#STINGDAILY: Laboring The Details

Sep 1, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

As the Yellow Jackets enjoy the second of three consecutive off days for the first time in a long time, it’s a good time to look back at Georgia Tech’s 70-0 submission of Elon Saturday. It’s timely.

Since these fellas do not play again until Sept. 14 at Duke they are being given a few days to rest their bones; bones that did real work in Bobby Dodd Stadium the other day. Thirteen Jackets carried the ball, after all, and nine scored touchdowns. Oh, and the other team did not score for the first time since Duke was blanked here in 2008.

Before discounting the opposition, know that it is not a given that an FBS-level program will level an FCS-level opponent.

Look around Saturday’s results and you’ll see several examples of C > B upsets.

Call Bill Snyder. Kansas State honored its legendary coach Saturday, and then North Dakota State ruined the whole thing with an 18-play, 80-yard overland siege/drive to win with 28 seconds left after trailing the defending Big 12 champs by 14 points.

NDSU won in front of the second-largest crowd in Kansas State history.

So there’s that, and who remembers App State winning at Michigan a few years ago?

Anyway, this was a good year for Tech to open with an FCS opponent rather than, say, a game at Virginia Tech or a visit from a team like Notre Dame – both of which happened in recent years, and both of which left frowns upon the faces of the Jackets.

The Jackets have more questions than usual between a new defensive coordinator and system, a new starting quarterback, just one wide receiver who’d caught a pass before (Darren Waller was suspended for the Elon game) and more.

Tech acquitted itself quite nicely, obviously, in a 70-0 win that staid the questions.

First, concerns:

# The Jackets had just one sack, and did not pressure the quarterback well. The run defense was good, but then again the Phoenix did not run much. Starting tackles Euclid Cummings and Adam Gotsis – whose family made the trip from Australia – made noise, but perhaps Tech should have been more dominant up front. End Jeremiah Attaochu, whom some consider an NFL prospect, had one tackle.

# I didn’t see it, but apparently B-back David Sims did not tend to ball-handling very well. Fumbles haunted the former quarterback in the past. Seems head coach Paul Johnson believes they might again. In the work-to-do category goes Sims. “He didn’t fumble the ball, but he’s going to if he doesn’t learn to tuck it away,” the coach said. “David would be the first to tell you. When he’s healthy, he can be a really good player.”

That’s all I’ve got for the down column, although coaches have more for sure. It’s what they do, after all.

Lots of material for the up column, and I’ll start with an obscure observation.

# Two, and perhaps all, of Tech’s interceptions were the absolute result of scheme and call. First, middle linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days dropped into a zone and flared out to step in front of a receiver covered by another Jacket. He returned that 24 yards.

Then, outside linebacker Tyler Marcordes dropped zone and buzzed wide to cross the face of an Elon receiver who was cutting middle with a man defender on his back hip. Marcordes went 95 yards to pay-dirt with that one. Hunt-Days and Marcordes were in those spots by design, not by chance.

Elon quarterback Mike Quinn didn’t see either one coming, or going. “I was surprised,” Marcordes said. “I think it’s a huge boost for our confidence, a good momentum swing.”

# It was nice to see running back Charles Perkins not only score on a 3-yard run in the first quarter, but then make the tackle on the ensuing kickoff. “It was good for Charles,” Johnson said. “He’s worked hard, and had a lot of bad luck with injuries.”

# The passing game appeared more refined than in memory. The Jackets actually lead the NCAA in passing efficiency after one game, with a rating of 267.96, after Vad Lee completed 7-of-11 for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

Those are modest attempts, but that’s EXACTLY what Johnson is looking for in his passing attack – big plays, and just enough of them to hopefully back opposing safeties off a smidge to create that much more room for his beloved running game.

The best plays were the 59-yard pitch-and-catch-and-run-to-paydirt play to Sims, and a touch flare/flat to the right side to an A-back whom I cannot recall. I claim middle age.

# Lee was not sacked. I did not understand Johnson’s hrumphing after the game about turning pass rushers loose. Really, I had no clue what he was talking about.

# Anybody who can bring me up to date on the last freshman kicker to make an impression on par with that of Harrison Butker wins something, but I haven’t figured out what.

The kid’s a big-time prospect out of Westminster so expectations were high, and then he kept sending all those kickoffs long, really long. Seven of his nine kickoffs were touchbacks, another would have been if it didn’t sail out of bounds at about the 2-yard line, and one was fielded at the 1-yard-line. He made all eight of his PATS. 

For good measure, senior David Scully made both his PATs and one of his two kickoffs was a touchback. Great, great ratios by the guys in gold regardless of opponent.

# Some youngsters showed up on film.

Freshman linebacker Paul Davis (No. 40) from Cairo has a little sumthin-sumthin. He’s 5-11, but brings all 215 of his pounds to serious bear. Linebackers Brandon Watts (nine) and Quayshawn Nealy (eight) led the Jackets in combined tackles and assists, and Davis was in limited time third with seven – including a drop for a 4-yard loss.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Michael Summers caught all three passes thrown his way, for 79 yards. He’s athletic, and fast.

Defensive backs Milton, D.J. White, Lynn Griffin, Demond Smith, Domonique Noble are going to keep showing up.

Lastly, in case you’re still wondering why so many offensive starters were still in the game on those first two possessions of the second half, the explanation is fabulous: they needed work.

Because the Jackets scored so fast on so many occasions, coaches didn’t get a chance to thoroughly run through their to-do lists up to that point.

“It got out of hand so quickly . . . you’ve got some things that you want to try to work on, and any time that you get the turnovers that our defense got, and you score on defense, and we blocked a punt . . . it’s kind of a screwy game,” Johnson said. “The first series [of the second half], we wanted to establish the B-back because we really hadn’t done that.

“The [next], we were planning on letting [Lee] play one more to throw the ball, to try to work on that and as you could see from our pass protection we need it. We were turning guys loose off the edge left and right.”

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