Another thought on the second half of the Tech-Georgia debacle.

Chris Brown has a post up at Smart Football about some recent comments former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne made about the spread offense and about the next big thing in college football, in particular about Paul Johnson’s triple option.  It’s all worth a look, but this passage from Chris caught my eye:

… When Georgia Tech ran all over Miami and Georgia, a lot of it came in the second half. Often, it seemed like the defense had two guys defending, say, the pitch guy, or the quarterback, and none on the guy who wound up running for a forty-yard run. The reason for that was because Johnson knows how to vary his blocking and assignments to take away the guy responsible for those players. So when announcers like to say that you play “assignment” football to stop the option that is only partially true. If you do, Johnson figures out who is “assigned” to his guys and blocks them, and then lets the reads take care of themselves. So this is where execution and soundness of an offense meet uniqueness.

I hope this doesn’t come off sounding like sour grapes, but that’s not exactly what I saw.  Georgia did a good job on Nesbitt most of the day and a fairly good job stopping the fullback dive play.  But, with very few exceptions, Tech killed Georgia with the outside pitch all day.  If Johnson had to change anything about how he ran those specific plays, I didn’t catch it.  And I think some of the success running them had to be attributed to the same bugaboos that plagued Georgia’s run defense throughout the season’s second half.

Sometimes, a good offensive strategy boils down to little more than running a certain type of play over and over again until the other guy proves he can stop it.


Filed under Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The Blogosphere

32 responses to “Another thought on the second half of the Tech-Georgia debacle.

  1. Richt-Flair

    The one adjustment I saw was that Johnson sent linemen after our safteies or linebackers who weren’t assigned specifically to the outside pitch, but were moving that way to help. I don’t think those players were expecting blocks from a center or guard, and when they got taken out of the action, the only thing standing in the way of Jones or Dwyer were shoulder nudges.


  2. dean

    I’m going to have to agree with you on that one Senator. After painfully watching the replay I didn’t notice any blocking or scheme changes by Tech. Granted I’m no coach or expert on the topic but the same linemen were pulling and basically blocking a certain area not defender. What seemed to change was the energy or the GATA attitude of the defense, not to mention piss-poor tackling. I honestly believe they thought it was over. Even after Tech scored two TD’s in about a 5 minute span. It was not the same defense that shut down Tech in the first half. Anyway I didn’t pick up on any adjustment made by Tech. PJ just kept coming at us and believing it would open up and it did. Hats off to him and the players.


  3. peacedog

    Grain of salt, but I’ve seen/heard mention several times that Johnson did make adjustments to his blocking schemes in the second half. Richt-Flair may be onto something here.

    I don’t know, and have not had the chance to re-watch with an eye trained on such things. If it’s true, it sounds like a crafty adjustment. But not one that sufficiently explains the rollover on D, IMO.


  4. I’d buy this more if we didn’t have guys whiffing tackles early on every major Tech run.


  5. Heyberto

    Senator, I agree with your post 100%, and its why I’m not on Martinez’s back about him as a coordinator. I didn’t see problems with his overall schemes, per se… just with broken tackles, the playerd didn’t play hard and get after it. For that, I hold Richt primarily responsible,and to a lesser degree the entire coaching staff. I don’t see where Martinez alone is responsible for team motivation to play hard. It’s like no one was able to instill any confidence in this unit at all… but I also don’t think it was from lack of trying on the staff’s part.


  6. baltimore dawg

    i can’t bear to watch the replay, so i can’t weigh in on either side as to whether or not tech adjusted blocking assignments in the second half.

    but if chris brown is right that tech did this against georgia and miami, isn’t that something that our coaches should have, you know, spotted in watching film, been alert to at the half, and developed a counter-strategy to put in place in anticipation of such blocking adjustments?

    i’ll split the baby: i’ll say our d just collapsed again per the senator *and* that tech made some adjustments that contributed to that collapse that, if recent history is any guide, our coaches were not prepared for.


  7. Spence

    There’s quotes from Paul Johnson at halftime talking about how we were moving our safeties up and how Tech was in good shape. On that 3rd and 7 play that broke our back, Rashad Jones was blocked by a lineman, I think a guard. RJ got off the block, took a crappy angle, and then did the infamous shoulder nudge.

    I know next to nothing about football when it comes to SMQ or Smart Football type knowledge. But I do know that Paul Johnson isn’t an idiot and, not being an idiot, he probably made adjustments to an offense that wasn’t working in the first half.

    I also am dubious of Willie Martinez’s ability to make in-game adjustments or to anticipate adjustments the other team will make.

    Finally, why is it that when I watch the Falcon’s defense I get a nostalgic reminder of what a bad-ass death squad we used to have? Hint: It rhymes with Sman Forder.


  8. Ally

    “I also am dubious of Willie Martinez’s ability to make in-game adjustments or to anticipate adjustments the other team will make.”

    Bingo! We have a winner.

    PJ capitalized on our weaknesses and ran what began to work – that doesn’t make him a genius, but it does make him a winner.

    For whatever reason our Defensive Coaches have shown time after time, the last 4 years especially, they are inept to making in-game adjustments. That doesn’t make Willie a loser, but it does expose him as continually getting out-coached.


  9. Ben

    Whether PJ adjusted or not, nothing is gonna change until we stop trying to ram someone out of bounds with our shoulders, or quit with that pansy arm tackling. If thats what we’re gonna do against MSU, Ringer is definitely gonna go out on the high note he is hoping for.


  10. zan

    You may still just be bitter or need to study up and watch more spread option football.

    Some has to do with sticking our blocks that were missed in the first half, most has to do with adjustments of blocking scheme. UGA didn’t stop the dive, in fact I would say the thought of the BB Dive allowed the outside pitches to go for deep gains. The defense scheme and CPJ’s adjustment to the defense scheme is what killed UGA.

    Before half, CPJ had set it up and noticed UGA stacking one extra player to a particular side of the field. In the locker room, he drew up the first play of the second half to take advantage of that.

    There was no answer from UGA on Tech’s offense because the coaches don’t understand it. Most fans don’t understand it. UGA never understood Georgia Southern when Southern ran it. Remember, every play the spread option has at least two more players than the defense. That’s the beauty of it. And Paul Johnson’s in game coaching just makes it work so much better.


  11. “UGA was too busy making note of the weather, checking out the cheerleaders, and thinking about the South Carolina game when Southern ran it.”

    Fixed it for you.


  12. zan, I noticed Tech’s success running to the weak side – in both halves.

    I also noticed that Georgia had pretty good success stopping the dive in the first half… not so much in the second.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the coaches not understanding the triple option, though. It’s an offense that puts a premium on a defense playing smart, disciplined ball, which Georgia did for a half.

    Was the second half meltdown caused by scheme or by execution is the question we’ve been trying to grapple with since the game. As the Dawg D imploded as badly against two other offenses running very different platforms than Tech, I lean towards the latter. As a Tech fan who takes justified pride in what Johnson’s accomplished this year, you disagree.

    As for that first play of the second half, they’d run it to the strong side and the weak side in the first half. Georgia shut the strong side play down for little gain; the weak side play gained over ten yards and a first down. In both cases, though, the Tech runner was tackled competently. That wasn’t the case after the half.

    Congrats on a great season.


  13. zan, by the way, as for your “UGA never understood Georgia Southern when Southern ran it” comment, what are you talking about?

    The Eagles were almost shut out in 2000 and were held to less than 250 yards. In ’04 it was 41-14 going into the fourth quarter when Richt called off the dogs and let the third and fourth stringers play, against whom GSU scored a couple of TDs. In three quarters, GSU had less than 200 yards offense against the Georgia starters.


  14. Derek

    Johnson did adjust and even more aggravating is the fact that we made it easy on him. As we will recall we opened in a 4-2-5 defense. We played 5 DB’s 3 of whom were safeties. The three safeties were rotated slightly towards the strong side. What that meant was that the weak side safety who had pitch responsibility had a greater distance to travel to make the play.

    Knowing that we put the play side safety on the pitch man every time, the adjustment was easy. They would put both wr’s on one side of the ball and run weakside. Even if the safety made the tackle it was a 4-7 yrd gain each time. They also saw that we never had the corner take pitch responsibility so that allowed the wr’s to take a slightly inside angle so they could just chip the safety who was trying to make the play on the pitch. These minor adjusments at halftime meant that Tech had 6 offensive points at the half and 33 in the second.

    The problem was not the base set or the basic responsibilities. The issue was why we never seemed to modify those responsibilities so that we would not be so predictable. Meaning, why not have the corner crash in a smash Roddy Jones in the jaw while he is looking in for the pitch every now and then? You can have the safety rotate over to handle the wr just as we always do with corner blitzes. Also, why not have the DE take QB responsibility every now and then so that the QB has to actually make a read instead of knowing that the DE is crashing every play? Seems to me that giving Tech some things to think about may have led to some turnovers and if nothing else, would have made Tech’s adjustments less effective.

    Any team that runs Tech’s offense has the inherent advantage of running the same plays with vastly different blocking schemes. The way to minimize the effectiveness of that is to vary the defense’s assignments. If a triple option offense never changed blocking schemes they’d never score. So they will ALWAYS adjust. Our challenge is to make it difficult/risky to adjust.


  15. Dawg 05

    Derek wins.


  16. The problem was not the base set or the basic responsibilities. The issue was why we never seemed to modify those responsibilities so that we would not be so predictable. Meaning, why not have the corner crash in a smash Roddy Jones in the jaw while he is looking in for the pitch every now and then? You can have the safety rotate over to handle the wr just as we always do with corner blitzes. Also, why not have the DE take QB responsibility every now and then so that the QB has to actually make a read instead of knowing that the DE is crashing every play? Seems to me that giving Tech some things to think about may have led to some turnovers and if nothing else, would have made Tech’s adjustments less effective.

    Two things: first, something was going right on defense in the first half, as Tech’s offense was held to six points, so it’s tough to fault Martinez for not making adjustments going into the second half. Second, you’re spot on about the defense needing to be more physical, not just with Jones, but also with Nesbitt.


  17. Derek

    Well, it may be a lessoned learned sort of deal for Martinez, but it is hard for me to understand how any DC wouldn’t know that halftime adjustments would be made and that we’d have to adjust to them. I mean we had a lead and did score 42, so we had plenty of room to make the adjustments in the second half during the extensive TV timeouts.

    It is entirely possible that the staff didn’t think that Tech could adjust to the 4-2-5 look, and because of that they had no back up plan.

    I’ll say this though; if you changed responsibilities with each new drive, Tech will never ever score 45 points. Why? Because the tendencies that they will want to exploit in the next drive no longer exist. Now can you get a team to learn how to do that? Probably pretty hard and that may have been the real problem. I wouldn’t know though because I haven’t had complicated conversation with Reshad Jones and Prince Miller.

    As long as Tech has inferior atheletes, it will play a cat and mouse game. It wears the other team down, not so much pshysically as it does mentally. Anyone who has ever played football will tell you that there is nothing feeling more helpless than watching a team run the ball up and down the field and it doesn’t have to be because they are more physical. All they have to do is be clever. If Tech ever does get really good players, then they may just impose their will. That didn’t happen in this game. They simply out foxed us and I hate to say it but it looked to me like we had retard playing chess against Boris Spassky.


  18. Ben

    Zan -1
    Senator +1
    Derek +2

    Zan lost his point for trying to tell us that our “coaches don’t understand it and most fans don’t either”. BOOOOOOO….
    It’s not that hard of an offense to “understand”, even though the view from above might make it look crazy to those who don’t understand different offenses and schemes.

    Derek, I give you the extra point for Boris Spassky. Touche.


  19. Ben

    Actually I take that back…Zan loses his point for posting in the first place.


  20. PNWDawg

    “retard playing chess against Boris Spassky.” That painted a vivid picture in my mind.

    It was strange to see an offense adjusting to Martinez after the half. As much as I try to defend the guy I will be the first to admit his ability to adjust during the actual game is troubling at the least. So how much of that inability, I wonder, is due to coaching and how much is due to having players with a low football IQ? I.E. could Spassky teach a retard to play some serious chess? (And no, I’m not even coming close to saying Martinez is the Spassky of defense.)


  21. Spence

    One of my biggest issues with Willie is that in the last 4 years he has shown a discouraging propensity to play the 4-2-5 all the time. I understand that offenses have changed and that against the spread the 4-2-5 is a good way to go. However, Richt has said that our basic defensive philosophy hasn’t changed since 2001. I couldn’t disagree more.

    Willie loves the 4-2-5, and he used it almost exclusively against the Yellow Jackets. Why we can’t mix in some 4-3-4 every now and again is beyond me. Regardless, to my untrained eye our defense appears predictable, and as the Senator said, it was exposed by three very different styles of offenses this year.

    Finally, Dannell Ellerbe was seriously hurt during the game, but was in during some key plays including the 3rd and 7 that haunts me worse than Terrance Edward’s drop in 2002. Ellerbe literally stood and watched as Roddy White went by him. Maybe Daryl Gamble is an unacceptable (SEC Player of the Week) replacement, but I’d like to see more of him or any of our other promising young linebackers in the game if our stud is hurt. That’s a coaching decision, plain and simple.


  22. Richt-Flair


    Gamble broke his leg earlier in the game, fwiw. Evans, who had a good first half at safety, was out the second half too with a sprained ankle I believe.


  23. 69Dawg

    Triple-Option D -Tackle them all and let God sort them out.


  24. Ben

    Just another morsel to throw at everyone and get some feedback. I hate UGA losing like no other, but if we lose to MSU, would that in any way help propel Martinez out the door? If the answer is yes, I could easily swallow a loss in the bowl for that. (Or maybe a 51-49 win where the opposing offense makes the Dawg D look terrible but Staff, Moreno, and MoMass bail them out!!!)


  25. GreenvilleDawg

    Senator is spot on. For me it all goes to the scheme. Why we didn’t disturb the pitch at all in the Tech game still blows my mind. Tech completed 1 pass the whole game. Our defensive strategy was to not get beat by the fullback. We were largely successful on that one – save an Ellerbe missed tackle on Dwyer to start the second half. With our team speed, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect our D to be capable of multi-tasking (stuffing the inside AND controlling the outside) by creating big problems for the pitch game through a combination of penetration + disciplined containment. There is no excuse to get beat outside like we did. It’s not like Roddy is a speed merchant. A couple of times our safeties actually ended up getting in way of LBs flying toward the ball. And if you go back to the FLA game, look at the first touchdown. Tebow pitches the ball to Harvin and nobody on our D is even in the same zipcode as the pitchman. Finally, why, after RS fumbles do we not just drive those boys back and force them to kick a long field goal? A nasty D does just that – particularly against a team the completes just one pass. Against Tech, our offense deserved much more. What happened to the days when if someone put 20 points on us it was a poor defensive outing. Has anyone looked into the number of big plays (40+ yards) we’ve given in the past 4 years versus the previous 4 years. The more I think about it, the more I realize that we gave up some serious points this year.


  26. Macallanlover

    Disappointing to see the Martinez bashers continue their cheap shots. Schematically, UGA was fine in the GT game, lousy execution when put in the position to make plays was the primary culprit (along with a “we have this one in the bag” attitude after dominating both sides of the ball in the 1st half.) In looking back at the back-breaking plays, UGA had one or more players absolutely whiff when it came time to make the play. I don’t like calling specific players out, but the video from that game is pretty clear. This loss was on the players; it usually is. UGA fans seem to take up for the players not giving their all, or being focused whether it is on the field or off. We have some issues to be addressed before next year, but staff changes aren’t the issue. It is on the staff to make some changes in how players will act, and react. This very same staff has proven they are capable of doing that. We will see soon enough.

    I do wish those who beg for the return of BVG, or continue to worship him would recall what kind of thinker he has proven to be…starting with his childish, temper tandrum when he left UGA high and dry at a crucial point in the recruiting process. He may be your kind of guy, but I wouldn’t want him back if he agreed to work for free. Forget how embarrassing his decision making has been since then, just remember how he crapped on Dawg fans. He made Muschamp seem like a calm, poised thinker! Salivate all you want, neither one of them is coming back, but go ahead and tear down those who are working hard to get recruits on board and help this program achieve another SEC title next year. Sure, their job will be harder because of you, but they will give it a good shot. Meanwhile pat yourselves on the back and tell yourself this public lynching is really in the program’s best interest.


  27. Coastal dawg

    A good point about in-game adjustments by Derek. It got me to thinking about Phat Phil’s comments before the half of the “06 disaster in Athens. He was very confident – which surprised me at the time – and said something to the effect of “we see somethings and they won’t be albe to stop us.”

    I will give WM credit, when things aren’t working he makes changes. Maybe when they are he doesn’t think to make changes or anticipate adjustments from the opposition.

    This may partially explain the second halves against LSU, Florida and Tech.


    • ’06 Tennessee is a game where Martinez does deserve to have a few brickbats thrown his way.

      The Vols didn’t adjust in the second half; Cutcliffe went to a one-back, three-wide receiver set in the later stages of the second quarter and shredded the Dawg defense on a TD drive. No changes made in the second half, and the rout was on. Sure, Georgia hurt itself with some unfortunate turnovers, but Ainge and those receivers met with no resistance. None.


  28. Jim

    Martinez bashers? You probably want to give Goff or donnan another year. All three are decent people but if you want to consistently win they are not the coaches you want. If it was one bad year with WM you would be correct, but four years into this I am starting to lose my good nature. I hope things turn around but given our results over the past four years do not expect 2009 to be a good year. If we do not score 35 points a game on average next year, look to lose at least six games. Whether it is the deer in the headlight (Tenn, WV or Alabama) or we could not get motivated (GA Tech or others), it comes down to coaching. As I have pointed out, the situation is not getting better nor stablizing, it is getting worse as the opposing coaches catch on and realize what our defensive issues are. We do not adjust and the other teams take advantage. We are predicable and do not tackle well.


  29. Dog in Fla

    Everyone must be stealing our defensive signals…