As was observed often leading up to Georgia Tech’s 35-10 win over Virginia last Saturday, Tech coaches expected Cavaliers defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta to play his typically aggressive style against the Yellow Jackets.
“If they blitz, there’s some opportunities to gash ’em,” coach Paul Johnson said.
Tech’s 18-yard touchdown in the first quarter did not quite fit that scenario, but did exploit Virginia’s sell-out style.
Third-and-7 from the Virginia 18-yard line. Tech is lined up in its standard formation with Broderick Snoddy (near side) and Tony Zenon at A-back and DeAndre Smelter is the near-side wide receiver. Virignia is in a 4-3, with middle linebacker Daquan Romero lining up deep, a common alignment against Tech.
The notable defender on this play is safety Quin Blanding, lined up at the 10-yard line between the near hashmark and the numbers. Snoddy is beginning his orbit track behind B-back Synjyn Days.
Blanding is shifting to his right as Snoddy goes in motion, going to what he expects will be the play side, which is what Johnson anticipated.
Said Johnson, “They were rolling the safeties hard to try to get an extra alley player over there” against the option.
As might be expected, all nine of the defenders in the box are reacting to a triple-option play. Blanding is now running along the 10.
After faking a mesh with Days, quarterback Justin Thomas pivots to sprint out to the right. Left guard Trey Braun pulls to provide protection. Zenon, who on a triple-option play would be leading for Snoddy, is running downfield. Smelter is one-on-one against cornerback Maurice Canady and, with Blanding running to the far side, has pretty much the entire field from the hashmark to the sideline to maneuver.
Blanding is now picking up Zenon. Linebacker Henry Coley is putting on the brakes at the hashmark at the 16-yard line.
Thomas sets up to throw. Smelter is running out of the shot, driving to the goal line before coming back to the ball. Zenon bends his route to the middle of the field, leaving Blanding in an awkward position to stay in position to cover him. Right tackle Errin Joe, who had to move laterally to try to continue to stay in front of Moore as Moore widened out against the sprint-out, is starting to lose his assignment.
Under a little bit of pressure from Moore, Thomas delivers. Notice Zenon at the top right with position on Blanding. Had Smelter not been open and the protection held up, Thomas might well have been able to deliver the ball to him.
Smelter makes the catch and easily carries Canady (listed at 190 pounds to Smelter's 222) into the end zone. It was not an enjoyable afternoon for Canady, who also was defending wide receiver Darren Waller on his 11-yard touchdown catch and Smelter on his 65-yard reception.
“We just saw some things that we could do with their cornerbacks throughout the week,” Smelter said. “We thought that it’d be a good play. We’ve been working on it all week in practice and we executed it well today.”
According to Smelter, it was the first time Tech had run that play all season, a timely break against tendency.
“We put in a little boot for them this week and that was the play we put in to try to come back and run a deep takeoff, comeback route,” Johnson said. “DeAndre ran a good route and made a nice catch. Justin made a nice throw."