Archive for September, 2011

Live from Tech-UNC: Will first-play lightning strike yet again?

The result of GT's first snap when last we spoke. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Exhibit C: Tech's first snap last week. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

I’m not in the habit of constructing game plans — I would never ever venture to give highly paid coaches any advice, heh heh — but I offer one piece of advice for North Carolina’s Everett Withers:

On the first Georgia Tech snap, have your men back up 30 yards.

The way I see it, it’s better to yield a chunk of yardage that a touchdown.

As we know, Tech has scored on its first play of every game this season, which is about to conclude its first month. Against Western Carolina, it was a 5-yard toss sweep. (Turnover set it up.) Against Middle Tennessee, it was a 73-yard touchdown pass. Against Kansas, it was the 95-yard counter by Orwin Smith.

Aggregate time of possession on Tech’s first series of Games 1-3: Thirty-four seconds.

Aggregate number of points on Tech’s first series of Games 1-3: Twenty-one.

Today’s titanic tilt comes billed as Tech’s first test, which it is, kind of. But Carolina isn’t exactly a …

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Update: It was a big day for the Braves, who didn’t even play

Glad tidings from a Philly fanatic. (AP photo)

Glad tidings from a Philly fanatic. (AP photo)

Update: The Mets scored six runs in the ninth inning to beat St. Louis 8-6 after the Cardinals’ Rafael Furcal, of whom you’ve heard, couldn’t field a double-play grounder. The Braves lead the Cards by two games with six to play. Big break.

Today is an important day for the Braves, and they don’t even play. (The way they’re going, that’s a good thing.) The Cardinals are scheduled to complete their three-game series against the Mets this afternoon, and what happens in St. Louis will have a direct effect on the Braves’ psyche this next week.

Today’s the day when that half-game in the standings goes away. If the Cardinals lose, they’ll be two back with six to go. That’s still too close for comfort, but it beats the heck out of the alternative, which would be …

One game back, six to go.

The Braves appeared to have steadied last week. They held that 4 1/2-game lead for four days, saw it reduced to 3 1/2 on Friday, pushed it back to 4 …

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At Georgia Tech, the spread option has sprouted more options

Ninety-five yards and a cloud of dust. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Ninety-five yards and a cloud of dust. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

We know Paul Johnson’s offense, right? A-backs go in motion. B-back gets the bulk of the carries. Quarterback throws passes that can’t be caught by man or bird.

OK, scratch that. We knew Paul Johnson’s offense. But the spread option as currently deployed by Georgia Tech is forcing us to reassess.

Option football is based on the triple option, wherein a quarterback keeps the ball and runs himself, hands it to the back bursting up the middle or pitches it to a man on the flank. With Joshua Nesbitt as on-field administrator, options were essentially reduced to two: He’d keep the ball or hand it to his up-the-gut B-back.

In 2009, Nesbitt and B-back Jonathan Dwyer carried 514 times; the top four A-backs carried 181 times. Last season Nesbitt and backup quarterback Tevin Washington — Nesbitt broke his arm in November, you’ll recall — and B-back Anthony Allen rushed 512 times; the top three A-backs rushed 151 …

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The Pac-12 stays at 12, and the mad shuffle is near its end

Don't mess with ... well, you know. (AJC file photo)

Don't mess with … well, you know how it goes. (AJC file photo)

Found: The one conference that has decided it likes itself as is.

That’d be the Pac-12, which issued a statement Tuesday night saying it isn’t going to expand. But this might not have been quite so high-minded as it sounds. Where conference realignment is concerned, nothing ever is.

Reports suggest that the Pac-12 didn’t believe its membership would be able to co-exist with the Longhorn Network, which is why this round of reshuffling began last month. Nobody is crazy about the idea of sharing a league with Texas, which means …

This round of reshuffling is near its end.

The SEC appears bent on adding Missouri and the Big East will have to do some major damage control, but the Big 12 has lived to play another day. Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State won’t be headed to the Pac-12, at least not this month, and there’s no other conference that could accommodate all three. (Accommodating Texas has always been the tough …

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Help Fredi steady the reeling Braves: Your tips welcome!

Who out there thinks either of these guys knows a thing about baseball? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Who thinks either man knows a thing about baseball? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Braves, as noted, have played their way into a spot of bother. But this is baseball, where momentum is tomorrow’s — by now, that would be today’s — starting pitcher, who would be Randall Delgado. So hope remains. That said …

I know you folks. (Not personally, not even Sonny Clusters — at least not to my knowledge.) I know you’re not willing to rely on ephemeral concepts like momentum and fate. You want managerial action! And here’s where I ask: With his team reeling, what should Fredi Gonzalez do?

(I pause to note: Unlike his predecessor, who relied on his iPhone for electronic interaction, Fredi has a laptop. There’s no guarantee he’ll see the fruits of your wisdom, but there’s a chance. And if your advice is sagacious enough … well, you could be the one who saves the Braves!)

