Flats Lines: Reviewing Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia

Atlanta, Ga. -- The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets take the field at the start of their game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday, November 19, 2016. SPECIAL/Daniel Varnado

Atlanta, Ga. — The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets take the field at the start of their game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday, November 19, 2016. SPECIAL/Daniel Varnado

Reviewing Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium:

The game in 100 words or less

It wasn’t the prettiest game coach Paul Johnson has ever seen. In fact if you didn’t know that the Yellow Jackets won 31-17 you would think after reading his quotes that his team had lost. But the defense did just enough to win, and the offense created enough big plays and the defense was stout when it needed to be to push Tech (7-4, 4-4) to its seventh win and send the 16 playing their final game on The Flats out winners.

Five things that worked well

This won’t be easy this week, but here goes.

Clinton Lynch. The A-back caught a 54-yard touchdown pass when he was left wide open for about the millionth time this season. Well, he may not have been left open as much as he beat the man trying to cover him and now has six touchdowns this season of at least 45 yards. Either way, Justin Thomas said after the game he isn’t complaining. He had 96 yards on just four plays for him and is averaging a whopping 17.5 yards per rush or reception.

Marcus Marshall. The big-play B-back had a 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to add a little excitement to what to that point was a pretty drab game. He finished with 127 yards on 16 carries and has 270 rushing yards on 35 carries in the past two games. It will be interesting to see if he starts Saturday’s game against Georgia. Oh yeah, I think I forgot to mention that the Yellow Jackets will play the Bulldogs on Saturday in Athens.

Special teams. Harrison Butker had seven points and needs just five more against the Bulldogs to become Tech’s all-time leading scorer. But the real hero of the group against the Cavs may have been punter Ryan Rodwell. After losing his starting job following the season-opening win over Boston College, Rodwell worked his way back into the lineup by the third game and has been mostly steady since. He capped his career at Bobby Dodd Stadium with a career-long 69-yard punt in the second quarter and then a 60-yarder in the fourth quarter that was downed at the 2-yard line.

Lance Austin and Corey Griffin. The two came up with crucial interceptions in the game and then were really funny in the post-game interviews with Griffin saying the spin move he made was something that he doesn’t usually break out, and Austin saying he has more shiftiness than Griffin because he was actually able to get to the end zone.

The pass rush. The Yellow Jackets had three sacks to bring their total to eight in the past two games. That was as many as the team had through the first nine games.

Two things that didn’t work well

Blocking by everyone. Johnson was obviously frustrated after the game, saying he’s not the sure the line has played worse and that the A-backs might not have blocked anyone either, which he sarcastically noted isn’t a good combination. The epitome of the issue came on a crucial fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter in which back-up quarterback Matthew Jordan was stopped for no gain. It was an interesting personnel grouping on the play because Jordan had yet to play. Quaide Weimerskirch was put in at B-back for blocking and apparently missed his assignment. He hasn’t play B-back in weeks. The center and left guard also failed to execute their double-team of Virginia’s nose guard.

Focus. This is a nebulous topic to single out the grab-bag of errors that occurred, starting with Thomas pitching the ball to the blocking back on the game’s first play. The Jackets were able to recover the ball inside the 5-yard line, but it was a harbinger of the odd things to come. Johnson said that would have been a huge play. Other errors: Brad Stewart, five yards open down the seam, dropped what likely would have been a touchdown pass. There was the blown fourth-and-1, etc.

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 minus-9 rushing yards, but completed 5-of-10 passes for 122 yards. He looked rusty after not playing last week. Thomas looked so out-of-synch that some of us in the press box wondered if Jordan would play a series or two in the second half, especially considering how well he did last week. Alas, that guessing once again shows what we know.

B-backs 8. Marshall had another big game as the starting B-back in place of the suspended Dedrick Mills. Marshall had 127 yards with a touchdown and averaged 7.9 yards per carry.

A-backs 4. Lynch’s 54-yard touchdown reception and Qua Searcy’s 60-yard touchdown run saved this group from what may have been their mark of the season.

Wide receivers 3. Really, other than Stewart’s mysterious drop, this group didn’t do much. Ricky Jeune had one catch for 18 yards. I presume the blocking was also bad, based upon what Johnson said afterward.

Offensive line 4. Instead of starting three freshmen on the left side of the line, the group saw redshirt junior Eason Fromayan, freshman Parker Braun and senior Freddie Burden at those spots. For whatever reason, the line didn’t work as well as it did the previous two weeks when Jahaziel Lee, Braun and Kenny Cooper were at those spots. Lee missed the game with an injury. Cooper played some. The Jackets totaled 199 rushing yards, their third-lowest mark this season.

Defensive line 7. After getting five sacks against the Hokies, the group had all three sacks against the Cavs. Patrick Gamble, Kyle Cerge-Henderson and Francis Kallon had those.

Linebackers 6. P.J. Davis had 13 tackles and Brant Mitchell added 12. Virginia rushed for 189 yards, but only run went for longer than 25 yards.

Cornerbacks 6. Austin’s interception was the highlight as the group helped limit the Cavaliers to 220 yards passing with just one play longer than 20 yards.

Safeties 6. Griffin’s interception was the highlight.

Special teams 8. A fantastic rating for the group for the second consecutive week. The only mistakes were allowing a 23-yard kickoff return and a 26-yard punt return.

What did next week’s opponent do?

Georgia defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 35-21. The Cajuns, members of the Sun Belt Conference which saw Georgia State knock off Georgia Southern on Saturday, really weren’t in the game because of Isaiah McKenzie’s big-play ability.

What does this mean for Georgia Tech?

This will be an interesting game: one team whose offense has a lot of trouble moving the ball facing a

defense that until the past two games had trouble stopping anyone or making big plays. Who do you think will win?

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