Sorry for the delay. Blog posts invariably take longer to put together than you think. Anyway, I mentioned in the last post Paul Johnson’s assessment of practice, and how he does that every Wednesday after practice, his last media availability each week.
After he said that he was a believer in the idea that how a team practices usually indicates how it will play after the N.C. State game, I thought it might be fun to re-visit his assessments before each game this season (except for the first) and see how it matched up with performance, along with my score (1-5) for accuracy. Forgive the tangent, but it’s sort of like how market watchers used to judge the size of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s briefcase for clues about the reserve’s impending actions on the interest rate.
When Johnson meets with reporters after practice, Kelly Quinlan of Rivals always asks Johnson how it went and, in cases when he’s not there, Rod Mackenzie of Scout picks up for him. I guess Kelly is our Helen Thomas. For the literalists among you, I wouldn’t take any of this seriously. Onward…
Sept. 7, prior to Middle Tennessee State
“Guys were flying around, acting like they were having some fun. I think we’ll be ready to play.”
Result: Tech jumps out to a 28-0 lead, holds MTSU to seven points through three quarters and rolls to a 49-21 win. The Jackets ding MTSU with two one-play touchdown drives of 73 and 71 yards.
Score: 5. The most confident assessment of the season anticipates a demolition.
Sept. 14, prior to Kansas
“It was O.K.”
“It was a little better today than it was yesterday, so hopefully it’ll be better tomorrow and we’ll be ready to go.”
Result: Tech hammers the Jayhawks with 768 rushing yards and sets an NCAA record for yards-per-carry in a 66-24 rout.
Score: 2. The Jackets prepared for an assault on the school record books with a practice that barely passed muster.
Sept. 21, prior to North Carolina
“It was O.K. Nothing spectacular, but it was O.K. Not terrible.”
“Yesterday was pretty good. Today was just kind of average.”
Result: Against the toughest competition they’d faced to that point (and since), the Jackets pump out 382 rushing yards in a back-and-forth game that they win 35-28 with a 61-yard touchdown drive in the fourth-quarter. Tech’s run-defense issues become apparent as running back Giovani Bernard runs for 155 yards.
Score: 4. A sharp performance overall against a good opponent (particularly by the offensive line) with some holes on both sides. “Pretty good” was one of the more positive phrases used this season.
Sept. 28, prior to N.C. State
“It was good. It was O.K. Part of it was alright, part of it we weren’t dialed in like I’d like for us to be.”
Result: Tech came out firing and led 21-0 and surged again to a 45-21 lead, but the Jackets missed on a number of plays, allowed a 19-play drive (that didn’t result in a score) and got gashed for 195 rushing yards.
Score: 4. Kind of a tough one to grade, given that Johnson assessed practice in four different ways and Tech played hot and cold. Perhaps it’s fitting. But “not being dialed in” was a telling evaluation.
Oct. 5, prior to Maryland
“It was a little better. Practice this week has been a little better. So, hopefully we’ll play that way on Saturday. You never know. We’ve still got one more day to go.”
Result: Tech survives an upset attempt in a 21-16 win over Maryland in a game perhaps most noteworthy for Tevin Washington’s 32 carries and Terrapins defensive tackle Joe Vellano’s 22 tackles. The Jackets miss on a handful of big plays that likely would have changed the complexion of the game.
Score: 3. Another tough one to score, because I think Tech actually didn’t play that badly despite the score. Either way, Johnson’s optimism would have indicated a more decisive win.
Oct. 12, prior to Virginia
“It was all right, nothing great.”
“No, probably it wasn’t as good as last week. Last week we actually practiced pretty good. It’s a concern. We’ve still got tomorrow. We need to clean up a lot of stuff.”
Result: Tech plays its poorest offensive game of the season and takes its first loss, 24-21. The defense surrenders 272 yards and 24 points in the first half but pitches a shutout in the second.
Score: 5. Tech got whaled on at the start, evidence of a lack of necessary intensity. The coach saw it coming.
Wednesday, prior to Miami
“It’s been good. We’ve had two pretty good practices.”
Look back at Virginia
I talked to Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Lazor Tuesday about last week’s game. Not sure how much you care about it anymore, but just in case, a couple tidbits.
1. Going into the game, he had thought Tech was doing a better job stopping the run with “seven guys in the front and playing Cover-2.” That answer might sound bogus, I imagine, and perhaps so will my assertion that I thought the run defense was better against Maryland than the N.C. State game with the very glaring exception of the 77-yard run by quarterback C.J. Brown. Regardless…
2. He thought it was important to start fast, as is always the case, but especially so against an explosive team like Tech. He said he thought the offense did well except for the third quarter, when it only had the ball for one possession due to Tech’s 9:31 drive to open the quarter.
3. On the game-ending possession: “We were huddled on the sideline as a group and I think our guys were very determined that we were going to drive the ball. We threw a couple passes, but the way it was going, the run was really working.”
4. On Virginia at this point: “I think we’re at the point, our team is maturing, so as an offensive unit, we’re maturing and that’s part of where we are. We’ve got some returning linemen, we’ve got three backs who are all coming into their own. It was probably good timing for us to have an opportunity to finish out a game like that. Just everything kind of worked together. It was a day when we were running the ball well. I thought the guys executed the plan very well. … It just all came together. It was the right time to have that kind of situation come up. The guys were really ready for it mentally and emotionally.”
5. Just by the production, he couldn’t argue it wasn’t the line’s best game of the season. During the team’s bye week, coaches drilled hard on the running backs hitting the holes hard and blocking scheme and technique.
“So a lot of things that probably didn’t have to do with Georgia Tech came together. That’s the nature of football. You play a team in a certain moment, sometimes they’re up and you’re down. We were on the way up.”
6. I don’t think Virginia’s coaches thought the offense would have the day it had. “When we watched them, we said, ‘They’re better now at running their defense,’” he said. “That was our opinion watching and preparing.”
It was in response to a question about the Tech defensive line, which he sort of deflected with this answer. Obviously, he wasn’t going to say that he thought Tech’s defense was worse, but he also could have gone in different directions with his response, and I didn’t get the sense he was saying it just to say it.
One conclusion: For several reasons, Tech ran into Virginia on the wrong day, as often seems to be the case in Charlottesville.
Stories on the one-game suspension of Miami defensive tackle Micanor Regis from the Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. A Post profile of Hurricanes wide receiver Clive Watford, who started playing organized football as a high school senior and one from the Sun-Sentinel on wide receiver Tommy Streeter, who has five touchdown receptions and an 18.4 yards-per-catch average.
From the Herald:
“The suspension hurts the Hurricanes (3-3, 1-2) in more ways than one. The UM defensive line has been severely hit by injuries, and will face the vaunted triple-option attack of the Yellow Jackets (6-1, 3-1). The loss of Regis, the only healthy veteran tackle, means that the Canes have Adewale Ojomo (who was converted a couple weeks ago from defensive end) and junior college transfer Darius Smith as the remaining players with any real experience. Olsen Pierre, a freshman, is on the depth chart backing up Ojomo on the right side. Freshman Jalen Grimble, listed as an end, can also play tackle.”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog