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Countdown Q&A - Week 6, Georgia Tech

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NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Georgia Tech Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Dearest Mother,

I hope this letter finds you in good standing, mother. This is week six for me out here on the frontlines and I must say that the battlefield has not been kindest to me. We have experienced many confrontations that did not end well for our unit and the few battles we have won were in the midst of a driving rain and against a local foe that was severely under matched. I’m still alive, barely, but my body is sore, my knickers are soaked, and my commander appears to be dealing with some mental lapses in judgment. If you find this in good health please send reinforcements as I fear there are very few battles left for us to win. My mates have heard we have an enemy on approach from the east out of Georgia who is likely to confront our unit later in the week. They lack experience in flying projectiles but will run at you mercilessly until you surrender. I feel if we lose this battle we may also lose the war. You would be surprised to know we already lost to the Cavaliers from over in Virginia. We’re currently positioned at Camp 2-3, if you have the means please send dry clothes and photographs from our battle back in New Orleans five winters ago. We could use the cheer, morale is low.

This week I sit down with Mr. Josh Brundage, the sacrificial lamb of ‘From The Rumble Seat’ SB Nation’s Georgia Tech community site. We discuss beetles, worms, ants, people with aviophobia, and Georgia Tech football…all things that prefer to stay on the ground. While GT isn’t exactly lighting the college football world on fire in 2018 take a look around….things aren’t all puppies and rainbows inside Cardinal Stadium either. Let’s find out what me and the other folks who venture out to the stadium on Friday are in store for…

CS: Josh. Welcome to the terror dome. And by that I mean two teams that will give fans who enjoy watching good football night terrors. As I was walking through the Louisville roster this summer I highlighted every game on the schedule and this one…it scared me. The triple option is no joke and through five games, to the surprise of no one, Georgia Tech is leading the conference in rushing offense (339.2yd/g) by nearly 100yd/g to the next closest competitor. Since this is the first official ACC meeting of the two schools care to give the average fan a brief recap of just what the triple option is and why it is so successful at GT?

First things first, we call it the “flexbone” around here... The triple option is just one play out of it. Calling it the triple option is like calling Auburn’s offense the “power” or Florida State’s offense the “incomplete pass.”

If you’re totally new to the flexbone and option-based offenses, you can actually watch Paul Johnson explain the basics of it here.

It’s allowed us to be successful because it evens the playing field, to some extent. We cut block a little more than other teams, which is different than a chop block, which is illegal. To quote our offensive line and A-backs, “every man is the same from the knee down.”

We also leave 1-2 people unblocked on a lot of plays and let them determine where the ball goes by making them wrong. So instead of the QB handing off to the running back and 9 people on offense blocking 11 on defense, if a triple goes to pitch, it’s only 9 defenders we’re trying to block. You’ll hear defensive coordinators complain all the time when playing option teams about the extra lead blocker we have for most running plays, so that’s what they’re referencing.

So between getting an extra blocker or two and then using the same personnel every play in largely symmetric formations, it can be a difficult offense to read and defend when it’s clicking.

And to quickly dispel one more thing that always comes up when teams play us, cut blocks are not any more dangerous than regular blocks, and in CPJ’s now 11th year of being here, there hasn’t been one player injured due to being on the receiving end of a cut block.

Georgia Tech currently has three players in the Top 10 of the ACC in rushing yards per game. That’s insane. Both quarterbacks (TaQuon Marshall and Tobias Oliver) are averaging over 75 yards every week and the running back (Jordan Mason) is dropping in another 73 yards. Is it a three headed monster? How does Paul Johnson rotate his Quarterbacks?

Well we’re really bad at passing, so we rush to survive.

Tobias Oliver hasn’t seen the field as much as we would’ve liked this season, but he’s actually the 3rd string QB. Our second string guy, who was expected to challenge for and eventually take over the starting job, had a season-ending non-contact injury in fall camp, so Oliver has a limited playbook when he’s on the field. Unless Marshall is really struggling or injured, we probably won’t see Oliver play much on Friday.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh
Will Marshall silence the Cards defense?
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The battery of Marshall and Mason have been very productive this season, though. Mason has really impressed from the B-back position so far in his first year starting. Our A-backs (who are hybrid running backs / receivers / lead blockers) have been pretty dynamic threats this season also out of the slot, with Qua Searcy averaging 12.3 yards per carry and Clinton Lynch averaging 30(!) yards per catch.

Louisville has shown this year that they have problems on defense playing all 53 and a half yards. The option, as you described above, is predicated on misdirection and getting someone beyond the outside edge. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. With that said, Brian VanGorder (the Cards new DC) has had some success in the past against the option, and Georgia Tech in particular. Is there a specific set or formation that typically has more success against the option attack?

