October 31, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Georgia Tech

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Justin @ 12:19 pm

Pitt heads down to the home of Coca Cola and a Delta hub, Atlanta, to face Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2 ACC) in a battle for ACC mediocrity. This is actually a huge game for both teams because it’s needed for bowl eligibility. Georgia Tech has a tougher finish to the season than Pitt because if they lose, they’ll need to upset Clemson or Georgia to be bowl eligible. They have an easy win against Alabama A&M in there as well, but it won’t count towards bowl eligibility. Why? It’s due to playing Elon earlier in the season and only one FCS victory can count towards bowl eligibility. Pitt needs to win two of their last five and after losing to Navy last week, it’s obvious no game is a gimme.

After a solid 3-0 start to the season, which included in-conference victories over UNC and Duke, the Yellow Jackets dropped three straight to VT, Miami, and an underrated BYU squad. They’ve gotten back on track, especially defensively, the past two weeks. After allowing 83 combined points to Miami and BYU, they’ve only allowed 25 points the past two games. The offense has rolled consistently all season, scoring 28+ points in six of their eight games.

Georgia Tech runs the same triple option offense as Navy, which makes defensive preparation a lot easier. Obviously they’ll have different wrinkles and such, but the core concepts are the same: FB dives, options, the occasional pass, etc. GT certainly executes the offense well. They’re 4th in the country in rushing yards per game (315.6) and they’re scoring 35.9 points per game.

As with any triple option offense, there are a ton of moving parts you have to beware of. Fortunately for the defense, they were pretty effective against the run against Navy. Pitt’s defense really started to struggle when Navy mixed in more passing plays. On their first four drives, Navy attempted one pass on first and second down (the crazy deflection touchdown) and needed that fluke to score. After that, they began throwing the ball a bit more and had a lot more success.

I would expect Georgia Tech to try and do the same thing. Get the whole defense looking in the backfield then start hitting them in the air. Vad Lee, GT’s QB, has been wildly inconsistent in the air. The past five games, he went 25/65 (38% completion) for 503 yards 1 TDs and 5 INTs. Take out the Syracuse game (3/3 88 yards 1 TD) and his passing stats are even worse.

I’m fairly confident Pitt’s defense can limit the big plays on the ground, as they did against Navy (only one run over 11 yards). Georgia Tech will likely have to score off of medium sized gains on the ground or through the air. If they do get big gains on the ground, it’ll likely be with Lee or fullback David Sims. While Ezell and Donald are top notch DTs, you can scheme around them with the FB dive because it’s so quick and puts a lot of pressure on the MLB to make the play. Undersized true freshman Matt Galambos is likely starting there Saturday night due to an injury to Shane Gordon. This is a double advantage for Sims because inexperience means slow to make the play and undersized means he may not be able to make the tackle.

If Sims makes it through the line and past the MLB, there’s a lot of green space. There’s a reason he’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry–the FB dive is very effective when a defense is reacting as opposed to attacking. The other main threats on the ground are Zach Laskey and Robert Godhigh. Laskey has been on fire the past two games with 29 carries for 208 yards and 5 TDs. Godhigh is the big play threat with gains of 44, 48, and 65 on the season.

Overall, GT’s offense is much better across the board than Navy, except maybe at the QB position. While stats aren’t the be all end all, Reynolds has more rushing yards per game, more touchdowns, a better completion percentage, better yards per attempt on the ground and through the air, and fewer interceptions. There’s no competition at OL or skill positions though.

On defense, it’s very impressive that Georgia Tech is respectable after last season. They fired coordinator Al Groh in the middle of the season last year after a putrid start that included 40+ points allowed in six games. The turnaround from last season to this season has been astounding.

Boosted by the shutouts of Elon and Syracuse, Georgia Tech ranks 21st in the nation with its average of 19.9 points allowed. The Yellow Jackets rank third in the ACC and 17th in the nation in total defense, allowing 342.2 yards per game — their best average since 2009.

