Saturday night was just a tremendous effort not only by our team on the field, but all of the fans in the stands who were Loud and Proud the entire game. We need to start making that the standard for All home games from this point forward. That is what a true home field advantage is all about. You could see how it energized the entire team on the field. The last 8 minutes of the game the entire Yellow Jacket sideline was just rocking with the crowd, an amazing sight to see from up in the stands. Now onto the game.
The old adage; We just stopped ourselves was on display with the Georgia Tech offense the first couple of times they had the football. A bad pitch out; a couple of holding penalties; topped off with an illegal procedure just throttled any chance of moving the football. The Hokies defense did nothing to contribute to those penalties, however, they did benefit from them by keeping the Georgia Tech offense grounded on the sidelines. However, our defense was not only ready for the challenge and opportunity to redeem themselves after last week’s performance at FSU, but came out with fire and sure tackling against Tyrod Taylor and the Hokies ground game. Give credit to Taylor on that first pass he completed on the sideline as Jerrard Tarrant had very good coverage on his man.
But the play made by defensive tackle Jason Peters in deflecting the Taylor pass into the air, then intercepting the pass is an effort only accomplished by 1 other defensive lineman. Guess what? He has the same initials as Jason Peters and also played in the ACC. Give up? It was a lineman named Julius Peppers who played at North Carolina prior to becoming a high draft pick in the NFL, for which he is still starring. Just a little crumb for you trivia buffs out there. While the Jacket offense failed to do much with that turnover, it was the first interception that Tyrod Taylor had thrown in his last 80 attempts. More importantly, it helped the Yellow Jackets regain the field position battle in the first half.
Then later on when the Hokies were in our territory, we stuffed them on a 3rd down and 2 for a 1 yard loss and they settled for a 34 yard field goal. You are not going to win a game, let alone a big game by settling for field goals. Yet that is what the # 4 team in the country did. Give our kids credit for their effort and pride by making that critical stop. That play set the tone for what happened next when our offense went back to work.
The next series when Tech got the ball back, Josh hit Demaryius Thomas on that beautiful 51 yard pass down the sideline. After Josh scored from the 1 yard line on the quarterback sneak we went into the locker room with a 7 to 3 lead. Given that we had played so poorly on offense based upon our own errors, and not because the Hokies were doing anything exceptional on defense to stop us, I was starting to feel real good. We were beating the Hokies with Beamer Ball. Also, just before half time Tyrod Taylor threw yet another interception on that long pass into the end zone that Morgan Burnett picked off prior to going into the locker room. These little things add up to the larger picture especially for a defense that had been frequently maligned in the media all week long.
Then the opening kickoff of the 2nd half by the Hokies went out of bounds. Now I was really feeling confident as that is something you never see in the world of Beamer Ball. Call it what you want, but I think it was a sign that this was going to be Georgia Tech’s night. Now it was time to see who made the better adjustments in the locker room. Dwyer runs it up the gut for 4 yards; Anthony Allen around right end for 16 more; Dwyer up the middle for another 5; then Josh Nesbitt around the left side for 31 yards. The ground game was eating up yardage against a team that had given up an average of 47 yards in their last 3 games. Then Dwyer gains a tough 3 yards down to the 1, and Josh takes it into the end zone for a 14 to 3 lead. That drive, all on the ground sent a message that this offense would not be stopped.
After the Hokies returned the kickoff back for a huge gain, it was up to the defense to show what it was made of. The Hokies drove down to about our 20 yard line and faced a 3rd down and 2 yards to go. The defense stepped up and stuffed Williams for 1 yard loss. Then the real chess match began with Frank Beamer and Paul Johnson. Even after we stopped them for a 1 yard loss, Beamer decided to go for it on 4th down and 3 either because he wanted to send a message to our defense that he didn’t think we would be able to stop his ground game, or he was afraid that Paul Johnson was going to run the ball on his defense all night unless he got a touchdown on this drive.
That decision early in the second half is a huge sign of either disrespect for our defense, or respect for our triple option offense. After the defense held them on 4th down, I knew we were going to be okay the rest of the game. That play was a momentum changer and gave the defense a huge lift. Unfortunately we threw an interception on the very next play looking for the knockout blow by throwing to the wrong receiver. This provided a huge jolt for the Hokies who were on the verge of letting this game get out of their control. The very next play Williams goes right up the middle untouched for a 66 yard touchdown putting the Hokies right back into the game.
Paul Johnson wasn’t about to let that happen though. This was the drive that we needed to respond to the quick touchdown by the Hokies. So imagine my frustration watching Orwin Smith and Embrey Peeples run into each other on the kickoff at the 14 yard line. But then the running game just started to click, and the Hokies were getting ground up. The offense went out and just began to dominate the Hokies at the line of scrimmage. Now Allen and Dwyer were consistently gaining 5 and 7 yards on each carry. Credit our offensive line for some tremendous blocking at the point of attack. There weren’t linemen penetrating into the backfield this game. More importantly, the time of possession was weighing solidly in favor of Tech which will eventually just wear out a defense.
That is why this offense is so effective once it gets going and starts chewing up yardage and racking up the 1st downs in the process. After a couple of 1st downs, Dwyer breaks one up the middle for 34 yards down to about the Hokies 20 yard line. The drive has been about 10 plays and just a big chunk of the 3rd quarter. A couple of more positive plays then Josh runs the option to the left and pitches the ball to Marcus Wright who takes it in 13 yards for a touchdown with some excellent blocking on the perimeter.
On the kickoff the Hokies again return it for a bunch of yards. While we do need to get this area corrected, I will say that Scott Blair is one heck of an athlete. He made a couple of touchdown saving tackles on the kickoffs by running down some folks who he didn’t have an angle on. He is getting a helmet sticker this week for preventing a disaster on those returns. The defense responds in a big way with Derrick Morgan sacking Tyrod Taylor on 3rd down and forcing a punt. Our offense takes over and just grinds out the yards all the way down to the Hokies 15 yard line. But an errant pitch gets away from Roddy Jones on the left side of the line. A Hokie picks up the ball and has an open field ahead of him for a touchdown, but redshirt freshman receiver Quentin Sims thankfully knocks him out of bounds.
Eventually the Hokies score another touchdown but fail on the 2 point conversion. Now it is up to our offense to run out the clock. We chewed up a bunch of time and Josh Nesbitt scored from about 39 yards on a nice run off left tackle. You could see the Hokies were very tired on defense. In fact, their linebacker Barquell Rivers who made 16 tackles said; “We were tired but we couldn’t get them off the field.” Hence the triple option demoralizes a defense as it wears them down physically. Tech ran for 272 yards in the 2nd half and 309 for the game.
Although the Hokies got the ball back and scored a quick touchdown, you could see that their defense was just exhausted. Tech ran out the rest of the clock and the fans “swarmed the field” in celebration. It was quite a sight to see, and I savored the moment as did everyone else at Bobby Dodd on Saturday. Now we head to UVA to take on the Coastal Conference leaders on Saturday. Tech will be ready for the challenge.