Re-evaluating second half of Tech’s season

Until Saturday, Georgia Tech could take inspiration from the faint hope of an ACC title. Following the Yellow Jackets’ 47-31 loss to Clemson, they’re still not mathematically eliminated, but it might be wise to start looking for other sources of motivation.

“You’d rather be winning going into a bye, but clearly, the first half of the season’s not what we hoped for, not what we wanted,” coach Paul Johnson said. “So we’ve got to try to atone for that, reset some goals, reset some things and see if we can’t come back and do a little better.”

If the Jackets are looking for suggestions for objectives, they could pursue the following, some more measurable, some less so.

Improve pass defense. Weak pass rush, soft coverage, poor pursuit angles and broken tackles have tacked on dozens of yards to Tech’s total defense, which now stands 90th out of 120 BCS teams at 431.0 yards per game. The Jackets’ pass rush was more forceful Saturday, but Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was still able to escape pressure or scramble downfield for drive-extending runs, not to mention throw for a career-high 397 yards.

One metric that needs improving is third-down conversion percentage, an area Johnson wanted results from before the season started. Opponents are extending drives on 47.8 percent of third downs, 103rd in the country. Even becoming average – Rutgers is 60th at 37.7 percent – would be a giant improvement. Tech’s rate the past three games has been 67.4 percent.

Restore confidence. Given Tech’s repeated failures with its third-down defense and its misfires at crucial times on offense and on special teams, something is amiss.

“We’ve just got to find a way to get the guys to believe in themselves and keep going hard,” A-back Orwin Smith said. “It’s not over.”

While hardly a given at this point, beating Boston College on Oct. 20 would end Tech’s three-game losing streak and return some confidence. For that game, Tech will be at home, with two weeks’ rest against a team that could well be 1-5.

The Jackets might do well to remember that they’re still doing some things well. Tech is averaging 331.0 rushing yards, which is third in the country and above the school-record average.

Win in the fourth quarter. Last season, Tech was outscored 117-73 in the fourth quarter, including 48-14 in the final six games. This season, the Jackets have been outscored 71-48 in the fourth, including 17-3 Saturday. Of Tech’s 48, 28 were scored against Presbyterian and Virginia, when the Jackets had already secured victories. In both seasons, it’s the only quarter Tech has been outscored.

The Jackets have played well enough to hold fourth-quarter leads against Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson, but somehow constrained enough on both sides to have not protected them.

“I consider it bad luck when you’re doing the right things,” Smith said of breaks going against Tech. “But we’re still making mistakes. It’s self-inflicted, the reason we’re losing.”

Get Vad Lee more playing time. Johnson has planned to play the backup quarterback more, plans that have gotten scuttled the past two games when Johnson has found it necessary to keep Tevin Washington in the game to have a chance to win.

Tech may not play as hot an offense for the rest of the season, which should give the Jackets’ offense more breathing room to accommodate snaps for Lee.

Qualify for a bowl game, win bowl game. One of the most concrete ways that this season can still be re-claimed would be to end the seven-game bowl losing streak. At this point, it most likely won’t be a dream ending for the 2012 season, but a win is a win.

Beat Georgia. The ultimate season-saver.

134 comments Add your comment

I love Jan Kemp

October 7th, 2012
10:19 pm

Biff Pocoroba

October 7th, 2012
10:24 pm

If Groh isn’t fired this week, there might only be 4000-5000 people at the BC game, especially if it is a 12pm game. There will probably be more people at the first basketball game than this game. And Vad is ever going to play this year because if he plays well, “C” PJ will be second guesses as to why he wasn’t playing when this team is so awful and he never wants to be second gussed since he is a genius.

I love Jan Kemp

October 7th, 2012
10:28 pm

Great article Ken (as usual) I find it hard to believe theres still 30 defenses worse than ours! That being said, we’ve got 2 weeks to fix it (all 3 phases of the game needs improvement) hope they can come out and get on a roll. Go Jackets!

George Stein

October 7th, 2012
10:29 pm

I find it difficult to believe that the defense will allow us to win more than three of the remaining games. The strain on the offense has become too great, and the margin for error is negligible. I am actually surprised Groh still is employed.

I love Jan Kemp

October 7th, 2012
10:30 pm

Enter your comments here

Don't be a dawg

October 7th, 2012
10:35 pm

It is possible, however remote, to go 8-4 this year!
Why not? Can you believe? Can you say something positive?
Go Jackets!
Don’t be like the fair weather dawg fans!

