Prior to the matchup with the Tulane Green Wave, I posed three aspects the Jackets should look to improve before they meet an onslaught of Power 5 opponents starting this week. Let us review item by item.
1. Special teams
What a difference a week makes.
After a shaky special teams performance that saw a failed PAT and trouble securing punts against Alcorn State, the Jackets showed no cracks against Tulane. Jamal Golden looked like vintage Jamal Golden with a 44 yard punt return and a 34 yard kick return. Chris Milton also added to his impressive total with yet another punt block. The block was his 6th of his career, and though it was the result of a dropped ball by the punter, it was still a fun showcase. The Jackets even recorded their first safety since 2008 off a snap that went sailing into the endzone.
2. Ball security
Tech matched their fumble total with one on Saturday, this time on a pitch to Broderick Snoddy that was a bit high. The fumble occurred on the second drive of the game, but the Jackets had no subsequent problems holding onto the ball the final 55 offensive plays. For reference, the Jackets had 18 giveaways in 2014, so although it has been against lesser competition, Georgia Tech remains ahead of last year’s pace. Thomas, the redshirt junior, and Snoddy, the redshirt senior, with their experience will have no issues correcting the errors shown on the fumble going forward.
3. Passing game
This was certainly an emphatic response.
Justin Thomas and Matthew Jordan tag-teamed for a 8-10 performance through the air that totaled 132 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was practically a game of pitch and catch for the passing game, as backs and receivers found open space up and down the field.
Jordan, discussed in length below, stepped in and threw a perfect dime 35 yard TD for his only attempt. The threat of a deep game will help keep defensive backs from creeping into the box, and make opposing defenses pick their poison with this potent Tech offense that has put up 134 points in two games.
Tech answered some additional questions in their dominating performance over the Green Wave.
Who is the backup quarterback?
With Tim Byerly sidelined with a lower body injury and being evaluated “week to week”, redshirt freshman Matthew Jordan moved from A-back back to quarterback and showed no signs of rust. Jordan practiced as a quarterback in the spring and played QB in high school, so he is no stranger to standing in the pocket. Jordan ran the option to perfection, leading the Jackets to touchdowns in each of his three drives orchestrating the offense. He had the aforementioned beautiful touchdown pass and also a 65 yard scamper for a touchdown, although the Tulane defense only fielded nine defenders on the play.
What happens if defenses key in on the B-backs?
Short answer: no problem.
As you might have heard, Marcus Marshall had a coming out party in his first collegiate game. All good things come to an end, however, as he was bottled up for just 37 yard on 6 carries (6.2 yards per carry). In addition, starting B-back Patrick Skov plodded along for 50 yards on 11 carries (4.5 per carry).
While neither are poor figures, the offense’s bread and butter is the B-back give to keep defenses honest, and Tulane remained very honest all game long. Paul Johnson alluded to the Green Wave pinching in their front seven in the post game press conference, and admitted to adjusting the gameplan to take advantage of this.
As a result, the Green Wave had no answer for quarterback keeps, A-back pitches or sweeps. The QBs combined for 192 yards on the ground and the A-backs added 160 yards in addition to the potent passing game.
As Tulane learned the hard way, it is impossible to stop this offense by keying in on just one factor. We will soon see if Tech can keep this kind of balance heading into Notre Dame this Saturday.