Reviewing Georgia Tech's 35-21 loss to Miami on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets are 3-2, 1-2 in the ACC:
The game in 100 words
Georgia Tech’s offense played better and its defense played really well considering how much Miami's offense did in its three previous wins, b ut the Yellow Jackets couldn’t overcome two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns in a decisive second quarter . It was the first time in school history that occurred. Those two mistakes, combined with an inability to finish drives, saw Mark Richt remain undefeated as a coach at Bobby Dodd Stadium and Paul Johnson to once again say that he a nd his coaches need to do a better job of preparing his team .
What worked well
Tech’s defense. Other than allowing a touchdown on the opening drive for the fourth consecutive game , it's hard to argue with the performance of Tech's defense. Miami was averaging 51 points, 272 rushing yards and 242 passing yards. Tech's defense allowed 21 points, 114 rushing yards and 241 passing yards. It did what it needed to give the Yellow Jackets a chance.
Tech’s B-backs. Johnson said he was determined to give Dedrick Mills the ball as often as he could. Mills repaid the decision with career highs in carries (19) and yards (99) to go along with two touchdowns rushing and another receiving. Mills had just one run that resulted in negative yards (minus-2), which is what cost him his first 100-yard performance.
Tech’s special teams. Harrison Butker and Ryan Rodwell did what they needed to make Miami work for its touchdowns. None of Butker's four kickoffs were returned and Rodwell averaged 41.6 yards on five punts, placing two inside the 20-yard line.
Helmet decals. Miami honored late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez with helmet decals .
What didn’t work well
The offensive line. Though Tech rushed for 267 yards, there were several plays when the linemen didn't pick up blitzers, including on the first defensive score for a touchdown. Johnson wasn't specific if he was referring to the left tackle or A-back on that side who didn't try to block Trent Harris, whose sack led to the fumble by Justin Thomas that resulted in the touchdown. But Johnson was obviously aggravated.
It was the second time in as many weeks that Thomas was hit hard by a player coming from the left side.
There were at least two play-action passes against Miami that Johnson should have resulted in touchdowns, except the protection broke down.
Tech extensively used a no-huddle play-calling system throughout the game. It seemed it it was the most Johnson has used the system since last year's game against North Carolina It appeared that the system also reduced the number of calls made by the offensive line. I say that because after the plays were signaled in from Lamar Owens or Tevin Washington to Thomas, you could see the offensive tackles turning their heads to listen to Thomas, after which there didn't seem to be any more communication or gestures. None of the linemen would point at linebackers or do any of the usual things that indicate blocking assignments. I bring this up because I wonder, and hope to ask, what the linemen were supposed to do when Miami players would indicate blitzes by their movements.
Tech’s pass catchers. Tech had two chances to in the fourth quarter to cut Miami's lead to a touchdown. Twice potential touchdown catches were secured. The first came when Ricky Jeune appeared to catch a 28-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, only for Miami's Corn Elder to break it up in the end zone. Secondly, on fourth-and-3 at Miami's 21-yard line, Thomas hit Clinton Lynch in the end zone, but he couldn't secure the ball as Miami's Rayshawn Jenkins fought for the ball.
Perimeter blocking. Johnson referenced several times after the game that Tech couldn't get Miami's cornerbacks on the ground to open up the outside rushing lanes. The same trouble existed against Clemson.
Rating the position groups
Borrowing from something that is done with soccer, I’ll rate the different position groups game by game using a 1-to-10 system. Ten represents exceptional and one represents a total meltdown. This is just for fun and mostly for conversation, so please don’t take it too seriously. Feel free to post your own ratings in the comments section.
Quarterbacks 6. Thomas finished with seven yards on 15 carries, mostly because four sacks wiped out 19 yards. He completed 11-of-19 passes for 94 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also played hurt. The hit by Harris affected something on Thomas' left side. The next drive lasted just two plays because of Thomas' second fumble. The drive after that, which resulted in a touchdown, didn't feature any triple-option plays. During one of the plays, as Thomas sprinted downfield to block, he barely moved his left arm as he ran. He appeared to eventually shake it off by the fourth quarter.
B-backs 8. The results were mostly positive: a season-high 132 yards for the position group.
A-backs 7. The group, led by Clinton Lynch, had 127 rushing yards and 47 receiving yards.
Wide receivers 4. Brad Stewart and Jeune combined for four catches for 35 yards and, as noted above, apparently need to improve their blocking outside.
Offensive line 4. The rushing yards were offset by the clear examples of missed assignments and a penalty for an illegal block that wiped out one third-and-10 conversion and a holding penalty that wiped out a 30-yard pass play.
Defensive line 6. Antonio Simmons led the line with another tackle for loss. The group had 1 1/2 tackles for loss. The Hurricanes had just one run of longer than 20 yards. The group had 15 tackles.
Linebackers 5. Another relatively quiet game for the group with just one tackle for loss.
Cornerbacks 6. They did a sold job, limiting Miami's receivers to seven receptions for 140 yards.
Safeties 5. Nothing particularly notable.
Special teams 7. As noted above, the specialists did a solid job. Stewart also returned two punts for 43 yards.
What did next week's opponent do?
Pittsburgh defeated Marshall 43-27 . Nathan Peterman passed for 280 yards, the Panthers rushed for 252 yards and limited the Herd to 104 yards rushing.
It wasn't the blowout it seems. Marshall cut Pittsburgh's lead to a field goal in the fourth quarter before the Panthers pulled away.
The Panthers edged Tech 31-28 last year, despite the Jackets rushing for 376 yards. The Panthers scored the winning field goal with 1:11 left.
What does that mean for Tech?
Pittsburgh's balanced offense against Marshall was similar to what it did against Tech last year in passing for 191 yards and rushing for 200.