Folks – as has been the case this season our Know the Enemy articles have been done by Chris Logue – and here is another good one.
Georgia Tech at a Glance
Record: (1-1, game canceled last weekend)
PPG: 39 PPG Allowed: 26
Leading Passer: TaQuon Marshall (10-16, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions)
Leading Rusher: TaQuon Marshall (57 carries, 274 yards, 6 touchdowns)
Leading Receiver: Ricky Jeune (4 receptions, 105 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Call me crazy or just flat-out stupid, but I am taking a different route with this edition of Know the Enemy. This week, we have no guest, and it wasn’t because I couldn’t find a qualified person to do so, but because I think we know what we are going to get from the Yellow Jackets on Saturday. Run, run, run, five-yard pass, run.
Okay, so it may be more involved, but it’s a dangerous cocktail of options headed by head coach Paul Johnson. Far from an original architect of the Run-Pass Option (RPO), he has adapted to many years of different playmakers and this could be his most dangerous team yet. Everything we need to know is contained in their season-opening game against Tennessee. Which if you didn’t watch, do it. It’s scary.
It was a disgusting how great their new quarterback, TaQuon Marshall, was at being efficient with each of his opportunities.
Not bad, eh?
Shaking off some Canadian verbal tendencies, there’s nothing foreign about Marshall’s ability to produce. Granted, he wasn’t in the scoring column as a passer, it was everything else he was able to do that made him special. If it wasn’t for running the same play twice in three attempts in overtime, Georgia Tech leaves that game 1-0 rather than staring at a frustrating defeat.
Count those carries, all 44 of them, a daunting number and their outcome of 249 yards, especially when you consider the RPO’s “Option” part. That part was all the other carries by six different rushers who gained an additional 286 yards at an almost 7 ypc clip.
Oklahoma State was successful at executing last weekend en-route to nine consecutive scoring drives. Was it a perfect storm of offensive everything against the Panthers possibly, but a lot of it has to do with our inability to just be competitive with such a young defense. That being said, this GT offense isn’t blessed with bucket full of talent across the board, but just enough talent at the right positions and an offense that makes who has the ball a secret. It’s going to be a test this week for the defense, and I would attest to that even if we played GT 12 times a year, each game it would still cause us fits.
QB Marshall is his own beast and a diverse one at that. Here are his passing stats for this year and over his career.
Sure, he isn’t a gun-slinger, but he is as smart as they come in determining when to hand it off and when to tuck it back in and take off. If Saleem Brightwell, Damar Hamlin and Jordan Whitehead were wanting to make their presence felt as ‘stout’ defensemen, it will have to be this week they display that.
While others may hold a different opinion, I fully believe the most pressure will be on those three to combat the rushing attack by the Yellow Jackets. Marshall and running back KirVontae Benson (37 carries, 150 yards, 3 touchdowns) will put a great deal of stress on the ends, it will be up to Brightwell and the safeties to, from a distance, keep an eye on where the laces of the ball are at on each play and rotate to the ball.
That’s football 101 I understand, but there has yet to be a defensive position that displays that sort of technique and overall fundamentals. You can buy into Paris Ford making our defense put in constructive work this week while mimicking the Yellow Jacket signal-caller, but until you face the real thing, it’s all empty hope that it will work.
“Okay you negative goon, lighten up,” I am sure you are all thinking. Fair assessment, but ill-advised.
One thing that draws me to the POV every day is the ability for Reed to be incredibly objective with his opinions and not withholding punches, even at the expense of the program, and that’s refreshing. The comments from all of you hold the same weight. Keeping that in mind, there’s plenty of reason for optimism for our offense this week.
Yeah, I said it. Optimism and offense with limited space in between.
Consider how Tennessee was able to be effective in almost everything they wanted to accomplish. They weren’t other-worldly in doing so, but they were well-balanced. John Kelly, the Tennessee tailback was especially effective when the ball was within the red-zone and was able to gash the GT defense with a couple of big runs to get them into position. Kelly is built similarly to Pitt running back Chawntez Moss. Both are under 6-foot and both have great patience.
Where I like Moss to be the bell-cow for this week (should be especially effective in the middle), I also like the chances for Quadree Henderson to break out of his shell. I will stick to my guns from last week; Shawn Watson must find other ways for Henderson to acquire the ball and lining him up in the shotgun next to DiNucci (presumably) is just the way. Pitt could possibly be able to expand on the RPO’s themselves with DiNucci at the helm.
