Takeaways and a dominant run game secure Tech’s first win of the season.
By the time we reached our seats on Saturday night, WCU had already jumped out to an early lead. My fears of an FCS undertaking were on high alert. The first strike of the night was a deep bomb over the middle, and signs in the first half were pointing towards a repeat blockbuster for WCU QB Carlos Davis. Before leaving the game in the second half due to an injury (he wasn’t shying away from contact at all), Davis completed 67% of his passes for 233 yards and 2 TDs. Ugly. The good news – he also threw 2 INTs. And that was the story of the game. Georgia Tech took care of business and won, but it wasn’t without its shortcomings. I’ll try to get the bad stuff out early…
Pass coverage continued to break down in the first half as WCU found success out of the backfield. Screens, check downs, and well-timed routes seemed to be our Achilles heel. WCU RB Desmond Reid only ran for 47 yards, but he added 65 yards on just 4 receptions through the air. The second touchdown drive for WCU looked like Friday afternoon walkthroughs. 78 yards in 2:41 capped by a 22-yard wheel route for a TD. On the offensive side of the ball, Jeff Sims missed a few deep targets throughout the game that would have resulted in momentum-swinging, explosive plays at the least, and touchdowns at the most. He completed less than 50% of his passes, threw an interception early in the second half right after a defensive takeaway, and barely reached triple digits through the air (100 yards on the dot). Flip side of that coin – he ran for 48 yards, converting a few key first downs. He’s still up and down, but he can be damn exciting.
The run game stole the show. All five touchdowns were on the ground, a few of which were game-breakers. Dontae Smith’s 51-yard gash and Nate McCollum’s 40-yard circus act were easily the two biggest offensive plays of the game. Dontae added two additional scores to his stat sheet. Charlie Thomas came back in the second half, after last game’s turrible targeting call, and showed why he’s our best defender, recording two sacks and an incredibly athletic interception. After jumping out to a 28-14 lead, the game never felt in jeopardy.
Bottom line, not to get too far ahead of myself, if the pass coverage doesn’t improve, we could see a 500+ yard performance by Ole Miss next weekend (just through the air). It’s great to get a win on the record, but as most of us have mentioned at some point this week, that is what should have happened. I almost feel opposite to how I felt after the game on Monday. We lost 41-10 to Clemson, but the positives nearly outweighed the negatives. Tonight, we won. But it wasn’t pretty. To play a little devil’s advocate – it was a short week, and Monday’s game took a lot, both physically and emotionally. But you would have liked to see full 60-minute domination. The team did a good job rebounding after a slow start, but most remaining opponents won’t be as forgiving. We’ll need to control the clock for more than 19 minutes against Ole Miss if we want a shot at the upset.
Anyhow, 1-1 with a tough lineup through October 1st. The season, for now, is going as expected. I think if we can pull off one of the next three games, it would be a successful stretch. Buckle up.