Georgia Tech 13
Only one word can be used to effectively describe the events that transpired Saturday night in Tallahassee in our game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. That word is "WHEW!!!" On a night where we were completely dominated for most of the game, the Florida State Seminoles did it again to our friends from Atlanta, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in a manner that was very similar to our historic victory over Georgia Tech in 1992. While the late game heroics story may be getting old to Tech fans in a way that is very similar to FSU's relationship with Miami for FSU fans, they can take some solace in the fact that Nole fans know that we got away with one here in a big way.
Never before have I seen the FSU offense so thoroughly whipped as it was in the first half of this game. The numbers tell the story. 26 yards of total offense, 19 yards rushing, 7 yards passing, 1 completion, one first down (and even that was by way of penalty). It was just pure ugliness born from one part Georgia Tech defensive domination, one part FSU offensive ineptitude. That we were able to go into half-time down only 6-0 was quite a feat by our defense, bolstered by a very inspired goal-line stand in the first quarter that turned out to be the difference in the game. They definitely kept us in the game and keeping Georgia Tech out of the end zone on that series turned out to be much bigger than we thought at the time. However, the overall play of the D was more like it was against UNC in allowing several solid marches downfield that just didn't translate into (m)any points. Georgia Tech managed to hold the ball for 11:28 in the first quarter and 23:06 in the first half. That wouldn't have been the case if our D was stopping them as effectively as their D was stopping us, so as good as our D played, there is certainly room for improvement in preventing the type of sustained drives that Georgia Tech was able to put together. We did turn the time of possession statistic around considerably in the second half. That our D was solid enough to get through the second half with only one major mistake after being on the field for so much of the first half is definitely a tremendous achievement.
It took until the defense withered with the 47 yard TD run by P.J. Daniels before the offense finally got it's act together enough to punch two solid drives in for the game winning scores after being turned away by turnovers on two earlier drives. Chris Rix led the way on these drives with some very good decisions on scrambles to substitute for our lack of a running game and several quality and clutch passes. As the game winning TD landed softly in the hands of P.K. Sam (and the crowd verified that the pass would not be dropped), Doak Campbell Stadium erupted in the joyous frenzy of dodging a major bullet. There was still work to be done as the game was not over at that point, but having a late lead in a game where we had played so poorly throughout felt like we were playing with the house's money. The sense of relief in the stands as Chris Rix took a knee on the Victory play was profound. Exiting the stadium I saw fans drenched in sweat as if they had just played the game themselves from the energy spent in the game's closing minutes and I saw a lot of "Did that really just happen?" looks on people's faces. We had just witnessed a titanic defensive duel that we won't forget for some time, where the Noles pulled a Houdini-like escape out of who knows where. The heart displayed to emerge victorious in this game is something that could propel us on to bigger and better things in 2003.
I think it's too early to regard this as the "escape game" that most championship caliber teams seem to experience, but I do feel that it's a very positive thing to show an ability to win a game that you really have no business winning. I know how much I despise how Ohio State seems to always win these types of games (as Penn State and Alabama have always done historically as their common method of winning in their glory years), so I can sympathize with any Tech fans that are fuming at this defeat. This is the type of game that leaves fans of the underdogs nationally with a seriously bad taste in their mouth. I'm very glad we were able to win one of these as we usually find ourselves on the losing end of these close battles that go down to the wire. It was ugly, but it was a W, and that's what matters most.
1. The offense wasted a down on our second drive by taking a knee after the ball was snapped, thinking we had caught Georgia Tech offsides. In thinking more about our choice to take a knee on these plays, it's probably not a very good idea, especially after seeing it blow up on us like it did here. I think it may help somewhat in making sure the refs make the call on the offsides, but if our opponents are offsides, then what advantage is it for us to sacrifice the free play we are given? Instead of taking a knee, we should probably change our approach to just going ahead and trying to hit a deep pass whenever we catch the defense like that. If you have a free play, you should use it. I think the chances of us hitting for a big play outweigh any benefits we get with the refs making the proper call by virtue of our taking the knee to draw more attention to the offsides. I think they'll throw the flag more often than not when we catch the opponent offsides whether we take a knee or not, so by taking a knee, we're surrendering a free chance to try to make something big happen. And as we saw here, on plays where the refs don't throw the flag, we're giving up a down. I think that it was the right call to not throw the flag on this play as the Tech defenders didn't look like they crossed into the neutral zone when they flinched.
2. Chris Rix had one of his worst nights and one of his best nights all rolled into one. Early in the game, he wasn't able to get anything going and was missing badly on several passes. It took until the first drive of the second half for Rix to get a single play in the positives section of this summary with our passing offense. We're not going to win too many ball games when this happens, if it ever happens again. Fortunately he played significantly better in the second half but just as Rix finally started getting on track, Craphonso Thorpe started dropping some passes that should have been caught. It seemed like nothing was going to go right for us when this started. Rix and the offense were able to move the ball effectively in the third quarter and early into the fourth quarter, but on two of these marches, what should have been scoring drives to take the lead both ended in costly interceptions. I'll get into the positive things he did on the field later in the summary, but here are the lowlights for him in the passing game:
--Miscommunication between Chris Rix and Chris Davis resulted in an ugly incompletion.
--Our only completion of the first half was a 7 yard catch by Chauncey Stovall on a 3rd and 10 play, leading me to once again shake my head as to why we insist on throwing short of the marker so frequently on third down plays. While this was a completion, I have to question the decision making here as it only led to a punt.
--Chris Rix threw way behind Lorne Sam on a pass over the middle. This was just a terrible throw by Rix.
--Chris Rix badly overthrew Chris Davis on a quick out.
--Chris Rix missed Craphonso Thorpe on a slant. This series consisted of three very bad passes by Chris Rix and another three and out. We figured out that we needed to try to throw the ball some to open up the run, but it doesn't work when your QB is misfiring like Rix was here. Thorpe probably could have helped Rix out with a better effort at bringing this ball in as this was definitely the closest of the three throws on this series.
--Chris Rix missed Craphonso Thorpe badly on a curl pattern.
--Craphonso Thorpe couldn't bring in the ball on a sideline pattern. This was a good defensive play by the Tech safety breaking up the pass. Thorpe waited on the ball instead of coming back to the QB on the play though, which brought the safety back into the play after Thorpe had gotten some separation. At the stadium, I thought this was a drop, but on tape I saw it was more of a pass breakup for the safety. This was a play Thorpe could have made though.
--Chris Rix was intercepted on an overthrow on a pass over the middle to Matt Henshaw. Rix forced this one as Henshaw was well covered by a LB. Then we made the problem worse by allowing a 25 yard return. That was really bad as we needed to at least establish better field position with this drive. I thought we had finally flipped the field and then blew it with this play. The refs missed a block in the back penalty on the return IMO.
--Craphonso Thorpe dropped a pass on a sideline pattern. This pass was a little high but was catchable.
--Craphonso Thorpe dropped a pass on a comeback on a Chris Rix scramble. This one was a perfect pass. Thorpe just missed it, batting it high into the air instead of catching it. P.K. Sam caught the deflection but the refs ruled him out of bounds after juggling the ball. It looked like a clean catch to me on the live shot, but they didn't show a replay that would have given a more clear view of the play.
--Chris Rix overthrew Dominic Robinson on a 3rd and 20 play. He got rid of it after rolling out to avoid pressure.
--Craphonso Thorpe couldn't bring in the ball on a flag pattern in the end zone. I think he probably could have caught this one, but it was a good play by the DB. At the game, I thought this was an outright drop, but watching on tape showed a better play by the D than I previously thought.
--Willie Reid with a -3 yard catch on a flare pass. Chris Rix threw a rainbow ball here giving the DB time to close to kill the play. Rix had to get the ball over a DE here, but I think he looped this one up there too high which made the play too slow developing.
--Chris Rix underthrew the fade to Craphonso Thorpe in the end zone for his second interception. This was a bad read as he threw into double coverage and didn't check out of a bad play. This was a terrible pass. Then we allowed a 51 yard return. I was very strong in feeling that we should have run the QB draw on this play at the time. Given that we later scored on a QB draw, I think I had the right call here. Tech was just covering everything too well, and I thought they would be vulnerable to Rix running out of a pass play.
--Paul Irons with a -1 yard catch on a flat pass on a play where he was lined up in the fullback spot. I liked the idea, but this probably wasn't the best time to try this play. Down 13 and in need of someone to step up and make something happen, it isn't likely that a big guy that isn't used to having the ball in his hands is going to break a big play from the flat.. I'd like to see us use this wrinkle in other situations later in the year though.
--Chris Rix missed a throw to Dominic Robinson on a post. It looked like Robinson stopped briefly and Rix thought he'd keep going. The crowd let out a collective moan on this one as this definitely had touchdown written all over it.
--Craphonso Thorpe failed to stay inbounds on a crucial 4th and 17 pass that would have been a first down to put away the game had he caught it. This one was a call that could have gone either way as Thorpe had one foot on the sideline and one foot inbounds. I'm not going to quarrel with the call here, but I am going to point out that Thorpe should have done a better job getting both feet inbounds so as to not leave the call up to the refs. He had room to get both feet in and just didn't display good field awareness IMO.
There are those that would harshly criticize the play call to go for the first down here instead of kicking the field goal. Conventional wisdom says to kick the field goal to get a four point lead to force Georgia Tech to score a touchdown to beat us. However, with the kick to be a long 41 yard attempt and with our recent troubles in our kick protection department suffering blocks in both the UNC and Maryland games, I can't fault Coach Bowden's choice to put supreme faith in our defense. By making that call, he was simply saying he had more faith in the defense preventing a drive for a field goal than in our blocking to prevent a blocked kick. Given the way the crowd and the D had reached the feeding frenzy state on the previous two drives by Tech, this was probably the right decision even though it was quite a gamble. This was certainly not a conservative decision. In the stands, I was squirming a little bit over the decision, but couldn't say decisively that it was the wrong decision because I understood the dynamic of fearing a kick block and wanting our fate to be totally in the hands of the defense, so I wouldn't criticize the call either way on this one in hindsight. If Thorpe would have been more cognizant of his position on the field to get both feet in, nobody would be having this discussion and we would have won the game right there.
3. Our pass defense held Georgia Tech to 12 of 25 passing for 128 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT. But early on in the game, the Tech passing attack was giving us fits in sustaining drives that were keeping our D on the field for far too long. Tech freshman QB Reggie Ball looked very poised and accurate through the first half. While our D was able to keep them out of the end zone, Ball looked like he was handling whatever we had to throw at him and coming out ahead of the game. As he gains experience, I'd expect that he'll be able to do a better job of finishing drives for them. Here's a list of the low points for our pass defense:
--18 yard catch allowed to WR Smith beating Bryant McFadden and Allen Augustin on a crossing route.
--12 yard catch allowed to WR Curry beating Leroy Smith on a curl pattern.
--17 yard catch allowed to WR Smith for a 3rd and 14 conversion beating Bryant McFadden on an out pattern.
--27 yard catch allowed to WR Smith beating Jerome Carter on a corner route. This was an excellent pass by Ball.
--12 yard catch allowed by Landry beating a sleeping A.J. Nicholson for a 4th and 9 conversion on a fake punt. We lined up on D looking for the fake, yet somehow were surprised when it happened. This was an inexcusable error. We seem to be having a lot of confusion on our punt return team.
--7 yard catch allowed by WR McGuire beating Leroy Smith who was giving a lot of cushion on the 3rd and 27 play. This was another one (like the run described below) where Tech was playing to improve their chances at a field goal and we were playing to prevent the first down. They had to make a 45 yard FG here, so those seven yards made a big difference. Had we played this a little tighter, we might not have surrendered this field goal, but I can understand not wanting to give up the big play.
--12 yard catch allowed by WR Curry beating Stanford Samuels on a 3rd and 2 play. Samuels missed on his attempt at an INT, then missed the tackle.
--11 yard catch allowed by WR Curry beating Stanford Samuels on a 3rd and 12 play. Samuels totally missed the tackle on this play and was very fortunate that Michael Boulware was there to make the stop in time to prevent the conversion.
--12 yard catch allowed by RB Daniels on a screen pass. Darnell Dockett and Jerome Carter missed chances at the tackle. This play got Tech across midfield on their final drive and had everyone in the stands beyond nervous.
4. FSU's rushing defense did hold Georgia Tech to 112 yards on 39 carries (2.87 YPC average), however with former walk-on running back P.J. Daniels hitting us for 113 yards on 19 carries, including a 47 yard TD run, it definitely didn't feel like the greatest of nights in this area of the game. Over 50% of Georgia Tech's rushing yardage did come on just two carries by Daniels, so we were very close to having a thoroughly dominating performance at stopping the run, but giving up the 100+ yard game to their tailback on a night where our rushing attack was so thoroughly humbled says that we still have work to do in this area. The lowlights for the rushing defense included:
--6 yard run allowed by RB Daniels on a 2nd and 5 play: Daniels ran through Michael Boulware and Allen Augustin for 3 extra yards on their tackle attempt. We still need to get more physical at the LB position IMO to prevent plays like this.
--18 yard run allowed by RB Daniels: Chauncey Davis missed a shot at the tackle, Allen Augustin was blocked, Kendyll Pope was totally out of position allowing Daniels the open running lane, Michael Boulware was decleated, Jerome Carter did a poor job badly missing a tackle.
--9 yard run allowed on a scramble by QB Ball. Pressure by Michael Boulware and Allen Augustin forced the scramble. Kendyll Pope was floating in no man's land on this play as he lost his coverage on the WR and then was slow reacting to the run once he saw Ball scrambling. That allowed Ball to get around the corner on the play.
--10 yard run allowed on a 3rd and 15 run by RB Eziemefe that made for a much easier field goal attempt that led to Georgia Tech's first points of the night. Allen Augustin and Stanford Samuels were blocked on the play. We didn't look like we approached this running play with the urgency needed to keep them from getting this sort of gain to make their field goal attempt a much higher percentage kick.
--6 yard run allowed on a scramble by QB Ball on a 3rd and 4 play: Kevin Emanuel and Eric Moore both dropped into coverage on a zone blitz but couldn't close quickly enough to make the stop.
--47 yard TD run allowed by RB Daniels: Allen Augustin took a bad angle, Kendyll Pope was totally out of position overpursuing again, Jerome Carter took a terrible angle. Then Daniels simply outran our D to the end zone and a 13-0 lead that very well could have been a backbreaker. Daniels outrunning our defense does not bode well for us in future games against faster backs. I'm hoping this was just a single breakdown, but fear that we might be in for more big play runs allowed as the backs we face get faster. We have only allowed this single TD all year, which is quite impressive, so I'm hopeful we can avoid more repeats of this sort of play down the road and that this was just a mental lapse after the disheartening interception in the end zone to kill our scoring effort. Kendyll Pope has to learn to stay at home instead of looking for the big stop.
5. Our rushing offense was utterly atrocious. FSU was held to 91 yards rushing on 32 carries with Chris Rix getting 41 of those yards mostly on scrambles. Georgia Tech owned the line of scrimmage as our offensive line could not open any holes at all, unfortunately showing my worst fears for what our line play might look like this season in this department. Georgia Tech's linebackers were just too fast and physical for us to handle. We're going to have to get a lot better quickly, or we'll have to hope that this was just an off night since our two previous games didn't go nearly like this. I noticed that our guards really need improvement on knowing their assignments and getting out more quickly on plays where they pull.
There was the one 3 and out series after the goal line stand in the first quarter where Tech stacked the line of scrimmage with 8 or 9 in the box and then they stuffed us on runs inside their 10 yard line in the fourth quarter where they were looking run, but apart from that, I think they whipped us playing mostly straight up. IMO, we should avoid the temptation to say that our failure to run can be fully explained by Tech stacking the line as that wasn't the case throughout the night, just in certain areas where overloading to take away the run made sense defensively.
We had 16 unsuccessful carries for -6 yards. We only had 9 successful rushes for 47 yards. That totals to 25 carries for 41 yards on designed running plays for a horrific 1.64 YPC average and a woeful 36% success ratio. To put it bluntly, we were manhandled and completely dominated in this phase of the game. We just have to hope that Georgia Tech proves to have a big-time defense over the course of the season or else this game will likely be more of a harbinger of very bad things to come than an inspired comeback and glorious victory. Here are the unsuccessful carries on the night:
--B.J. Dean with a 1 yard run: Paul Irons needed a better block, Donnie Carter and Ray Willis with a double team block, Bobby Meeks and David Castillo with a double team pancake, Matt Meinrod missed a decleater, Alex Barron with a block.
--Willie Reid with a -2 yard run on a 3rd and 2 misdirection pitch: James Coleman didn't block anybody, Paul Irons with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks with a block, David Castillo was beat, Matt Meinrod didn't block anybody to help kill the play, Alex Barron with a block. The Tech DE and LB on that side were all over this play. This one was well scouted and I think we might be showing the misdirection pitch too often as teams are starting to look for it. Coming into the game, I was contemplating whether or not we were running this play too often. There are advantages to running it as a surprise element, but there are also advantages to running it frequently even if it fails occasionally as it did here as it forces the D to be mindful of all areas of the field and might help to keep things less crowded for our runs that aren't of the misdirection variety. I'm not sure which way we should go with that. One thing I am certain of though is I'm not sure why we'd choose to run this play to the short side of the field as that limits the advantage we should get with our speed to the outside. It allows that DE and LB to have the sideline as an ally to give them less ground to have to cover.
--Greg Jones with a -1 yard run: James Coleman with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks with a block, David Castillo needed a better block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron was beat to the outside to kill the play.
--Greg Jones with a -3 yard run: James Coleman with a block but missed picking up the LB he needed to hit, Ray Willis with a block, I couldn't tell if Bobby Meeks got his block or not, David Castillo and Matt Meinrod were beat badly, Alex Barron with a block.
--Greg Jones with 1 yard run: James Coleman with a block, Matt Henshaw with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks pulled and missed his block to kill the play, David Castillo with a drive block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron missed his block to also kill the play.
--Greg Jones with run for no gain: James Coleman didn't get his block to kill the play, Matt Henshaw needed a better block, Ray Willis was beat to the outside to also kill the play, Bobby Meeks with a pancake, David Castillo needed a better block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron with a block.
--Greg Jones with a 2 yard run: B.J. Dean with a block, Paul Irons and Ray Willis with a double-team pancake but then fell down, Bobby Meeks with a pancake, David Castillo needed a better block, Matt Meinrod pulled and didn't get his block in time which killed the play, Alex Barron with a block.
--Greg Jones with a -2 yard run: B.J. Dean knocked his guy down, Paul Irons with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Eric Broe pulled and totally whiffed on a diving decleater attempt to help kill the play, David Castillo didn't get his block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron with a block, Craphonso Thorpe with a block.
--Greg Jones with a 3 yard run: B.J. Dean with a block, Paul Irons with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Eric Broe with a block, David Castillo and Matt Meinrod with a double-team block, Alex Barron with a block.
--Greg Jones with a run for no gain: B.J. Dean with a block but needed to sustain it longer, Paul Irons with a block, Donnie Carter with a block, Ray Willis with a pancake, Bobby Meeks with a pancake, David Castillo with a pancake, Matt Meinrod and Alex Barron with a double-team pancake, Matt Henshaw with a block. This was not a good read by Jones as he ran right into the hit on this play.
--Greg Jones with a run for no gain on a pitch play: B.J. Dean didn't block anybody, Paul Irons with a block, Donnie Carter with a block, Ray Willis with a pancake, Bobby Meeks with a pancake, David Castillo missed his block, Matt Meinrod pulled and got a block, Alex Barron with a block, Matt Henshaw with a block.
--Greg Jones with a 1 yard run: James Coleman didn't get his block to kill the play, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks with a block, John Frady and Matt Meinrod with a double-team block, Alex Barron with a block, Dominic Robinson with a block, Craphonso Thorpe with a block.
--James Coleman with a 1 yard run on 3rd and 2: Ray Willis with a pancake, Bobby Meeks and John Frady with a double-team block, Matt Meinrod with a block but his guy made the play, Alex Barron with a block.
--Greg Jones with a -1 yard run: B.J. Dean and Donnie Carter with a double-team decleater, Ray Willis didn't block anybody which helped kill the play, Bobby Meeks with a block, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod pulled and didn't get out to the LB in time, but blocked a DB instead (he needed to stop the LB as that's who made the play--Meinrod was hung up in traffic and couldn't get to him in time), Alex Barron with a light block, Paul Irons with a block.
--Greg Jones with a -2 yard run: B.J. Dean with a decleater, Donnie Carter with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks pulled and missed his block to kill the play as he chose to hit Carter's guy instead of a charging DB, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod and Alex Barron with a double-team block, Paul Irons with a block.
--Chris Rix with a -4 yard run on a bootleg: James Coleman didn't block anybody, Donnie Carter, David Castillo and Ray Willis with a triple team block, Bobby Meeks pulled and missed his block to kill the play, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron with a block.
6. FSU suffered 8 penalties for 90 yards, including several really costly ones.
--Paul Irons with an illegal procedure penalty inside our 5 yard line.
--Bryant McFadden with a pass interference penalty. McFadden did have a hand lightly on the receiver just as he tipped the ball away with his other hand, but I don't think he gained any advantage with the very minimal contact. I've seen far worse contact go uncalled many times before, so I thought this one was a bad call that robbed McFadden of an excellent pass breakup.
--Marcello Church with a 15 yard face mask penalty on the 2nd half opening kickoff return. This one hurt as we really needed to try to pin Tech deep here to try to change the field position situation.
--Holding penalty on either David Castillo or Ray Willis negated pass interference and holding penalties on the Georgia Tech defense.
--Block in the back penalty on Antonio Cromartie on a punt return.
--Holding penalty on Greg Jones negated a 26 yard completion to Lorne Sam on a 3rd and 10 play.
--Face mask penalty on a punt ended up costing us 20 yards of field position. I couldn't tell who this penalty was on.
--Holding penalty on a kickoff return. I didn't see who this one was on either.
--Pass interference penalty on Bryant McFadden. I don't think this ball was catchable. Neither did the ABC analyst that criticized the call.
7. Our pass protection didn't yield a sack, but we had a few plays where pressures allowed yielded bad results for us. Here are the lowlights for our pass blocking unit:
--Matt Henshaw allowed pressure that forced an incompletion as Rix had to get rid of the ball on a 3rd and 14 play. I've noticed in the last two games that Rix has a problem when rolling to his left. He often unnecessarily rolls into the rush by coming too far forward towards the line of scrimmage instead of staying back to buy more time. Rix actually had no reason to roll to his left on this play as there was no pressure early, unless the play was designed for him to roll left. This was an example of him rolling into pressure. He seems to do much better at laying back and giving his receivers a chance to get open when he rolls to his right.
--Pressure allowed by Bobby Meeks forced an incompletion on a 3rd and 20 play to end a drive.
--Pressure allowed by Matt Meinrod forced Chris Rix to scramble for only a 1 yard gain. Rix had B.J. Dean and Greg Jones open in the flats on either side of him, but he was totally exhausted from runs on previous plays and just took off.
There were a few other plays where pressure was allowed that Rix turned into positives, so I won't list them here.
8. FSU's drives in the first half were:
--1 play - fumble
--3 plays - punt (1 wasted down, 1 bad pass, 1 pass short of the marker)
--3 plays - punt (3 running plays from our 1 yard line didn't get the first down as GT was putting 8 and 9 men in the box on this sequence)
--3 plays - punt (2 failed running plays with Tech not stacking the line, 1 failed pass)
--3 plays - punt (3 terrible passes by Rix)
--2 plays - end of half.
As bad as that was, the D wasn't helping matters by allowing Tech to hold the ball for so much of the half, controlling the clock with extended drives, and decidedly winning the battle of field position. Even though our D did a great job in holding Tech to 6 points, the Tech D definitely did the better job in the first half.
1. Antonio Cromartie had two very solid kickoff returns of 37 and 30 yards. Craphonso Thorpe added an excellent 43 yard return as we definitely showed improvement in this area.
2. We only had 9 successful rushes for 47 yards on designed running plays. Greg Jones just couldn't find any room to run and was often thrown for losses on plays where he tried to run wide instead of pounding it inside to get whatever he could get. Here is the very short list of successful running plays on a dismal night running the ball
--Craphonso Thorpe with a 6 yard run on a reverse before his fumble: B.J. Dean with a block, Alex Barron with a block, Chris Rix needed a better block as he waited too long to hit the man out there, Matt Meinrod with a block, P.K.Sam with a block. The recovery at the sideline by Georgia Tech looked very questionable to me as to whether or not possession was established before the guy went out of bounds, but I wasn't able to see a replay that would confirm the call for me either way.
--Greg Jones with a 7 yard run: B.J. Dean knocked his guy down, Craphonso Thorpe with a block, Donnie Carter was thrown down, Ray Willis with a pancake, Bobby Meeks with a block, David Castillo needed a better block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron with a block, Paul Irons with a block.
--Willie Reid with a 10 yard run: B.J. Dean with a block, Craphonso Thorpe looked like he missed his block (not positive), Paul Irons with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks with a block, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron steered his man outside.
--Greg Jones with a 7 yard run: B.J. Dean with a block, Paul Irons was beat to the inside, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks needed a better block, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron didn't get a block but his guy was backing off so it was just as good as a block.
--Willie Reid with a 2 yard run on a 3rd and 1 play: B.J. Dean with a block, Paul Irons didn't block anybody, Donnie Carter with a block, Ray Willis with a pancake, Bobby Meeks with a block, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron with a block, Matt Henshaw with a block.
--James Coleman with a 2 inch run on 4th and 1 inch: Paul Irons with a block, Donnie Carter with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks with a pancake, David Castillo with a pancake, Matt Meinrod with a pancake, Alex Barron and Matt Henshaw with a double-team block. Coleman ran into Irons and barely made it on this run. He did get a kind spot that actually allowed him to get the first down by the length of the football.
--Willie Reid with a 4 yard run: B.J. Dean with a block, Ray Willis with a block, Bobby Meeks pulled and needed to block a different guy instead of hitting Barron's man, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron with a block, Chauncey Stovall with a block.
--Willie Reid with a 7 yard run: B.J. Dean needed a better block, Ray Willis steered his man outside, Bobby Meeks pulled and missed a decleater, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron didn't get his block. This was some good running by Reid.
--Chris Rix with a 3 yard TD run on a QB draw play: B.J. Dean and Bobby Meeks with a double-team block, Ray Willis with a block, David Castillo with a block, Matt Meinrod with a block, Alex Barron with a block, but was beat to the inside. Rix took a shot crossing the goal line.
3. Our linebackers had a very active game with a considerable number of tackles and three sacks on the night. Game ball to Allen Augustin who had an excellent night leading FSU with 7 tackles, getting a sack, and playing a vital role in our goal line stand. Michael Boulware chipped in with 6.5 tackles including a sack.
--Allen Augustin with a tackle for a 1 yard gain on a run up the middle by RB Daniels.
--Kendyll Pope with a tackle for no gain on Georgia Tech's third down run from inside the one yard line. B.J. Ward had the initial hit and Jerome Carter helped Pope on the play as it looked like Daniels was close to breaking Pope's tackle with his third effort on the run.
---Allen Augustin and Michael Boulware stuffed RB Daniels at the one yard line to complete a phenomenal goal line stand that saw Georgia Tech fail on three runs from inside the one yard line. Jerome Carter did an excellent job forcing the quick pitch from the QB on this play.
--Allen Augustin with a tackle for a 1 yard gain on a run by RB Daniels.
--Allen Augustin with a -8 yard sack! Jeff Womble was also in on the play.
--Michael Boulware with a -8 yard sack! Broderick Bunkley and Kendyll Pope were also in on the hit.
--Kendyll Pope with a -5 yard sack! Great job getting in quick on the blitz here.
4. Our defensive line did a much better job of getting pressure on the QB in this game as Ball was being harassed on just about every pass play. Eric Moore spearheaded the effort with his best game as a Seminole as he was absolutely DOMINATING out there. The high points up front included:
--Eric Moore with a -8 yard sack! Darnell Dockett was also in on the hit. This helped us attain a 3 and out after Craphonso Thorpe's early fumble and was a great start for the defense.
--Pressure by Eric Moore forced an incompletion.
--Darnell Dockett and Allen Augustin with a tackle for a 1 yard gain on a run from the two yard line.
--Kevin Emanuel and Kendyll Pope with a -5 yard TFL on a pitch to RB Eziemefe.
--Eric Moore and Darnell Dockett with a -12 yard sack!
--Jeff Womble, Darnell Dockett and Allen Augustin with a tackle for no gain on a 3rd and 1 QB sneak by Ball to end a Tech drive.
--Huge pressure by Eric Moore, Jeff Womble, and Allen Augustin forced an incompletion.
--Eric Moore with a -3 yard TFL on a scramble by QB Ball and forced fumble that was recovered by Travis Johnson. This was a huge play as it allowed us to flip the field with regard to the field position battle. I would have given Moore another sack here and I'm not really sure why it wasn't ruled a sack.
--Huge pressure by Eric Moore forced an incompletion.
--Kevin Emanuel with a -7 yard sack and a forced fumble recovered by Eric Moore. At the time we thought this play was going to seal it for us, but Georgia Tech's defense had other ideas. As it worked out, this play allowed us to drain all three of the Yellow Jackets' time outs. The crowd was completely raging before and after this play. Great job by Eric Moore stealing the ball away from the Tech player that looked like he had the recovery.
--Huge pressure by Kevin Emanuel and Charles Howard forced QB Ball to scramble for only 3 yards on a critical 3rd and 10 play late in the game.
--Pressure by Kevin Emanuel forced a bad pass that resulted in Pat Watkins' INT to seal the game for the Seminoles.
5. Jesse Stein did a good job again with 5 punts for a 41 yard average despite coming into the game slightly injured. His play has been a pleasant surprise for us so far this year.
6. Our secondary didn't play quite as well as they did against Maryland, but did have a fair amount of quality plays, including the interception by Pat Watkins to put the game away in the final minute. The high points for the secondary included:
--Bryant McFadden with an excellent tackle for no gain on an option pitch to RB Daniels.
--Jerome Carter, B.J. Ward and Michael Boulware with a tackle for no gain on a sneak by QB Ball.
--Good coverage by Rufus Brown and Jerome Carter caused an incompletion on a pass to the end zone.
--Kyler Hall with an excellent stick for a -8 yard TFL on a screen pass.
--Jerome Carter with a -2 yard TFL on an option pitch to WR Smith.
--Good coverage by Stanford Samuels on a deep out to force an incompletion.
--Stanford Samuels with an excellent pass breakup on a curl pattern.
--Pat Watkins with an interception to end the final Georgia Tech scoring threat.
7. While our offensive line really struggled in the run blocking department, they did manage to get through the night without allowing a sack.
8. Chris Rix did manage to shake off the horrendous results of three and half quarters of play to lead us to an inspired late fourth quarter comeback and the victory. With all the negatives, this positive may outweigh them all in importance for the remainder of our season. In showing the heart required to come back and rally when things were at their worst, I think we saw FSU become a team in the truest sense of the term for the first time under Rix. This is a positive that cannot be undervalued. It's in the realm of possibility that this could end up being a milestone game for Chris Rix much the same way the Georgia Tech rally in 1992 was the point where Charlie Ward began to put everything together. I wouldn't go so far yet to say that's this game will definitely be historically similar, just that it could well be a turning point for us as I think nearly all Seminole fans would agree that the 2001 and 2002 teams would not have won this game. Game ball to Chris Rix for his incredibly gutty effort in the final half of the fourth quarter. We would not have won this game without him, even if his failures earlier in the game put us in a bad position in the first place. While his passing numbers finished with an unspectacular 15 of 30 night for 160 yards, 2 INTs and 1 TD, what those numbers don't show was his poise under pressure in leading the team to the two late scores and the victory when everything was on the line.
