Thursday, October 30, 2014

game preview: Georgia Tech

Date/Time: Saturday, November 1; 3:30


Record against the Jackets: 17-18-1

Last meeting: GT 35, UVA 25; 10/26/13, Charlottesville

Last weekend: UNC 28, UVA 27; GT 56, Pitt 28

Line: GT by 4.5

Injury report:


OUT: DE Trent Corney, WR Miles Gooch, LB Mark Hall, C Jackson Matteo, CB Demetrious Nicholson, C Eric Tetlow, OT Jay Whitmire
DOUBTFUL: WR Andre Levrone
QUESTIONABLE: S Divante Walker

Georgia Tech:

OUT: RB Zach Laskey, RB Charles Perkins
PROBABLE: OL Chris Griffin

Theoretically, the Coastal race could hardly be more wide-open; five out of seven teams have two losses, and the other two have one and three.  The mood isn't one of a title race, though; blowing a game to a rival in way-too-familiar fashion will do that.  Getting to a bowl game remains a plausible, if growing distant, goal, however.  If the Hoos are to do that, this game is a must-win.

-- UVA run offense vs. GT run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 145 carries, 613 yards, 4.2 ypc, 4 TDs
Taquan Mizzell: 51 carries, 211 yards, 4.1 ypc, 2 TDs

UVA offense:
170.13 yards/game, 4.19 yards/attempt
74th of 128 (national), 8th of 14 (ACC)

GT defense:
189.13 yards/game, 5.38 yards/attempt
114th of 128 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

For the past two weeks I've pointed out lousy run defenses, and for the past two weeks I've lamented our apparent unwillingness to take advantage.  Last chance, at least for a while.  GT has had some pretty good running backs on the schedule - Duke Johnson and James Conner, for starters - but it's not much excuse.  Georgia Southern ran absolutely wild on GT, almost completing a second-half comeback - and using GT's own triple option offense against them.  If you can't stop your own offense....

The UVA injury report is pretty lengthy this week, but one thing it doesn't have is any regular O-linemen.  As much as it can ever be said about this season, the O-line is healthy, and ready to take on a GT trench team that's been pushed around a lot.  Adam Gotsis gets double-teamed a bunch because nobody else strikes any fear in anyone, and the defensive ends are positively absent from the stat sheet (with the exception of eye-opening freshman KeShun Freeman.)

I'd like to say I'm done complaining about not utilizing the running game, because I'm tired of doing it and I don't want to be Johnny One-Note, but I doubt I'll be able to contain myself if for some reason we can't (or won't) run on GT.  Wofford piled up 271 yards.  We should at least be able to give Kevin Parks 120.

-- UVA pass offense vs. GT pass defense

Greyson Lambert: 83/137, 60.6%; 4 TDs, 6 INTs, 825 yards; 6.02 ypa

Top receivers:
Taquan Mizzell: 27 rec., 143 yards, 0 TDs
Canaan Severin: 25 rec., 321 yards, 3 TDs
Kevin Parks: 20 rec., 123 yards, 2 TDs

UVA offense:
241.6 yards/game, 6.60 yards/attempt
89th of 128 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

GT defense:
240.3 yards/game, 7.94 yards/attempt
112th of 128 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

Then again, if we don't run the ball, maybe it's just because we decided to take our chances against GT's forgiving pass defense.  On the plus side for the Jackets, eight different players have an interception; they have an active secondary and some linebackers that can effectively play the pass, particularly Quayshawn Nealy.

The rush isn't great, though.  And if GT isn't getting turnovers, the other team is moving the ball like crazy.  Michael Brewer - who's playing so great for VT that Hokie fans are calling for Mark Leal - was a hair shy of 300 yards, and Chad Voytik and Marquise Williams blew past that mark.  Georgia Southern needed only 13 completions to reach 245 yards on the day.

I'm assuming Greyson Lambert gets the call again.  Like I said: don't turn the ball over, and he should find room to throw.  Obviously that's been a little problem of his, although bouncy hands, lousy playcalls, and untimely pressure have all contributed mightily.  The Hoos will be shorthanded at receiver, though; Miles Gooch's injury looks like a long-term thing (truly unfortunate, for a guy who's paid his dues) and one of the more important deep threats is unlikely to play as well.  UVA has depth at receiver, but those are two big hits.  Caanan Severin needs to have a big day, and someone like Keeon Johnson or Doni Dowling will have to step up big too.

Given the injuries at receiver, once again I'd just as soon tilt the playcalling towards the run.  If the game turns shootout, though, which it might as GT has an awfully effective offense, the game will hinge on what Lambert can do.  I'm OK with taking our chances, as GT tends to let you move the ball regardless of how you want to.

