Could Georgia Tech’s 609-yard meltdown have been an aberration? From one perspective (and probably many others), possibly, but most likely not.
In 2011, there were 22 games between BCS conference opponents in which one team gave up yardage within 25 yards either way of the 609 surrendered by the Yellow Jackets to Miami. Some defenses were torched multiple times, 16 teams in all.
Of those 16, 10 finished 81st or worse in total defense at the end of the 2011 season. The rest were Wisconsin (15th), Arkansas (47th), Oklahoma (55th), Missouri (61st), Clemson (71st) and Purdue (73rd). Tech finished 44th last season at 359.3 yards per game. Those six could be well explained by their opponents.
The opposing offenses, with 2011 rank in total offense, were No. 4 Oregon (vs. Wisconsin), No. 7 Texas A&M (Arkansas), No. 5 Baylor (Oklahoma), No. 12 Oklahoma (Missouri), No. 15 West Virginia (Clemson) and No. 14 Wisconsin (Purdue). It’s a lot of Big 12 offenses and defenses, though in some ways that makes Miami’s 609 number even more concerning. The Hurricanes hadn’t cracked 600 yards since 2000, and that was against McNeese State.
To provide a more apples-to-apples comparison, 10 ACC teams gave up 500 or more yards against in a league game last year – Boston College, Duke (twice), Maryland (four times) and Wake Forest (twice). They finished 70th, 92nd, 108th and 74th, respectively – all worse than Tech.
The point being, if a team gives up 500 yards or more, chances are pretty good that it’s not a fluke. A defense does not give up 609 yards (or 584 in regulation) by accident.
Further, there were few, if any, cheapies that Miami got against the Jackets. Besides the 65-yard pass play from Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett at the game’s outset, Miami’s longest play was 32 yards. And the 65-yarder was the product of excellent pass protection and an apparent mistake in the secondary, and not, for instance, a player tripping or running into an official.
(Speaking of which, in his Sunday teleconference, Miami coach Al Golden said that the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was called against Miami after an incomplete pass to Jeff Greene on Tech’s first scoring drive was “a sideline infraction.” Golden said that a side judge ran into someone on the Hurricanes sideline. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. I digress.)
The tenth team to give up 500-plus yards last year in an ACC game may come as a surprise. Virginia Tech surrendered 519 yards to … Miami. The Hokies finished 10th in the country in total defense despite getting trampled by the Hurricanes in Blacksburg, Va., in a 38-35 Virginia Tech win last October. Two weeks later, Miami gained 262 yards against the Jackets. If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope (if the blog comments are any barometer, I think many of you are looking for something a little pointier than a glimmer), there you have it. That said, Virginia Tech has a wee bit more of a track record than the Jackets do.
Where does that leave Tech? Unless this game does turn out to be the crazy outlier, improving pass rush is the start of a long list. The protection afforded Morris gave Miami’s wide receivers considerable time to work free of pass coverage.
“Part of it was good design, certainly, with (offensive coordinator) Jedd (Fisch) and the offensive coaches,” Golden said Sunday, explaining how Dorsett repeatedly ran free in the secondary. “Part of it was the protection that we were getting up front. Throwing 52 passes and not having a sack is excellent by any measure.”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog