Roof assesses Tech’s ‘embarrassing’ trend of first-possession touchdowns

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof gave the offensive scout team a pat on the back Tuesday, saying that the group assigned to portray the upcoming opponent’s offense had its best practice of the season. Besides being an example of Roof’s encouraging personality, it is noteworthy from the standpoint that the Yellow Jackets need to be better prepared for opponents from the very start of games.

Tech has now given up touchdowns on the opening drive of its past four games – Mercer, Vanderbilt, Clemson and Miami. All have started at least 75 yards from the Jackets goal line. Last Saturday, the Hurricanes zapped Tech with an eight-play, 85-yard drive punctuated by a 27-yard touchdown run.

“We haven’t adjusted to the tempo of the game as well as we need to,” Roof said. “There’s been some errors, some self-inflicted mistakes and then the other team has made some plays at times, too, because we’ve played against some good teams.”

Clemson runs out of a no-huddle offense and Miami hit the Jackets with up-tempo pace on the opening drive. Pittsburgh huddles up, Roof said, but “they go fast from when they break the huddle to when they get to the line of scrimmage, which, again, cuts back on the time that you have to process the information that you see in front of you.”

Tossing out the two defensive touchdowns scored by Miami last Saturday, the Jackets have given up 7.0 points per possession on the opening drive in the past four games and .81 points per possession on the other opponent drives.

The problem was so pronounced to coach Paul Johnson that, after the Jackets won the coin toss against Miami, he elected to go against his convention of deferring to the second half and took the opening kick to try to avoid falling behind. It didn’t work, as the Jackets punted and Miami drove for the first score. It dropped Tech to 18-31 in Johnson’s tenure when the opponent has scored first.

In their five games, the Panthers have scored three times on their opening drive, all touchdowns.

Defensive end Rod Rook-Chungong called the trend “embarrassing” and was eager to break it.

“But we have to start fast,” he said. “We can’t be the nail. We’ve got to be the hammer on the first series. Every drive, but especially that first series because that sets the tempo of the game.”