GT Game Analysis: Hokies Carry Out Strong Game Plan

Frank Beamer always says that in any sport there will be tough losses. But
the true measure of a team is its ability to rebound from adversity. The
adversity has never been more evident than last Thursday night as the Hokies hit
the road to face a tough Georgia Tech team just seven days after a gut-wrenching
last second home loss to Boston College. No team could have rebounded more
decisively. The resilient Hokies shook off the BC loss and dominated the Yellow
Jackets in all three phases of the game, sending the home crowd to the exits
early and the ESPN TV broadcast into a CSI episode on stolen jerseys and a side
lesson on the Teletubbies.

For the first time the Hokies demonstrated the identity that had evaded them
all season. The defense stuffed the run and forced turnovers, the offense
controlled the ball and closed drives with touchdowns, and the special teams hit
for big plays. It was the performance everyone had been waiting to see and it
came on the heels of one of the most devastating losses in the program’s
history.

Over the years, “Beamer Ball” has been defined by strong defense
and special teams. After so many examples over the years (including Thursday
night), I would add “resilient” to the description.

Game Overview

This was a game where two excellent game plans were well executed on both
sides of the ball. As with most teams, John Bond and GT’s offense struggled to
sustain drives against Bud Foster’s defense. On the other side, Bryan
Stinespring and the Hokie offense always seemed one step ahead of Jon Tenuta and
his vaunted zone blitzing defense.

Let’s break down each game plan and analyze how each was executed on the
field, starting with the offense.

Offensive Game Plan

Georgia Tech’s defense is known for their wide array of zone blitz looks —
they will bring anyone at any time from any position, normally playing some form
of zone coverage behind the pressure. It’s a defense that can be very difficult
to read pre-snap, and they bank on the fact that they can get to the QB before
he can find the open receiver down the field.

On
the other hand, the Hokies knew that if they could get them blocked, then some
big plays were possible. Easier said than done, particularly for an offense that
has struggled for most of the season.

Not in this game.

Bryan Stinespring and the Hokie offense had an outstanding game plan prepared
to attack all of those different blitzes by Jon Tenuta and the Yellow Jacket
defense. The plan was to work the flats with the short passing game, force the
defense to adjust, and then mix the running game with play action passes deep
down the field.

The most critical aspect was to get them blocked early. To do so, the Hokies
used a variety of protection packages from maximum protection to slide
protection. To max protect, they used multiple 2-back formations, assigning one
blocker for every rusher (eg, seven blockers for seven rushers). FB Carlton
Weatherford played a lot in this game and was a big part of the max protect
packages. Along with Branden Ore, the two backs were usually assigned to blitz
pick-up and both did an excellent job executing those assignments.

In slide protection, the Hokies would adjust or slide their protection to
account for numbers to one side or the other, leaving a backside defender
unblocked. Utilizing the quick passing game, the slide protection was effective
in opening up the passing lane while the quick passes neutralized the pressure
coming free backside.

The Georgia Tech defense was their normally aggressive selves, blitzing on
nearly every down while playing 5-6 man zones in coverage. That left a number of
holes available — the Hokies just had to find them before the pressure arrived.
Conscious of the speed advantage the Hokies had at wide receiver, the GT zones
were geared to defending the deep and middle areas of the field. The Hokies
promoted the concept by using an inside receiver (either a WR or a TE) to occupy
the outside LB’s and safeties, leaving the outside receiver open to work the
flats on deep outs and comeback routes. With the linebackers and safeties either
blitzing or occupied in the middle of the field and the corners playing soft,
the Hokies were able to work the flat areas

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