The biggest question on the Pitt offense isn’t the quarterback, I think we know what that answer is. I’m also not concerned about the offensive line because it seems like there will be holes to fill all season… I look at the wide receiver position. Personally, I will confess that I love Maurice Ffrench, maybe slightly more than Henderson at the receiver position – if he could just keep his balance. Neither possess the prototypical height and that’s a real issue.
Aaron Mathews, Reuben Flowers and even a split-wide Chris Clark should be the difference going forward. Along with a quarterback that can put the ball in the right spot, those three are crucial to opening the rest of the offense down the seam, on post-routes and the occasional fly-route.
It’s boom or bust this week for the Pitt offense. Either they get it, or they continue to play catch-up. One thing standing in their way is the fact that Georgia Tech has been preparing for this game for two weeks with their most recent game being canceled due to Hurricane Irma. Its funny, sad and about everything else in between, but Georgia Tech has yet to see an offense like Pitt, while we, too, haven’t seen an offense yet either, this should be the week we crack the top-100 (snicker) in total offense.
Pitt and Georgia Tech could provide for a hurricane of points. Neither defense is well-groomed to this point in the season. Even with the addition of Jordan Whitehead in the defensive backfield, it’s still going to be a defense in limbo until they can figure out who the leader is. Was it Whitehead the whole time? We will see.
Chris Logue – This is the ultimate coin-flip after what we have seen the first three weeks. Pitt hasn’t demonstrated the ability to stop the run, or the running back in general, in any of the contests so far in 2017. This week, it’s not the running back who presents the issues, it’s the do-it-all transitioned quarterback. I think this is a game where Pitt can possess the ball better than the first three weeks and are able to get the receivers involved more in the offense. Something idiotic happens on the side of Georgia Tech that makes us still wonder how good we are after a victory.
Pitt pessimistically wins 37-35.
Reed Kohberger – That is a lot of great points but as I do I’ll go into the rebuttal mode and state my look at this Pitt – GT matchup… and of course I’ll add statistics into this as those are the factual measures teams have.
There is a lot of talk this week about Georgia Tech’s running game as there should be – that is the basis of what will be an impressive point scoring offense for them against the Panthers tomorrow. But what I’m as afraid of, especially if we are in any kind of close game, is their passing attack – such as it is.
Their QB Marshall obviously runs the ball well and conducts the RPO play extremely well and yes, that has to be the major thrust of our defensive game planning. But I believe our young and inexperienced defense is not smart enough (yet) or talented enough (??) to not be fooled over and again when that RPO turns into just a “P” for passing the ball.
This is the thing with their QB. He is #123 in passing nationally but then look at his passing efficiency rank of #1 and that is because those passes are more effective because they come out of nowhere after the opposing LB and Safeties are practically living on the LOS for each play trying to stop the run option.
But when Marshall pulls the ball back in and throws he passes for a TD almost every three completions and once in every five attempts. The GT rushing game will be death by a thousand cuts in their running over us – but the killing blows, and the plays that help to demoralize our young defense, will be his passing.
Pitt fans point to how we held the Penn State offense to lower yardage than last year and that is true, but they gloss over the fact that PSU ran only 52 offensive plays (college teams usually have between 75-90 offensive plays per game). That low PSU yardage actually added up to a very good 6.1 yards per play (ypp) for them when you factor that number of pplays in. OSU the next week had 9.3 ypp on an amazing passing game.
So in our three games we have given up this as yards per play averages: YSU – 8.0, PSU 6.1 and OSU 9.3… all the while Pitt’s output on offense has been 4.7 over our first three games.
We’ll see GT get closer to that OSU output I think because right now GT averages 7.3 ypp and I don’t see that changing this week.
On the flip side, I do not think our offense is capable of “breaking out” of what some fans think is just a poor start to the season on that side of the ball. I believe what we have seen is exactly what we have… and that ain’t all that good.
Over the offseason we discussed on here the fact that I thought our offense was going to really suffer with the loss of Peterman, Conner, Orndoff, Bisnowaty and Johnson (and Matt Canada) in particular and it sure has. We do not have the offensive firepower to keep up with what will be a GT scoring machine tomorrow… The kids will play hard for 60 minutes but be completely unmatched when we are on the defensive side of the line.
Georgia Tech 44 – Pitt 20
What about you readers? Tell us who, what and why…