GT’s defense is led by senior DB Jemea Thomas, last week’s ACC defensive player of the week thanks to 12 solo tackles. I sayhe’s a  DB because they play Thomas everywhere: CB, NB, and Safety. They’re averaging about two sacks per game, which is middle of the road, but still dangerous enough to worry about. They’re mediocre in pass defense as well, allowing 234 yards per game. Where they excel is run defense, where they’re allowingly only 121 yards per game, good for 20th in the nation. They aren’t forcing many turnovers however. They’re averaging only 1.3 turnovers forced per game, which is one of the worst in the nation (sadly, they’re tied with Pitt).

They key for the offense will be moving the ball throught he air. You’ve seen myself, Reed, and Chas criticize Savage for his short and medium throws but I will add he has improved dramatically the past few weeks there. Early in the season, he didn’t check down and he couldn’t find guys that weren’t his primary target.

Last week, he really started to find them, but he struggled with ball placement and velocity. His throws were a little off and he threw them too hard. He left two touchdowns and a lot of yards on the field on three throws, two to Garner (red zone and 20+ yard gain) and Street by putting the ball in the wrong spot. Two of those three were caught, but due to placement couldn’t get any additional yardage.

If Savage can find his guys like he did against Navy and put the ball in a better place, Pitt has a chance to score. If not, they’ll have to join Miami and BYU as the only offenses to move the ball on the ground, and Miami has a future NFL star in their backfield, so it’s not likely the ground game will look that great. If Pitt is to win this game, it’ll have to be through Savage or turnovers. If the passing game is good or the defense plays like they did against Virginia, Georgia Tech’s chances at a bowl game become slim to nil. If the passing game struggles or the defense doesn’t dominate, hello 4-4.

I don’t predict either of those things will happen. Georgia Tech wins 31-17.

I concur….We lose by at least 13 but the game will never be in question.

Comment by Upittbaseball 10.31.13 @ 12:28 pm

This is a really excellent breakdown, it hit everything I was thinking and reading about them and us.

Tom Savage’s accuracy and touch coupled with our ability to generate turnovers to stop key drives or score will decide the game.

Comment by PittHW 10.31.13 @ 12:51 pm

Justin, In early games, you wrote that Savage did not check down and couldn’t find receivers who were not his primay targets.

I assume after Va Tech, the shorter passes became more of a focus. Is it possible that he is now not checking up (meaning not looking upfield for secondary receivers) since he has not thrown many (if any) long passes in the last 2 games?

Comment by wbb 10.31.13 @ 1:22 pm

After watching what happened last Saturday it is difficult to be optimistic with this team to pull out a win. But the ardent Pitt Fan that I am tells me it is within reach if we play smart in all 3 phases and don’t turn it over AND have any semblance of a running game that can move the sticks consistently.

Comment by Panther Fan in Hoopieland 10.31.13 @ 1:23 pm

Navy drove the ball at will most of the second half, we are going to get trampled.

Comment by spiritofsection22 10.31.13 @ 1:32 pm

To beat Navy, we needed to control the ball and just about score on just about every possesion. The same thing this Saturday … we start going 3 and out and their offense gets into a rhythm, things could get ugly

Comment by wbb 10.31.13 @ 1:44 pm

Unless one has the Pitt’s playbook, there is no way to know what Savage’s primary receivers are and what progessions he is to follow on check downs.
To add to the complexity, depending on the offense, those check downs may change depending on which side of the field the safeties rotate to during the play or the blitzes that may be called.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.13 @ 1:57 pm

As crazy as it sounds for me to say….. We could win this game. I don’t think but who knows with this team. We are bad but any saturday things can happen.

Comment by Upittbaseball 10.31.13 @ 1:59 pm

On target Justin.

Let’s hope Savage is too !

And Galambos takes his vitamins. (he going to be busy) GT’s RB’s are slightly faster than Navy, lol.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 2:00 pm

Pitt has given up on the run too early in some games. If they stick with it this game will come down to a field goal and they win.