TechApp fan

October 7th, 2012
10:37 pm

Tech will probably win the next one-they will use the extra time to figure out that O.

I love Jan Kemp

October 7th, 2012
10:51 pm

ACC & ESPN ruined GT & VTs seasons by forcing them to re-arrange their schedules to accomodate tv, ACCs never done us any favors so what should we expect? May sound lame but it has made an impact.

Haynes

October 7th, 2012
10:53 pm

I thought UNC (4-2), Duke (5-1), and Maryland (3-2) games would be easy Ws. Lot looking that way.

Ga Tech Old Timer

October 7th, 2012
10:55 pm

Let me begin by saying those things most all Tech blogers are begging for – 1) play Vad – 2) Fire Groh – 3) fix the offense and defense before the end of the season 4) Fix the coaching failures of Johnson and special teams – 5) improve the teams conditioning before year end so they can actually play the fourth quarter rather than fighting to see who can sit on the bench and watch the other unit play. I promise you – NONE of this is going to happen at least not any time soon.

Johnson’s thought process goes like this – “I’m being paid big money to coach this team. I know what I’m doing even if my players and critics don’t think so. None of them are being paid to run this program – I am -and talk is cheap. If and when I want to make changes in any phase of the program – it will be done so based strictly on what I think is best based on my experience over my years of coaching and without pressure from anyone. When you become the head coach then you can run the program how ever you see fit. I know talent and I’ve got my best players on the field. Now – back off – and let’s try to have a good second half of the season. And if for some reason we continue to lose – well – I’ve done my best. I can’t go out there and play for them. Oh yeah, stop asking stupid questions and acting like you know more than the coaching staff or team about what our problems are and how to fix them.”

Hayseed Dixie

October 7th, 2012
10:55 pm

@George Stein

Everyone knows Groh is gone and the season is a wash (can’t believe I’m writing that), so it doesn’t score the Institute any points by humiliating him any further and firing him mid-season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the search for his successor (i.e. sending out feelers) is already underway.

My hope is that Giff Smith is somehow involved in the future of this D.

We get someone as effective on that side of the ball as CPJ is on his, and we’ll be fine.

We all thought Groh would at least be average- unfortunately we’ve run into a coordinator that has overstayed his ability.

gt1012

October 7th, 2012
10:57 pm

great article ken

Haynes

October 7th, 2012
10:57 pm

I love Jan Kemp: That does sound lame. GT dug their own grave.

George Stein

October 7th, 2012
11:03 pm

I’m not sure I see any good in allowing him to humiliate the Institute anymore, either, Hayseed. Giff ain’t coming back.

As for playing Vad, I’d love to see him more, but Tevin and the offense haven’t been the reason we haven’t been successful this season. Anyone who thinks that’s the case isn’t watching the game.

Ga Tech Old Timer

October 7th, 2012
11:09 pm

“Oh – a couple other things to remember – if ANY play doesn’t work – well it should have or at least I thought it would and that goes for going for it on fourth down early in the game deep in our own territory – running the quarterback sneak on forth down behind Uzzi 95% of the time or lining up in our famous fake fourth down formation to draw the other team off side (well it worked once 5 years ago didn’t it?) – aslo when I call the same play over and over and over and over even though it doesn’t work – I thought it might have that time. If the quarterback says I called a play that didn’t work – well, I didn’t. He apparently mis-understood the call. I don’t like to mix up the play selection. We should be good enough to not have to call a bunch of trick plays or go away from my system – I’ve proven it works every where I’ve coached.”

Biff Pocoroba

October 7th, 2012
11:10 pm

Buffalo lost 45-3 today. Giff might be available pretty soon.

GTGirl

October 7th, 2012
11:11 pm

Glad we have an off week so maybe some of our problems can be fixed.

Hayseed Dixie

October 7th, 2012
11:14 pm

Firing Groh isn’t going to suddenly motivate those kids. It’s what you call a lose/lose.

Why you think Giff ain’t coming back?

Hayseed Dixie

October 7th, 2012
11:16 pm

Firing Groh mid-season, that is.

www

October 7th, 2012
11:24 pm

georgia tech was in this game until a couple of mistakes at the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 4th.

and no excuses but the defense looked worn out at the end of the game.

fewer mistakes + a deeper bench = big seasons ahead.