Honestly, we’re really excited about playing Brian VanGorder. We don’t know why he has a reputation as being good against the option. Georgia brought him in as an “option consultant” for our 2016 game against them and that resulted in them losing their second straight to us in Athens. He also got rid of the option offense that Paul Johnson built at Ga Southern and promptly went on to be the worst coach in the school’s history… so if Tech starts clicking and gets up big, I could see CPJ running up the score some out of spite for BVG.

Navy played Ga Southern a couple years ago, and that’s literally because when Paul Johnson was the coach at Navy, he had the AD schedule a game against Southern during BVG’s tenure there so he could “kick Brian VanGorder’s ass.”

And no, there’s not a specific formation or set that gives this offense trouble. Johnson has seen everything in his time and has solutions for everything. The flexbone might be the best if-then offense in the game, and you’ll see a lot of checks at the line from us depending on how the defense lines up.

Marshall struggled early this season on reads against Pitt when they rain 1-high safety and had the OLB scrape to take the dive instead of the DE taking it, but he seems to have improved the last few games when teams run that switch.

The thing that gives this offense, and really any offense trouble, is just superior athletes on the defense. Clemson has shut us down for a few years now, and not by doing anything particularly different than anyone else does, but by having a truly horrifying defensive line. So… that’s the secret.

In my opinion, for Louisville to win this game they are going to need to score a decent amount of points (I’m thinking 30+). The good news is that Georgia Tech’s defense isn’t likely to win many awards this year as they are currently giving up over 350 yards each week on average and 27.8pts on average. Where can the Louisville offense take advantage of the Yellow Jackets defense?

I think Louisville’s passing game can nickle and dime Ga Tech to death the length of the field on Friday if they wanted to. Our corners give big cushions to keep everything in front of them and our DC, as aggressive as he usually is, hasn’t shown much faith in our young secondary so far this season. We’ve been okay against the run, and have generally done well not to give up the big pass, but all the underneath routes will probably be there all game.

Have I mentioned we have no pass rush? We have no pass rush.

Oh, and a Georgia Tech defense hasn’t been able to defend against a mobile QB in the history of the program.

Even though this is the first football meeting since the Cards joined the ACC what’s your opinion on how the Georgia Tech fan base as a whole feels about the addition of Louisville (don’t forget, we replaced those perennial losers Maryland)?

This is not meant to be an insult whatsoever, but I’m not sure there’s a school in the conference that has crossed our collective minds less than Louisville. It’s a combination of us never playing each other and then Louisville not really being a threat to the Atlantic crown so far in their time in the conference. We don’t really have feelings either way, I don’t think.

I thought Louisville was an odd addition to the conference… the school doesn’t fit as well academically with the ACC, and the addition seems to be entirely for the athletic and geographic perspective, which is just new for the ACC. However, I would certainly rather go to Louisville than whatever-in-hell city the University of Maryland is located in.

I say this with all honesty Josh. For keeping us informed you may be in the Top 5 of all Georgia Tech fans I know, you know what...Top 3…..um, actually you may be the only know one I know. Sorry.

I feel like I should confess that I’m one of like 4 Tech fans in existence that didn’t go to school there… I come from 2 lines of Tech-grad engineers and somehow inherited no math or science genes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

How about a couple rapid fire questions to close up shop…

What’s the story behind the Model-A Ford that Georgia Tech rolls out before home games?

It’s called the Ramblin’ Wreck, which is a nickname picked up for the vehicles GT engineers drove working in the jungles of Central America in the 19th century that were slapped-together from truck and tractor parts.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
Sweet ride, bro
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The car became the student body mascot due to Dean Floyd Field driving a Model T and then Model A to class every day in the early 1900s. There’s a truly long and extensive history of the car and how it came to be that involves parades and races to Athens that you can read about here.

If you could rebrand Georgia Tech do you keep ‘Yellow Jackets’ as the mascot or go with the far superior ‘Hornet’?

We’re definitely keeping the Yellow Jackets. We’re not an NBA team.

Favorite Georgia Tech player of all-time?

Calvin Johnson would be the easy answer, so we’re going to go a little more niche and say Randy Rhino.

Georgia Tech has many notable alums, including President Jimmy Carter, and numerous astronauts but number one on the list has to be….Jeff Foxworthy. What’s you’re favorite ‘You Might Be a Redneck…’ joke?

I didn’t even realize he went there, but he’s apparently not an alum. I’m not sure I have a favorite joke of his, but it’s safe to assume everyone in his jokes is wearing a UGA logo somewhere on their person.

SEC hate is fully embraced in this environment. Welcome home.

***

Huge round of applause to Josh and ‘From The Rumble Seat’ for helping us out this week on the Q&A. Feel free to give him a follow here to get your fill on Georgia Tech. Next time someone asks you about the ‘triple option’ you can now provide an educated response instead of mumbling something about the Applebee’s 3-Course Meal Deal.

Meet me back here next week as I enjoy a thorough conversation with a member of ‘BC Interruption’. We’ll talk about the Celtics, the Patriots, the Red Sox, the Bruins, and if time allows…Matt Damon. I guess we can talk some BC football as well, if they really want to.