Savage is starting to improve.

Comment by notrocketscience 10.31.13 @ 2:03 pm

If Duke can beat Va Tech in Blacksburg.

We can beat the Techsters in Atlanta. They don’t have a great homefield advantage, of course the patrons will be more sauced than normal.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 2:05 pm

That said….I do believe we need to start taking some shots downfield again and stretch that field vertically.

It’s all about playing aggressively both on offense and defense. It also tells your team you have confidence in them as a coach.

Then the team has a greater chance of playing with the big C.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 2:09 pm

I agree, Justin.

Comment by TonyinHouston 10.31.13 @ 2:18 pm

wbb/notrocketscience: it’s definitely possible Savage is now looking off his primary target too quickly. I wouldn’t necessarily need the playbook, but I would need coaches tape, to figure that out.

You can do that on NFL All-22, which is just incredible. The skyline view of all plays makes it very easy for the trained eye to see the progression of a play. On TV, you can’t see most of what’s going on.

Comment by Justin 10.31.13 @ 2:24 pm

D coordinators who watch tape on Pitt know that without a stud back and Putting pressure on Savage means he’s bailing out early means pin your ears back boys and go get em! The only way for Pitt to open up the running game and keep the their O off the field is to hit those short passes and sustain drives, 3rd down will be huge if Pitt has any chance in this one they have to start executing on 3rd down and in the red zone 6 points is a must. The D is really gonna be thin especially if Durham is starting at DE don’t expect much there. Maybe this is the week that Savage puts it all together and they open it all up and shock the Blather!

Comment by Steve h 10.31.13 @ 2:31 pm

Those taking an optimistic view should enjoy looking at the GTECH site From The Rumble Seat. They are only predicting a 4 point victory and don’t seem very confident considering it is homecoming and night game.

Comment by spiritofsection22 10.31.13 @ 2:46 pm

@Steveh, GTECH D has played it’s best in the redzone and the defensive ends are key players in containing the option.

Comment by spiritofsection22 10.31.13 @ 2:56 pm

If the O line doesn’t stand strong, we are in trouble this week and next. Even after going to Annapolis and witnessing the Navy disaster, I’m still optimistic that we will get our collective act together.Can anyone tell me who is broadcasting this game?

Comment by barreman 10.31.13 @ 3:11 pm

Spirit. GT gave up 45 to Miami, 38 to BYU, and 25 to Virginia in 3 of their last 4 games. It’s not GT I think people should be scared of its Pitts lack of execution when it’s needed most that’s most frightening.

Comment by Steve h 10.31.13 @ 3:14 pm

Barreman, ESPNU at 7:00

Comment by Steve h 10.31.13 @ 3:15 pm

Steve H, Giving up 25 to Virginia isn’t going to make the most impressive performance list. I still don’t see our D holding them under 35 though do you?

Comment by spiritofsection22 10.31.13 @ 3:20 pm


GT beats the spread wins by 17.

Wish it wasn’t so.

Comment by JR 10.31.13 @ 3:23 pm

I thought they game planned and played well against Navy early, they dominated the stat sheet in the first half and if you take away the bad bounce they really dominated. They will have to do the same and put points on the board early this time cause yes I think GT will tire them out and score at will late. Hopefully not 35 but if so I hope Pitt has 36

Comment by Steve h 10.31.13 @ 3:28 pm

Spirit, 45 by Miami was the second most scored by them and 38 was the 3rd most by BYU and like you said Virginia nuff said. I think this D can be had, the only question is can Pitt do it.

Comment by Steve h 10.31.13 @ 3:37 pm

One thing I don’t like is teams picking us for homecoming. It is a sign of disrespect. It will only stop when we get better.

Comment by gc 10.31.13 @ 3:50 pm

You will unhappy to hear the line has moved today.
(unless of course you’re on us and your wagering)

Pitt is now +11

Money moving the line from +10

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 3:54 pm

I will take Pitt in this game, at this time in their season, any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

Comment by PittFan28 10.31.13 @ 3:58 pm

The Total is 54

Thought that would be higher.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 3:59 pm

oh crap is this a GT homecoming game.

We’ve become a ‘mark’.

Much like our coach would be in NYC.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 4:02 pm

I’m confident that we’ll do better than Syracuse did against the Yellow Jackets.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.31.13 @ 4:08 pm

Don’t jinx us, Dr. Tom.

Comment by Justin 10.31.13 @ 4:17 pm

Savage can be terrific on long passes, but he doesn’t lead his receivers well on short passes and has little touch for short throws. But he rarely has time for long passes, so the coaches call for short ones. Net result, probably a close loss.

Comment by 66Goat 10.31.13 @ 4:26 pm

Farthest thing from my mind, Justin. Maybe I should use reverse psychcology and give the points and bet heavy on the Ramblin Wreck this week. Proven to be a sure way of producing a loser, have me bet on them! That’s my patented jinx move!

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.31.13 @ 4:36 pm

In Order to BEAT Georgia Tech…

Obviously, PITT needs to stop the Tech Running Attack in order to have a chance to win.

My suggestion to House is to switch things up by putting TODD THOMAS in the Middle in place of GALAMBOS.

Last week against Navy, House had first Gordon and then Galambos lining up SEVEN YARDS off the line of scrimmage. The intent was to give them an angle to the outside that would allow them to stay beyond the reach of an O-Lineman.

Nice on paper. Poor in execution.

Problem was neither Gordon or Galambos were athletic enough and fast enough to make it work.

On the other hand, THOMAS is. He has the ability to cover the ground to make the play… and is certainly strong and aggressive enough to get the job done from the inside.

Also as an effort to increase the physicality of the Run-Stop Defense I would find ways to Bradley and Grigsby, if they’re healthy, involved.

The other option for House is obviously to stick with Galambos. However, instead of lining him SEVEN YARDS back, have the Middle Backer set up FIVE YARDS off the line of scrimmage and take your chances.

Last week, Gordon and especially Galambos both had difficulty covering the ground necessary in order to be position to make plays. Against the speedier Georgia Tech backfield that problem will be magnified… unless some adjustment is made.

This is a chance for House to look at his personnel and play to their strengths rather than forcing them to adjust to HIS scheme. This has been a problem all year and it started with Florida State.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.31.13 @ 4:57 pm

TT is the fastest backer that we have available, thats for certain.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.31.13 @ 5:14 pm

things can be worse … we could be South Florida

12 quarters without an offensive TD

Fright night on ESPN: USF in 1st game; and game has Fraud Graham vs Mike Leech

Comment by wbb 10.31.13 @ 6:10 pm

we will lose bye 20 pointa

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.31.13 @ 7:26 pm

@dr Tom

Is Pitt capable of ‘adjusting’ and playing TT as MLB?

They are going to have to do something because GT has better athletes than Navy.

This one could get ugly in the second half if our offense goes through a lot of 3 and outs and our defense gets tired.

Comment by Why ask why it's Pitt Football !! 10.31.13 @ 7:45 pm

Can Pitt play aggressive and inspired ball? I doubt it for a full 4 quarters. We lose big in this one. Chad had better play some at least.

Comment by TX Panther 10.31.13 @ 7:49 pm

@ Why ask why, honestly, I doubt it.

Comment by Dr. Tom 10.31.13 @ 8:02 pm

I am not one for predictions but again, expect Pitt to win. I cannot go into a game thinking we are going to lose. I just can’t do it, sorry. This is the point in time where another team is better athletically and the team must find a new way to win. Personally, I would take our most talented “football” players and let them play, even if that puts bam Bradley as an outside linebacker and Todd Thomas at OLB with Galambos plugging the middle to kill the dive.

The DB’s need to be able to play man to man and boy would I like them to punish the WR in the 5 yard strike zone area. They need to punish the receivers to a point where they don’t want to block. Challenge their manhood and beat them down. I would be okay with a couple of personal fouls candidly, if the db’s give a message with their actions. That is how you beat the option. Beat up the receivers who block and have your dline and lb’s play disciplined. Break down the receivers manhood and it closes down the running game.

I re-read this and realized I ingested too much Halloween candy, but kept the post as is, because it is….interesting! I do think the game remains winnable, until such time as it is not.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 10.31.13 @ 8:13 pm

Maybe an overdose of candy by the players will make Pitt aggressive and build their stamina. Hopefully it wears off after the game. I’d still be surprised if Pitt pulled out a win. The coaches would also need to be on candy.

Comment by TX Panther 10.31.13 @ 8:19 pm

Been feeling pretty despondent this week after Navy. Boy what a great place to see a college football game. Other than the outcome of the game, it was a great weekend. So much for beating all the teams we should. Still waiting for that year.

I really felt like Pitt did enough to win in all aspects of the game…that is, until they didn’t. The offense moved and possessed the ball in the first half, completed a second half TD drive to take the lead…and then choked a 3 and out when the needed a couple first downs.

The D held up for much of the game…until they couldn’t get a stop on two long TD drives. Specials converted two FGs on a very windy day and pinned Navy back with positional kicks…until the 20 yarder.

Add it all up and we finally know what this team is. Just meh. It is the type of team that needs a coach who can will it or scheme it to an extra win or two during the season. 20 games in, I’m having my doubts that HCPC is that coach. In fact, he may be the opposite. I’ll save that for a different post.

This week Pitt really needs to find a way to keep Savage upright and open up the offense. Where the hell has Tyler Boyd been? Conner, if healthy, needs to play. I’d love to see them come out with a different look, different set, no huddle, just something to shake it up. Geez I’d even settle for passing on 1st down.

The defense needs to turn the ball over and frankly play with more emotion. Where IS the emotion? This team really does reflect its coach’s personality. They appear to be playing not to lose.

GT appears to have regained their mojo. Pitt could win this game, but I don’t see it. I just hope it doesn’t get ugly.

Tech 34 Pitt 16

Comment by Iron Duke 10.31.13 @ 8:29 pm

Pitt’s next two games are on national TV. Maybe we can beat the national TV curse.

Comment by Frank MD 10.31.13 @ 8:37 pm

One thing is for damn sure…Pitt isn’t going to win by playing a soft zone, with DBs 10 yds off the line and LBs 7-10 off. I sure hope someone slapped House with Mennen Skin Bracer after last week…

Comment by Joe Lawrence 10.31.13 @ 11:14 pm

Comment by Joe Lawrence 10.31.13 @ 11:16 pm

AZ State and Todd Graham keep crushing teams. Scored 42 in first half. Say what we want the guy can coach and recruit. He may win 10 games.

Comment by Upittbaseball 10.31.13 @ 11:40 pm

Let’s hope that PSU and WVU lose big again this week to make us feel even a little bit better.

Comment by Reed 11.01.13 @ 5:12 am

Unfortunately, Pitt will be looking ahead to next week.

Comment by MariettaMike 11.01.13 @ 5:32 am

Pitt is not good enough to be looking ahead. I hope House spent some time at the office this week. And yes Fraud can coach but he is still a Texas Twit.

Comment by TX Panther 11.01.13 @ 6:19 am


Pitt looking ahead beyond GT? Players getting complacent and overconfident vs. Navy? Unbelievable! This team is not good enough to be overconfident, complacent, or looking beyond any opponent.

Pitt couldn’t beat Navy wil get wacked by GT. Give the points
take GT. Pitt’s bowl possibilities in deep trouble.

Comment by JR 11.01.13 @ 6:34 am

UPBB. Until last night, ASU won every game in the desert and lost every away game. Texas Tech plays uptempo, thus, they would have had to outscore ASU to win, which they certainly don’t have the talent to. Slow-paced, deliberate teams would have a better chance against ASU.