Ken Sugiura

October 7th, 2012
11:32 pm

about the Virginia Tech Labor Day game – I’ve thought about the impact that has had. It’s hard to say. But, ultimately, if Tech offered to return its ESPN money to avoid playing in that game, I’d be more on board with your argument. ESPN pays the freight, it calls the shots.
Regarding Groh, I agree with Hayseed Dixie. I think you’d risk losing the defense if he were to be dismissed now.

realist

October 7th, 2012
11:35 pm

With a D this bad, we’ll be lucky to win 2 more.

And frankly, I don’t see much hope for next year either no matter who the coach is.

South GA Jacket

October 8th, 2012
12:14 am

We missed some plays (tackles? converges?) against VT and Miami, as has been noted. We were outmatched against Clemson.

To me, the one that is inexcusable is MTSU. If we had played with ANY effort, we could have won that game. I kept waiting for a corner to jump that bubble route in the flats for a pick-6. The defensive alignment for MTSU is still mind-boggling.

I guess what I’m saying is, that we are a couple plays away from being 3-1 in ACC play, and woulda/shoulda/coulda beat MTSU.

It is what it is. Now, does this team have any heart? Will we see the team that played Virginia or the team that played MTSU?

Silly Mutts

October 8th, 2012
12:28 am

Keep supporting this staff and you get what you deserve! More losing! Firing groh immediately is absolutely the thing to do! If the next guy can’t get the job done then fire his butt too! It’s called accountability! So we are concerned about groh and his embarrassment? He got paid plenty of money! Tine to work on your fishing technique! Embarrassment is what he has done to these students and players! Does a corporation keep a failure until the tax year ends? No way!!!!!! They are removed on the spot! Groh shouldn’t have even been on the bus! players get suspended, kicked off the team because of failures but coaches are kept because it is embarrassment! If you feel sorry for him buy him a ham but you better buy him a ticket out of atlanta!

Ernest

October 8th, 2012
12:29 am

Ken, is it that difficult to install a base 4-3 defensive scheme as a part of the overall package? One would think they would have some anyway.

I question whether Tech can recruit the athletes needed to effectively run the 3-4, especially at the nose tackle position. I agree that dismissing the DC at this stage of the season does not make sense.

Silly Mutts

October 8th, 2012
12:32 am

Ken… Are you an example of a corporation keeping someone on the staff because they don’t want you to feel embarrassed any more than you already are? Please….if they thought you sucked you would be writing greeting cards on napkins in no time!

Silly Mutts

October 8th, 2012
12:44 am

Dismissing groh definitely makes the most sense of anything I’ve heard! 1) it gives pj a chance to prove he is a HC and not an offensive coordinator for a middle school run only offense with no passing qb or talent 2) it’s tells everyone you are accountable for your failures in life 3) it tells the defensive players that it’s not their fault 4) and it tells the fans that I’m sorry that I don’t know how to recruit or hire good staff BUT give me one more chance to get it right!!!!! Groh got his second chance after he was run out of Charlottesville! He failed miserably!

Silly Mutts

October 8th, 2012
12:53 am

I love it when people ask Ken about football! Obviously someone who knows zero about football or accountability!

SoCal_GT_Fan

October 8th, 2012
1:59 am

Silly Mutts, what’s up with attacking Ken? Just because his opinion doesn’t jive with yours, you go on attacking him? Sounds very high school to me.
I personally believe that firing a coach mid-season is the wrong thing to do and I HIGHLY DOUBT that’s what you do in Corporate America either. If some employee isn’t performing up to your standards, you don’t just fire them on the spot. You have performance reviews and evaluations where upon that employee is then told what their short comings were and be politely taken out of the office. The only time they would FIRE your butt is if you did something illegal and/or something so detrimental to the companies’ image that the only way the company can save face is to fire your butt. What Al Groh’s defense has done is under-perform but nothing illegal and NO its not something that is detrimental to Georgia Tech’s image. If losing to MTSU is detrimental to Georgia Tech’s image, then I’m sure there’s a whole lot of other coordiantors and head coaches that would be unemployed since there have been NUMEROUS upsets where FCS programs have beaten a FBS program this year.
Also, if you fire Groh, you better have a good back-up plan. Ya know, like do you know of a defensive coordinator out there who would be willing to take over mid-season and install his scheme within a weeks time and right this ship? Hmmmmmm. The coaching search will turn into a circus with the pressure on CPJ to find a competent DC or even an interim DC within that short time. Most likely it’ll be a guy within the current staff and what defense do you think they’ll be running? Of course, the 3-4 defense in the mold of Groh’s scheme because that’s what they (players and coaches) know and that’s what they’ll stick with since its too late to install anything else.
Ultimately, when that performance review comes at the end of this season, I’m pretty sure its not something Al Groh is going to be looking forward to. He’ll likely be updating his resume.

