Shanna Lockwood


One or two weeks every football season, Pitt goes up against a team that runs the triple option. This week, Georgia Tech and its flexbone triple-option come to Heinz Field. gives you an inside look at the Yellow Jackets with publisher Jonathan Leifheit.

What’s the overall mood around this Georgia Tech team after it lost a game due to what seemed to be a couple heartbreaking plays?

“They’re kind of pissed. They’re just not happy. They know they can play better. They’re a little bit annoyed with themselves. I’m not sure they’re down on themselves, but I know they are kind of pissed off with how they performed.”

How has Georgia Tech been able to do so well against the run? Who have been the key contributors in the run defense?

“The first one is Pat Gamble. He’s a defensive tackle. He’s done a really good job with helping clog things up and held blockers off for a while to help the linebackers. The two defensive ends Roderick Rook-Chungong and KeShun Freeman have both played pretty well. Their defensive backs haven’t been that great. Cornerback Step Durham is questionable for the game with an injury. He has been one of the better players overall for this team. Generally speaking, their cornerbacks get themselves in good position but they are really undersized. And a lot of receivers really use that to their advantage, so the defensive backs rack up a lot of tackles, but it’s not necessarily because they’re good. It’s because they’re not stopping the pass; they should be defending the pass but they’re making tackles after completions.”

For people who are only used to watching the triple option once a year, what should people expect down-to-down? How routine is this offense? Does it stick to predictable, assignment football?

"Most people, when they look at it, they’ll see the same play run two or three times. But what they don’t see is, and that’s just because if you watch the ball carrier, that they’re going to run the same thing either left or right. If they run the triple option three times, one time you might drag an a-back in to catch the linebacker. Another time, depending on where the linebacker lines up, you might see the center run out and take the linebacker. The big variable in how the offense is run is who blocks who. Their goal is to get somebody on the edge in a one-on-one or a one-on-none situation and get numbers. So that’s the big thing they look at from there. They’ll do some things that go against the rules. Normally if you line up in the triple option, you count the defenders on your left, then your right, and you go to the side where you’ve got numbers. Normally, if you have five on one and six on the other, you run to the five side. Sometimes you run to the six because they’ll motion somebody to the weak side."

What kinds of things do you look at to evaluate the offense in a triple option scheme?

"One of the things you want to look at is third-down percentage. In 2014, there wasn’t great production looking at yardage and points, but from an efficiency standpoint, it was one of the all-time great efficient offenses. That team set some records when it came to third-down conversion percentage, fourth-down conversion percentage, possession time and plays over 10 yards. People have this notion that the offense is three yards and a cloud of dust. But, when you look at the percentages of explosive plays, which are 10 yards and 20 yards and above, Georgia Tech is typically up at the top on that one, too."

Georgia Tech’s kicker Harrison Butker has only attempted two field goals this season. Why is he so lightly used?

“If the offense gets down inside the 40 yard-line, that usually means the offense is clicking along pretty decently. If they get to a fourth down and three yards or less, they will probably go for it across the 50 yard-line. But if they do need points, Harris Butker is a very good kicker. And I will be surprised if Pitt gets a return during this game on kickoffs.”

Pitt’s pass defense is really bad this season. How do you think this Georgia Tech offense will try to use this to its advantage?

“I think one thing Georgia Tech does on offense is they like to throw a smoke route. If corners are playing way off, what they’ll typically do is throw a pass right into the flat right off the stand-up so that he’s in a one-on-one situation, and the other thing they’ll do is run the a-backs into the flats. The third thing they might do is run the wheel route using the b-back. Those are the things they’ll probably do. Their receivers are all very big and physical.”

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