Sunday, December 24, 2006

The QB Situation

As you may have read on other sites (I believe it was broken on first), Ike Whitaker will not be coming to Atlanta for the Hokies' bowl game. Whitaker has decided to enter rehabilitation for an alcohol problem.

My Calm and Beloved Reader may recall Whitaker missing part of spring practice due to an alcohol-related transgression. That missed time may have been the difference between him winning the starting role instead of riding the pine the entire season.

We at TSF support Whitaker as he faces this challenge and hope that he overcomes his personal issues with alcohol regardless of how it may affect his ability to play on the football team. It is certainly a positive step that he acknowledged the problem and was proactive about doing something about it.

I also suggest that this explains a great deal about the coaches' decisions regarding Whitaker's playing time vs. Glennon this season. I was very tough on the coaches for not playing Whitaker more and I couldn't understand it. I figured he was practicing poorly or the coaches were dumb or scared to play him more. I certainly felt that the spring alcohol issue was isolated, but it obviously wasn't and I owe the coaches an apology for the harsh words.

Let's hope that Whitaker gets these issues behind him for his sake, but at this point it very likely resolves the starting QB issue for next year (if the decision wasn't finalized already). We, as Hokie fans, have to accept that our weak link next season is going to be QB play and hopefully the rest of the team can overcome it.

Watch for the TSF game preview of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and have a Merry Hokie Christmas everyone!!!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

2006 Hokie Season Review


2006 - The Next Step
Mad Jay

In the midseason report I said that this season's theme of "The Next Step" had gone from taking the next step towards a national title to how to avoid taking the next step backwards. All the credit in the world is due to the coaches, in particular Bud Foster and his defense, for getting the TEAM concept back into these Hokies and preventing that step backwards that I was worried about. And in retrospect I wonder if that game against Boston College where VT was embarrassed on national TV wasn't part of the next step forwards after all. Maybe it took a trip into the lowest depths to get this team to grow up and come together. And it may serve as a springboard for many of these players next season. That remains to be seen. But for now let's look back and review group-by-group the 2006 Hokies.

Secondary – It took Torrian Gray a half of a season, but once he got a sense of his players and his role, he turned this group into a monster. Brandon Flowers is nothing short of the team MVP. He made big play after big play the entire season and led the nation's best pass defense by example. Enjoy Flowers in 2007 because that will be his final season in college football as I'm certain he will declare for the NFL as a redshirt junior. Macho Harris came on strong in the second half of the year and DJ Parker probably improved the most during the course of the season. But the master stroke of the coaches (Foster and Gray) was the insertion of Cary Wade into the starting line-up. I called for this in the mid-season report because of the poor play of rover Aaron Rouse and not only did Wade rise up and play some great football, but benching Rouse had the desired effect and he played much harder towards the end of the season. Rouse still has terrible tackling form but he is enough of a physical specimen that he will be playing in the NFL next year. A very scary thought for offensive coordinators is that 3 of 4 starters will be back in this secondary in 2007 and Kam Chancellor will be at rover, and he will very likely be the best that VT has had at that position since Willie Pile.

Linebacker – I still question whether Vince Hall trusts his teammates enough, but you can't fault the guy's effort and ability. He and Adibi were the best LB duo in the ACC and if they both return they will be even better next season. The LB's completely shored up their biggest weakness which was all the jabbering and lack of discipline. The second half of the season, Adibi was flagged for some late hits out of bounds that were embarrassingly bad calls on the part of the official but other than that, there were no flags thrown on these guys. Brendan Hill was definitely the unsung hero, considering he didn't have the physical talent of his predecessor James Anderson, but he was very sharp in the mental part of the game and made many big plays. As I stated at midseason, this was Bud Foster's group and they responded at a level that I can't remember seeing from linebackers at Virginia Tech. Wow is all that's left to say.

Defensive Line – I'll be very interested if Chris Ellis rises above the mental sloppiness he exhibited this season and reaches his full potential in 2007. He showed flashes of brilliance in the latter part of 2006 (the Miami game comes to mind) but he was rarely a consistent threat. In fact, the true stars of the defensive line became tackles Barry Booker and Carlton Powell. Both had signature plays - Booker's 4th down stop against Wake Forest and Powell's blowing up a screen against UVa - but they also brought the lumber every game. Statistically both were more productive than their predecessors, Jonathan Lewis and Tim Sandidge, and both those guys are playing in the NFL this year. I am very excited that Booker and Powell return (backed up by Taco Thompson, Kory Robertson and Ladi Ajiboye who had a huge season for Hargrave this year). And the battle for the defensive end position vacated by Noland Burchette will be ferocious between John Graves, Nekos Brown and Jason Adjepong. Burchette provided valuable senior leadership to this team, but I would suggest that his leadership was better than his play on the field and I think that position will be upgraded next season. Charley Wiles listened to me at the midpoint of the season and taught these guys some more moves on their pass rush and as a result, I think you can argue that the defensive line play was the most improved aspect of the Hokies between the two halves of the season.

Defensive Coaching – Bud Foster certainly put to rest any questions I had at midseason. Despite averaging 1.3 sacks/game for the first half of the season, the Hokies got 20 sacks in the final 6 games to average 2.3 sacks/game over the whole season. Foster's personnel management, his leadership when the team was so far down after the BC game, his willingness to dismiss any players not buying into the team (William Wall and Joey Hall as two examples) all translated into results. The Hokies had the 12th best defense in the country after the BC game and are likely going to end up with the top defense for the second consecutive year. All of this despite minimal help from the offense. Hopefully Bud Foster stays in Blacksburg next season (the head coaching carousel is in full swing these days) and with the talent coming back he has the potential to lead the best defense to ever take the field at Virginia Tech and potentially one of the best defenses college football has seen in a long time.

Offensive Line – Overall this was some of the worst offensive line play at VT in quite a while and that's too bad. Danny McGrath was nothing short of a disappointment at center and Brandon Gore at left guard, who could be so dominant when he wanted to be (i.e. the Clemson game), demonstrated the inconsistency that kept him out of the starting line-up throughout his career. Brandon Frye fought off injuries the entire season which prevented him from being the type of player he could have been as well. Fortunately the line kept working and getting marginally better throughout the season. The right side of the line is strong now with Duane Brown and Freshman 2nd team All-America Sergio Render, and with Ryan Shuman coming back next year to play his natural position at center, the Hokies just have to shore up the left side of the line and they have the chance to return to very solid offensive line play again. The mental mistakes due to false starts and drive-killing holding penalties improved throughout the season as well so I have to throw a shout out to Coach Curt Newsome for getting that under control.

Tight End - Finally the emergence of Sam Wheeler, once his toe injury healed, allowed tight ends to contribute to this offense. Wheeler still has a lot of work to do in blocking but he showed some sticky hands and a penchant for getting open. I think the addition of redshirt freshman Andrew Smith is going to nicely upgrade this position next year and the question becomes what to do with Greg Boone. Boone dropped passes throughout the season until he finally sprained his ankle and was pulled from the lineup. What the Hokies do with Boone in 2007 should be interesting, but there is nowhere to go but up for the tight end position as a whole after a pretty tough 2006.

Wide Receiver – Where did Justin Harper go the second half of the season? Or maybe a better question is, why didn't the offense go to Justin Harper a lot more often? He showed a phenomenal ability to make big catches but was rarely thrown to (unless it's a fake reverse pass from Eddie Royal - idiot coordinator Stinespring). Josh Morgan rose up and became a huge contributor as did Eddie Royal. David Clowney, I'm sure, wished he had a better 2006, but this unit blocked well, ran well and just overall bailed their QB out of some tough spots. Only losing Clowney means that the 2007 wide receiving corps could be the best ever. I was hard on incoming coach Kevin Sherman but he did a nice job with the receivers.

Running Back – Branden Ore is obviously an NFL-caliber RB and thank goodness he will be back for the bowl game. Until he got hurt against Wake Forest he was the man, and he would have ended up leading the ACC in rushing despite playing behind the aforementioned subpar offensive line. But the unbelievable return of George Bell and the play of Kenny Lewis, Jr. were critical in securing wins against Wake and Virginia to close out the season. Bell and Lewis kept the ball off the ground and churned out tough yards. I really fault Coach Billy Hite for not having the courage to rotate Ore out of the game earlier this year to give him a breather, but it looks like next season, Hite will be able to do it because he now has two proven players behind Ore.

Quarterback – I've said my piece this season about Sean Glennon. It should be obvious to anyone who reads this or watches Hokie football that Sean Glennon will never be asked to win a game on his shoulders. It is also obvious (simply look back over the past 10 years in college football) that in order to win a national title you have to have someone who can make some plays from the QB position. I think that the 2003 football season scared Coach Beamer from tinkering with his QB situation. I also think that Ike Whitaker hasn't been very impressive in practices. So all I'm going to say is that Sean Glennon did enough not to lose games over the second half of the season and that he had a few nice throws particularly against Wake Forest that showcased him at his maximum potential. But I am concerned that the coaches have boxed themselves into a corner now and will have to start the guy who is going to have to do all he can not to lose games, instead of a playmaker who can win them. TSF will be watching Hokie spring football very closely in 2007 to see what happens.

Coaching – My Calm and Beloved Reader, you are probably just expecting the annual call for offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring's head. Well I don't want to disappoint you, so here it is - get rid of Bryan Stinespring. There was an improved mix of playcalling between pass and run over the latter part of 2006. That is the extent of the good things I have to say about Stinespring. I now believe that he, even more so than Sean Glennon, will be the weight that keeps this program from reaching the heights it might otherwise rise to. The year that Virginia Tech played for the national title it had an offense to complement the always tough defense. Granted that team also had Michael Vick, but you aren't going to win any titles with the 95th best offense. Looking at the running back and receiving talent on this unit, having the 95th best offense in the country means that your offensive coordinator stinks. I've already said that next year's defense has the chance to be one of the best ever and they won't need the top offense to win all their games, but at some point in the season the offense will have to come through and with Stinespring at the helm that will not happen. What other evidence does HokieNation need than what has transpired over the course of Stinespring's tenure? I make myself ill talking about this, so moving on.

Special Teams:
Kicking/Kickoffs – How Brandon Pace wasn't a finalist for the Lou Groza award when he was 16/16 field goals at the time, means to me that the award is a joke. What more can a kicker do than make every kick? Sam Swank from Wake Forest beat out Pace for ACC first team and again I am mystified. At the end of the day, Pace will go on to have a Shayne Graham-type career in the NFL and that ought to give him enough I-told-you-so's for everybody.

Punting – Nic Schmitt's consistency never got better but he made some big kicks in the big games. The punt coverage has definitely been better during Coach Beamer's tenure, but all-in-all the punting was ok. That blocked punt by Georgia Tech looms so huge now that the season's over, but all you can do is move on to next season.

Coaching: It wasn't Coach Beamer's $100 fines and 6:00 AM Wednesday morning runs that disciplined this team, but rather the stark feeling of consecutive defeats to Georgia Tech and Boston College effectively knocking them out of the ACC race. Beamer's stroke of genius was playing the comments of Kirk Herbstreit during the BC game for the players so that they could see the damage their lack of discipline was doing to the Virginia Tech program. Coaches earn their money when the chips are down so let me quote from the end of my mid-season report here for a second - "It won't be easy and requires tough decisions by the coaching staff. It also requires a willingness for the team to be disciplined and focused and I can't overstate how hard that is and how easy it would be for them to just phone it in the rest of the year." Beamer and his staff kept this team from 'phoning it in' and they played their way into a big-time bowl. This is a great building block for next season and if Beamer would be willing to make the tough decisions about his offensive coordinator and quarterback, the 2007 Hokies have the chance to be very special.

2006 was a year filled with ups and downs. We added a new Baby Hokie to the fold and some of our readers will be doing the same in 2007 (Congratulations Rog and Trina). The team led us through an emotional roller coaster, and it's not over quite yet. So for now we at TSF turn our focus to the bowl game against Georgia. Get ready to turn Atlanta into Blacksburg South and enjoy your holidays everyone!! Until next time, I remain Mad Jay.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Game Review – vs. Virginia

Game Review – vs. Virginia
by Brian “Where’s the Ice?”

The first half of this game comprised of defense, defense, defense, and for the Hokies, that continued thought the entire game handing Virginia their fourth shutout of the season. To set up the first Hokie touchdown, Xavier Adibi sacked the living daylights out of Jameel Sewell causing him to fumble deep in Cavalier territory. Then, George Bell with the help of the now improving Hokie offensive line bulldozed 12 yards into the endzone over four plays. Midway through the third quarter, tailback Kenny Lewis opened a drive to push the ball downfield setting up Branden Pace to drill a 23 yard field goal. To cap off the scoring, Sean Glennon found Eddie Royal on a 49 yard touchdown pass.

On the other side of the ball, the Hokies were near flawless. They allowed the Cavaliers only 2 of 13 successful third down conversions and also held UVA to only five first downs the entire game. They held Sewell to 66 yards of passing and the team to only 46 yards of rushing, quite a performance.

Overall, the Hokies looked great, albeit against a struggling UVA squad, but they executed well, made some great defensive plays, and scored on almost all fronts of offense. Let’s consider that for just moment. If you review the Hokies’ performance on offense this year over a majority of the season, they’ve primarily relied on the running game. My biggest point of criticism towards the Hokie offense this season is their lack of use of four of the best receivers ever to come through the Virginia Tech football program in Josh Morgan, Eddie Royal, David Clowney, and Josh Hyman. Justin Harper isn’t half bad either. Sean Glennon has been developing as a first year starter and the same applies to much of the Hokie offensive line. With all of this, even in some of the blow-out victories, the Hokie offense has relied heavily on their running game. Branden Ore’s running carried much of the team’s offense though a great deal of the regular season, and even more so in tight games. The lack of a firm Jeff King replacement at the tight end position hasn’t helped the Hokie offense this season either.

During their game against UVA, however, we saw a well rounded offense perform. The Hokies put together multiple drives that each made primary use of one particular aspect of the offense. Their running game, despite the absence of Branden Ore, faired well in hands of Kenny Lewis and George Bell. One touchdown resulted from one of these drives. Glennon completed passes to each of Josh Morgan, Eddie Royal, David Clowney, Josh Hyman, and Sam Wheeler which included the 49 yard touchdown pass. Sam Wheeler may become the strong tight end the Hokies need for the clutch pass situations, and he showed some potential for that in the game versus UVA.

For now, I think that’s Virginia Tech’s biggest need for development, and that’s come a long way from what we saw against Boston College and Georgia Tech. I think I can count on one hand how many times I remember that a pass to last year’s tight end, Jeff King, didn’t result in a pass completion. That clutch play served as a key piece of the Hokie offense that they used to turn a failing drive into a successful one. But all-in-all, the game against UVA showed the culmination of some team development that we as fans have hoped for all season. Let’s hope it carries into their contest against Georgia.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Game Preview - vs. Virginia

Game Preview – vs. Virginia
by Brian “Where’s the Ice?”

This week the Virginia Cavaliers square off against the Virginia Tech Hokies. This rivalry grew and has continued to exist as one of the most fierce in the conference. For all practical purposes, this serves as the Texas – Texas A&M rivalry of the ACC. The winner of this contest takes home the yearly awarded Commonwealth Cup, named after the Commonwealth of Virginia. (As a brief historical aside about this name, Virginia is not technically a state, but one of the country’s four commonwealths.)

Virginia has had a difficult season which began with suspensions of some of their top players. Their quarterback, Jameel Sewell has struggled through most of his season as well. In spite of all these challenges, the Wahoos have put together a 5-6 (4-3 in conference) record. On Saturday, UVA fights for bowl eligibility while the Hokies have their sights on a high profile, but non-BCS, bowl. Each respective team has a lot at stake on this game.

Let’s examine the Virginia offense. Quarterback Jameel Sewell has a completion rate just under 60% with 133 completions over 226 attempts. He’s passed for 1276 yards on the season, and towers at 6’3”. As a Freshman, you can argue that he has a great deal of experience yet to gain, but many UVA fans will tell you that he’s developed greatly over the course of this season and has finally, “figured out how to play.”

Sewell has Jason Snelling for the UVA running game. Standing 5’11” and weighing in at 233 lbs., he has amassed 751 yards of rushing over 170 carries. Sewell places second behind Snelling in rushing with 180 yards, so the ‘Hoos don’t really have a reliable secondary running back. For passing they’ll look to receivers Kevin Ogletree and Tom Santi. Ogletree standing 6’2” has 50 receptions for 551 yards. The Hokie defense will have to cover this receiver well, but like their running game, UVA doesn’t have a comparable secondary go-to receiver in Santi who has only 29 receptions and 253 yards in passing.

As a team, UVA’s defense doesn’t have the same numbers as Virginia Tech, who ranks first in the ACC for total defense and first in all of College Football in pass defense. Virginia Tech has allowed 1472 yards in passing and 1069 in rushing while UVA’s offense has produced 1821 yards of passing and 1153 yards of rushing, the third worst in the ACC. Considering that UVA’s defense has not faced the teams that have the most offensive potency of the ACC, that further shows UVA's defense is unequipped to stop the Hokie offense while that same Hokie offense has produced good numbers against some of the ACC’s strong defensive teams. {Editor's note: The Hokie offense has also struggled against Kent State}

Virginia Tech’s offense has produced 2070 yards in passing and 1276 yards in receiving while UVA has allowed 1896 yards in passing and 1276 yards in rushing. You can notice the large gap in passing yardage between the two defenses. I’ve repeated this throughout the season: Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon needs to make more use of his receivers. The Hokie receiver squad has a great deal of depth, and they’ve had to rely too heavily on the Branden Ore running game (and Kenny Lewis considering last week’s game against Wake Forest). While part of the blame for this does fall on the shoulders of the developing Hokie offensive line, Glennon could look to his receivers in some greater capacity, and Saturday’s contest against UVA with their weak passing defense (as shown by the stats) serves as the perfect opportunity. Should the Hokies find themselves in a high profile bowl at the end of the season, they’ll most likely need a well balanced running and passing game to win. The time for this high powered offense to prove that it can do that comes on Saturday!

