Limiting QB in Jackets' triple option even more important

The Clemson Sports Blog

In this photo taken Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee (2) drops back to pass during an NCAA football game against Presbyterian in Atlanta.

AP Photo

In this photo taken Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee (2) drops back to pass during an NCAA football game against Presbyterian in Atlanta.

Stopping the Georgia Tech spread option – or at least slowing it down – hasn’t happened four of the five times Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have met Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets.

Since 2008, Georgia Tech has averaged 293 rushing yards and 26.8 points per game against orange-and-white clad defenders.

But last year was a new wrinkle, Tech quarterback Tevin Washington rushed for a school record 176 yards for a QB with a touchdown. Washington made up 40.2 percent of the carries in that game, and his impact in the running game has only increased this season.

Georgia Tech offense breakdown

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The senior dual-threat makes up 51.9 percent of Georgia Tech’s touchdowns, punching in an ACC-leading 11 scores just on the ground.

Washington hasn’t topped 100 rushing yards yet this season though and is coming off his worst performance as a starter (4 yards) in the loss to Middle Tennessee State, but is still averaging 3.9 yards per carry with 28.4 percent of the rushing attempts.

Overall, Georgia Tech is third nationally in rushing offense (329.4 yards per game), averaging six yards per carry on 55 attempts per – scoring 39.2 points per game.

Coming in to the 2011 matchup, the spread option attack averaged 321.1 YPG with 5.9 YPC on 54.3 APG – scoring 38.4 PPG.

Against the then 8-0 and top-5 Tigers last year, they hit those marks and more – 383 rushing yards (5.7 yards per carry) on 67 rushing attempts and 76 plays total. Washington had only nine passing attempts, averaging 6.7 yards per.

(Half) GT Field Position Plays-Yards Possession Result
(1st) GT 40 3 - 0 1:38 Punt
(1st) GT 29 3 - (-8) 1:44 Punt (3-0 Clemson)
(1st) CU 19 (after CU fumble) 6 - 19 2:58 TD (7-3 GT)
(1st) GT 24 8 - 71 3:15 FG (10-3 GT)
(1st) GT 20 10 - 80 4:19 TD (17-3 GT)
(1st) GT 22 9 - 78 3:45 TD (24-3 GT)
(2nd) GT 23 5 - 77 1:58 TD (31-10 GT)
(2nd) GT 39 11 - 58 6:07 Fumble
(2nd) GT 25 3 - 3 2:35 Punt (31-17 GT)
(2nd) GT 15 1 - 0 :12 INT
(2nd) GT 20 (after CU INT in endzone) 16 - 58 9:04 Downs
(2nd) CU 49 (after CU INT) 2 - (-6) 1:06 Kneel downs

This season, Washington is hitting 10.3 yards per on 64 passes (for comparison, Tajh Boyd’s is 8.4 on 160), while sophomore quarterback Vad Lee has averaged 14.6 yards per in a limited role mostly in a new Pistol formation look.

Last week in Chestnut Hill, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was frustrated with breakdowns, especially in the secondary, but the good sign for this week, was a dominating rush defense. The Eagles were limited to 51 rushing yards and 1.8 yards per rush (1.8) on 28 attempts – a season-best in both for what was a 100th-ranked rushing defense coming in.

Third down defense is another front Clemson must out-flank Georgia Tech, who converted 7-of-14 in last year's game (1-of-2 on fourth down). The Tiger D ranks 23rd nationally in third down defense and has stopped 6-of-9 fourth down tries.

The Yellow Jackets aren’t excelling as much on third downs as ’11, 40th in the nation (45.5 percent) and 7-of-13 on fourth down.

Clemson v. Clemson

Evidenced by Nuk Hopkins’ record-breaking run so far this season, the ’12 Clemson offense is besting year one of Chad Morris’ scheme in a number of categories still in the same five-game comparison.

In general stats, this season’s are up in scoring offense (40.2-34.8), total yards (510.8-466.8), plays (80-76.8), explosive plays (10.4-9.6) and yards per play (6.4-6.1), but are slightly down in third down conversions (50.6-51 percent).

Tajh Boyd is averaging more in completion percentage (69.4-61.3) and passing efficiency (161.3-159.4), but trails in passing yards (348.4-271.2) and yards per pass (8.7-8.4).

On the ground, the 2012 Tigers edge ’11 in rushing yards (200.6-173.6) and yards per carry (4.8-4.0).

Defensively, Kevin Steele’s defense surrendered 376 yards and 20.6 points per game through five contests, while Venables certainly has a reason for his frustration so far – allowing 438 yards and 26.6 points per game.

Category '12 Clemson '11 Clemson
Scoring Offense 40.2 PPG 34.8 PPG
Total Yards 510.8 YPG 466.8 YPG
Cmp. Pct. (Tajh Boyd) 69.4 61.3
Yards Per Pass (Tajh Boyd) 8.4 8.7
Passing Efficiency (Tajh Boyd) 161.3 159.4
Plays per game 80 76.8
Explosive plays per game 10.4 9.6
3rd Down Pct. 50.6 51
Yards Per Carry 4.8 4.0
Yards Per Play 6.4 6.1

Stats to Win

I’ve used Seldom Used Reserve’s six important stats as a tool for measuring Clemson’s success this season – edging an opponent in those categories correlating to a win 70 percent or better last season.

GT 3-4 defense, ball security crucial

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In Chestnut Hill, the Tigers swept the six for the first time this season, with significant edges in rushing yards (209-51), yards per rush (4.5-1.8) and rush attempts (46-28), and still on top in yards per pass (9.7-8.4), yards per play (6.9-5.8) and total yards (576-420).

Through four weeks, SUR had turnovers as a bigger factor this season than last, with teams with two or more turnovers winning just 33.9 percent of the time. The Tigers are averaging a turnover per game (No. 1 in the ACC), and according to Swinney, haven’t lost with the advantage in turnover margin since the overtime loss at Auburn in 2010.

Georgia Tech's offense is typically turnover prone, but only averaging 1.8 turnovers per game and at even in turnover margin on the season.

Category Clemson BC
Yards Per Pass 9.7 8.4
Yards Per Play 6.9 5.8
Total Yards 576 420
Rushing Yards 209 51
Yards Per Rush 4.5 1.8
Rushes 46 28

Misc.

* FEI Ranks: Georgia Tech suffered the third-worst drop in Football Outsiders’ FEI ranking last week, from 29th to 62nd, after the 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State. They rank 59th in game efficiency, 35th in offensive efficiency, 69th in defensive efficiency and 96th in field position advantage (stats explained here). MTSU was 93rd in FO’s rankings before the road three-touchdown win. Clemson moved up from 27th to 19th, with an offensive efficiency of 23 and defensive of 87, ranking in the middle nationally at 56th in field position advantage.

* Red Zone Perfect No More: Thanks to some late-game sportsmanship, Clemson’s perfect red zone offense was spoiled – now 22-of-23, and they also had to kick another short field goal – their fifth red zone field goal of the season.

* Updated Boyd Range Accuracy: According to SUR, Boyd is most accurate downfield from 16-20 yards, completing 10-of-13 for 211 yards. The junior has hit 8-of-20 passes for 21-plus yards for 302 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Boyd is up to 36 behind-the-line-of-scrimmage attempts, completing all but two for 7.1 yards per pass.

* Close Calls: The twin two-touchdown wins by Clemson and Georgia Tech the last two seasons has been exception in one of the closer rivalries in the South. According to Clemson sports info, 12 of the last 17 games have been decided by five points or less. The first three were that way between the two current head coaches, all in Johnson’s favor (2008: 21-17 GT; 2009: 30-27 GT & 39-34 GT).

* Redemption: Another fun Clemson info stat is the Tigers’ record in “redemption games” – hosting a team after losing on the road the previous season like this Saturday. Under Swinney, Clemson has won four in a row and seven of the last eight in that situation (2010 South Carolina the exception). The margin of victory is what’s interesting – 18.1 points better per game in that eight-game run.

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