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#STINGDAILY: Gut-Check Time

Oct. 13, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

There has not been a formula this season for Georgia Tech’s shortcomings. The Yellow Jackets have lost one game where their offense was nearly non-existent, another where the defense all but couldn’t defend, and then Saturday both at various times.

The Jackets fell 38-20 at BYU because the defense was suspect early, and the offense was specious throughout.

There, in the shadows of the Wasatch Mountain Range, were two of the nations’s top 13 rushing offenses and yet the Cougars came out tossing it around as if Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Demter, Marc Wilson or some other QB who played for BYU squads of decades past was still at the helm.

Taysom Hill is a sophomore quarterback. He is a runner. Or he was until Saturday.

Hill entered the game as the nation’s No. 15 rusher, averaging 115.8 rushing yards per game while completing less than half his passes.

Then, eight of the Cougars’ 15 plays in the first quarter were passes, and Hill completed all of them.

He was sacked another time, by defensive tackle Adam Gotsis (who had a massive game), and another would-be pass attempt was wiped out of the game book by a pass interference call on cornerback Louis Young.

So, as said, the Cougars were winging it.

As much as the BYU passing attack was a surprise, so was the lightning-quick play calling of offensive coordinator Robert Anae, a protege of sorts of Tech coach Paul Johnson. He was an offensive graduate assistant at Hawai’i in 1987, when Johnson was the offensive coordinator.

It was a bad combination for the Jackets.

“I felt like everyone was confident, but it was the speed of their offense,” Gotsis said. “It was tough to get the signals in and things like that because they were right up on the ball on every play, and I’ll give them credit for that. They’re a great offensive team.”

Tech prepared for the pace of play, but not that passing attack.

Perhaps the Jackets were not ready for the crowd noise, either, because they had serious issues again with false starts. Right tackle Bryan Chamberlain had four in the first quarter alone, and before you knew it the Jackets trailed 24-13 at halftime.

The third quarter was a slog, although in the grand schemes this was a game that the Jackets had the right to say they could have won.

Bottom line, the Jackets are not configured to throw much – as head coach Paul Johnson said a couple weeks ago after the Virginia Tech game – and they threw 23 times Saturday.

Starter Vad Lee completed 7-of-20 and redshirt freshman Justin Thomas 3-of-3.

“Offensively, we haven’t been in a rhythm for two or three games running the ball,” Johnson said. “And when you can’t run the ball, it makes everything else real hard because we’re not real good pass protectors.”

But they had the only two turnovers, and they were both huge.

And they were both in the fourth quarter, which in reality was where the Jackets failed to win.

The period began disastrously, as Lee was sacked on the first play by linebacker Kyle Van Noy. He was unaccounted for on a couple of occasions Saturday, which seems a strange thing for an All-American.

Given that that was a third-and-8 from the BYU 15, it was bad enough that the Jackets lost a touchdown opportunity that would have helped solve a 24-13 deficit.

Then, freshman kicker Harrison Butker missed a 42-yard field goal to make it worse.

Tech’s defense stood up after that, and after a punt that Jackets opened with good field position at their own 38-yard-line.

But Alani Fua had a great idea soon after that.

The left outside linebacker dropped into a zone when the Jackets snapped at first-and-10 from midfield and when Lee threw that direction, he threw too hard.

Had Lee put a little more air under the pass, it would have cleared Fua, but the pass was a laster.

Fua leaped, picked it, and ran 51 yards for a touchdown.

Tech went on the move offensively again, but as B-back David Sims twisted and turned at the end of a 9-yard run on third-and-9, a BYU defender’s helmet squared up on the football.

Fumble. BYU recovery. The Cougars scored six plays later – all rushes – and their 38-13 lead was too much. There was 3:11 left in the game.

Hill passed for 244 yards and rushed for 65. The passing mattered most because that’s what put the Cougars ahead and enabled them to go into cruise control.

The Jackets in the fourth quarter missed a field goal, threw a pick six and lost a fumble to set up another BYU touchdown.

Thomas, a redshirt freshman, made some plays late. He’s giving Johnson something to think about.

“I thought he went in a did a pretty good job,” the coach said. “He did some good things. The quarterback is not the problem. Did Vad do everything correctly? No, but he’s not the problem. They’ve got to help him out.”

Tech returns to ACC action next when when Syracuse, new to the league, visits Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“We have got to have our leaders step up,” said Tech wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who had three receptions for 26 yards. “Or anybody can step up. Everybody has got to buy in, and I’m not saying that anybody hasn’t right now.”

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