At the start of the fourth quarter in the Yellow Jackets opening game romp over Elon the game officials were taking lots of time before getting the final period underway at BDS with GT leading by a score of 63 to 0. At first it appeared that one team’s coaching staff had lost communication to those members watching the game up in the press box which requires that both teams cease all communications to level the playing field. Then in a decision that I’ve never heard of in a college football game the referees at the request of Jason Swepson, the Head Coach for Elon, made the request of Paul Johnson to finish the game with a running clock. Apparently in the minutiae of the rules this arcane provision is permitted upon mutual agreement by the coaches and obviously is an outgrowth of the so called mercy rule in NCAA baseball whereby a game can be ruled over if a team is ahead by ten (10) or more runs after seven innings.
This brings up a very interesting debate related to sportsmanship and the comment made many years ago by the old ball coach Steve Spurrier when he was still coaching at Florida and asked why he was still passing late in the game with an insurmountable lead? His response was vintage Spurrier when he said; “they have scholarship athletes too.” While this past weekend two FCS Teams scored major upsets over top twenty-five BCS ranked football teams with Eastern Washington defeating Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon, and North Dakota State, a two time defending FCS Champion knocking off Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, generally these opening FCS v. BCS games end up like the Elon v. Georgia Tech game with a lopsided score. Given that Elon was paid a great deal of money to schedule and play the game against Georgia Tech, should they be required to play the game under the normal clock rules like both North Dakota State and Eastern Washington did in their contested games?
Like Spurrier said; they have scholarship athletes too? While the continuous clock obviously ended the game sooner, it also took away valuable reps from backup players that now might have to be thrown into a game in sudden change fashion much like what happened to Tevin Washington early in his career on the road at Virginia Tech. Obviously Coach Johnson made the right decision and showed very good sportsmanship in agreeing to this request as he was leading the game with a score of 63 to 0, but it did take away the participation of those players who have worked very hard and now weren’t going to have an opportunity for some playing time to help them progress as a football athlete. From both a fan and coaching standpoint it took away quality reps on the field for both of the backup QB’s Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly.
Is Elon going to refund back some money to the athletic Department for a truncated game? I’ll let the AD Mike Bobinski make that call-on-his own. So outside of the two (2) very impressive FCS Cinderella stories from the opening weekend, it was business as usual by the BCS. Ever since that Gardner Webb game back in 2008 I’ve always been concerned with the scheduling of these games and my belief is that eventually the Big Five Conferences will no longer schedule them in the future once everyone goes to a nine (9) game conference format. In the mean time what is preferred; The Spurrier approach or the Mercy rule?
As for the actual game and 70 to 0 final score, other than a missed tackle or two the defense looked very good from the standpoint of no confusion in changing personnel and players lining up where they needed to be on the field. With four interceptions for the day, reduced to three because a DE was lined up off sides, it was a very complete performance. A shut out is just that and it tells me that the coaching staff and players no matter where they were on the depth chart wanted to preserve that goose egg on the scoreboard. That goes back to the attitude being instilled by the entire defensive coaching staff. Great job!
Offensively the things that really stood out for me was the outstanding blocking downfield by WR Corey Dennis on the David Sims touchdown reception from Vad Lee. Mr. Dennis had not only one key block to get Sims around the edge but showed the type of hustle that will keep him in the starting position when he continued his blocking mission further down the field and took out a second defender on the same play that cleared the final path for Sims to rack up a TD for the team. So for all of the sobbing that took place because of the suspensions of two other players at the WR position the week before this game, apparently Corey Dennis is sending the message that he intends to do what it takes to keep that starting slot. That creates healthy competition for everyone on the team throughout the season, as well as depth to carry this team as it heads into critical early season ACC contests.
Once QB Justin Thomas had a little better field position to work with as opposed to taking snaps inside of the five yard line to begin a drive, he showed me that he understands the concept of reading the defense and pulling the football from the B-Back when the DE crashes down as his QB keeper to the right in the 4th Quarter for a 44 yard TD was great execution on the triple option and obviously his speed speaks for itself. That should give him confidence in running this offense when he is called upon to do it in an ACC Coastal Division Game. Vad Lee was outstanding in this contest as everyone already knew what he could do in a game based on his performance last season against North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Vad threw the football very well completing 7 out of 11 for 189 yards and two TD’s. He had one pass dropped so in my mind it was actually 8 completions. But the 54 yard pass completion he threw to Michael Summers (great catch) was a thing of beauty. Vad threw the football to a deep zone location as Summers was still running from the other side of the field and made it look easy as the ball was not only right where it needed to be, but there was no opportunity for an interception if Summers wasn’t able to make a play.
Vad certainly displayed a very strong arm but more importantly he showed the ability to change his speeds on the football when he was throwing the short passes. What I also liked even more is that Coach Johnson had him still playing in the 3rd quarter just to keep him in the game mind set as I do not anticipate leading 42 to 0 in the rest of our games this season. That was important to keep his focus and I commend Coach Johnson for that small yet very significant detail as it was important in the progression of Mr. Lee as a QB in this program.
Maybe this will enable those folks to quit complaining about Coach Johnson who was throwing the football around plenty back in his days as the OC at the University of Hawaii. As he has said repeatedly ever since he arrived on the Flats that he is not against throwing the football, but when he does elect to pass he wants to make a defense really pay for stacking the line of scrimmage to stop the running game. Averaging twenty-seven (27) yards a completion in this game is exactly what he wants do when he puts the football in the air.
However, this is the most impressive measure of this win from an offensive coach’s perspective; multiple players ran the football, caught the football, and scored TD’s. That is why I’m excited heading into ACC play as this is a TEAM! It is very easy to stop a single player game to game but when you have multiple players that can contribute to winning a football game that is what every coach wants as it creates even more challenges for a defense moving ahead on the schedule for ACC opponents.
The interception by backup linebacker Tyler Marcordes who returned it 95 yards for a score was the result of great coverage and Marcordes reading the QB’s eyes then getting a great break on the football once he saw it wasn’t being thrown to his man. He showed the wheels that he has given that he was an option QB back from his high school days all the way up in Illinois. It was also nice to see everyone on defense hustling to make some blocks as nothing gets a defense more excited than a fumble or interception going the other way for a score.
I also want to give a shout out to the freshman kicker Harrison Butker who put the football into the end zone 7 out of nine tries with his other one going all the way down inside of the five yard line. While I was not thrilled to see one go out of bounds, let’s hope that was the last time for that event and he did a fine job making all of his extra points as well. Good job!
Now that the team is heading into bye week on a positive note there is always lots of work to do, and several players are expected back beyond the two (2) WR’s who were suspended for this non-conference game. So congratulations on an opening game win against an FCS opponent and thank you for not making it look like the replay of that 2008 Gardner Webb game that was a very nerve wracking 10 to 7 win that I hope to never see again at BDS. That being said, there are currently two FBS coaches who would gladly trade that score from the Gardner Webb game in exchange for the losses they received from FCS squads to open their 2013 football seasons. Go jackets!