SoCal_GT_Fan

October 8th, 2012
2:36 am

Oops, sorry. For some reason I thought Middle Tennessee State was a FCS school. My bad. In any case, there were a whole slew of big-conference schools (SEC/ACC/PAC12/BIGTEN) that have lost to schools from lesser conferences (i.e. Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa/UVA). Also, there have been numerous cases where we did have FBS schools lose to FCS schools.

TVFan

October 8th, 2012
5:47 am

I know it’s popular to blame Groh for a lot of this mess, but what about the other assistant coaches and the head coach. Too many recruiting battles have been lost. Tech is hurting talent wise.

Surely Coach Johnson can see the defensive line issues are huge and the offensive line has been a disappointment. I’ll give him some credit. Last year he indicated that we didn’t need a coach for special teams. He was right. The special teams look worse this year. Two safeties due to special teams play is amazing.

Cutlass81

October 8th, 2012
6:03 am

Ken, how would “losing” our defense be any different than what we’ve seen the past 3 games? They have been publicly embarrassed for three straight weeks. Mayhaps if we get rid of Groh, we’ll see a different tune from our players. Either way, if nothing ever changes, neither will the results. Get rid of him midseason and give one of his underlings a chance to show what they know. If that fails, then bring in outside help. Interim coaches are the same as getting a free consultation. It is a chance to see if someone else has a better idea of how to work your defense without having to pay extra. At the rate we are going with Groh, I’d bet we could put a UGA fan in charge of our defense, tell him we were going to pay him for every yard the team gives up, and still get better results.

ToeMeetsLeather

October 8th, 2012
7:11 am

I am finally in the camp that that the TECH D will never be even average as long as all that they see in practice and spring camp are TO type skill players and OLinemen. They will never be prepared for what Clemson, UGA, and even MTSU, bring to the table offensively. CPJ will need to take Lee(or Thomas) and adjust his offense so the D prepares for the “speed of the game” against a top flight passing attack with Olinemen defending the pass rush. This will also help the O to be more balanced and capable of overcoming a 10 point deficit mid way through the 4th quarter of a game, something we are out of luck with presently. And I know about all of this scout team preparation argument. But there is no way our third string guys can duplicate Clemson. I’m just not buying that.

I still support CPJ, but this change needs to occur this coming spring or we will continue to spiral down if it does not happen. Just my observation in year five (would love to hear Groh’s take regarding this after he is off the staff Ken). Also, one additional note regarding this approach. Did anyone notice the fact that on the one posession that the passing attack was focused on against the Tigers, we moved the ball down the field in four plays and put seven on the board. Never saw it again Saturday.

Just the opinion of one season ticket holder having to consider their renewel for next year.

Atlantan

October 8th, 2012
7:17 am

The one positive of 2012 – GT always wins one they shouldn’t (hopefully that wasn’t the Presbyterian game) and Ugag is still on the schedule…

The season was lost when the team didn’t show up for the MTSU game. GT is paying the price for CPJ’s early recruiting and a terrible arm-tackling defense. If Dave Wommack enjoys schadenfreude he is getting his fair share this year.

Randy Carson, IMGT '83

October 8th, 2012
7:27 am

Fire Groh today, and we have two weeks to install a 4-3 before Boston College.

It’s as good a time as any.

Ken

October 8th, 2012
7:36 am

I used to thin the defense was imapcted by practicang against our offense, but…

Did anyone watch the OSU / Nebraska game on Saturday night. The Buckeye offense looks very similar to Tech: run heavy (only 8 passes) just in the shot gun versus under center. That Buckeye defense looks much better. Bottom line is coaching and talent. I actually believe we have talent, they played well the first three games this year and for long stretches against Miami, so the potential is there. The coaching simply doesn’t have this defense in the correct places.

Just yesterday, there were a couple of plays where the DBs were simply in the wrong position, not to far to mention, far too many 3rd down conversions. On one drive Saturday Clemson converted 3rd and 7, 3rd and 7, 3rd and 13. Inexcusable.

