Saturday, October 18, 2008

Georgia Tech Edges Clemson

Before we go any further, let's think about something - the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are 6-1. Let me type that again - 6-1.


That's a really impressive record for the youngest team in the ACC. That's an impressive record for a team with a brand new offense, defense, etc, etc.......... you know the drill. That's just dang impressive.

The Jackets beat Clemson 21-17 to move their record to 6-1, 3-1 in the ACC.

Today's game was pretty ugly.......... 3 fumbles (2 lost for GT)........... 5 fumbles (2 lost for CU)......... 4 INT's for CU. Key penalties at the wrong time for both teams. It was also a physical game, as numerous Georgia Tech players were dinged up.

It was also an emotional game for Clemson with the events of the week impacting players, coaches and fans. Fans were drinking from a fire hose this week just trying to absorb everything and get ready. Let's be real though - the emotion thing carries you to about 3 minutes into the game. Then it comes down to execution.

I give a lot of credit to Clemson in the 2nd half. They really could have gone down for the count. They could have folded like a cheap tent, but they didn't. They fought back, executed some key plays and took the lead. They got back to what has made them successful - some tough inside running and a vertical passing game.

At the end of the day the Jackets made the plays and won the game. They had just enough.

I think it's fair to say that while the offense gets the headlines, we are a defensive team through and through. Georgia Tech has yet to give up more than 20 points to anyone. Clemson was held to 51 yards rushing with a 2.1 avg per carry.

Today was about turnovers.......... Dominique Reese gets the pick-6 the start the scoring.......... Morgan Burnett picked off two passes. Rashaad Reid had another. Derrick Morgan forced one INT by smacking Willy Korn's arm and then he receoved a fumble later. A lot of big plays today by the defense.

They did take a few hits in the third quarter as Clemson scored 14 and moved the ball, but ultimately they did their part to give the offense a chance to win the game.

It is apparent that some defenses have figured out some basic strategies that are effective in this offense - force us to pass. Take the dive away and take the pitch away. Make Nesbitt beat you with the run or the pass. Name me 5 pitches that went for positive yardage. There weren't many. This game obviously required the passing game to come through for the win. It did. At the end of the day, winning is about doing what it takes. The running game enables the pass.

Ultimately you have to continue to be concerned about the offensive line. Once again, they were beat numerous times. I saw a couple of complete whiffs on blocks that resulted in plays getting completely blown-up.

Josh Nesbitt was back, but it appeared that his timing just wan't there today. Of course how much of that was the offensive line? Hard to tell without breaking down the film further. However, Josh missed some reads as far as I could tell, and his passes floated a bit too much. However, when it counted, he threw two beautiful balls, one which BeBe Thomas shortarmed for a sure TD, and the other which Thomas did haul in and take to the house. On the day, Josh rushed 26 times for 77 yards and passed 5-12 for 91 yards and 1 TD (0 INT). He made key plays when he had to.

Having said that, I'm interested to hear the Josh Nesbitt / Jaybo Shaw chatter this week. Without a doubt people will question if Shaw runs this offense more effectively. However, I've said it before and I'll say it again - Josh is our #1 guy.

Jon Dwyer went for 109 yards for the 5th time this year. I think that might get him back up over the century mark as an average on the season.

On a side note, I loved the quick Nesbitt keepers. He ran two of these where the Clemson DL lined up with nobody on the center and the two tackles on the outside of both guards. In both cases, Nesbitt ran a quick keeper where he just shot the gap for about 5-7 yards each time. I was watching both times thinkg - man, there's a lot of room in the middle.

Demaryius Thomas did the unthinkable - he dropped an easy long bomb which fell right into his arms. He clearly shortarmed the ball. It would have put the Jackets up. Instead it forced a punt. BeBe was distraught on the sidelines. However, he would get a chance to redeem himself, and he did. First he caught a difficult 3rd down pass which gave us a key first down late in the game. It was a tough catch falling out-of-bounds with a guy draped all over hime.

Then the big hit - a beautiful hitch-and-go which fooled his defender. Nesbitt found him along the sidelines and he took it the rest of the way for the go-ahead TD.

On the day he ended with 4 catches for 56 yards, although he knows it could have been 5 catches for about 90. But hey - he made the game-winning play. Just win baby.......... I mean BeBe.

There is a story developing in special teams. It's not so much Scott Blair - Field Goal kicker. He almost missed an extra point and did miss a field goal (a 50 yarder to be fair). The story is really not even about Scott Blair the punter, although he had a wonderful day, sending 5-of-7 punts inside the 20 yard line.

This story is about Scott Blair- special teams tackler. Blair had the play of the game near the end of the 1st half by tackling Clemson's kick returner (Marcus Gilchrist) on what clearly looked like a touchdown. That tackle saved a TD and ultimately Clemson got no points because Burnett got an INT to end the half.

