Friday, November 11, 2011

VT Too Much For GT

Down just a few points to a Top Ten team early in the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech abandoned the running game that had more than matched Virginia Tech the previous three quarters.

The number ten team should usually beat number 21, but Paul Johnson thinks he must fool the other team in order to win. Tech’s wide variety of running plays had the VT defense on its heels. There’s no reason why more of the same wouldn’t have resulted in another score. Washington was masterfully running the option, making perfect decisions whether to pitch or keep. Clearly, this is why he’s the starting QB…obviously it’s not because of his passing.

But on first down Johnson called a pass play. After the incompletion, Tech faced a second and ten. Simms up the middle for two or three…another play that had little success all season. Third and long: another incompletion. Then another poor punt, and VT was again in scoring position.

Because Johnson refuses to employ the shotgun formation in obvious passing situations (like late being behind late in the game), the VT defenders were able to rush the pocket as fast as the right-handed Washington was able to drop back looking left, then turning to his right to set up to throw. Even when Tevin was able to get off the pass, his receivers were just as likely to drop the ball as catch it. Stephen Hill was more concerned with getting interference called than catching one key pass, though the replay showed it was he who had pushed off. No mention of this by ESPN’s crack announcing team.

I was not in complete agreement with the announcers, particularly about Johnson’s decision to go for it on fourth down. Even figuring the number of possessions remaining, with the time remaining it was neither the time nor the field position to go for it. The head coach had lost confidence in his defense AND his punter. Neither should’ve come as a surprise: the Hokies had scored on four of their previous five possessions. The fourth down sneak by the lithe Washington came close, particularly when he stretched out the ball while turned skyward (again, a move that was missed by the three announcers, but not the replay officials).

But the momentum swung to the Hokies once and for all when linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu slugged VT QB Logan Thomas in the head. The whistle had already blown, and the Jackets had stopped the Hokies on third down. Instead of punting, Beamer’s bunch drove the length of the field to take the lead for good. By the time Thomas couldn’t be tackled on his twelve yard TD “sneak” up the middle, the Jacket defenders had it in their heads that they couldn’t tackle the super-sized QB.

After that touchdown, the Yellow Jacket defense was not a factor. Another reason the defense again faltered was due to their affinity to try strip the ball than actually tackle the ballcarrier. This led to additional chunks of yardage gained by the Hokies. I didn’t see number 28 tackle anyone all night.

Virginia Tech dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Though VT’s OL outweighed all but one of GT’s D-Line, the pot-bellied Jacket defenders could repeatedly be seen chugging after the play, with no hope of catching the ballcarrier.

Once more, Johnson blamed the team: "We just didn't make enough plays, we didn't get it done. Offense, defense, special teams – nobody got it done." I’m not sure what game he watched. Besides the numerous big plays by the running game in the first three quarters, over the same span the defense sacked Thomas several times, and threw all-ACC running back David Wilson for several big losses. Kicker Justin Moore was 2-2 on field goals, and the Hokies were unable to break off a big kick return. GT made plenty of plays…until the successful option attack was abandoned for useless pass plays.

Washington cannot be blamed for the fourth-quarter flop. Like Nesbitt before him, he obviously will never be a passer. Had Vad Lee played, with several games of experience under his belt, the Jackets might’ve won. Based on the way the season has played out, with Lee under center Georgia Tech very well may still be undefeated.

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