Thrown For A Loss?

We all know that Georgia Tech likes to blitz. But what kind of results have the Yellow Jackets gotten from their pressure defense, and how will they come into play against the Mountaineer offense?

Head coach Rich Rodriguez was quick to point out during WVU's pre-bowl practices in Morgantown that the Jackets like to blitz. That's a common Rodriguez ploy – point out one item from an opponent that the media can latch on to, and thus deflect attention from other items the coach would prefer to not talk about (in this case, it's probably his hobbled starting backfield). But we'll take the bait again, because there's an interesting aspect to Tech's pressure defense no one has talked about yet – tackles for losses.

On the year, Tech defenders have made 84 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total of 398 yards in losses. That averages out to 30.6 yards per game – good numbers, but not a huge detriment to opposing offenses. The 84 stops ranks just 34th on the NCAA's statistical leader board in that category – again, nothing to strike fear in the hearts of opposing teams.

Heck, against South Florida, West Virginia was hit for 47 yards in losses – half again as many as Tech averages per game.

Need another pointer on the effectiveness of the blitz? Tech recorded 35 sacks with its blitz-happy scheme, for a total of 271 yards in losses. West Virginia, with its much maligned pass rush, managed 29 for 199 yards in backward movement. So, over the course of the year, Tech averaged about ½ sack more per game and 5.5 more yards in losses. Again, that might not be a huge area of concern for a Mountaineer offense that averaged 463 yards per game.

So, when Tech unleashes its blitzers its key is not getting big losses. Their tackles behind the line averaged just 4.7 yards per loss (in comparison, WVU averaged 4.3 yards per tackle for loss). Instead, Tech's defense is designed to disrupt timing of plays – get backs running sideways, mess up blocking assignments and angles, make the quarterback throw off rhythm. Often, it's not the first defender in the backfield that makes the play, but rather the wave of following teammates that end up making the play. The NCAA doesn't keep statistics on the number of one- or two-yard gains, but it's a reasonable bet that Tech, like West Virginia, would be reasonably high in those rankings as well.

Instead, Tech tries to create havoc and confusion up front, while also guarding against the big play with a secondary that plays conservatively. It does so by sending a blitzer or two from different locations, on different routes, but without leaving its secondary exposed in the backfield. It forces the quarterback to make quick decisions on passing downs, and makes running backs commit before they would like to. So, while the Tech defense isn't overwhelming statistically (it yields more than 200 yards per game through the air) it is able to do a couple of things well. It doesn't let teams beat it on the ground, and it gets of the field on third down. The Jackets allow a success rate of just 31% on third downs this year; a number the Mountaineers (42%) would love to approach.

Therefore, while Tech will bring rushers from different angles and positions in an attempt to confuse West Virginia's zone blocking schemes, there shouldn't be a huge number of negative plays created. That's good news for a Mountaineer offense, which could never get out of the hole created by the losses South Florida inflicted on them in first down situations. WVU will have to be patient against the Tech defense, accept the fact that not every play is going to be a 40-yard dash through a huge gap, and take short gains when they are there. If the West Virginia offense can do that, it could turn the tables and bring some frustration to bear on a defense that's used to dishing it out.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories