The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have a quarterback for the future

If anyone would have told me earlier this week that North Carolina would score 50 points in this game against the Yellow Jackets it would have been grounds to fire another defensive coordinator.  Add in the fact the Tar Heels had an extra week to prepare for this contest coming off a bye week and the proverbial disaster that holds for this high school offense, and the rout was on.  But as Coach Johnson likes to say; let’s go play and see what happens.

After watching Florida State come from behind on the road at Blacksburg to defeat the Hokies 28 to 22 Thursday night on a 39 yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds left to give Virginia Tech 4 conference losses, it meant that Georgia Tech was still in the Coastal Division race.  Wow!  Not to mention how delightful it was to watch someone else feel the misery of losing the exact same way they beat the Yellow Jackets earlier in the season and I was thinking that maybe the team would feel energized as well.  Apparently we would find out a few days later if that Hokie loss had any impact.  Motivation can come from many different sources.

Hard to believe that was even possible after losing to MTSU then getting blown out on homecoming against BYU a few weeks later that this squad would still be in the race for the Coastal Division title.  This Yellow Jacket team has plenty of talent and has been in every game this season, but losing those 4th quarter leads just hit them extremely hard and they went into a funk for a few games as did the fans that became highly agitated and started to take it out on the players and coaches.

So heading into this game at Chapel Hill with all of their superior five star talent and hurry up offense, coupled with it being homecoming, and all the ingredients were in place for a classic butt whipping.  Back to back road games are tough for any football team but this offense has really started to perform well recently and that credit goes to the folks up front in the trenches; AKA; the Goon Squad as they affectionately like to be called.  

After effectively running the football against Maryland for 370 yards it appeared that suddenly the light switch turned on for the Goon Squad as they dominated a very good turtle defensive front.  But given the fact Maryland was playing somewhat at a disadvantage offensively without a true QB that put a huge strain on their defense and the cynics were still doubtful this team would ever win another game this season against an opponent with a healthy signal caller.   

I watched North Carolina lose to Duke several weeks ago in the last minute of that game and was not overly impressed with them, so I was somewhat puzzled as to why they were a ten point favorite in this game?  That being said, my impression is that this team has finally decided that they are a pretty good outfit and after all of the adversity from these tough losses this year they took it upon themselves to prove the naysayers wrong.  Credit this team and the coaching staff for being able to do that as there are many teams that have just chosen to mail it in for the rest of the season. 

Right now after putting up 68 points against North Carolina on the road, the Duke Blue Devils are more than concerned about this game against Georgia Tech than they were a few weeks ago after seeing BYU take the Yellow Jackets to the woodshed.  These past two games this offense is energized and the blocking up front and on the edges has become vicious. 

Perhaps the increase in the playing of time of Vad Lee is a component of that, if so then you have to give Coach Paul Johnson credit for bringing him along slowly as opposed to the unfortunate situation that gave Tevin Washington his opportunity suddenly and without warning a few years ago on the road against Virginia Tech, much like learning to swim as opposed to being thrown into the deep end of the pool and just trying to survive. 

No doubt both Tevin and Vad will continue to play this season and that makes this next stretch of games winnable as to just a few weeks ago.  That is a nice situation to be in for a change as opposed to shoving a QB into a game with limited playing experience on the road.  Now it’s up to the fans to reward this team and fill up BDS next Saturday and make some noise as opposed to griping and booing.

Defensively we still are missing tackles but came up with a big fumble recovery by Isaiah Johnson in the second quarter with the Tar Heels driving the football all the way to the Yellow Jacket 19 yard line.  That was the first of a few big plays by the defense that shifted the momentum when the game was tied at 14 and North Carolina looking to regain the lead.  That led to a nice 80 yard drive by the Yellow Jacket offense to go ahead 21 to 14.

Even though North Carolina came back and tied the score at 21, they had to go 94 yards and used eleven plays which is not their game as they generally score very quickly.  So the defense was getting them out of their fast paced hurry up rhythm.  The GT offense scored another touchdown to go ahead 28 to 21, but to their credit the Tar Heels matched, then grabbed the lead with a two point conversion to go into halftime up 29 to 28.

