There was only so much to be learned from Georgia Tech’s victory against Wofford on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets looked sharper on offense as the game progressed, averaging 5.9 yards per play in the first four drives but 11.2 over the final six. But perhaps that should have been expected against an overmatched opponent. Further, the running game produced only one gain of more than 20 yards, a pitch to A-back Broderick Snoddy that went for 65 yards and was actually ruled a forward pass. But the Terriers should know better than anyone how to defend an option offense, as they see their own daily in practice.
“We weren’t playing somebody who didn’t have an idea of what to do,” coach Paul Johnson said.
The Tech defense gave up 5.8 yards per carry to Wofford, but option offenses like Wofford’s (and Tech’s) have a way of doing that.
“The thing I like about what we do is it’s hard to play against,” Johnson said, “and it was looking right back at us. We couldn’t get ’em off the field.”
The areas that Tech had control over were perhaps the most instructional. The Jackets did quite well in one of those areas and not so well in others. Yet they did win 38-19.
Save one slight bobble, center Freddie Burden and quarterback Justin Thomas successfully executed all 59 snaps in the game, which is particularly noteworthy because it was not only Burden and Thomas’ first starts but also Burden’s first college game. Thomas also handled all of his handoffs, pitches and tosses without putting the ball on the ground.
Tech’s only miscue in that department was returner Jamal Golden’s fumble of a second-quarter punt. Fortunately for the Jackets, it rolled out of bounds to allow Tech to retain possession.
“As you can see, I’m a little rusty, but I expected that coming into the first game, so hopefully, knock that out and that doesn’t happen again,” Golden said.
Last season, Tech fumbled 28 times.
The tackling was a weak spot. Repeatedly on Saturday, defenders pursued the ball at incorrect angles, allowing Wofford ball carriers to get deep into the defense.
The actual tackling was not in peak form, either, as the Terriers broke multiple tackles to gain extra yards. While he played a strong overall game, defensive end Roderick Rook-Chungong had a critical miss. On a fourth-and-2 play in the fourth quarter, Rook-Chungong had quarterback Michael Weimer lined up in the backfield, but let him spin away for a first down. Wofford went on to score a touchdown on the drive, with the drive’s final two plays also extended by missed tackles.
Communication was another trouble spot. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said that the defensive line didn’t receive some play calls from the linebackers.
Tulane, the Jackets’ next opponent, doesn’t necessarily look like a world beater. In a preseason media poll, the Green Wave were picked to finish ninth in the American Athletic Conference, tied with Connecticut. Thursday, Tulane lost in double overtime to Tulsa, which was 3-9 last season and picked to finish last in the AAC.
“(Defensive coordinator Ted Roof) didn’t have too much to say, besides we have some work to do,” Nealy said. “That was a given, but he did say that the next team is going to play a whole lot harder and they’ve got more talent that the guys that came in (Saturday).”