So let’s get it all out right now: the Yellow Jackets didn’t cover the spread; they were lucky this wasn’t another Gardner Webb; or worse yet another MTSU. That being said, this game against the Wofford Terriers is now in the win column and time to get ready for their next game against Tulane. While the terriers played a very good game and contained the triple option by loading up the box with eight and sometimes nine men, they exposed themselves to the passing game that can be very deadly in this offense with the right player at QB.
Justin Thomas certainly showed us that he is the proper triggerman for at least one game by making Wofford pay dearly in going 11 of 15 for 282 yards and two touchdowns. That correlates to 25.6 yards per completion. That is the type of passing efficiency that makes this offense exponentially more dangerous and difficult to defend with a dedicated triple option QB.
What makes this particular opening game performance even more impressive is that our QB is not supposed to be as good a passer as his predecessor who suddenly bolted last season to JMU to enhance their program with his superior passing proficiency. Given that just about every team started the season on Saturday, I was curious to see the gaudy statistics put up by a prodigious passing QB who used to attend the Institute.
Vad Lee’s numbers against Maryland on Saturday were as follows: 16 of 37 for 141 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions; he also had two sacks for -22 yards in his JMU debut as a passing QB given that the triple option was not “his thing.” Even though JMU lost to Maryland to the tune of 52 to 7, one would have thought that a passing QB de jure would have put up better numbers than those especially since he was no longer wearing the shackles of a triple option QB and all of the restrictions that offense imposes on a field general. So apparently the triple option offensive scheme was not the anchor it was portrayed to be, which leaves the only remaining option (pun intended) that it might actually be the attitude of the player. Better luck next game.
While the Yellow Jackets score was not gaudy and closer than anticipated, it might be more helpful for the youngsters on this team to get more actual playing time as opposed to sitting during a 70 to 0 blow out where everyone on the roster is in the game before the start of the fourth quarter. Two plays that stood out for me were on the first drive of the game when Justin Thomas was about to be tackled for a two yard loss on a 3rd and three but eluded that tackle to get the first down based on his quickness, instincts, and heart. Last year with a passing QB at the helm that would have resulted in a five yard loss and an appearance by the punt team. That play alone has me hopeful about the sudden change in QB’s for this season.
The other play was the hustle of WR Michael Summers on the 71 yard Smelter reception for a touchdown. Mr. Summers hustled downfield from the opposite side to make a great effort block to cut off the pursuit when DeAndre cut back and cleared the path for his final twenty yards into the end zone untouched. Those are the little things that will make this offense even better as the season progresses given that he clearly wants to stay on the field even after Mr. Waller finishes his two game-suspension. That is the type of competition all coaches just love to see each and every game and practice which will make the team just that much better.
The defense seemed confused at times but other than the 92 yard ole’ up the middle run for a TD did okay for the most part. They didn’t give up any big plays at all in the passing game and held Wofford to 55 yards. Even though the terriers run an option offense, I would have been shocked had their QB put up numbers similar to Justin Thomas. The defense will get better as there was no need to show anything beyond a base look for this entire game.
Now before I start to hear about GT can never beat an ACC opponent if they play like this against an FCS team, I’ll tell you that first games are pretty much the same for every team unless you open with a league contest. You want to give everyone a taste of game conditions and see how they react. For the most part the youngsters on defense made themselves known and I liked their aggressive play on the field.
What will be important is how Justin Thomas absorbs the experience from this effort and enhances his reads on the option plays each and every game moving forward. One thing that will be interesting to watch is whether he can continue to hurt teams with his passing when they load the box, or better yet, when they try to blow up the option by stunting into the A and B gaps. This is where his quickness and speed will come into play and become a noticeable upgrade over the passing QB who masqueraded in front of him last season. This much I do know; he will be much harder to catch when he runs and I’m focusing on his attitude and not his speed.
All the complaining and griping aside, the Yellow Jackets are undefeated after their season opener while two schools from the State of South Carolina both ranked in the top 15 lost. Time to get ready for the green wave who after losing a double OT game on the road at Tulsa will not want to have GT ruin the grand opening of their on campus stadium next Saturday. Go Jackets!