UGA Football

Georgia not forgetting about Georgia Tech’s deep ball

Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) sets up to launch a pass down the field.
Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) sets up to launch a pass down the field. AP

Georgia Tech’s offensive game plan is always, first and foremost, to run the ball — a lot.

The Yellow Jackets average 319.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the nation. They average a whopping 58.6 carries per game. Judging by those numbers alone, it would appear that the passing game doesn’t mean much to Georgia Tech.

That’s not the case.

No, the Yellow Jackets aren’t trying to test teams through the air often. But when they do, it’s generally to go deep down the field.

“When they do pass the ball, they really strike guys,” safety J.R. Reed. “That’s the main thing we have to take care of in the back end, is the passing attack they do have.”

Georgia Tech’s philosophy is to repeatedly hit the opposition with run after run. Then, when a defense is least expecting it, Georgia Tech will call a pass off of a run formation it has shown previously. The goal is to suck the defensive backs down for the run threat while freeing up a receiver deep down the field.

This is how Georgia Tech was able to rally from 13 points down in the fourth quarter a year ago to defeat Georgia 28-27.

The big term this week for Georgia has been “eye discipline,” with each Georgia defender saying that it is imperative keep his eyes in the right place. One mistake against a timing-oriented option attack can be crucial in allowing a big gain on a pass play.

“It's what got us last year,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “You don't have good eye discipline, you don't have good eye transfer, they can get you. And they watch every play. They know when you mess one up. It doesn't take them long to figure out, whoops, he's not looking at the right thing, and then they expose you.”

Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall has shown the ability to crush opponents with the big passing play.

While Marshall hasn’t completed 50 percent of his passes in a game since Georgia Tech’s 33-7 win over North Carolina on Sept. 30, his ability to hit the deep ball has been tough for his opponents. Against Virginia Tech, Marshall completed only two of eight passes. Yet one completion went for an 80-yard touchdown and the other went for a 60-yard score in a 28-22 victory.

Marshall has averaged 21.7 yards per completion, indicating Georgia Tech’s passing attack is predicated on going deep after the option run has set things up.

“Your eyes have to be in the right place,” outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. “There are a lot of distractions. It’s a lot of stuff going on. Once you take your eyes off of something, the DBs get to slipping. That’s when they hit you for big chunk plays. That’s what we have to eliminate. We have to eliminate the explosives.”

The passing part of Georgia Tech’s offense is arguably what makes it so difficult to defend. While the Yellow Jackets employ a lot of cut blocking and utilize exceptional timing on the option runs, offering that deep threat is what helps keep opponents from playing downhill on defense.

“When you watch them play throughout the year, they have hit bomb after bomb after bomb,” Smart said. “People have the same problem. So it's an eye discipline thing and you have to play really well on the back end.”

Jason Butt: @JasonHButt