When Jamal Golden broke that second half kickoff past midfield then picked up Zach Laskey blocking downfield for the last 30 yards and paving the way 100 yards later into the end zone to take the lead, this game was starting to open up as that return just demoralized the crowd and the Tar Heels.  Even after the defense missed enough tackles on Gio Bernard’s dump off pass for a touchdown to make a; how not to tackle highlight reel, somehow the way the offense was performing it just seemed that they were going to be able to take it upon themselves to score on every possession if needed in this game to get the win.

So after Robert Godhigh took a pitch around left end for a touchdown to retake the lead at 41 to 36, the next couple of possessions the Tar Heels started to crack.  First, DT Izaan Cross made a great play jumping up and batting a Bryn Renner pass into an interception reminiscent of a former Tar Heel Julius Peppers to give GT possession at the North Carolina 22.  Although the offense bogged down and had to settle for a field goal attempt, I started to hide my eyes until I saw that this was a different kicker whose number I didn’t recognize.  So I forced myself to watch and was pleasantly shocked as it sailed between the uprights from 35 yards out to increase the lead to 44 to 36. 

The defense stiffened and on 4th and 10 forced North Carolina to punt from their own 25 yard line.  I’m not sure if this was called by Coach Larry Fedora or the punter just had a rugby moment, but as he was moving to the right for a rugby style punt he suddenly morphed into a football player and began to run.  After two measly yards he was quickly smacked down by LB Brandon Watts and the Yellow Jackets were in business at the Tar Heel 27.  Robert Godhigh took another pitch to the left and went into the end zone untouched for another score to up the lead to 51 to 36.  The blocking on that play was outstanding!

 After kicking off the Tar Heels had decent field position around the 25 yard line but the Yellow Jackets were off sides.  Instead of tacking on the 5 yards Larry Fedora had GT kickoff again.  Well this time the Tar Heels were flagged for holding and received a ten yard penalty and began this possession at their 11 yard line.  Once again the defense held and on 4th and 8 this time the Tar Heel punter took off his red cape and reverted back to form.  Jamal Golden ran it back 18 yards to the Tar Heel 43 setting up the offense once again in great field position.

After moving the ball down to the 32 yard line GT had a 3rd and 14.  Then QB Vad Lee had a moment of coming of age by throwing a beautiful strike to Robert Godhigh who went up high as he could and managed to catch the pass in the end zone while being tightly covered by two Tar Heel defenders.  Now the lead was increased to 58 to 36 and this was really starting to look good.

North Carolina scored a touchdown toward the end of the third quarter to make it 58 to 43 heading into the final period.  Then disaster hit when Vad Lee threw a pass that was picked off and returned 34 yards to narrow the lead to 58 to 50.  Would Paul Johnson pull him and insert Tevin?  Next series Vad trots out once again to lead the offense.  This series the offensive line is just mowing down the Tar Heels play after play and gashing them up the middle for nice yardage by Zach Laskey.  After running the ball inside and out 7 plays and 81 yards later the Yellow Jackets scored another touchdown this time with Orwin Smith going in 22 yards untouched to make it 65 to 50 with about ten minutes remaining.

 After the defense gives up a couple of first downs we once again see the Tar Heel punter.  The final Yellow Jacket drive begins on their own 6 yard line, and 6+ minutes later they kick a field goal from the North Carolina 17 to up their lead to 68 to 50 and that is the final score.  The Yellow Jackets ran for 380 yards on the ground against another highly rated rush defense.  Tevin and Vad threw for another 208 on 7 of 12 passing and 1 touchdown.  Just an outstanding performance!

A win next week against Duke and the Yellow Jackets are Coastal Division Champions at 5 and 3.  However, they will then need to have Duke beat Miami the following week in order to play for the ACC Championship as the Hurricanes, who lost to Virginia 41 to 40 on a last second play, still hold the tie breaker over the Yellow Jackets.  Go Jackets!


