Georgia Tech’s statistics from the first six games compared to the final eight games. A few words of comment below.
RUSHING YARDS, YARDS PER RUSH
163.3, 4.5 129.9, 4.1
PASSING YARDS, YARDS PER ATTEMPT
267.7, 7.2 201.4, 7.2
YARDS PER PLAY
POINTS PER POSSESSION
THIRD DOWN EFFICIENCY
POINTS PER RED-ZONE POSSESSION
SACKS PER GAME
TAKEAWAYS PER GAME
BIG PLAYS (20-plus yards from scrimmage) PER GAME
It’s interesting how similar some of the numbers are. For a story I wrote prior to the Sun Bowl, I noted that the yards-per-play stats were virtually identical (5.84 when Al Groh was defensive coordinator and 5.85 after the hire of Charles Kelly as interim).
In this chart, points per possession (which, arguably, is the most informative statistic about a team’s efficiency) is almost the same and yards per play is close.
But, a couple numbers jump out for their difference, fourth-quarter scoring and third-down efficiency. Tech’s inability to get off the field led to a lot of the Jackets’ problems in the first six games and ultimately played not a small role in Groh’s dismissal.
By getting off the field, Tech was more able to enforce its pace of play. Opponents ran 73.8 plays per game in the first six games, 59.6 in the final eight, a fairly staggering difference. Opponents averaged 13.3 possessions in Groh-coached games and 12.0 in games coached by Kelly. It isn’t much, but 1.3 extra possessions at 2.24 points per possession is three points a game.
Further, you could make a strong case that the second half of the schedule (4/7 if we’re going to be precise) was tougher.
Total-offense rank* of first six opponents, in order, not including Presbyterian: 82, 65, 37, 67, 8. (Presbyterian finished 110th in FCS. Yikes.)
Last eight opponents, in order: 99, 61, 120, 15, 56, 27, 22, 30.
That’s the second and third worst, but also four of the top five.
* Rankings through games of Dec. 29
All that said, and I realize I’m not the first to say this, but I think the defense passed the eyeball test more than anything, particularly in the final two games. The tackling was better, the play faster. We’ll never know what USC would have done with Matt Barkley at quarterback and without 30-mph winds. But we do know that Tech held an offense averaging 155 rushing yards per game to 98 rushing yards and fewer points and yards than it produced against Notre Dame with Max Wittek at quarterback.
There is no getting around that the BYU and Georgia (and North Carolina) games took place under Kelly’s watch, but the way the Jackets played in the final six quarters of the season was vastly better than how they played earlier in the season. For that, Kelly and his staff deserve credit.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog