Georgia Tech scored a big 56 to 0 victory over ACC upstart Syracause at Bobby Dodd Stadium last Saturday afternoon. Taking a close look at the game film provides interesting analysis as always.
Nothing would be better than to sit in front of you all right now and say that GT has turned the corner on offense and that the Syracuse game is an indicator of that. While our execution was better and we suffered no penalties on offense, the production we enjoyed was a factor of two things primarily: a really really bad scheme for defending us and a mismatch with Finch going one on one against their NG, who was a pretty weak player.
The Orange refused to adjust all day and, like a good offensive coordinator should, Paul Johnson stuck with what was working until they showed us they could stop it, which they never did. So, this game turned into "Groundhog Day" honestly and wasn't a lot of fun to critique.
I am going to share with you, in detail, the idiocy of Syracuse's plan and the absurdity of sticking with it and you will understand. I am not sure that their defensive coordinator looked at our recent film to be honest, and if he did, he failed to realize that we don't run all that much triple option. He also ignored and refused to follow a pretty effective scheme, that has been run by our recent opponents in succession.
Syracuse's entire plan looked to me like it was designed to stop the tiple option play with the defensive ed being left unblocked. Sadly for them, we NEVER left the DE unblocked until we had a 42 point lead in the game. In fact, we doubled him most of the time. This was their alignment, which they NEVER varied from until the end of Q3 where I got so bored I turned off the tape (sorry, no Q4 analysis):
They used a 3-man front with the NG right over center and the DEs over the inside shoulder of the OT. MLBs were set wide, shadowing the outside shoulder of their DEs with the OLBs all the way out in the slot near the LOS, obviously with the intent to disrupt the pitch lanes and prevent plays from getting to the boundary. They kept 2, 10 yard deep safeties near the hash marks. Obviously, it left a huge void right in the middle of the defense right behind their weakest player on the DL, their NG.
Their plan for stopping the TO was to have the backside MLB crash the dive along with the unblocked DE and the play side MLB to run at the QB with the slot LB taking the pitch. This alignment might work, if they had a really good NT AND we consistently left the DE unblocked.
Paul Johnson smartly countered with just a couple basic plays that totally foiled their efforts.
Typically, we doubled the play side DE with the G-T and ran the dive right behind them with the play side AB whacking the play side MLB, who was trying to run at the QB with the TO like motion. The slot OLB was concerned with the pitch which never came on the zone blocked called dive. The other play was a TO looking play with a fake MESH where the BB was actually used to hammer the scraping play side MLB. It was a double option play, actually, with a TO look. When they started to cheat towards motion to defeat the block angles a little, we ran counter and gashed them.
These three plays were run over and over and over until we had a 35-point lead. Syracuse never changed. Neither did we. I was sure they would make a half-time adjustment in desperation or have some kind of plan B. You know what it was coming out of the locker room? It was nothing more than something like a cross charge on the QB with the slot LB running at the QB and the scraping MLB running to the pitch lane. Wow!? It worked once and then we responded by sending the BB out to the slot LB instead. Problem solved. That was the entire game in a nutshell. Pretty boring. Syracuse fans should be pissed.
Once we got the 35-point lead, Coach Johnson started practice and decided Vad needed to throw the ball a little just to work on it. We could have done it earlier because it was already there, but what is the point if they can't handle the run? By then the safeties had all but abandoned any thought about our receivers catching a ball and Waller was all alone over the top. Smartly, Vad did not over throw the ball this time.
I like what CPJ did when Justin Thomas got in there during the second half. We started actually running mesh reads and TO with the DE left unblocked, just so JT could get some practice at it. He made some solid reads on the MESH and the one that he screwed up (kept when he shouldn't have) he made a brilliant move stepping inside the crashing the DE, keeping his balance while getting spun around, and then getting the pitch out for a huge gain to Deon Hill. I don't think running the TO was the right call for how they were aligned, but I appreciate CPJ's efforts to get JT some practice and bring him along. When slowed down it is fun to watch JT gaining ground with every stride on his pursuers. That dude is really fast. We already knew that, I know.
Both QBs played well. Vad had zero MESH reads to make all day. In fact, I can only really say he got stupid once, trying to reverse the field going on his own. His keep / pitch reads are really good. I have a suggestion for Vad next off season. I think he needs to go to a "Jerry Rice like" conditioning and speed camp. I know he did a lot of good work with that Whitfield dude last summer, but if he is going to be running our offense, he needs to be in better shape and recapture some of his lost speed potential. I think he has gotten slower spending most of his time working on throwing technique etc. I appreciate his willingness to get on the ground and protect himself, which he did wisely a few times during the game. He got the yards to move the sticks and didn't fight for the extra 2. Kudos to him.
Justin Thomas played well and looks electric. He is a good change of pace. I don't like the way he carries the ball in the open field and I don't care for his body language after he scores either. Grow up already. He needs to continue to see playing time IMHO, win or lose, ahead or behind. I like the timing of CPJ's use of him this week. We just went up, I think, 21 nil and VL had been playing well before hand. Vad was probably gassed and it was a win win positive for everybody.
The OL played well obviously, but they also benefitted from being able to double some guys at the point of attack. It was a hard day to really critique each player. Finch OWNED their NG like he was the kids daddy. That I can say with utter confidence. He was alone with him all day and basically moved him where he wanted to. Not bad for coming off an injury.
Chamberlain held his water and wasn't exposed because he was either helping with a double, or running to the second level which is his strength. Collectively, the unit did not face a bunch of stunts and charging of gaps while timing snap counts. That may have played a factor in the lack of penalties. I doubt they had a single call or adjustment to make all game.
The ABs didn't get the ball much given what they were doing on defense. They blocked really well. I have gained a lot of respect for Synjin in this regard. It was a great day for him dumping players on their heads.
The BBs did OK, but we have to remember it was handed to them on a silver platter yesterday. I thought there may have been a couple missed cuts to the outside, that were available after breaking through the LOS.
I have no idea what Smelter was thinking throwing that ball. The entire field was open over there. They gu covering Waller was the only player and he was 30 yds down field.