mendenhall always calls a good game against the flexbone, but I think Tech’s O-line is too much for the UVA front 7 to handle and the Yellow Jackets pull away late by forcing a couple turnovers on senior night for a win with about a 35 - 21 final score.
Huge thanks to Josh for taking the time out to chat. Hoos and Jackets kick off at 3:30 and the game will be broadcast on ACC Regional Sports Networks.