Georgia Tech’s lackluster run defense gashed frequently by Ole Miss on Saturday

Entering Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, Georgia Tech’s biggest area of improvement from last season was the Yellow Jackets’ increased focus on containing the run. That trend did not continue against the Rebels.

Last season, Tech’s opponents averaged over 182 yards per game on the ground – the fourth-worst in the ACC. However, Tech showed significant growth in plugging holes in the tackle box and getting to the runner in the first two games of the season, holding Clemson and West Carolina to 119 yards each.

ExploreTech waylaid by No. 20 Ole Miss at Bobby Dodd Stadium

Saturday was much different. Tech (1-2) allowed 316 rushing yards in its 42-0 loss to No. 20 Ole Miss (3-0) at home, showing glimpses of struggles carried over from its forgettable 3-9 2021 campaign. All six of Ole Miss’ touchdowns came from runs – two by starting running back Zach Evans and two each by backups Quinshon Judkins and Ulysses Bentley.

“I’m gonna give credit to them,” Tech coach Geoff Collins said after the loss. “But, there are things with leverages, setting edges on the defense – things we didn’t have. We did not have some C-gap defenders, and we’re not fitting the C yet properly. Those are things that we’ve got to get corrected.”

“That cannot happen against really good players in a really good scheme,” he continued. “But they did, and we’ll work to get that fixed.”

ExploreMark Bradley: Tech’s Geoff Collins experiment needs to end

The Rebels utilized a number of sets in their rushing scheme to dissect the Jackets’ defense. Evans, Judkins and quarterback Jaxson Dart each found breathing room on the ground to amass a dominant run game, showing versatility on each snap.

All three had a run of 20 or more yards, including a 26-yard rushing attempt by Evans midway through the second quarter to secure a 21-0 lead. Bentley added a run of 15 yards.

“(Those big plays) had a lot to do with their tempo and not getting lined up sometimes,” senior linebacker Charlie Thomas said. “You have to be more efficient in tackling and just get lined up faster.”

ExploreBreakdown: No. 20 Ole Miss 42, Georgia Tech 0

Ole Miss runs a high-tempo offense that doesn’t allow its foes to get set in their defense. The run game blossomed in the quick offense. As such, Dart attempted only 16 passes – a step back from his 27 passing attempts in the Rebels’ season opener against Troy.

“Going up against a tempo team, it taps into your mental,” Tech defensive back Myles Sims said. “To be real, if your mind isn’t there, your body will follow. So, that comes along with conditioning and being able to have a quick turnover rate. It’s all about who can gain their wind the fastest.”

ExplorePHOTOS: Georgia Tech run over by No. 20 Ole Miss

There was a point midway through the first half where Tech started to turn the gears on defense. However, every time the momentum began to shift slightly in the Jackets’ favor, Kifflin dialed up a deep pass play to open Tech’s defense for the continued rushing onslaught.

Even after taking such a tough loss, the Jackets hope to grow from it.

“You gotta embrace it; you can’t run from it,” Sims said. “You gotta see it through. Taking the L isn’t fun, but also it builds character. It really, really molds you. It really molds the entire team. We just gotta get back to practice and do it all over again. Just to renew your enthusiasm. I think that’s a part of the game.”