The scoreboard granted Georgia Tech a 20-point win Saturday and an end to its three-game losing streak. But for their own mistakes, the Yellow Jackets could well have won by at least 10 more.
As it prepares for BYU this coming Saturday after a 37-17 win over Boston College, Tech has to also wrestle with the reality that, save for the Eagles’ mistakes, the margin could well have been tighter, too.
“We did some good things,” coach Paul Johnson said of his defense. “We’ll take it and build on it.”
There was indeed much to build on, particularly better tackling. Still, the Jackets owe the Eagles some amount of gratitude for highlighting areas that still need attention.
Tech continued to have trouble with the no-huddle offense, a problem that hardly makes the Jackets unique. Regardless, the Eagles experienced their most ease of advancement when they went to no-huddle for much of their two touchdown drives in the second half. On the two possessions, quarterback Chase Rettig drove Boston College 138 yards in just 13 plays. The yardage made up 46 percent of the Eagles’ entire game output. On the two drives, Rettig completed seven of 10 passes for 127 yards and touchdowns of 40 and 12 yards. One of his incompletions was a dropped pass in the end zone.
Part of the problem was that the pass rush had trouble disrupting Rettig. In the game, he was sacked twice in 31 attempts, but one of those stops came on Boston College’s final possession of the game with the game’s fate sealed. The Jackets used blitz pressure, and at least once tried dropping nose tackle T.J. Barnes into pass coverage in a “fire zone” scheme. But, particularly on those two scoring drives, Rettig had comfortable space and time in the pocket.
“We played some more basic coverages and defensively, I thought that everyone was more on the same page,” Johnson said. “We still need to work on it, and we have got to get better pressure on the quarterback, especially.”
Boston College’s success on the two drives created cause for concern when Tech punted away on its first possession of the fourth quarter with the score 31-17. The punt was wiped out by a needless roughing-the-kicker penalty, a play Boston College coach Frank Spaziani called “inexcusable.” Rather than Boston College getting the ball back on its own 40-yard line with 9:38 to play, the flag gave the ball back to Tech. With new life, Tech drove for a game-sealing touchdown.
Given Tech’s fourth-quarter struggles this season – it’s the only quarter in which the Jackets have been outscored this season – what might have happened had the penalty not occurred is not a question Tech fans likely don’t want to ponder too deeply. Tech safety Jemea Thomas did intercept Rettig out of the no-huddle after the Jackets went up 37-17, but the game was in hand by that point, also.
Whatever the solution, Tech will need to figure out some answers to combat no-huddle offenses. Miami, Middle Tennessee State and Clemson all used it with success against the Jackets. With the compressed time between snaps, Tech players sometimes got the play calls just as the snap was being made, a factor in defensive coordinator Al Groh’s dismissal. That didn’t seem to be an issue Saturday.
However, they are certain to see more of it. All five of Tech’s remaining opponents – BYU, Maryland, North Carolina, Duke and Georgia – use it to some degree or another.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog