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R&R Q&A With “From The Rumble Seat”

September 30, 2011

Whoa, hey, a non-podcast blog post!?! What's this, you say???

Yes, yes…I know I've been sagging on my blogging duties while working on the podcast. For that I apologize (and I'll take this chance to remind anyone interested in giving State sports blogging a crack, feel free to contact me about writing for R&R–I could use your help now more than ever). 

But when Bird and Winfield of From The Rumble Seat, a fantastic Georgia Tech blog typically full of nerdy goodness you might expect from a school that cranks out a helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva lot of engineers, approached me about doing a blog Q&A, I had to do it. (Speaking of Podcasting, I convinced Winfield to join us on Monday's podcast, which you can listen to here. He appears in the second segment.)

You can find my answers to their Q&A questions here, and their answers to my questions below:

1. State won a bit of an upset last year in Bobby Dodd. What did you see from State in last year's game that gives you concern in this year's contest, or are those elements gone now?

The biggest concerns were the way State handled our offensive line and flat outschemed us.  State racked up 10 tackles for loss against Tech in 2010 and dominated along the line of scrimmage.  Every time Tech had to rely on the pass in long yardage situations created by TFL's, penalties, or miscues, we very rarely succeeded in 2010.

And Tech fans know Jon Tenuta.  He is the defensive equivalent in college football to Paul Johnson.  His cutthroat mentality and unusual defensive scheme make him a terror for any upcoming opponent (see Auburn 2003, Auburn 2005, or Notre Dame 2007 as prime examples).  There is always this small concern in the back of every Tech fan's mind that a particular defensive unit or defensive scheme has solved the triple option and if there was an example of this in 2010, it was Tenuta's D.

2. Bob Davie made an interesting comment during the broadcast of the UNC game. Paraphrasing, he basically said any coach running an unconventional offense like Paul Johnson's will have his fans turn on him the moment his team goes 6-7. Chuck Amato agreed with Davie on this week's podcast episode when I asked him the same question I'll ask you: do you think Davie was accurate in his assessment, given Tech did, in fact, finish 2010 with a 6-7 record?
I don't think this is the case at all.  Paul Johnson built up too much cache with his 2008 and 2009 squads.  He sold the Tech fans on his offense when he beat Georgie for the first time since 2000, ended Tech's 20 year drought in Charlottesville, defeated FSU for the first time in Tech's ACC history, defeated Virginia Tech, and won the 2009 ACC Title.  Hell, Georgie and VT still haven't figured out a way to slow down this offense (averaging 346 rushing YPG against them).  Davie just wanted to flap his gums.


Losing makes any fan base turn against their coach not necessarily an unconventional offense.  If Johnson had a quality that would make Tech fans turn on him, it would be his brash and arrogant attitude (similar to Mike Leach or Mark Mangino).  An arrogant asshole is more likely to turn his fans during a bad season than a coach with an odd offense, in my opinion.  But Johnson kept his attitude under wraps in 2010 so it didn't bite him.  I would keep on the lookout for zingers in 2011, however, because we're starting to see a little more swagger from CPJ.

Back to the original point.  Generally speaking, fans don't run off unconventional offensive minds because unconventional offenses are generally successful (even if they tend to be paired with poor defenses).  Chris Ault is having a rough time at Nevada but there's no way they'd ever let him go.  Ken Niumatalolo of Navy will get a BCS-calibre job in the next five years.  No one has enough time to prepare for these offenses and they just rack up yardage and points.

In fact, let's look at the recent coaching terminations. Twenty-four coaches have been fired since the 2008 season in BCS conferences for on-the-field performance. Only 2 of the coaches had top 25 offenses (Weis and Rodriguez). Six of the coaches had top 25 defenses. 10 of the coaches had top 40 defenses. Only 5 had top 40 offenses. To me, this indicates that fans have much more tolerance for a team that consistently puts up yardage and points because that is much more correlated to racking up wins in CFB (not necessarily titles but definitely W's).

3.  It seems like it took some adjusting, but the defensive scheme Al Groh has installed at Tech seems to be gaining some traction. How much more improved is this year's team defensively than the team a year ago?

It's difficult to quantify this team's improvement over 2010's defensive effort because we've played so much of our 2nd and 3rd team defenses in garbage time. The biggest difference between 2011 and 2010 is being in position.  Our players don't look like they're a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off.  Linebackers are making plays at the line of scrimmage and the secondary is vastly improved (despite passing stats to the contrary).

A big improvement on this team has been its play in the second half.  Al Groh has made very wise adjustments that have created big plays on the defensive side.  We all but closed the door to the end zone in the second half against Kansas and while UNC picked up yardage and points against Tech in the second half, they also gave up 5 sacks and a pick to our defense.  We're definitely getting the big plays that we didn't see in 2010 out of our 2011 defense.

4. Tevin Washington adds the element of a legit passing threat to this team that Josh Nesbitt could not. Is that a fair assessment or am I being too tough on your former signal caller? Are there things Nesbitt did better than Washington?

Nesbitt ran the midline option like a champion.  This is a simple option to the fullback or to keep and go off tackle.  Nesbitt had a warrior-like mentality where he would power through defensive players and it definitely contributed to him missing 6 games over his career due to injury.  He was never afraid to dive into the fray and he had the strength to do so.  If you really want to see Nesbitt's definitive collegiate play, Youtube the following: "Nesbitt steals ball from FSU player".

Tevin is a finesse runner that is more concerned with making the correct read and pitching to the A-backs.  You won't see many playcalls where Tevin is asked to dive behind the center for a 4th and 1 conversion like we did with Nesbitt.  Passing-wise, the numbers don't lie.  Tevin is connecting on pass plays that Nesbitt just didn't have the touch to complete.  Seam routes for A-backs and deep passes are being completed that would have probably been incompletions in 2010.  We're on track for our first >50% completion passer in 8 years.

5. What are your predictions for this game? Will it be much closer than people expect, or worse than even the most pessimistic State fan can imagine?

I think Tech is generally pissed about the way we were manhandled in 2010 by State (see Kansas).  We should come out with a fire but I also don't see State laying down.  I was at State in 2006 when Tech's offensive machine started out sluggish and had to rally late in the fourth quarter.  Weirder things have happened on the road in ACC play.  I think it will be a good and close game despite the ridiculous spread.  I'm thinking Tech 45, State 35.

6. Did Paul Johnson really say "punch a Georgia fan in the face?" If so, my follow up question is: How did our jackass AD let PJ slip through our fingers in 2006?

Let's refer back to the question about unusual offenses.  It takes a different kind of fan base to accept an odd offensive philosophy.  You would never see the Wreck Bone at a school like Texas, Clemson, or whoever where there are millions of angry rednecks calling in to radio shows or scribbling pissed off letters to athletic directors.  Tech has a small, intelligent fanbase that needed a shot in the arm offensively after watching Chan Gailey putter around on the sidelines for 6 years.  We had nothing to lose considering we hadn't built much of a program since George O'Leary left and a relatively weak ACC mountain to climb at the time of CPJ's hiring.

I've lived in the Carolinas for about four years now and the fans here are generally knowledgeable about the three big state schools but the commitment and willingness to take risks is not there for any of the programs outside of hoops and that's the problem, to me.  North Carolina schools need to look at successful lower tier program coaches or meteoric assistants not retreads or NFL position coaches.  That'll be another discussion for another time as State seems to locked in with Notorious TOB for a little while at least.

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