Nov. 2, 2016
Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Were it anything but new-age football, the algorithm that Georgia Tech will try to use to solve North Carolina’s offense Saturday might not make sense because it’s not often in the world that complex problems are addressed simply.
The Tar Heels, though, do so many different things when they have the ball and they do everything so quickly that trying to match their thoughts exactly would figure to trigger sensory overload. That can lead to a system crash.
So, when the Yellow Jackets (5-3, 2-3 ACC) take on North Carolina (6-2, 4-1) in Kenan Stadium, the defensive goal will not be to follow each motion man and shift change to match North Carolina’s every move.
Senior Ryan Switzer may not pass the eye test, but the 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior is North Carolina’s all-time leading receiver and he’s a handful. Add junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who ranks among national leaders in a slew of passing categories, and the Tar Heels have the data to crash systems.
The idea as the Tar Heels run plays quickly will be to keep defenders’ heads clear so that as the ball is so frequently snapped, Tech defenders will move to it more quickly with minds less cluttered by keys. It’s all about reaction time.
“I get about two seconds to make a call,” said Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof. “That’s football nowadays. The tempo cuts down on your time to process . . . the offensive formation, any tendencies that you may have learned. It makes you rely on your base stuff . . . simplify what you do.”
Senior linebacker P.J. Davis, who led the Jackets in tackles when he suffered a lower-body injury Oct. 8 at Pittsburgh, is expected to return Saturday. That’s good. The Jackets have allowed averages of 433.6 yards and 32 points per game over the last three contests.
Tech’s offense has improved over the same span, but going on the road and expecting to win a shootout is not good policy.
The Jackets had several alignment issues in last Saturday’s 38-35 win over Duke as the Blue Devils moved Tech defenders around prior to the snap with formation changes and the like.
Tech head coach Paul Johnson believes that trying to counter an opponent’s every move can cause problems.
“You’ve got to eliminate the mistakes and alignment errors and those kinds of things,” he said. “If you’re still having them this late in the year, then you have to cut back on what you’re doing. You can have the best plans in the world, but if the guys out there on the field can’t get it, then it’s not going to be good.”
North Carolina has been a pain for Tech recently.
The Tar Heels rallied to win, 38-31, last season in Atlanta in a game that Johnson believed turned each team’s season permanently in the direction of the result. UNC beat the Jackets, 48-43, in Chapel Hill two years ago, and these teams combined to score more points ever than any other ACC tandem in 2012.
At least Tech won that one, 68-50.
Trubisky, Switzer and the Heels are sure to sling it around.
With 214 career receptions, including an ACC-leading 66 this season, Switzer (No. 3) is a pest. Beyond the fact he’s returned an ACC-record seven punts for touchdowns, the young man has an incredible knack for getting open.
“It’s a tremendous challenge because they move him all over the place to try and match him up,” Roof said. “And when you try to do something to take him away, they have a bunch of other good players who can make big plays and have made big plays.”
Junior running back Elijah Hood (No. 34) has 10 career rushing games for 100 or more yards and, at 6-feet, 230 pounds, he’s the thunder to senior running back T.J. Logan’s lightning. Logan (No. 8) is one of the nation’s top kickoff return men and he does everything in the backfield. He’s UNC’s second-leading rusher and fourth leading receiver.
Trubisky (No. 10) triggers everything and the 6-3, 225-pound junior from Mentor, Ohio wastes no time. The Heels rarely huddle and often throw.
He’s third in the nation in completion percentage (71.2), 10th in completions (203), 10th in passer efficiency rating (160.76) and 16th in touchdown passes (18).
“Trubisky’s a mobile guy too,” Roof said of the quarterback who’s rushed for 101 yards and four touchdowns. “They’ve got every element of offense and they mix it with tempo . . . They read coverages very well. They’re hard to fool. The quarterback sees things very well and makes adjustments accordingly.
“We’ve got to get our guys together with a plan they can execute.”