Georgia Tech faced off against the South Florida Bulls in Tampa, Florida this afternoon. Fans who braved the 90+ degree temperature were treated to a shootout between two explosive teams. The game saw 10 lead changes, one player returning two kickoff returns for touchdowns, and a backup quarterback scoring three straight touchdowns. Excitement was not in short supply during this contest. How did Tech perform in their 49-38 loss to South Florida? Let’s discuss in our second edition of Fast Analysis: Georgia Tech 2018.
Fast Analysis: GT vs South Florida
The Yellow Jackets offense came out strong in the first half of their contest against South Florida. The Jackets scored on their first three drives of the ball game. The first drive ended with a 35-yard line field goal by Brenton King. The second drive for the Yellow Jackets ended with one of the most amazing touchdowns run by TaQuon Marshall.
The third drive lasted a lengthy 17 seconds for Tech. TaQuon Marshall connected with Clinton Lynch for an 81-yard touchdown pass. Marshall did not have much success throwing the ball in the first half last week against against Alcorn State. He looked much improved in the first half against South Florida. His passes were precise and he looked much more comfortable letting the ball go.
The 81-yd TD pass from TaQuon Marshall to Clinton Lynch is tied for the 10th-longest pass play in @GeorgiaTechFB history. It was the longest completion of Marshall's career and longest for #GaTech since Lynch caught an 83-yd TD pass from @smooov in 2016. #GTvsUSF #TogetherWeSwarm
— Mike Flynn (@MFlynnGT) September 8, 2018
The Yellow Jackets next four drives would see little success as Tech would go Punt, Punt, Turnover on Downs, and Interception. Before the offense stalled in the second quarter, TaQuon Marshall was playing stellar football. He was three for three passing for 108 yards and one touchdown throw. He complimented his passing attack by adding 89 rushing yards and one touchdown run. That is the kind of play Tech fans expect when Marshall is on the field.
The Jackets lost KirVonte Benson for the game towards the end of the first quarter. The Jackets were leaning on Benson, almost exclusively, during the first quarter. The extent of the injury is unknown at this time, but this could prove detrimental to the Jackets if the Doak Walker Award watch list player is out for an extended period of time.
It only took three plays for Tech’s defense to force a turnover on Saturday. Tariq Carpenter logged his first interception of his career 53 seconds into the game. Two possessions later, Tech’s defense came up with a huge stop on the goal line on third and goal. The Bulls would go for it on fourth down resulting in an incomplete pass and an offensive pass interference to turn the ball over on downs.
The Yellow Jackets would give up a touchdown the next time on the field, but forced the Bulls to punt the ball on their final two possessions of the half. Kyle Cerge-Henderson, the Tampa native, was especially impressive during the first half with his two sacks. Nate Woody and the defense were impressive during the first half.
— Georgia Tech Football (@GeorgiaTechFB) September 8, 2018
When the Yellow Jackets defense was on the field in the first half they were playing well. The score at halftime, 21-17 in favor of USF, was not representative of the defenses first half performance. Tech’s defense held the Bulls to 174 first half yards and only one touchdown. Also, they did all this despite losing Tariq Carpenter due to a targeting foul.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets special teams were especially poor during the first half of Saturday’s game against South Florida. Terrence Horne returned two kickoffs for touchdowns; racking up 195 return yards in the first quarter! The next time Georgia Tech lined up for a kickoff, they utilized the universally loved squib kick. South Florida took over at their own 33 yard line – which is preferable to watching Horne run the ball in to the end zone.
USF's Terrence Horne had TWO return TDs … in one quarter. pic.twitter.com/THx7tsCPS2
— ESPN (@espn) September 8, 2018
So Tech made the necessary adjustments (understatement) and did not allow a kickoff return for a touchdown for the remainder of the game.
