Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Avast Ye Lanlubbers!

It's national "Talk Like a Pirate Day" again today, and in honor we have "Pee Dee" the ECU Mascot as the image of the day. Nothing says "Argggg, walk the plank you scumsucking bilge rat" quite like a pirate dressed in purple!

So crawl out of your bungholes you filthy maggots and spread some pirate cheer (or jeer) to your office today. And remember, real pirates don't care what they wear - because a big cutlass is a language of it's own.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"A source of harm or ruin"

That's the American Heritage Dictionary definition for "nemsis" though they might as well have put it under "University of Virginia Cavaliers". For whatever reason, those blue and orange uniforms have been kryptonite to the white and gold over the past several years. Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson haven't beaten them - as a matter of fact, GT has lost 3 straight and in mostly dominating fashion.

This year would appear to be different, as Virginia is in very poor shape right now and GT is playing well. Throw in what appears to be a young QB making his very first start on the road under the lights and you can hear Tenuta's maniacal laugh all the way here in New York. That being said, stranger things have happened in this series and there's nothing about Virginia week that makes me comfortable.

On the positive note, Tech's two best recent seasons have been propelled by wins over UVa (1990, 1998) - so maybe that's an omen for a season where Tech is suddenly looking like a solid threat to make a trip to Jacksonville. Ian Cohen of Sexy Results! fame and I will be engaging in some question and answer banter over on AOL this week leading up to the game - check it out and drop your comments in. This is a huge chance for GT to make a statement on national TV as a serious contender and get the league season off to a solid start.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Changes Coming

As you might have noticed, I haven't covered the football season quite as actively on this blog as I did last year - and there's a couple of reasons for that. First off, moving and changing jobs (blah, blah, blah, nobody cares). Secondly, and more suprising - I have been invited to write for the new AOL Fanhouse, which is a collection of sportsbloggers which AOL has assembled to keep a touch on the pulse of the fans. I guess they've seen the explosion of the "blogosphere" in the past couple of years and with the popularity of Brian's BlogPoll and other sites - they wanted to get a piece of it.

So, while I will be writing a fair amount there (game previews and recaps each weekend, other items of note and editorial type pieces) - I will not completely abandon this blog. Expect random silly stuff like mascot reviews, YouTube videos, long rants about crappy bowl games and other content not neccessarily applicable for the AOL site to be here. The AOL site will be more regular and will feature more frequent updates than this site has in the past - getting paid to do it makes it a bit more like a "job" than this has ever been.

To read me on AOL (including my expectations for the upcoming Troy game) use [this link]. Thanks to everyone that's read my blog over the past year+, I started doing this just to keep out of my wife's hair and never had a clue that anyone beyond my immediate family would give any care about what I had to say.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Blog Poll Ballot - Week 3

1 Ohio State 25
2 Notre Dame 24
3 Southern Cal 23
4 Auburn 22
5 Louisiana State 21
6 Florida 20
7 Georgia 19
8 Louisville 18
9 Michigan 17
10 Texas 16
11 Oregon 15
12 Tennessee 14
13 Florida State 13
14 West Virginia 12
15 Iowa 11
16 Oklahoma 10
17 Nebraska 9
18 Boston College 8
19 TCU 7
20 Georgia Tech 6
21 Arizona State 5
22 Rutgers 4
23 Boise State 3
24 Texas Tech 2
25 Missouri 1

Dropped Out:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How GT Lost

It's a funny thing, the internet. There's a ton of commentary on Reggie Ball's performance, our lack of imaginative playcalling, not going to Calvin down the field enough, etc. Chan is an absolute idiot, Jon Tenuta is God and is currently standing on a lake somewhere preaching to his disciples of the almighty zone blitz - all of the above.

In reality, our offense did pretty well ... certainly well enough to win. Except in one key area, and the complete failure in this department lost the game. Short yardage situations continue to plague this team, and it's partly offensive line play, partly poor QB decision making, partly bizarre playcalling and partly just flat out poor play by the backs.

So lets look at how each drive ended (which is easy to do, we only had 9 drives all game) and something jumps off the page ... we just blew chance after chance to extend drives on short yardage plays and fell flat on our face. GT only had a single 3 and out the entire game, and yet came away with only 10 points. That's hard to do.

Drive #1 -

GT gets a first down by converting a 3rd and 1 with a Reggie run. This is a nice start to the opening drive, and a good sign for the rest of the night. Or not, as GT gets a 2nd and 1 and procedes to turn that into a 3rd and 4, which is an incomplete pass and GT punts. This goes down as a failed easy opportunity to keep a drive alive with a 1 yard gain.

Drive #2 -

GT gets a pair of first downs and then an incomplete pass and a short run lead to 3rd and 7. Another incomplete and a punt. 3rd and 7 is a tough situation to be in, but ND's secondary played well and this wasn't a "gimme" situation like the first drive.

Drive #3 -

Calvin is superhuman, GT scores a TD. Hidden in all of that though is a nice job on 2nd and 1 early in the drive at midfield where Choice picks up a big chunk of yards. Converting short yardage situations is a GOOD thing, who knew!

Drive #4 -

GT gets a first down (notice how many drives started this way, we were moving the football). On 2nd and 1 we have an incomplete pass. On 3rd and 1 we bring in Grant and lose 3 yards and punt. Huge blown opportunity here as the ball was near midfield and we had ND on their heels a bit. Having two cracks from 1 yard and getting nothing is just killer.

Drive #5 -

Field Goal. Drive was kept alive by a 3rd and 1 conversion by Choice near midfield.

Drive #6 -

Ball picked up a first down on a run, but then we got a grand total of nothing after that and punter. No short yardage situations on this drive.

Drive #7 -

2 first downs get us to midfield and then Choice gets stuffed on a 3rd and 1 on the ND side of the field. Huge blow here, we had a chance to get back momentum and pick up a score and got stoned. This is the 3rd just backbreaking failure to pick up 1 yard conversion.

Drive #8 -

The Calvin reviewed incompletion. It was on 3rd and 5, nothing else really going on this possession. This was the only 3 and out of the entire game for GT. That's it.

Drive #9 -

Bad shotgun snap at midfield dooms this drive after moving the football successfully to this point. This was the final time GT had the ball in the game.

So, to sum it up? GT had the football 9 times. We scored on 2 of those drives, and in both cases converted 1 yard opportunities for 1st downs. In 3 other cases GT simply had to gain 1 yard to keep a drive alive and failed. In all 3 of those drives, GT had been moving the football and was in good field position. If we convert and go on to score on any of those drives, this is a completely different ball game - one GT probably wins.

It is inexcusable with an offensive line as good as Tech's, a mobile QB and an experienced back like Choice behind a blocker like Cox for a team to not convert the vast majority of short yardage situations. Tech was just disastrous, only converting 2 of the 5 drives that had these situations. This has got to get fixed.

Also, quite frankly, the offense played pretty well. Ball had a solid game, and if he can give GT a 50% completion rate, no interceptions and 50+ yards rushing every game out - the Jackets are going to win a lot of ball games. That being said, all the offensive success in the world is pointless if you can't convert those final 3 feet. That's where GT lost the game.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Notre Dame Post Mortem

First off, the NYC alumni group is a great crowd and I had a blast getting to watch the game with fellow Tech fans (and a prof). I got to sing I'm a Ramblin Wreck at the top of my lungs for the first time in a while, that made it all worth it.

I thought it was a great game, and I thought Tech played very well - and looked very well coached. It's not all sunshine and roses, but there was a heck of a lot of good in the game to work off for the rest of the season. For that reason, I'll break this up into two parts - the "good" part, and the "bad" part.

The "Good":

#1 - The crowd, College Gameday and the national attention all weekend. What a tremendous showcase for a football program, overselling the stadium and the "bigtime" atmosphere that accompanied everything. The crowd was flatout nuts on TV, I can't remember a crowd like except for UGa games. You couldn't have asked for a better recruiting tool (for both players and fans) that what went on in Atlanta this weekend. Down to the final whistle, this was all good for Tech. And oh yeah - Calvin has been defeating Catholics since 1509.

#2 - The defense, and especially the young secondary. Yeah, the defensive line is frigging monsters, but we already knew that. We knew DRich (how good was it to watch him bulldozing through and then chasing Quinn around?) and Anoai were going to wreck people, and that Wheeler and K-Mike were big time behind them - but we didn't know what on earth the secondary would do. They made some young mistakes, but for the most part they played terrific. Pat Clark, in particular, looked pretty darn good in coverage, and he made a HUGE hit on Darius Walker that didn't look anything like a converted WR. Our secondary looked athletic and they tackled great, my biggest fear for the season seems unrealized.

#3 - Reggie. The playcalling was more bland than a bowl of cafeteria oatmeal, but Reggie showed off a strong arm and made good decisions with the football. He also ran the ball effectively out of the shotgun, something we hadn't seen before this year in large doses. Almost all his throws were still to the perimeter of the field, but he did a much better job of hitting Calvin in stride when the chance presented itself and I thought he made pretty solid decisions all night long. Reggie is never going to be a superstar, but if he can be a 50-55% passer and not throw INT's, we're going to win a lot of games. He did that Saturday night.

#4 - Special Teams are 1251934867% better than last year. We had a kickoff go into the endzone! We didn't give up huge punt returns!! We made a field goal!!! Yeah, kickoff coverage still sucks, but that's it to take away from the game. After last year's "special" teams unit that rode the shortbus to the game, Saturday was a breath of fresh air.

#5 - We held Notre Dame and their high flying offense and "sooper genius" coach to 14 points. 14. Brady Quinn in the first half looked like a boxer going into the 7th round after taking shot after shot, and his happy feet didn't stop for the whole game. That was an absolute clinic on how to disrupt an offense's timing and rythm. Tenuta's worth every single penny he's paid.

#6 - It goes without saying, but Calvin Johnson is ridiculous.

The "Bad":

#1 - The playcalling still leaves something to be desired. I understand playing conservatively, letting your defense win the game and trying not to screw it up for them - but we've taken it to a new extreme. GT's offense literally never takes a chance, on anything. Even with the biggest freak this side of the sword swallowing fat lady trapeze artist in the circus, we still almost never try to stretch the field. More vexing to me though was the bizarre short yardage plays we saw a couple of times which got stuffed and ended up forcing punts. We've got to keep our offense on the field more than we did in the second half, as tremendous as that defense is, they've got to get a break now and then. If we want to win 9 games instead of 7, we're going to have to open the playbook just a tiny bit more.

#2 - Keying off of #1, I was dissapointed in our running game. We couldn't convert short yardage situations (with our o-line and Cox in the backfield, that shouldn't be a problem) and it just seemed to be a bizarre mishmash of blocking schemes and playcalling. I love watching the spread offense, but when it's truly successful it entails a great running game. Right now, we look worse running the ball than we did last year - and that needs to get fixed. Our inability to convert 3rd downs cost us this game, and we can't keep having that.

On 2-1 - 1 for 4
On 3-1 - 2 for 4
On 4-1 - 0 for 1

Yeah, that's broken. No reason we can't just line up and push people 1 yard off the ball. We lost the game right here.

#3 - Throwing the water bottle at the ref. Seriously, that's freaking bush league "georgia fan" type stuff. Hopefully whoever that is got kicked out immediately. That has no place at a Tech game.

#4 - The personal foul call that kept ND's second drive alive. There is no "helmet to helmet" rule in college football, and that type of hit happens on nearly every running play. Wheeler didn't lead with his helmet in a spearing manner, and Quinn had both feet in bounds and was trying to fight for the first down. It was a clean play, and should have forced ND into a FG attempt right there. Just a terrible call.

#5 - Linebacker depth still worries me a bit, our first 3 are awesome, but I don't know about anything after that. They looked worn down a bit (K-Mike missed two tackles he normally makes in his sleep) and we've got to get them some help as the season goes along.

All in all, I came away more impressed with ND than with anything else from this game. I didn't think they could win a game where someone came out and just punched them straight in the mouth and physically dominated them. When Anoai went WWF on Quinn and flying boddy slammed him to the turf, I thought we had a real good shot to win. To ND's credit, they came back from 10-0 in an incredibly hostile environment against a top 10 defense and stole a game away. National Championship teams have to be able to do that. We're not quite at that level yet. We are nearly there talent wise (tell me with a straight face there's a huge difference between ND and GT right now on the talent scale), but coaching, experience and just plain swagger we don't have at that level. Hopefully that's something we can learn over the course of the next two years. I think we'll go 9-3 or 8-4 this year and contend for the Coastal division title, and if CJ stays for his senior year this team is shaping up to be a big time national force. There's plenty to work on, but we're a far cry from 51-7 just a few years ago. ND will get my vote for #1 in the next blogpoll outside of FSU or Miami just blowing the other one out, I think they proved a lot to me Saturday night. That will be one of their 2-3 toughest games of the year in the end.

(pictures from the always excellent Jeff Gooley)