  • JasperJacket

    I hear you, lets agree that your perspective on the LB performance of this team differs from mine, I don’t see those guys as coming any near the performance level necessary to run an effective 3/4. Time will tell which of us has a more accurate prediction on future performance. As the HC says that’s why you play the games. For the time being I’ll go woth your thoughts on the RS DL’s and we’ll see. Interesting points about Vrabel and Van Gorder. We both agree that defensive pressure in the opponents backfield is the key to contain todays high powered offenses. When we do not do well offensively that’s the main cause of our own losses when you get right down to it. Diruptions in the spread option for both running plays and passing attempts because of the bad guys defenders being in the midst of our backfield kills us too.

    Also think that your comments about the quality of bowl we can go to (hopefully we do in fact make it to one (Duke can stop that!) are very insightful.
    Well anyway, Go Jacket’s Beat Duke. Then on to Athens with our head held high!

    • Mike

      Hi Jasper Jacket,

      While you’re correct that we don’t have a Lawrence Taylor or James Harrison at the OLB position, they are doing okay but the pressure schemes are either not in place or being utilized to make them more effective coming off the edge rushing the QB. We are running this 3/4 like Baskin Robbins plain vanilla ice cream and it doesn’t work well without pressure. Kind of like buying a bikini when you live in Alaska.
      In fact, it’s horrible without pressure! Make the QB beat you throwing out of rhythm. The one time we put some preesure on the QB with an inside LB B gap rush by Nealy, he got a sack! This game we need more of that as Renfree doesn’t like to run as he blew out a knee against us a few years ago.
      Without consistent pressure coming from all over the field a kicker could stand back there in the pocket and complete passes. Probably even ours! Defense is all about attacking and disrupting. Otherwise if you sit back and play that keep them in front of you approach they just move it up and down the field unless there is a turnover.
      We will find out just how hungry this team is come Saturday as they need to atone for some poor home game performances, and hopefully they now understand what it means to compete and the positive results that flow when you play hard every down. Beat the Blue Devils!

  • JasperJacket

    I understand that you believe GT has the players to run the 3/4 that’s fine. I simply do not. Our ability to wreak havoc in the competitors backfield is almost nill on either running plays or passing plays in this 3/4. The statistics validate that. Duke’s QB and UGA’s QB I am afraid will pick this defense apart like so many others have and it’s been that way for along time now because there will be little to no pressure on them more than likely. We will in all probability wind up in a 2nd rate bowl game again this year because we simply do not have a D1 level defense and frankly I simply do not see one on the horizon. The key to getting the D at Tech back on track in IMO is recruiting. The Stephon Tuit kid now at ND is a perfect example. We simply did not have the recuriting ammo necessary on the D side of the equation to pull that one off.
    I repeat something I said on this blog before, go get Giff Smith back! He is a great recruiter and now has the NFL pedigree on his resume’s as well. He is also a strong teacher and is an excellent D Line coach. The 3-4 scheme is heavily dependant on 2 critical positions, a monster nose guard and other worldy LB’s that can run like sprinters, are large enough to play with their hand on the ground from time to time and are simply all around top of the heap athelets. We don’t have that kind of NG or LB talent and do not appear to be even reccruiting any of that caliber of players necessary to run a 3 man front effectively. As I see it we have no choice but to move to the 4-3 to compete. Smith has all the atributes of what we need at GT and knows the state of Georgia and it’s HS coaches like the back of his hand. He’s both the coach and recruiter we need…..of course that’s IMO. Since I don’t make 2.some odd mil per year coaching the Jackets my opinion is not worth much! Johnson knows what he has to do, just like he did when he made the decision to fix his special teams issues which he is well on his way to doin when he brought in a special teams guy. It remains to be seen if he can pull the right strings as he does so often on the O side of the ball to get a complete team on the field every Saturday not just every once in a while against lesser teams they way we have seen it in the last 2 years.
    I enjoy very much your analysis of the games and your insights, keep em coming! BTW I know I sound like a broken record on the Giff Smith thing, and even if you do not agree with me on that, you have to admit that since he left our defensive recruiting has been shall we say….lacking??? Numers are numbers and they don’t lie.

