Fast Analysis: Georgia Tech vs Pittsburgh

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Fast Analysis: Georgia Tech vs Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 15: Jordan Mason #24 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets runs the ball against Jazzee Stocker #7 of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on September 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were on the road for the second straight weekend as they faced off against their first ACC opponent of 2018, the Pittsburgh Panthers. After a tough loss last week to South Florida, this game was an opportunity for Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson to silence the critics. Unfortunately for Johnson and the Jackets, Saturday resulted in another tough road loss. How did Tech perform in their 19-24 loss to Pittsburgh? Let’s discuss in our third edition of Fast Analysis.

Fast Analysis: Georgia Tech vs Pittsburgh

First Half

Offense

To describe the offense as disappointing in the first half might be a bit of an understatement. First of all, the Pittsburgh defense and coaching staff deserve credit for developing a strategy to stifle the Yellow Jackets rushing attempt.

The Yellow Jackets entered the game averaging 7.7 rushing yards per attempt. At the end of the first half, the Jackets had 28 rushing attempts for 135 yards. That’s almost three yards per carry less than their average (4.8 ypc).

The Yellow Jackets had seven offensive drives during the first half. Here are the results of those seven drives:

  • Three plays, nine yards, PUNT
  • Four plays, one yard, TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • Three plays, negative one yard, PUNT
  • Five plays, 24 yards, PUNT
  • 10 plays, 48 yards, TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • Four plays, 35 yards, PUNT
  • Four plays, 39 yards, MISSED FG (end of first half)

Again, Pittsburgh did a great job planning accordingly for the Yellow Jackets triple-option, but Paul Johnson and his offense had several missed opportunities and miscues that hurt their drive.

TaQuon Marshall finished the first half with one pass completion on four attempts. Marshall had a wide open Jalen Camp that would have moved the chains on the fourth down play, but threw the ball over his 6’2″ wide receiver. Marshall did have a nice throw to Brad Stewart who could not come down with the catch. It was a difficult catch to make, but Stewart got both hands on the ball, and it would have put Tech on the Panthers one yard line. If Georgia Tech is to compete in the ACC this season, it’s a catch that must be made.

The Yellow Jackets offense also had two fumbles that they were able to recover. The offense looked out of sync all day, and the Pittsburgh defense exploited that.

The offense finished the first half with 155 yards (135 rushing, 20 passing). Tech entered this game averaging 419 yards per game.

Defense

For the second week in a row, the score at the end of the first half, 21-0 in favor of Pittsburgh, was not entirely reflective of the performance of Tech’s defense. There’s no doubt that Tech’s defense was undisciplined in the first half. But Paul Johnson’s decision to go for it on offense on fourth down twice put the defense in a tough spot.

Tech’s defense also came into this game with Pittsburgh at a disadvantage as starters David Curry and Tariq Carpenter were serving their first half suspensions stemming from targeting penalties a week earlier against South Florida.

Outside of the miscues on offense, when the Pittsburgh offense was on the field in the first half, they had wide open running lanes. And when the running lanes were congested, Tech defenders were bouncing off of Pittsburgh running backs.

Pittsburgh would put up 21 points in the first half from three rushing touchdowns. All three touchdowns would add yards after contact (YAC) yards to Pittsburgh’s running backs. Tackling is something Nate Woody and staff will spend extra time on this week in practice.

Tech’s defense gave up 126 passing yards and 89 rushing yards. All in all, 215 yards is not a terrible half, but it is not the type of half you want to see from your defense when your normally stellar offense is struggling.

Special Teams

For the second week in a row, Tech’s special teams would prove their undoing in the first half. On fourth down, Tech would attempt a failed trick play and hand the ball over to Pitt’s offense on Tech’s 26 yard line. Pittsburgh would take advantage of the failed attempt and score a touchdown three plays later.

The missed field goal at the end of the half was 52 yards for an inexperienced kicker, Brenton King, but it is just one example of the Yellow Jacket’s doing damage to their own team.

Second Half

Offense

The offense came out of the locker room strong scoring on their first drive of the half. The possession was extended by a Pittsburgh face mask penalty on third down; but Tech did not waste the opportunity. Marshall lowered his head and punched it in on third down and goal.

The next Tech offensive drive would not produce similar results. Jalen Camp dropped a pass with no defenders in the area, Marshall threw the ball away, and Clinton Lynch fumbled the ball. This time, the Yellow Jackets offense would not recover the fumble.

Tech’s defense would force a turnover one play after Lynch’s fumble, and Marshall would make Pitt pay for their misfortune. Marshall would score from seven yards out.

The remainder of the second half would play out similar to the first half for the Georgia Tech offense. Further offensive miscues, including two turnovers, would spell disaster for Tech’s comeback opportunity.

The offense would muster up one more impressive drive of 99 yards. Clinton Lynch would cap off the drive with a three yard touchdown run to bring Tech within five points. But Tech’s final drive was one more case of too little, too late for the Georgia Tech football team.

Marshall would finish the day six for 15 passing for 66 yards. Marshall would also lead the team in rushing with 103 yards and two touchdowns. Jordan Mason was a bright spot stepping in for KirVonte Benson who is out for the year. Mason would register 10 carries for 94 yards. Tech’s offense finished the day with 386 yards of offense. That total is 33 yards shy of their 2018 average of 419 yard per game.

Defense

Georgia Tech’s defense would bail out the offense the first time they were on the field. Malik Rivera intercepted a pass from Kenny Picket at Tech’s two yard line, most likely preventing an early touchdown in the second half for Pitt. This was the beginning to what looked like a much improved defense in the second half.

Pittsburgh would adjust their strategy to protect a 21 point lead, but the defense stepped up and gave their offense an opportunity come back and win this game. The Pittsburgh Panthers would only score three points in the second half, and this is something Woody and team can build on as they move further into ACC play.

Special Teams

If it feels like everyone is criticizing Tech’s special teams lately, it’s well deserved. Tech would open the second half with a touchdown drive and attempt to shift the wave of momentum in their favor. The sway of momentum would have been more exclamatory had King not missed the extra point.

On the positive side, Brenton King would kick a successful PAT with 37 seconds left in the game to bring Tech within five points of Pitt.

How Tech Fans Feel Afterwards

Hurt. Tech fans came in to this game believing they were the better team, and maybe they are. But today, Pittsburgh took advantage of Tech turnovers and turned it into a victory.

Paul Johnson decided to test the fates on fourth down twice–once in field goal range–and lost. And that cost his team dearly in the end. No one knows what would have happened had the Yellow Jackets punted and attempted a field goal. The defense was bouncing off Pitt backs and Brenton King is inconsistent at best. When you consider those variables, can you blame Johnson for going for it on fourth down? It’s not as if his history has not shown us that Johnson will go for it on fourth down.

So what next? The Yellow Jackets will play host to Clemson next Saturday. The Yellow Jackets will do so with little to no momentum emanating from this Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh.

Tech would be more competitive if they could get all three facets of their team to perform together for 60 minutes. Last week, the offense was on and the defense and special teams struggled. This week the offense and special teams struggled while the defense put together a decent contest. Clemson will win big if Georgia Tech does not come ready to play next Saturday on every side of the ball.

Finally, if you consider Georgia Tech’s 1-2 start and their remaining schedule, fans are left wondering if Tech will miss the bowl season for the second year in a row. Time will tell.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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