But you are correct, when he has the athletes, Fraud can coach. I think, aside from the money (and Penni’s relatives) the biggest factor for his departure was the realization that he could not procure the type of athletes at Pitt like he could do in the southwest.

Comment by wbb 11.01.13 @ 6:39 am

Boyd better get some damn touches!

Comment by Pittastic 11.01.13 @ 7:15 am

Fraud could get the athletes if he recruited virginia and Florida. Fraud left in all likelihood because he realized Pitt was not serious about football and his boss was incompetent. And he probably couldn’t take the heat from the Pittsburgh media. And his wife has family in Arizona remember.

Comment by TX Panther 11.01.13 @ 7:24 am

Fraud left because he realized he needed to blow the program up and build from scratch. He wasn’t willing to lose for another year or two, so he left.

Comment by Justin 11.01.13 @ 8:00 am

@ Justin, blowing up a program is the easy part, rebuilding it from the resulting debri is when the real heavy lifting starts, and if you don’t have everybody in the entire University organization on the same page then that becomes an extremely heavy load.

Fraud sure as hell decided he didn’t want any part of that, therefore his exit on the Midnight Express.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.01.13 @ 9:06 am

Take the reins off this offense & get the ball to your play makers. Use more than the same 4 plays each week. Pitt must win this game!! Let TS throw the ball & hope the OL comes to play. D-up! What do the Panthers have to lose. Score early on GT & most importantly PLAY TO WIN!! Let’s Go PITT! Have a nice weekend everyone. H2P

Comment by DC33 11.01.13 @ 10:20 am

I don’t really care why Fraud left. I’m just glad he did.

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 11.01.13 @ 10:21 am

While I did not like his exit Graham has proven he can coach both by what he did at Pitt on short notice and no Quarterback and what he is currently doing. What scares me is is the Nebraska reject we have running Football at Pitt and Pitts historical bent of blowing things up every time they start to look up.Jeff Long had things moving then Pedo comes in and here we go again. It’s like Groundhog Day.Pitt has a history of letting bad AD’s or good ones who are over the hill hang around to long and a lack of clear vision ” be in the top twenty”. The boys at the top just don’t get it.I am now in the same group as guys like “the Hammer”(a classmate and a joy to watch in football or basketball) and Fralic ,who got squeeged out because he said it like it is.

Comment by Pitt 60 11.01.13 @ 11:18 am

Fraud can coach no doubt, or AZ State wouldn’t have gone after him as hard as they did.

Every story has 2 sides, we have yet to hear Fraud’s.

Maybe some day we will. Until then ASU has a high flying offense and we’re 94th ranked of 125 teams in Total Offense. And run 4-5 different plays a game.
Have a 2nd yr OC and a rookie DC. And don’t call for play reviews on crucial plays.

Something wrong with this picture.

Comment by EMel 11.01.13 @ 12:15 pm

All Pitt fans living in the Marietta vicinity, I have two tickets to the Tech game which I can’t use. If you came come to my place to pick them up, they are free. The seats are in the visiting (Pitt) section. Sorry for the late notice but I thought I’d feel better by game time and could get to the game. Not sure if I can leave my cell number here. State your interest and we’ll get in touch some how. H2P

Comment by MariettaMike 11.02.13 @ 7:00 am

Just a FYI – The steelers drafted Jason Worilds instead of stud Sean Lee who leads team in tackles and has had 4 INT’s in 4 games. The steeler’s hate taking white guys on defense and local kids… Pryor, Lee, Etc. Cobert and Tomlin have a 2 years and if things don’t change show them the door.

Comment by Upittbaseball 11.02.13 @ 8:57 am

Marietta – That’s awesome man. Cool things to do… If I was close I’d take you up! You did your good deed for the week. Haha.

Comment by Upittbaseball 11.02.13 @ 8:58 am

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