The "Diesel" definitely gets a passing grade.
Last night, when I got back to my hotel from the Georgia Tech-Vanderbilt game, I wrote some of my post game thoughts here.
I was pretty exhausted from a long day of shopping with the wife in Nashville, so I didn't really go into too much depth about last night's game. However, after a good night's rest and a short drive home, it's now time to break down Tech's win last night.
Honestly, the Ramblin' Wreck's offense has become something of a juggernaut this year.
It is hard to find fault with any part of Paul Johnson's spread option brainchild, because the two biggest problems (turnovers and the lack of a passing element) have really been addressed and made well in the 2009 season.
Not only are the Jackets racking up obscene amounts of yardage (nearly 600 against Vanderbilt), but they are bleeding so much time off the clock with super-sized drives that the opposing teams really do not have very much opportunity to score.
Last night on Halloween, Georgia Tech ran the triple option to near-perfection. Not only did Josh Nesbitt make the right read on almost every option call, but he made accurate pitches as well, and even connected on some long touchdown passes that really required accurate throws.
Also, Jonathan Dwyer was his typical bruising self, and ran for a career-high 186 yards and three touchdowns.
Yes, the Yellow Jackets had one fumble inside the Vandy five-yard line, and it could have cost the Jackets dearly in a game that was tied at 28. But the defense made a stand and did not allow Vanderbilt to get more than one first down before they were forced to punt back to Tech.
Overall, the Ramblin' Wreck held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, and rolled up a ridiculous 404 yards rushing, all of which prevented the suddenly high-powered Commodore offense from seeing the field too much in the second half. This was an excellent performance by a dominating offense.
Sad. That's the only adjective that comes to mind when reminiscing about Tech's defensive performance last night.
For two full quarters, Vanderbilt looked like a perfect offensive storm, throwing the ball into openings in the Tech zones and running the same zone read option that MSU ran with much success against the Jackets.
For some reason, Tech seemed reluctant to blitz very much in the first half, and instead preferred to sit back in a weak Cover 2 that left the flats open. Vanderbilt's running backs took advantage, catching multiple passes out of the backfield and breaking one or two tackles for huge gains.
Also, for what it's worth, the middle of the field was wide open almost every time the opposing quarterback dropped back to throw, and Sedric Griffin's performance against the pass is very concerning: He has trouble staying with even the slowest of tight ends.
However, the defense gave a redemptive effort in the second half, holding Vandy to three points and only a little over 10 minutes of possession time. I have to give defensive coordinator Dave Wommack a little credit for some good halftime adjustments, because Vandy was really slowed down in the second half by timely blitzes and good run defense.
I have gotten used to sporadic performances from the defenses this season, but I honestly feel like Tech will lose against either Wake or Duke if the defense plays as slow as they did on Halloween.
Can I really give any other grade besides a "F" when Tech gives up yet another kickoff return for a touchdown?
I wrote in my preview article that the Yellow Jackets could not afford to give up a special teams touchdown to speedy tailback Warren Norman, especially after he ran one back against South Carolina two weeks ago. But, lo and behold, there I was, standing next to my brother-in-law in the bleachers at Vanderbilt Stadium, and fifty feet away from me Norman was dancing in the end zone after a pathetic squib kick try from Scott Blair.
For Tech to really compete and win games on a national stage (not in front of 25000 at Vandy), the special teams must improve, starting with the kicking game. The only reason a squib kick was attempted in the first place was Blair's inability to kick a ball past the opposing 20 yard line. This has to get better.
On a positive note, the punt return and coverage teams continue to do a serviceable job, both in gaining yardage and limiting the opponent to next to nothing.
Grade: F...the kickoff return let Vandy back in the game and really turned momentum against Tech.
Honestly, I am surprised the Wreck came away with the win last night. On the road, against an SEC opponent with nothing to lose, the defense played poorly, but the option once again came to the rescue and choked the life out of Vandy in the second half.
Looking ahead, Tech has to play better defense if they want to get to that coveted 11-1 mark and go on to bigger and better things. Wake and Duke pose significant challenges, and Wommack needs to make more changes to get the defense back on par with the offense.