Hal

October 8th, 2012
7:37 am

Did Clemson ever punt in that game?

collegeballfan

October 8th, 2012
7:45 am

I would agree that Tech is playing to its talent level. It always has.

Like UGA is not a top 10 football program, Georgia Tech is not a top 25 football program.

Facts are facts. The record of GT football since 1960 is 328 wins, 268 losses and 10 ties. That is 25 games over .500 for the 52 year period. Basically that is .500 football.

The question on the table is why. Why is Georgia Tech a perennial .500 program? Why has Georgia Tech, for the past 52 years, not been able recruit Top 25 talent year in and year out? How many Top 20 recruiting classes has Georgia Tech had in the last 52 years? Four? Five?

Georgia Tech’s problems with its football program transcends the Defensive Coordinator.

Stumpknocker

October 8th, 2012
8:10 am

Groh will be around for the remainder of the year, but I would expect him to be gone for the next campaign. Tech needs to find a young, energetic D coach that has the “fire in his belly” to motivate young men.

John

October 8th, 2012
8:14 am

Until the Tech admin allows Tech to recruit the same players as Clemson and Georgia, Tech fans need to learn to accept being a mediocre team.

Mark in ATL

October 8th, 2012
8:22 am

4-9 in his last 13 games……wow….that’s downright awful…..and with the talent on this roster it isn’t improving anytime soon.

Crazy Robert

October 8th, 2012
8:25 am

TECH needs to get rid of the punters thus there will be more scholarships for QB’s that can help keep the bench warm. After all, why not always go for it on fourth downs? It worked so well in the first quarter against Clemson.

The players might have won if the coaches just sat on the bench!!! They showed up to play but the coaches had better ideas. [sic]

Should CPJ get another contract extension like Danny (The Choker) Hall?

Jacket Detective

October 8th, 2012
8:39 am

I made the same point as Toe Meets Leather yesterday about moving down the field in record time for the TO with pass after pass, like we were in our hurry up offense.
Clemson did not cover receivers any better than we do, possibly worse.
So why didn’t we use that strategy again?
Someone pointed out the pitch to Orwin from our one yard line is the wrong playcall.
Getting a safety is one big motivator because D lineman or linebackers do not get many chances to score.
Chris Milton made a great tackle stopping a punt return but was that his first time returning the kickoff? He looked inexperienced.
I thought he should have let the ball go into the endzone.
Reminds me of losing the bowl game to Air Force because the punt returner fumbled twice.
I can remember being proud of Tech’s having the best winning percentage in bowl games.
Boy has that been shot to heck.
The new ST coach doesn’t seem to be having much effect for the good.

Jacket Detective

October 8th, 2012
8:41 am

With a FG kicker like Clemson’s(19 straight?), we score 37 points.

Jacket Detective

October 8th, 2012
8:49 am

Once Miami realized our weakness was pass defense, that is about all they did in the 2nd half.
Why didn’t that light go on for CPJ after the awesome passing drive of the 2nd quarter?
BTW South Carolina’s Shaw underthrew his WR allowing the Dawg defender to catch up.
No problem.
First he caught the ball.
Then he shed the defender and ran to the one yard line.
Nice luxury for a QB to have a WR who can do that so fans don’t get on him for underthrowing the ball.
Just saying.

Tech dropout

October 8th, 2012
8:51 am

I believe Tech’s offense is perfect for getting more out of less talent, but I cannot think of a defense where you can get more with less talent. With the athletes that Tech has access to, it is going to be hard to ever field an above average, deep, defense. Tech can get a handful of good players, but after the starters, there is a steep drop. When Louis Young was injured and Fred Holton always being injured, all Tech had left was a walk on safety. What kind of defense can Tech run where they can get more with less?

juvenal

October 8th, 2012
8:51 am

keeping Tev in so we have a chance to win? considering his still perfect record in games that could have been won in the 4th qtr., too funny…..

Jacket Detective

October 8th, 2012
8:52 am

Center Jay Finch getting injured may have been the turning point was the bad snap after the pick may have prevented a possible 8 point 3rd quarter lead.

ramblingbuzz

October 8th, 2012
8:53 am

Sadly there is no way to salvage this season. A win over UGA would help, but if there’s a game Richt always seems to have his team ready for, it’s Tech. And Ken I don’t see how letting Groh go would demoralize the defense. Might actually be a cause for celebration among the players.

DOC 51

October 8th, 2012
8:56 am

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