Virginia Cavaliers (5-6, 4-3) vs. #17 Virginia Tech Hokies (9-2, 5-2)
12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, November 25
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
XM Radio

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Game Review - Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest

Game Review

An amazing defensive effort and a veteran-type showing by some backup running backs, combined with Sean Glennon's best day as a quarterback resulted in Virginia Tech's resounding 27-6 smashing of Wake Forest. And I was there in person to witness the glorious victory. A great day to be a Hokie to be sure.

And I'm sure that you, my Calm and Beloved Reader, is thinking "MadJay finally was proven wrong about Glennon". To that I respond, simply, "No." I will gladly admit that Glennon played his best game of the season. He delivered a few good strikes and made some good decisions with the ball. He also threw some passes very poorly and showed absolutely no ability to sense pressure in the pocket. So I'll sum up Glennon's performance by saying that what we saw is the very best that young man can play. And to his credit he played his very best when the chips were down and his stud running back Branden Ore went out with an ankle injury.

But on Sunday I watched the Michigan-Ohio State game that I had taped the day before(thank you Tivo). And I can tell you that the performances of Chad Henne and Troy Smith showed what an elite Division I-A quarterback is capable of. Almost all of the passes were on the money. They were looking off defenders and gliding around in the pocket avoiding the rush while keeping their eyes downfield. Glennon looks nothing like those two guys, and I contend that he does not have the potential to get there. Even Wake Forest's redshirt freshman quarterback, Riley Skinner, was making some phenomenal plays that just make you go, "OOOooohh" and Glennon just doesn't do that. Make no mistake - Glennon contributed greatly to the Wake Forest win and I have no problem with him starting the Virginia game and bowl game. But I stand by my statement that in order to take the next step, another answer must be found at quarterback next season.

Now, on to the rest of the offense. What can I say about the offensive line performance except WOW?! Sergio Render as a true freshman won the ACC Lineman of the Week award for his performance against the Demon Deacons. The line was just outstanding, paving the way for George Bell and Kenny Lewis, Jr, who looked nothing like guys getting their first major action of the entire season. They picked up blitzes, didn't fumble the ball and moved the chains. Neither will be mistaken for Ore - Lewis missed two cutbacks for huge runs because he lacks Ore's vision and Bell had one run where if he had Ore's speed he would have taken it to the house - but if Ore can't go against Virginia, a workmanlike performance by Lewis/Bell such as the one seen last Saturday night in Winston Salem will get the job done.

The receivers played extremely well, but here again is another complete black-eye for the Hokies program. Bryan Stinespring is not very good at his job and that's as nice as I can put it. He demonstrated a decent playcalling gameplan for one of the rare times this season against Wake Forest. BUT he does not gameplan with the proper personnel and I'm talking basic things here. For example, during the game I saw a) a deep jump ball-type pass to Royal then b) a deep slant route to Justin Harper followed by c) a fake reverse pass thrown by Eddie Royal. You have to know your personnel and put them in positions to make the plays they are best at.

Eddie Royal is a great athlete, but how many jump ball bombs is our 5'9" receiver going to win as opposed to Justin Harper who has already demonstrated an incredible ability to make plays on the deep ball? And vice versa, why send Harper on that deep slant when it's Royal and Morgan who have been making that play on the few occasions it's been called? And finally, just as I said after the Georgia Tech game, if you have Cory Holt on your team taking snaps at wide receiver, and you want to run a fake reverse pass, you are insane to run it with Eddie Royal. Royal's inability to make that throw (the guy has never played QB so I'm not blaming him here) or rather Stinespring's insistent ignorance of his players, cost the Hokies a game-changing touchdown against Georgia Tech and it took the momentum away from the Hokies in the first half of the Wake Forest game.

Glennon, Whitaker, Holt, Elway, Marino, Montana I don't give a damn WHO the Virginia Tech QB is in 2007, I do not believe the Hokies can take the next step (despite an INSANE amount of NFL-level talent on defense next season) with Stinespring as the offensive coordinator and frankly it sickens me that he is in that position. Someone asked me on Saturday night if I'd take Stinespring or Jeff Bowden who was recently fired from Florida State. It's a no-brainer - give me Bowden. He's won a national title.

I can't say much about the defense that hasn't already been said. Bud Foster is hands-down Assistant Coach of the Year. The defense was nothing short of inspirational and the many Hokie fans that were in attendance (we out-tailgated the Deacons, 75%-25% I can tell you, but the game attendance was more like 60%-40% in favor of the home team - still impressive turnout for the maroon and orange I say) appreciated every minute of it. Barry Booker's 4th and 1 stop on the 5 yard line late in the game to preserve the shutout exemplifies the mentality that this unit has. They believe that the end zone they are defending is sacred ground and they will protect it with everything they have.

The defense is returning 8 starters and Kam Chancellor will be playing rover which could be an upgrade from Rouse. If the 2007 Hokie defense can avoid the 2003 "NFL Look Ahead" Syndrome, it has a chance to complete one of the greatest 4 year stretch runs ever by being in the top 4 in total defense all four years - a feat that has only ever been accomplished once in the history of college football - Mississippi had an insane 5 year stretch in the top 3 in total defense from 1959-63. By the way I found the answer to my own question about consecutive years with the top total defense - Auburn led the nation in total defense in 1957/58, Southern Miss led the nation in defense in 1965/66, and Pittsburgh did it in 1980/81 but Toledo led in 1969/70/71 and Oklahoma led in 1985/86/87 for an impossible three straight seasons atop the total defense category which is truly amazing. However with today's advanced offense and passing game, I think the Hokies' feat would be potentially even more amazing.

From the ashes of a 4-2 season with a team that looked like it was falling apart against Boston College, the 2006 Hokies have arisen and conquered the team that many felt was the best in the league this year. Wake Forest played hard and nearly mistake-free but this new version of the Hokies played the same way with better athletes and wore the Deacons into the ground. It was a pleasure to watch and if Tech can duplicate that type of performance they are absolutely capable of beating their VERY MUCH hated rival Virginia this Saturday.


3 Key Plays - Wake Forest

3 Key Plays

1) Sean Glennon hits Eddie Royal for a 49 yard strike to open the scoring at 7-0 on the first Hokie offensive drive. This play built momentum and while the offense was unable to execute the rest of the first half, it kept Wake Forest off-balance especially in light of the loss of Branden Ore on the following series. This throw also gave Glennon confidence which he definitely needed in this game.

2) Eddie Royal returns a kickoff 49 yards. This return was after Wake Forest had driven down and scored a field goal in the third quarter to make it 14-6. With it being a one-score game at that point and the momentum shifted to the Demon Deacons, Royal stuck a dagger in their hearts with this big return - his longest of the season. It led to a field goal by the unflappable Brandon Pace.

3) Up 17-6, Xavier Adibi and Aaron Rouse combined to finish Wake Forest off psychologically in a great defensive scoring play. Rouse came up and knocked the stuffing out of the Wake Forest ball carrier at the end of a screen pass play. The back dropped the ball and while most of the players stood around, Adibi alertly scooped it up and took it in for a score to make it 24-6. This was when the Wake Forest fans began leaving the stadium.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tech loses another promising prospect


As reported by Beamerball, Coach Beamer confirms that stud LB prospect Matt Wright has withdrawn from the university.

Wright is D.J. Parker's younger brother and was redshirting this year. Beamer has maintained Wright's privacy and explained the departure as being for "personal reasons".

This makes for three incredibly talented freshmen that no longer are on VT's football team - William Wall, Joey Hall and now Matt Wright. All three showed phenomenal promise and while Wall and Hall are gone permanently, perhaps Wright will be able to return. We at TSF will not speculate on the situation but can only hope that Wright is able to work out whatever issues he may be having so that he is able to come back to school and to the football program.

Wake Forest Posts First Real Threat To New Streak

by Anand "EhhTee" Trivedi

WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- The #19 Hokies (4-2, 8-2) travel two and a half hours south to Winston-Salem this weekend to take on the #14 Demon Deacons (5-1, 9-1) of Wake Forest. The streaking Deacons can go into next weekend's match-up against the Maryland Terrapins strong with a win over the Hokies. The Deacons control their own destiny: win the next two games and they will the Atlantic Division and will travel to Jacksonville for the ACC Championship game. Not bad for the second smallest Division 1-A team. [Quick, name the smallest! Hint: White on...]

The Hokies, who have brushed off the woes of two straight in conference losses and won four in a row, will need two losses by Georgia Tech to make it to the championship game. That is improbable, so the Hokies will need to finish strong if they want a post New Year's Day bowl.

Unlike MadJay, I enjoyed the performance of the Hokies against the Hurricanes a few weeks ago. The Hurricanes are an oddity this season. They have a BCS caliber defense and a Division 1-AA offense. A 17-10 victory in the Orange Bowl is commendable. That gives me a little hope for the Hokies at Wake Forest. Traditionally, the game at Wake Forest is a virtual home game with seventy percent of the stands filled with Hokie fans. This weekend, I would imagine, that it will be closer to playing at a neutral site. Or potentially, with the hype of potentially winning the ACC, the Deacon fans will show up in force!

Now, both teams have struggled on offense, but both have found ways to win. For the Hokies, it's been the number one ranked total defense that has kept the Hokies alive. Allowing only an average of 228.4 (127.7 through the air also puts the Hokies at number one in passing defense) the Hokies defense has matured significantly since the two losses. I do not expect there to be too much trouble containing the 102 ranked Wake offense.

And yet, there is still reason to be concerned. The Deacons were able to blank the struggling Florida State Seminoles 30-0 at home. It was so bad, the Coach Bowden was prompted to fire his own son [which he should have done ages ago.] But when you break it down, it wasn't Wake's dominance, it was their ability to capitalize on the Seminoles mistakes. The Seminoles threw four interceptions and lost this game basically due to field position. The Seminoles crossed into Wake territory twice! If the Hokies come out like this, and they are capable of it, then Wake will easily take advantage.

It will all start with ball control. Glennon, and I won't go into that debate here, will need to hold on to the ball when pressured. And believe me, he will be pressured. If it's one thing that teams know to do against this offense, it's send pressure. Expect to see Ore get the ball a lot in that same old predictable Stinespring way. Most times it works and if the Deacons send pressure, he's bound to break a big one or two. But in order to do so they'll need to open it up a bit to the receivers. But when they do, they'll have to watch out for #22 safety Josh Gattis. He's got four interceptions this year.

The games significance has prompted a new game time of 7:00. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. I believe this is a national broadcast, but have been unable to confirm.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Random Thought


I tried to research this and had no luck. I certainly don't remember it ever happening. When was the last time a team led the nation in total defense in consecutive years? The Hokies are number 1 right now and they have two very tough games left so there's a TON of work left to do to maintain that ranking. But if they are successful, will they be the first team to ever do that in consecutive years?

And before you dwell on that question, think about this - the Hokies were 12th in total defense following the Boston College game. They went from 12th to 1st playing Southern Miss, Clemson, Miami and Kent State. Wow.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mad Jay is MAD


I am so mad about today's game against Kent State, but first, let's show some Hokie Respect and say that Georgia Tech clinched the ACC Coastal division today with a lackluster 7-0 victory over UNC. Congratulations to the Yellow Jackets for coming to Blacksburg and beating the Hokies 38-21 as that was the decisive game that decided the division. While I am disappointed that the Hokies have been eliminated from contention, if you watched the Kent State-Virginia Tech game today you realize that this offense does not belong in any championship games. The defense surely does, but the offense? No way. When the QB goes 12-22 for 142 yards with a fumble and it is an improvement over his previous 3 games, there is a problem.

I can only fathom that Ike Whitaker looks so unbelievably bad in practice during the week that the coaches won't give him a chance in the game. I wish Coach Beamer would go on record as to why Whitaker isn't getting more of a chance as the passing offense is so horrible. He was finally put in against Kent State with only 4 minutes left on his own 10 yard line. After a running play lost a yard on first down, Whitaker dropped back after a play action fake and made several guys miss to gain two yards and then he handed the ball off again on 3rd and 9. Those were his only snaps.

Now this goes beyond the typical "backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on campus" theory. I want some damn answers from the coaching staff because my claim is NOT that Whitaker's definitely the answer at QB, my claim is that the team needs to find out whether Whitaker is the answer. Why won't they give him a series in the first half? And after being up 6-0 on Kent State at halftime why on earth wouldn't that be the right time to try Ike Whitaker for the opening series of the second half. Can he be any worse? I suppose it's possible that he could be worse, but if he is, it will be readily apparent because Glennon has been bad, and anything worse than that is going to be obvious. If Whitaker was worse than what Glennon's been doing then I don't think the team would have even recruited him.