Being a famously splendid sport, I’ll go first. My advice to the skipper:

• Tell Chipper Jones, “The next time the …

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Kimbrel is undone by Infante, and this believer says, ‘Uh, oh’

Is the former skipper waving goodbye to the postseason? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Is the former skipper waving goodbye to the postseason? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

I had my lecture notes ready, and the subject was, “Patience, children.” The Braves had overridden a 4-1 deficit through much help from the opponent and were one out from victory, and victory would mean a 3 1/1-game lead with eight remaining. And Craig Kimbrel, Mr. Automatic for the People, was on to do what Craig Kimbrel does, and after a nervous couple of days — heck, a nervous couple of weeks — order was set to be restored.

Then Craig Kimbrel, who had yielded one home run in his first 97 big-league appearances, was touched for his second in two days. Doing the deed: Omar Infante, former Brave and author of five homers this season. And the lead’s down to 2 1/2 games with eight left, the Cardinals somehow having gained ground on a night when they faced Roy Halladay and the Braves were one out from victory.

And now I say, “Patience? It can be overrated.”

As of Sunday afternoon, I was convinced …

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Vulnerable, huh? The ACC crowns itself king of college hoops

"I don't know how to tell you this, Roy, but we've got company." (AP photo)

"Roy, I really don't know how to tell you this — but we've got company." (AP photo)

The ACC faced a choice: Eat or be eaten. The league opted not just to grab something at the drive-thru but to dine in style. Only days ago we wondered if this conference could survive in a world powered by King Football. Today we hail John Swofford and his associates as the new monarchs of college basketball.

Bradley’s Rule: Better to be the king of something than the earl of everything.

The ACC’s grand football experiment hadn’t worked. Adding Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College didn’t hoist the ACC above/alongside the SEC. Truth to tell, the 12-team ACC was no better than fourth-best at football among the six BCS leagues. Worse, the ACC’s time-honored stock in trade had eroded to the extent that Duke and North Carolina has risen further above the basketball pack — North Carolina State reference partially intended — than ever.

The Big East now played better basketball, and several …

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All-Falcons Heat Check: Try putting some Matty Ice on that

The Burner aloft. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Turner the Burner aloft. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Our weekly Heat Check is devoted to the winner of a game so wild you’d have sworn the winning team couldn’t get out of its own way — right up until that moment when it, er, won the game.

Matt Ryan: I’m thinking those who likened him to Peyton Manning had it wrong. Ryan is more Ben Roethlisberger — a quarterback who doesn’t make every play but makes the big ones — than the essence of precision. We saw again Sunday night that Ryan can look pedestrian for whole quarters at a time. Thing is, not many of those substandard quarters are fourth quarters. Heat Index: Who needs a hot QB when you’ve got Matty Ice?

Michael Vick: Technically he no longer plays for the Falcons, but he gets grandfathered into our ratings because … well, because I say so. His three turnovers put the Eagles in position to lose, and then he put the Eagles in position to win. And then he left with a concussion and the Eagles lost anyway. And not many folks …

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On a wild night, the Falcons KO Vick and outslug his team

The famous No. 7 made three turnovers and left early. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Michael Vick made three turnovers and left early. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Traffic congealed on Northside Drive 2 1/2 hours before kickoff Sunday night. Ninety minutes later, the line to enter the Georgia Dome was 10-deep and 10-wide. From the crush of humanity, you’d have thought somebody famous was in town.

Actually, somebody famous was. Michael Vick was once the only compelling reason to watch the Falcons, and now he’s a both ex-Falcon and ex-con. In Philadelphia he has become the polished player he never was here, and on this night Vick would oppose a quarterback who’s the pride of Old Penn Charter School, a quarterback some Atlantans insist will never be as good as No. 7.

The vagaries of professional football had kept Matt Ryan and Vick from gracing the same NFL field. When Vick played here as a reserve in December 2009, Ryan was hurt. When Ryan played in Philly last October, Vick was hurt. But now the moment was at hand, and you could have game-planned a full summer and …

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Give Tech 66 points and 768 yards. Give Tech’s coach 5 stars

This is how it began. There would be much more. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This is how it began. There'd be much more. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The first three touchdown drives required a total of 10 plays, which by Georgia Tech standards was positively ponderous. To score its next three touchdowns, the Jackets needed only six plays, and right about then you could hear the Jackets’ demanding coach grunting to himself: “That’s more like it.”

Six touchdowns. Sixteen plays, total. Think about that.

Think about the high-school offense that will never work in big-time college football — except when it stacks 66 points and 768 yards on a team from another BCS league, a team that not incidentally beat Tech a year ago. Think about what Paul Johnson has done with no Joshua Nesbitt, no Jonathan Dwyer, no Demaryius Thomas, no Anthony Allen. In three games, here’s what his spread option has wrought:

An average of 59.3 points and 675.3 yards. Think about that.

No, Tech hasn’t played the world’s most arduous schedule, but still … those numbers against air …

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