Here are the high points for our passing game:
--Craphonso Thorpe with an 11 yard catch on an out pattern. Thorpe followed this catch with two short catches for another first down as our first successes in the game offensively.
--P.K. Sam with a 20 yard catch on a post pattern. This was a good start to the half by Chris Rix.
--Greg Jones with a 16 yard catch and run on a flare pass for a 3rd and 13 conversion. Ordinarily I hate throwing short of the marker, but Rix made the right read here as Jones was wide open in space on the outside. Craphonso Thorpe had a great downfield block on this play.
--P.K. Sam with an 18 yard catch and run on a pass over the middle.
--Dominic Robinson with a huge 26 yard catch on a post pattern. This one should have been a TD. I have no idea why Robinson dove to catch this ball. I don't think he knew why he dove either judging by his reaction after the play.
--Craphonso Thorpe with a 12 yard catch on a square in pattern.
--Chauncey Stovall with an awesome 26 yard catch coming back to help out the QB at the sideline. This was a great throw by Rix under duress. This was definitely one of the biggest plays of the game and should get Stovall some additional playing time IMO.
--P.K. Sam with a 5 yard TD catch after breaking off a well covered slant pattern. Good mind meld between Chris Rix and Sam to recognize what needed to be done for this play to succeed to culminate our improbable comeback.
9. Chris Rix made a few good decisions picking the right times to run the ball. His 41 yards on 8 carries led the team in rushing and played a vital role in our comeback. When a defense is covering everything else on the field at the level Georgia Tech was against us, the one thing I don't think they can account for is the QB taking off. We have to be willing to utilize Rix's running ability, particularly in games like this where nothing else is working. There is significant risk and reward to doing so and we have to find just the right balance, but Rix's legs are too valuable a weapon to not utilize at least to some extent IMO.
--11 yard run on a scramble. This was a good decision to run but he needed to slide here instead of taking a big hit at the end of the play.
--7 yard run on a scramble. This was an excellent play by Rix.
--9 yard run on a scramble. This was an excellent decision to run as Rix picked up a big 3rd and 5 conversion here.
--13 yard run on a scramble. This was another excellent play after a big pressure was allowed by B.J. Dean. Great decision by Rix to run and he even slid on this one after faking like he was going to try to leap for more yardage.
10. Our defense held Georgia Tech to two yards of offense in the third quarter and really helped turn around the first half time of possession disparity.
11. Game ball to the FSU crowd for never giving up and seriously rocking the place in the 4th quarter to help give energy for our D to feed off of and to turn up the pressure on the freshman QB Ball. Those last eight minutes were INTENSE. The D fed off the crowd and the crowd fed off the D. It's a great thing to watch when this spirals into a complete frenzy like we experienced at the end of this game.
12. I liked that Darnell Dockett went out on the field to talk to the offense during a timeout just prior to our touchdown to take the lead. He's definitely taking the leadership thing to heart and having an impact. Here's hoping it continues.
13. Pat Watkins with a good tackle at the 19 yard line on a kickoff return to keep Georgia Tech in bad field position on the kickoff after we took the lead.
14. Game ball to Bobby Bowden for setting a new ACC record for coaching victories.
15. Personal game ball to AAA and Grant's Service Center and Wrecker Service in Monticello, FL for getting our vehicle fixed (after a 2PM breakdown just short of Tallahassee) for a reasonable price and in a timely manner so I didn't have to see my home game attendance streak snapped. Definitely look them up if you ever break down east of Tallahassee.
This was undoubtedly a big win for the FSU program trying to get back to where we want to be. The alternative would have been a crushing defeat at the hands of a decided underdog at home, so even a one point W is something we should strongly embrace in favor of that alternative. This is a game where we can really turn a negative into a positive. If the team can learn to play with the fire displayed in the final minutes of the game all the time, we might just have something special brewing. But I think it's still too soon to reach that conclusion. As is, it was a huge scare that we managed to wiggle out of against a team that was a lot better than we expected them to be. We're 3-0. That's definitely much better than 2-1 We have a tough Colorado team coming to Tallahassee for the first time. I hope their big defeat at the hands of Washington State doesn't take away from our focus this week. Here's hoping for a great effort Saturday in a game I've been looking forward to ever since it was first announced. I'll take a one point win if you'd offer it to me right now, but I'd prefer that we not have another coronary inducing game this time around.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
Offense: Chris Rix
Defense: Eric Moore (with a tip of the hat to Allen Augustin)
Special Teams: Jesse Stein (would have been Pat Watkins if a penalty didn't negate a second good special teams tackle he made).