I have consistently repeated this since the beginning of the season - I like Sean Glennon. I was comfortable giving him the benefit of the doubt to lead this team as the team came out of the gate. I forgave him early season errors as this was his first season starting. But this is the 10th game and he has not improved. It's as if Frank Beamer, Mike O'Cain and Bryan Stinespring think that because they made a decision on who the starting QB would be in the pre-season they aren't allowed to change their mind after seeing the results. I still like Sean Glennon, I think he's a helluva Hokie and would be a solid back-up QB. But it's time to find out whether this team has a QB on the sidelines who can excel in Division I-A, whether it be Ike Whitaker or Cory Holt, or VT risks not only losing the game at Wake Forest next week but also falling short of its true potential in the future.

Mike Tomczak (a former quarterback in the NFL so he might know a thing or two about this) said it best early in the 4th quarter with his analysis after David Clowney made a PHENOMENAL leaping catch over double coverage, so I'll let his exact quote close this thing out - "I like this group of wide receivers. If they had a quarterback who could, you know, wing it a little bit, they would have a field day out there and be a better asset for this team."

The Hokies will never know if they don't try and find out.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Game Preview - vs. Kent State

Game Preview - vs. Kent State
by Brian "Where's the Ice?"

This week, the Virginia Tech Hokies will take on the Kent State Golden Flashes. Kent State plays out of the MAC (Mid-American Conferenc) against teams that have made non-conference games for the Hokies many seasons back including Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Akron, and Miami of Ohio who actually handed Virginia Tech a season devastating loss not too many seasons ago.

You may remember an incident from history class where the National Guard shot four protester students in 1970. Since then, their football program hasn't gone uphill very much at all until this season. In season's past, they haven't compiled many winning records at all. They've struggled with a bad reputation that hurt their recruiting potency, a dilapidated training facility, and players loosing 25 lbs. over a single season. So getting themselves to opening with a 5-2 overall record and 4-0 conference record makes for quite an improvement. They look to reach their first bowl appearance since 1972.

So who's who of the Kent State? Quarterback Julian Edelman has passed for 1490 yards this season with 8 touchdown passes and a 56% completion rate. He's made a name for himself as a dark horse player in that no Division I schools would recruit him. Coach Doug Martin says that he channels the frustration to that in to his play and does so very well. Kent State has one primary go-to receiver in Najah Pruden who has 657 yards of receiving which includes five touchdown receptions. College Football pundits have projected the 6'3" 185 lbs senior to amass nearly 900 yards of receiving by the season’s end. As far as their rushing game, Edelman himself leads the team in carries with 140 and nearly leads the team in rushing with 589 yards. Kent State also has a strong tailback in Eugene Jarvis who despite his small size of 5'5" and 158 lbs. has accrued 592 yards over 120 carries this season.

Kent's defense ranks first in the MAC for passing, but they don't have quite so hot numbers in their rushing defense allowing 1390 yards. Branden Ore shouldn't have any problem further extending his numbers for this season.

The Hokies need to enter this game, not overconfident, but aiming to make some development in areas that they're lacking. Besides the struggling and inexperienced offense line, I've seen one of their most significant shortcomings in quarterback Sean Glennon's lack of ability to make use of the Hokie wide receivers. Virginia Tech has a great deal of depth at the receiver position in Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, David Clowney, and Justin Harper, and I haven't seen the level of synchronization between Glennon and them that I think they can attain. The Hokies need to take advantage of an opportunity to develop that synchronization in their game against Kent State. Furthermore, backup quarterback Ike Whitaker should have an opportunity to take some snaps as well.

Some Hokie trivia for this week
* The ACC has named Xavier Adibi as ACC Defensive Linemen of the Week
* Virginia Tech could acheive 25 straight wins against non-conference teams at Lane Stadium
* Branden Ore places 10th in Virginia Tech's football history to rush for 1000 yards in a single season
* Virginia Tech's passing defense ranks first in the nation

Kent State (5-4, 4-2)
Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-2)
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
3:30 p.m. EDT, Saturday, Nov 11
Television - ESPNU

Monday, November 06, 2006

Game Review - Virginia Tech vs. Miami


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." -Charles Dickens

Game Review
by Mad Jay

A win is a win is a win, especially when it comes against Miami in the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech emerged victorious 17-10 against the Canes in a struggle that I contend pitted two of the three best defenses in the entire country against each other (LSU being the other). In that environment against that defense, you can't help but be happy to get a win and move on to Kent State. However, my Calm and Beloved Reader, I am not you and I am not happy.

But let's start with who I am proud of, and it's a theme because I've been proud of them most of the year - Brandon Pace, Branden Ore and the defense. You couldn't ask for a better kicker than Pace. He has made every field goal this season and the blocked extra points were a busted blocking assignment. He rose up against Miami putting the Hokies on the board first which is a big deal in a road game (remember at Boston College?????!?!?!?! where we went for it like RETARDS while in field goal range and the score 0-0?!?!?!). Branden Ore was his usual amazing self, making big runs when he needed to and dodging Miami tacklers in the backfield all day. The offensive line was not very good in run or pass blocking and it didn't help that Brandon Frye hurt his ankle (questionable now for Kent State), but they and Ore did make a few big plays at the very end of the game to help seal it. Clearly, though the game ball goes to the defense.

The defense won the game, making only one mental mistake (on that busted run by Tyrone Moss) and playing as a group. They were very focused, had only one penalty which was on the second to last play of the game and didn't get sucked into the late-hit-fest that I was worried about. This group is playing as a team now and and never was the "team defense" concept demonstrated so beautifully as on the game-changing play. Xavier Adibi intercepted a pass deflected by Chris Ellis who had time to get through the line because Kyle Wright had to go to his second read due to great coverage on his first receiver. In the end, this play was the difference in the game. Strangely, Nic Schmitt had a very bad game punting and the defense was put in bad field position early and often and they responded by completely shutting Miami down. By the way, why does a Virginia Tech punter have one game each season that is absolutely DAMN TERRIBLE going back the past 4 seasons?! Damn loony punters. But I digress.

In stark contrast, stands the offense. Oh my. Yes, I recognize Miami's abilities as a defense, but this Hokie team offense is not good. They have playmakers all over the field and can't get the ball into their hands. Anyone understand why David Clowney, Eddie Royal and Justin Harper had a total of one pass thrown their way the entire game?! I'm a big Josh Morgan fan and I like Josh Hyman too, but Morgan dropped a touchdown pass and Hyman is probably the least talented of our receivers. At some point, you've got to get the ball in the hands of our other playmaker wide receivers. I know many of you expect me to just bash Sean Glennon, but the weakness on offensive line and tight end were exposed as well. And that brings me to this point of frustration beyond belief. Just sickening frustration and anger.

Bryan Stinespring and Bud Foster are the assistant coach/coordinators for the Hokies. Following the debacle on national TV against Boston College the Hokie defense proceeded to go from 12th in the country to 3rd in total defense. The team came together and Aaron Rouse, despite all the pre-season All-ACC hype at rover, took a seat and made way for Cary Wade. I hate it for Rouse who is a good story and came back for his senior year, but the simple fact is that he is struggling. He has lost his grandfather this year, so I understand he has other things on his mind and he is a true Hokie who hasn't made excuses. But what makes Foster the coordinator he is, is that he made the change and began starting Wade, splitting snaps with Rouse and the results in team unity and level of play on the field have been obvious. Behind Coach Foster, the defense has already taken the next step. It is obvious, painfully so, that this unit is playing at a national-title level.

Let's examine the offense since that Boston College debacle. Since then, they have had good rushing performances against Clemson and Southern Miss. I credit Brandon Gore, the rest of the offensive line, Coach Curt Newsome, Stinespring and Branden Ore for those performances and when the run is working, I say keep on running. But lost in everyone patting themselves on the back for the running game are two incredibly important details.

First, where is the second running back? If Kenny Lewis is your second guy, which I agree with for the record, why isn't he getting snaps? Don't give me this crap about "the situation didn't present itself". BS. The coaches are scared to play their second guy and as the season wears on and injuries are higher risk, the team needs Kenny Lewis getting snaps and Coach Billy Hite knows it.

The second important detail is that the passing game has gone down crapcreek without a paddle and Coach Stinespring was unable to adapt when Miami shut down the running game. Here is Sean Glennon's stat line since the BC game - 18-45, 294 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT. That means that over the past three games, Sean Glennon is the 109th rated passer in Division I-A. There are 117 programs counted in that stat and the players below him, well you don't know them and you don't want to. It doesn't get much better if you look at the whole season. He is the lowest rated passer out of all the QB's playing for a top 25 football team. And he has one of the best running backs in the entire country to carry the load!!! I wouldn't care about the yards due to the running game's success, but the inefficiency is just so hard to watch.

I have already said I don't totally blame Glennon. He is playing as hard as he can, he is just not able to lead this offense at a national title or conference title level. The real culprit is Stinespring. Unlike Coach Foster, he is unwilling to make a player change. Even worse he continues to be inept with his playcalling in the passing game. Explain to a rational person how you throw nothing but short passes against the 5th worst pass defense in the country (Boston College) and then throw no short passes to wide receivers against Miami when you are being blitzed on EVERY DOWN? Where was the wide receiver "toss" play to Eddie Royal, or the quick slant against the Canes? Stinespring cannot adapt. He even had the NC State game from 2004 and the Miami game in Blacksburg from last year to learn from. His offense has the slowest developing RB screen pass in the land and it almost never works. It is unacceptable and infuriating. The only way I believe that the Hokies can take the Next Step as a program is to replace Bryan Stinespring at offensive coordinator.

These are dead horses and maybe my Calm and Beloved Reader is tired of me beating on them repeatedly. But I cannot in good conscience watch the team get 139 yards of offense against Miami and then pat them on the back. The defense is too good and works too hard. They deserve an offense that is capable of playing at an elite level and I know, down in my heart, that with Sean Glennon at QB that will not happen. The best you will get with Glennon and Stinespring is an offense that MIGHT not throw away the game and gives the ball to Branden Ore repeatedly. Against other elite teams and over the course of a long college football season you need more than that. So I will continue to watch diligently for signs of improvement and give credit where it's due. And I will continue to call for change where I know it's needed in order for this program to take The Next Step.


3 Key Plays - Virginia Tech vs. Miami


1) Brandon Flowers picks off a Kirby Freeman pass and returns it 24 yards deep into Miami territory. This was a huge play as Freeman had just come in for Kyle Wright and ripped off a huge run a few plays earlier. Miami was trying to recapture the momentum after the Hokies went up 3-0, but Flowers made a great play and the Hokies were able to convert the short field into a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead. Without this play Kirby Freeman might have led the Canes on a scoring drive and been the QB the rest of the way. He couldn't have played much worse than Kyle Wright did and might have played a whole lot better. Instead Wright came back in with his confidence shaken and didn't look very good the rest of the game.

2) Facing 3rd and 1 at midfield, Miami RB Tyrone Moss ran into the line for the first down and since no one brought him down he busted loose and ran for the touchdown to tie the game at 10. The one busted play by the defense cost the Hokies, and give credit to Miami for not going in the tank down 10-0 (I thought they would self-destruct when they fell behind).