Wes Durham should have his video guys go back and look at film this year, because Blair has a handful of key special teams tackles. Now, that's not good, because if your kicker is making tackles then you're in trouble. However, Blair has some wheels and he actually looks like a football player out there. Way to go Scott - that play was a game-saving play.

Well, we lost to Virginia Tech on a drive that was kept alive on a very questionable helmet-to-helmet call on Cooper Taylor. Today there were a couple of key calls that may have made a difference (or not). In this case they were in our favor.

First was a roughing the kicker (punter) call against Scott Blair. Technically it was a penalty. However, if it happened the other way, we would have been screaming bloody murder. It was ticky-tack.

Second was a holding on Clemson's offensive line on a 4th-and12 play that resulted in a Clemson 1st down. It came back and resulted in an unsuccessful 4th-and-22. I looked at the replay and it was not a good call. Daryll Richard absolutely bull-rushed Clemson's center, pushing him back fast. The center then decided to duck and dive under Richard in order to take his legs out from under him. It worked, however the referee who called the flag was directly behind Richard. From his angle he probably saw Richard pushing back the Clemson center and all of the sudden get "pulled" to the ground. From his angle, I bet that's what it looked like. But that's not what happened. It really wasn't holding.............. that was game.

Well, like I said, we had the refs work against us versus VaTech. That's what happens when the game is called by human beings. We'll admit it was a bad call............ but we'll take it.

Key game tonight between BC and Virginia Tech. We absolutely MUST have the Eagles take out VaTech to have a realistic chance to win the Coastal.

There's an interesting dynamic that has reversed from pre-season expectations. Most pundits and really fans as well recognized that the Atlantic division was the better group of teams. Going into the season you had top 10 Clemson, always good Wake Forest, resurgent FSU, tough Boston College, growing Maryland and growing NCST. Really noboby thought there was a terrible team in the Atlantic.

Meanwhile in the Coastal, nobody knew what to expect and generally looked at it as Virginia Tech and the 5 dwarfs. UNC was a popular pick because they lost a bunch of close games last year, but people generally though Duke would continue to stink, Virginia would be average and Georgia Tech would be rebuilding.

Here we are half-way through the season and the perceptions have flipped. VaTech, GaTech and UNC are all 5-1 going into the day. The Jackets move to 6-1 and have beaten Atlantic teams BC and Clemson. North Carolina and Virginia Tech could move to 6-1 today. The Coastal is 3-1 versus the Atlantic this year and the VT / BC match-up tonight is key.

With Wake Forest's loss to Maryland, it looks like there could be 3 ACC teams ranked, and they're all coming from the Coastal. Having said that we need VaTech to lose tonight.

Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney did everything he could to fire up fans and players:

  • Did a "Tiger walk" prior to the game
  • Made his players wear suits / ties to the game
  • Sent a letter to students telling them to show up and support the team
  • Called for an "orange-out" for all fans
  • Called for players and fans to be "all in" this week
  • Gave a spirited pre-game talk, which was broadcast by ESPN.
  • Walked his team arm-in-arm, spread out across the entire field from goal-line to goal-line.
  • Hugged and kissed Howard's Rock
  • Ran down the hill so fast he outran every player by about 30 yards (see photo)
At the end of the day, emotion is down on the list of important factors. Talent, scheme's, playcalling and ingame adjustments ultimately matter more. Emotion is a piece of the puzzle but comes in much lower in the priority list.

There was another weird sight today - Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips roaming the sidelines in a Jerry Jones-esqe fashion, even getting in Swinney's ear a couple of times (once as a result of that hook-and-ladder play). Why is your AD getting on the field? I don't mean the sideline. The guy was on the field at least once. Strange, just strange.

Jahi-Word Daniels pulled a hamstring
AJ Smith was banged up
David Brown was banged up.

Georgia Tech is 6-1, again with the youngest team in the ACC. I have a hard time seeing how we would have done this well with the prior regime. Paul Johnson's mental toughness just seems to make such a difference. He's made enough good calls and the players have executed enough of them to win. We'll take it. This team just has a don't quit attitude. They never give up, and never seem to think they're out of it. They fight and fight, even when they aren't quite making plays. What a great trait.

Josh Nesbitt is a sophomore
Jon Dwyer is a sophomore
Roddy Jones is a freshman
BeBe Thomas is a sophomore
Morgan Burnett is a sophomore
Derrick Morgan is a sophomore
Kyle Jackson is a freshman
Correy Earls is a sophomore
Brad Jefferson is a sophomore
Dominique Reese is a sophomore
Jaybo Shaw is a freshman
Cooper Taylor is a freshman

Are you sensing a trend here. These are guys that have proven something on the field this year, and they're all underclassmen. Wow! This doesn't count the guys who've come in and haven't had their chance yet.

The future is bright.