During the Yellow Jacket’s first offensive possession of the third quarter, TaQuon Marshall exited the game due to injury. Tobias Oliver, redshirt freshman, stepped in and led the offense on three straight scoring drives. Tech and Oliver would complete touchdown drives of 69 yards, 75 yards, and 74 yards during the third quarter – with the final drive ending just inside the fourth quarter. Tech led 38-28 with 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
— Georgia Tech Football (@GeorgiaTechFB) September 8, 2018
South Florida’s defense had no answer for the freshman. The first drive that stalled, Paul Johnson sent Marshall, now recovered, back in the game on third and nine. Marshall completed a great pass to Clinton Lynch for 21 yards and a first down. Tech was inside of the Bull’s red zone and threatening to score, but it was not meant to be. Qua Searcy fumbled the ball at the 12 yard line and South Florida recovered with a little under eight minutes left on the clock. The following drive resulted in a tipped pass being intercepted by the Bull’s defense with three minutes and 47 seconds left on the clock. Tech would get the ball back one more time.
It was a disappointing finish to the game for the offense, but even in spite of growing, insurmountable odds, the Tech offense fought on. The final drive totaled 12 plays and would end with Jerry Howard being stood up at the goal line for the final play of the game. BUT, it was impressive to see Tech fight on until the bitter end.
Despite the loss, the Yellow Jackets offense still finished the game with 602 total yards! TaQuon Marshall had 183 passing yards, and the team combined for 419 rushing yards. The Yellow Jackets still have areas to improve upon on the offensive side of the ball, but they left nothing on that field today.
The Georgia Tech defense struggled during the second half to contain Blake Barnett and the South Florida offense. They allowed mammoth running lanes to open up throughout the second half and had no answer for the Bull’s triple-threat at the wide receiver position.
Tech fans cannot place blame on the fact that David Curry joined Tariq Carpenter in the locker room early after he was ejected for a confirmed targeting call. South Florida was moving the ball easily even when the starting inside linebacker was on the field. The inexperience in our secondary was glaring this afternoon in Tampa, and the Bulls took full advantage.
The Bulls last three drives in the fourth quarter ended in touchdowns. And if that sounds bad, it looked worse. Blake Barnett took over in the fourth quarter and led his team to victory with a touchdown pass to Terrence Horne (like he needed more attention today) and two rushing touchdowns.
Horne's third TD of the day!!
This one on a 3-yard pass from Barnett. pic.twitter.com/FuAfpJBLdh
— USF Football (@USFFootball) September 8, 2018
Blake Barnett and the offense sealed the deal with a touchdown with two minutes and 13 seconds left in the fourth to put the Bulls up by 10. Ultimately, the Yellow Jackets fell 38-49.
Most noteworthy, Terrence Horne did not return a kickoff or punt for a touchdown. Due to that fact, this writer would say that is a victory for special teams in the second half!
How Tech Fans Feel Right Now
Tech fans knew there would be a period of growing pains under Nate Woody’s new 3-4 scheme in 2018. But hope led them to believe that, just maybe, they were wrong. Is cognitive dissonance on display in such an obvious and profound way anywhere else outside of college football on Saturdays?
Certain Tech fans are optimistic even after today. The offense put up amazing numbers and they are looking forward to a brighter tomorrow for our defense. And that brighter future will come. Nate Woody is an outstanding hire for Paul Johnson and the Jackets, and it will produce results in the long run.
And then there are the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fans who see the “same old, same old” with Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets. This was one more loss to a team the Jackets were projected to beat. The Jackets had the lead in the fourth quarter…again. The Jackets offense put up over 500 yards…again. Jackets lost…again. All of that was supposed to be ugly baggage left behind in 2017.
There is reason to see hope for the Yellow Jackets future. It might take another year, but the team will get better. The defense is going to get better. Tobias Oliver and Lucas Johnson are tremendous athletes that can run Paul Johnson’s offense. Special teams will not have to face off against Terrence Horne any time soon. Certainly, the future appears to be bright for the Yellow Jackets.