    • Mike

      Hi Jasper Jacket,

      Frankly there hasn’t been much in the way of defense since Coach Paul Johnson arrived. Not really sure the reason for that other than some players didn’t live up to expectations/recruiting hype or they weren’t coached up very well. I’m not going to call out any specific players, but I’d take 10 more like Julian Burnett over some of the alleged 4 star folks that have not made any contributions for a variety of reasons. No doubt it would have been great to have gotten Tuitt, however, his folks wanted him to become a Golden Domer and when you’re 18 and the parents say you are going to go play college football at a highly regarded Institution, nothing can override that decision.

      I will agree to an extent that we are still in the process of getting all of the pieces for the 3/4, but you can’t run it effectively with only 3 players getting after the QB. I’d prefer hitting a QB even if he completes a few passes as opposed to sitting back with 8 defenders giving up dink and dunk pass completions. That is the root problem IMO. Much like buying a high end sports car then putting a trailer hitch on the rear and towing a boat. Why bother?

      At the moment our LB’s are further ahead than the D-line, and my thought is CPJ made a determination that he needed to redshirt the last class of D-linemen in order to get them ready to play and this season was going to rise or fall on the shoulders of the returning players in the line. With the exception of Gotsis, who was already a few years older and physically more mature, the redshirt linemen are probably going to surprise next year and this defense will be ready to go provided Johnson makes the right hire. You want Giff Smith, I want Mike Vrabel from Ohio State. No doubt we both will strike out.

      Once Auburn fires Gene Chizik, which I think they will after the season, then an experinced DC like Brian Van Gorder will be on the market. He also knows the State of Georgia and is a firey personality that is needed on that side of the ball. That might be a possibility that meets both our expectations and maybe the fan base will be thrilled to have a former UGA DC coaching the defense as we already have Bohanon on the offensive side of the football.

      At this point the team needs to win this Saturday against Duke and the bowl game is less significant than the extra spring practice time that going to a bowl will provide for the younger players. At the moment we need to outscore teams and until we get a DC to put together a decent D, most games will be a shootout for the remainder of this season. I don’t expect any 6 to 3 wins this year, but will have to settle for 68 to 50 so long as we have the higher number.

      But it could be worse, look at Lane Kiffin at USC (west) giving up 51 points to Oregon a few weeks ago, I doubt Lane will fire his dad Monte who was a defensive guru in the NFL with his Tampa 2 scheme. Apparently that isn’t doing very well these days. I trust that Johnson will get it fixed.

  • GT Nuke

    Hey Mike, a lot can change in a weeks time. I agree with JasperJacket though and I’m not ready to pour myself a cup of koolaid just yet. I did see a noticeable improvement in special teams play, and there were a few nice moments for the defense as well. I am cautiously optimistic. Lets defeat Duke and let the chips fall where they may. Then it’s Dawg whoopin time (maybe).

    • Mike

      Hi GT Nuke,
      Ditto on the comments. Currently this team is playing with some confidence and has lots of momentum heading into this game against Duke. They picked a very good time to wake up and start playing some football as November is the time to get it done. The Blue Devis first, then we’ll see after that contest.

  • JasperJacket

    I will reserve my comments on the state of GT football until the year ends. Once again the O is very strong and the D is not adequate enough to win consistently this past weekend. Nothing much has changed since Groh was let go, though I really didn’t expect that it would. GT does not have the athelets to run the 3/4, and probably never will. We will continue to suffer thru these games having to score enough in the 4th quarter to outlast the competition. Probably will be the same way this weekend against Duke. Maybe this year will convince Johnson to focus on overall team performance not just the offense going forward. We’ll see.

    • Mike

      Hi Jasper Jacket,
      Until Coach Paul Johnson makes the right hire at DC this will continue to be a work in progress on that side of the ball. It will be interesting to see who he brings in next as he needs to get somebody who can fix this side of the ball. GT has the personnel for the 3/4, but they are not running it very effectively as you need to bring more pressure with the 4 LB’s, much like the Pittsburgh Steelers do in their scheme. I think Shawn Green has been very active in his play at NG, and although he isn’t a 350 Lbs. player, he gets into the backfield and creates disruption. We will see how the redshirt freshman compete in the spring.
      I agree that we will give up some points against Duke, but they way the Offensive line, A-Backs, and receivers have been blocking, we will score a bunch to offset that difference. We need this game to get 6 wins and this team will get it done.

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