-- GT run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Justin Thomas: 123 carries, 717 yards, 5.8 ypc, 4 TDs
Synjyn Days: 38 carries, 199 yards, 5.2 ypc, 1 TD

GT offense:
326.13 yards/game, 6.17 yards/attempt
7th of 128 (national), 1st of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
100.38 yards/game, 3.02 yards/attempt
10th of 128 (national), 4th of 14 (ACC)

There's little to say here that you don't know by now.  It's the triple option.  It is what it is.  It's probably a tribute to that offense, that it basically operates the same year after year without concern about you adjusting to it, and still works.

GT's running it pretty well this year.  Justin Thomas appears to be much better at it than Vad Lee was.  With Lee, all you had to do was force him to keep, and you won.  (Case in point: Lee only ran the ball four times in our loss last year.)  It's much more balanced this year.  As ever, sticking to your assignment is #1.

The Jackets are a little shorthanded, as Zach Laskey misses his second game with a shoulder injury.  Former quarterback Synjyn Days took over against Pitt and the Jackets didn't miss a beat.  Charles Perkins, averaging 10.9 yards a carry, hurt his knee against Pitt, so Tech is losing some depth, but again - they just handed the ball to Broderick Snoddy instead, and he went and did the same things Perkins does, so I'm not chalking up any improved chances just because of these injuries.  Just gotta play the assignments, and hopefully UVA's very shiny run defense stats don't get blowed up.

-- GT pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Justin Thomas: 55/115, 47.8%; 11 TDs, 3 INTs, 1,106 yards; 9.62 ypa

Top receivers:
DeAndre Smelter: 20 rec., 462 yards, 5 TDs
Darren Waller: 10 rec., 205 yards, 2 TDs
Tony Zenon: 7 rec., 146 yards, 1 TD

GT offense:
155.8 yards/game, 9.66 yards/attempt
3rd of 128 (national), 1st of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
236.3 yards/game, 6.80 yards/attempt
52nd of 128 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)

Once again there's not much new to talk about.  GT's pass offense is as usual: it generates big plays when it connects, but more passes fall incomplete than not.  GT has their big-play receiver in DeAndre Smelter - they've been missing that aspect the past couple years, and this offense is at its best when it has that Demaryius Thomas type of guy running deep routes.

I'm a little more worried than usual, and would be even more if Quin Blanding wasn't a good student of the game.  As free safety, it's Blanding's job to never ever ever get sucked in until the ball crosses the line of scrimmage.  Once it does, he can crash; til then, letting anything behind him is a potential disaster.  Don't think Paul Johnson won't notice, if Blanding starts cheating upwards.

Ultimately, though, the story with GT's passing game is the same as always: you'll probably lose if you let it generate big plays, but stopping it doesn't guarantee much.

-- Favorability ratings

UVA run offense: 6
UVA pass offense: 6
UVA run defense: 4
UVA pass defense: 4

Average: 5

-- Outlook

That favorability stuff above is, this week, just about entirely based on the opponent's abilities.  UVA will be hoping its powerful defense is capable of stopping the well-run gimmick; GT will be hoping UVA's offense isn't good enough to take advantage of its porous defense.  I'd probably be leaning toward the optimistic side if UVA had won just one of the last two, but it wasn't to be.  Now you've got annoying coach tricks rearing their ugly head again, and the game is on the road.  It's hard to see this turning out well anymore.

-- Predictions

- Kevin Parks runs for 120 yards.

- Keeon Johnson has a big day, which these days means four or more catches.

- UVA's season average for rushing yards allowed per attempt jumps at least a quarter-yard.

- Lambert throws at least two more picks, one of which isn't his fault.

Final score: GT 35, UVA 28

-- Rest of the ACC

Byes: Clemson, Wake Forest

Florida State 42, Louisville 31 - Thu. - With an effective two-game lead, and Clemson only having two games to play, FSU has just about sewn up the Atlantic.  This is why you put that damn game in November, you idiots in the scheduling office.

Duke @ Pittsburgh - 12:00 - One more piece of the crazy Coastal puzzle.

Boston College @ Virginia Tech - 12:30 - VT has proven itself unable to stop most running games, which is really bad news against a team that's already run for over 2,200 yards.  BC is going for bowl eligibility in this one.

North Carolina @ Miami - 12:30 - The Canes are hitting their stride, and favored by a ton.

NC State @ Syracuse - 3:00 - NC State is clinging to bowl game dreams, and probably needs this one to get there.


Anonymous said...

Well that was awful.

Brendan, a question for you: do they suck because they're not running the ball, or are they not running the ball because they suck? In other words, is Fairchild abandoning the ground game too early, or is he just staying away from it because it's not effective?

pezhoo said...

Thirty-two yards on the ground if you take out the sack because we can't execute the first snap of the game. GT's leading rusher got more than that on one play. But I bet most Hoo fans aren't surprised.

I expect FSU will paste us by 5 TDs. Which will mire us in a four game losing streak. Which means Valles' interception against Pitt was the high point of the season. Do you think there is any chance London is fired after FSU crushes us? We've got an open week against Miami, just move on now.