Flats Lines: Reviewing Georgia Tech's loss to Clemson

September 22, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas (5) tosses a football to Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Isiah Willis (right) in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, September 22, 2016. Clemson Tigers won 26 - 7 over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Doug Roberson

Credit: Doug Roberson

September 22, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas (5) tosses a football to Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Isiah Willis (right) in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, September 22, 2016. Clemson Tigers won 26 - 7 over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Reviewing Georgia Tech’s 26-7 loss to Clemson on Thursday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

The game in 100 words

On an aside, a faithful reader emailed to say he didn't like the Flat Lines intro because he said a flatline is symbolic of death. Talk about foreshadowing last night's result. The Tigers beat the stuffing out of the Yellow Jackets for the second consecutive year. Tech's offense was limited to 124 yards, the lowest since Johnson took over before the 2008 season . The rushing game had 95 yards. The defense was able to slow down Clemson's offense, but that may have had more to do with some really poor calls by the officiating crew and a few dropped passes by the Tigers' receivers, something that was an issue in their first two games.

Anything work well?

Team spirit. After the offense totaled less than 130 yards and the defense gave up more than 440 yards, Johnson pointed out that the team did fight in the second half.


Enthusiasm for the new AD. Todd Stansbury's introduction was met with raucous cheers.

Lots of things that didn’t work well

The offensive line. Johnson said his team was outmanned up front . Here's the interesting thing to me: A lot of people will ask Johnson every year is there's a disadvantage for him when facing a coaching staff that has seen his offense for several years, as has Brent Venables at Clemson. I always thought it didn't matter a great deal because the players will change out every 2-4 years. They are the ones that have to execute what the coaches ask. It's hard to do so when you don't have experience. Here's the scary/impressive thing about what Clemson did last night: its front seven includes 11 players who are redshirt sophomores or younger. They didn't have a lot of experience facing Tech's offense -- many of them just one game -- and they were blowing through the blocks almost as if they weren't there.

The two-deep on Tech's offensive line includes seven players who are redshirt sophomores or younger.

If the Tigers are winning the line now, it stands to reason it's not going to get much better in the next two years if the same cast of characters come back.

Here's the other scary thing: As is typical after Tech losses, the players said that the Tigers didn't do anything they haven't seen before. I'm sure Tech fans probably wish the Tigers had. Otherwise, knowing what the defense is going to do and still not being able to execute consistently over short spurts isn't a good sign.

The last scary thing: Johnson said that sometimes after a mistake the players would say "I know" before they even reached the sideline.  Those mistakes piled up and contributed to Tech converting just 2-of-12 third downs. The distances Tech faced on third downs in the games: 16, 10, 6 (pass interference against Clemson, so no play but I wanted you to see the distance), 7, 1 (converted), 17, 6, 8, 7, 2 (converted), 2, 9, 5.

Tech's not the only team that has had trouble converting on third against Clemson, which was allowing less than 20 percent in its first three games.

Blocking on the perimeter. While the blocking up front wasn't great, the A-backs and wide receivers were also getting beat on the edges, so there was nowhere to run there either. Clemson's cornerbacks, safeties and outside linebackers were firing through blocks and hammering either Justin Thomas or the pitchmen. The blocking on the backside wasn't great either. Thomas was absolutely planted on one option play because end Clelin Ferrell beat his block and chased Thomas down.

Bend but don't break. Without getting into the interception than turned into a safety because that was just a weird play, the defense once again had very few impact plays. As a result, Clemson converted 10-of-18 third downs. The distances of its third downs: 3 (converted), 3 (converted), 3 (converted), 5, 9 (converted), 8, 1 (converted), 2 (converted), 9, 1 (converted), 5 (converted), 9 (touchdown), 3, 2, 1, 12, 6, 5 (converted).

The officiating crew. It was bad. They ruled a Clemson forward pass as a lateral, only to reverse the call. Later, they ruled a Tech lateral as a forward pass. Both were clear without even needing replay. It appeared they allowed Tech's cornerbacks and safeties some latitude with their hands in pass defense, but didn't give the Tigers the same. Those were just two examples of the inconsistencies.

Rating the position groups

Borrowing from something that is done with soccer, I’ll rate the different position groups game by game using a 1-to-10 system. Ten represents exceptional and one represents a total meltdown. This is just for fun and mostly for conversation, so please don’t take it too seriously. Feel free to post your own ratings in the comments section.

Quarterbacks 5. Giving Thomas a pass because the blocking was so bad there wasn't much he could do. He was sacked three times for 30 yards, which led to his rushing total of minus-25 yards on 10 carries. He completed 4-of-13 passes for 29 yards.

B-backs 3. It started badly for them when it appeared that Dedrick Mills didn't chip-block the onrushing defensive tackle on the game's first play, which led to Thomas being dropped for a 4-yard loss. Then, there was the interception thrown by Mills. Yes, he was asked to throw a pass. They were the only consistent rushing threats Tech had in the game. Mills finished with a career-high 75 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Marshall had 20 yards.

A-backs 2. The blocking was poor. They had 25 yards on seven carries.

Wide receivers 2. The blocking was poor. They had two catches for 32 yards.

Offensive line 1. They were destroyed up front. On top of that, a holding call wiped out what would have been a long run. Tech averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Thomas was sacked three times and forced to throw away the ball numerous others.

Defensive line 4. The defense gave up just three points and 95 yards in the second half.  So, they kept fighting. Patrick Gamble had the lone sack. KeShun Freeman and Rod Rook-Chungong had tackles for loss.

Linebackers 7. Continuing the season trend, not many impactful plays made by this group. Brant Mitchell and Chase Alford each had a tackle for loss.

Cornerbacks 6. The cornerbacks played soft in short-yardage and were aggressive on the long downfield throws. Though there was just one pass broken up, they got in the way on numerous other throws

Safeties 5. Nothing that stood out, other than the interception.

Special teams 5. Harrison Butker had three kickoffs, two of which went for touchbacks.

What did next week’s opponent do?

What does that mean for Tech?

Read more Georgia Tech coverage

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