Part Two: Fileting the 3-4
So here's the thing.
All that stuff I just talked about how to defend the flexbone? We can do all that and still lose. The triple option will always win in the end if a team is able to run it for the entire game, because even if you have the defense to stop it, that defense will eventually wear down from overexertion. Every defender has to go full speed every down against the flexbone, and by the end of the game even the best defense is gassed. So you have to get a triple option team away from the option. You have to dictate the flow and the speed of the game by making an option team play from behind and not giving them the luxury of grinding out a seven minute scoring drive.
Against Georgia Tech's flexbone, the best defense is a good offense.
You want to know why the Georgia Tech game gives you ulcers? It's because we have a rich tradition of shitting the bed on offense in this game. A lot. Here is the drive log for the first half of the 2008 Georgia Tech game:
We have a problem with slow starts, and slow starts against Georgia Tech can lose the game for you. So even if the defense stops the flexbone dead in its tracks, it will still be up to the offense to fulfill its end of the bargain and put points on the board. I'm not saying we have to drop half a hundred on the Ramblin' Wreck (it'd be nice), but we do have to make it a multiple possession game for them as quickly as possible. The secret to doing that is to aim our David Wilson cannon right at the heart of their defense and fire at will.
GT uses the same 3-4 defense that UVA used under Al Groh with no major noticeable tweaks. And like most 3-4 defenses, GT is better against the pass (185 yards allowed per game, 15th in the nation) than they are against the run (162 ypg, 69th nationally). If you watched the Hoos take down GT you don't need me to tell you that the weakest spot in their defense is right in the middle, so look for a lot of straight ahead runs. It's more difficult to find the outside against a 3-4 because the extra linebacker gives the defense more lateral quickness than a 4-3. That also means we will probably see a lot of 5 and 6 yard gains and probably not so many huge runs because once Wilson gets into the second level he's going to find quicker defenders there to tackle him. Oglesby also has the potential for a big game. I like his chances of plowing through an inside linebacker better than a down lineman.
Don't get frustrated without seeing Wilson blow through the defense for a 30 yard run. If we can get five to six yards a carry consistently we will hold our own in the time of possession battle and will keep our defense rested. What we need are more drives that look like our first scoring drive against them in '08. We came close to that last year, with our first three possessions each bleeding nearly five minutes off the clock. It's okay that the first series wound up ending in a punt, because it gave our defense a rest. But the INT in the red zone on our third possession is something we need to see less of. We need to take advantage of every scoring opportunity and not leave points on the field.
Having a bye week before Georgia Tech is something of a blessing and a curse. It's given Bud Foster the chance to set his defense exactly the way he wants it (and if you've been keeping up with the reports of defensive personnel shifts then you know he's given this a lot of thought). But it also has given Bryan Stinespring the extra time he always seems to use to overthink the hell out of his game plan. Mike O'Cain might be better served to let his 16-play "script" accidentally fall out of the truck as he comes to work Thursday. "Sorry, Bryan, geeze, I know it was in my briefcase this morning. You know... tell you what, I'll just take this one, okay?"
We've never put together a great offensive game against Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets. We've averaged 305.3 yards per game and 8 points before halftime against them. In other words, this nerve-wracking rivalry with the Ramblin' Wreck (say that three times fast) has been of our own making. This year the game could follow the same script - and very possibly cost us an appearance in the ACCCG - or we could finally show up on both sides of the ball and prove that the only Tech worth talking about in this conference is Virginia Tech. I have no doubt that Bud Foster is ready. Now lets see if Mike O'Cain can do (once more) what Stiney couldn't.