Flats Lines: Reviewing Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia Southern

October 15, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas (5) runs for a touchdown in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 15, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

October 15, 2016 Atlanta – Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas (5) runs for a touchdown in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 15, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Reviewing Georgia Tech’s 35-24 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Recapping the win over Georgia Southern

Georgia Tech scored on its first three drives to take a 21-7 lead. The drives were three plays, two plays and six plays as the offense displayed a big-play production and quick-strike capability that has been missing most of the season. While the defense did just enough, coach Paul Johnson again expressed his displeasure with the group, saying if they don’t improve the Yellow Jackets will get killed in ACC play.

 

Five things that worked well

The B-backs. Dedrick Mills and Marcus Marshall combined for 159 yards on 17 carries. Mills also scored two touchdowns. It was the first time this season that position group surpassed 150 yards, which is a mark Mills said they try to reach each game. Their previous high was 133 yards against Miami.

Justin Thomas. Tech’s quarterback had another efficient day in rushing 16 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns and completing 7-of-11 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. His best throw was to Brad Stewart on a back-shoulder fade that was as good of a catch as it was a pass. Esteemed colleague Ken Sugiura broke down the play here.

The left side of the offensive line. Tech started two freshmen on the left side of the line – that would be Thomas’ blindside – against Georgia Southern. Johnson said that Parker Braun at left guard and Jahaziel Lee acquitted themselves well. Tech rushed for 265 yards and Thomas wasn’t sacked. Though there were a few missed blocks, I believe the duo played the entire game. For more on how they played, please read this story.

The defense on the opening drive. For the first time in six games Tech’s defense didn’t give up a touchdown on its opponent’s opening drive.  “Coach (Paul) Johnson challenged us all week about making that change,” safety A.J. Gray said. “We just stuck to it and kept it in the back of our minds what he said.”

The safeties. Gray and Corey Griffin each set career highs for tackles and tackles for loss. Griffin said they blitzed more than they have in previous games. Though Johnson complimented the size and athleticism of Georgia Southern’s receivers, and many of the players on offense in general after the game, they didn’t really do anything to force defensive coordinator Ted Roof to keep Gray and Griffin from inching closer to the line of scrimmage. The Eagles had 168 passing yards, with three plays longer than 20 yards.

 

Two things that didn’t work well

Third down defense. If you are tired of reading about it, Johnson certainly has to be tired of talking about it. Tech’s defense failed to stop the Eagles on 13-of-20 third downs. “We have to find a way to get off the field,” Johnson said. “People are doing to us what we’ve done to them for 100 years. It’s not any fun.”

Tech’s opponents are converting 49.5 percent of their third downs, the most in the ACC.

As a result, Tech’s number of plays – something Johnson refers to a few times a week – was once again significantly less than its opponent’s. The Eagles ran 83 plays to Tech’s 55. For the season, Tech’s opponents have run 456 plays to Tech’s 419.

Creating turnovers. Tech failed to create a turnover on Saturday and is 10th in the ACC in turnover margin (minus-2). Wake Forest leads with a plus-6. Duke is last at minus-4.

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 8. Though Johnson thinks the team left some points on the field, it’s hard to argue with how Thomas played. He was aggressive for the second consecutive week running the ball, particularly on his 58-yard touchdown run. His passing was once again underrated

B-backs 8. Mills and Marshall each had a run of at least 20 yards, providing a big-play threat that the position hasn’t consistently shown this season.

A-backs 5. The A-backs rushed for 12 yards on seven carries. That yards weren’t the season low for the group. That came in the opening win over Boston College when they totaled 3 yards.

Wide receivers 6. Ricky Jeune and Stewart combined for five catches for 91 yards with longs of 15 and 40. Jeune also had a key downfield block on Thomas’ first touchdown run.

Offensive line 7. Considering the group started two freshmen on the left and were missing several contributors because of injuries, this was arguably the line’s best performance this season.

Defensive line 6. The Eagles rushed for 167 yards, almost 120 less than their season average. Rod Rook-Chungong had three of Georgia Tech’s nine tackles for loss.

Linebackers 5. The group played without leader P.J. Davis, who missed the game because of an injury suffered in the previous week’s loss at Pittsburgh. No tackles for loss, no sacks, no passes broken up.

Cornerbacks 6. A quietly effective day for the corners.

Safeties 9. The performance of the week for Tech’s position groups.

Special teams 5. Harrison Butker shockingly missed a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter. He had three touchbacks on six kickoffs. Ryan Rodwell averaged 42.5 yards on two punts. He had one touchback. J.J. Green had one kickoff return for 13 yards. Georgia Southern had three kickoff returns for 64 yards.  

What did next week’s opponent do?

Nothing, because Tech is off.

What does that mean for Tech?

Georgia Tech will get a chance to rest and recover before it hosts Duke for homecoming.

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