3) The score was still tied at 10 with 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Canes had just intercepted Sean Glennon, when Chris Ellis busted through the line and deflected a Kyle Wright pass tipping it into the hands of a diving Xavier Adibi for the interception. This was a gigantic play because the Hokies were immediately in field goal range and thanks to Branden Ore they were able to put it in the end zone for a 17-10 lead which was the final difference in the game.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Game Preview - Virginia Tech vs. Clemson


Game Preview

In the past 6 years, the Miami-Virginia Tech game has produced the very best and the very worst emotional swings that the team and the fans have witnessed. In the 2006 version, the game is rife with psychological overtones, so the team who manages their emotions the best will win. First, let's take a look back:

2000 – Miami 41-21 – Michael Vick’s one missed game that season showed the heart of back-up QB Dave Meyer, but he fell short. Had Vick played, the Hokies would have been playing in back-to-back national title games. This one hurt, but it wasn’t a shocker.
2001- Miami 26-24 – This game was BY FAR the closest any team game to beating Miami that year they won the national championship. Yes the drop by Ernest Wilford on the two-point conversion was like a knife in my heart, but in retrospect, that was one of the best “Hokie” performances of all-time. And while that point is debatable, what isn’t debatable is that Grant Noel had the worst big-game performance by a quarterback of all-time (Grant Noel, 4-16, 71 yards with 4 INT’s and a fumble) and the defense and the special teams nearly overcame that performance. The crowd was in it to the end, and it was just a day filled with mixed emotions.
2002- Miami 56-45 – Brutal lack of defense by both teams, but the Hokies wouldn’t give up, coming back time and time again before finally losing to Willis McGahee’s 6 TD performance. It just sucked losing this game, but Miami was the better team.
2003- Virginia Tech 31-7 – One of the highlights in Hokie history, they beat 2nd ranked Miami on Saturday night in Lane Stadium the week after being embarrassed in a Thursday night loss to West Virginia. This was another overall team performance and it’s a shame the team couldn’t build on this win later in the year as it splintered into factions and fell apart at the end of the season.
2004 – Virginia Tech 16-10 – This win in the Orange Bowl for the Hokies clinched the ACC Championship for the team the first year they were in the league. It was even sweeter to do it on Miami’s turf. This is probably as happy after a win as I have ever been (VT beating Syracuse 62-0 for Michael Vick’s coming out party and victory over West Virginia the weekend the Blonde and I got engaged down in Blacksburg are the other candidates).
2005 – Miami 27-7 – Interesting that the happiest-after-a-win-high of 2004 would be followed by the most-shocked-and-devastated-low of last season. Miami came into town and crushed the 3rd ranked Hokies’ dreams of a national title. VT got beat up in every phase of the game and Marcus Vick showed the country that no, he definitely was different from his brother. His turnover-fest was a main culprit behind the loss.

And so, the stage is set for 2006. The talent on both teams is evident and very comparable. Again, I could go into matchups but in this contest it’s all about the mind game.

Let’s look at Virginia Tech first. They find themselves in almost the identical position to Clemson last Thursday night. They are coming off of a huge emotional win in front of their home crowd and have to go on the road against a tough, talented and psychologically wounded opponent. Can the team get down to business or will they get sucked into all of the trash talking that always happens when you play Miami.

Offensively, this is the one game where I think Sean Glennon has an edge over Ike Whitaker early on in the game. Glennon is not a trash talker, he’s a mature kid and I can see him keeping the offense on an even keel. If he can avoid making mistakes he will set a very good tone for the rest of the offense at the critical early stages. Branden Ore talks some and he could get pulled into some sort of “discussion” that would lead to personal fouls.

On the defensive side of the ball, I am worried. Both Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall at linebacker jabber a lot at their opponents. Write it down, there will be some pushing and shoving after the whistle by these two, with some Miami players but hopefully not enough to get flagged. Brandon Flowers is from Florida and he says he knows some of the Hurricanes so you know he is going to get sucked into some jawing back and forth. The defense HAS to remain disciplined in their play. They must continue to trust each other and build from their performance against Clemson. If their emotions get too out of check they will commit stupid penalties that can cost them dearly against Miami. I am nervous about the defense staying focused, and I think the critical thing for Bud Foster to do is to curtail any extracurricular activities he sees by immediately pulling the player involved for a snap or two.

Now let’s take a peek inside the basket-case that is Miami football. They are a team on the verge of anarchy. It’s got to be difficult for the players to play for someone that they probably view as a lame-duck coach on his way out at the end of the season. The team is hurt and frustrated knowing they can’t win the ACC this year and all of the fallout from the on-field brawl with FIU earlier in the season hasn’t completely blown over. Based on this, I believe this game will be decided in the early going. If the Hurricanes come out and get a lead and start feeling confident, they can get Virginia Tech involved in verbal contests and distract the Hokies from playing up to their capabilities. Yes, Miami got out to a 10-0 lead on Georgia Tech, but that was on the road and now the only thing they have left to play for is pride and their crowd. Don’t forget that this is still Miami in terms of player ability. These players can fly and break big plays all over the field. However, if Tech can score first, I think Miami falls apart.

Virginia Tech isn’t mathematically eliminated from the ACC Championship, but Georgia Tech would have to lose two more games for the Hokies to have a chance. So the motivation for the Hokies is going to be based around building on what they did last week. Playing as a team and winning games becomes a habit that can carry over for these players for next season. And who knows, Georgia Tech is the type of team that can lose two of their next three games no matter who the opponent is.

Either way, I expect to see a big dose of Kenny Lewis (Elan Lewis didn’t make the trip) at RB and Ike Whitaker at QB later in this game so that they get much-needed big game experience in preparation for 2007. That will tell me if the coaching staff has their heads on right and has this team focused on winning the “right way” as Coach Beamer calls it while still preparing the entire team for next year. The players can’t be thinking about 2007 at all, but the coaches better be.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Tigers Lose Roar in Lane Stadium

by Anand "EhhTee" Trivedi

BLACKSBURG, VA -- Two drives into the game last Thursday, and I knew it was over. The Hokies were about to defeat the #10 ranked Clemson Tigers. Now, dear kind sir or madam, you may ask, "But EhhTee, how could you tell that the Hokies were going to win, if both teams went three and out on their opening drives?" [Mad Jay's note - during the first quarter when Mr. Trivedi pronounced this, I actually said in response "You are crazy". While I was technically right, EhhTee had the last (maniacal) laugh]

Maybe it was the crisp autumn night air, maybe it was the 3 Sparks brand products I had consumed prior to the game, or maybe it was the electric atmosphere that is Lane Stadium on a Thursday night, but something about that moment told me the Hokies would pull off the upset. In truth, and in hindsight, the two drives were both stopped for nothing, but it was what I saw in the mannerisms. It was what I saw, when Clemson called its first time-out. It was what I saw when Clemson called all its time-outs in the first 8:05 of the half. It was what I saw as the Hokies stuffed one of the best running tandems in the country. James Davis and C.J. Spiller averaged 185 yards a game going into Thursday night's game. They would be held to 71 on that night.

So now you're thinking, surely I might have changed my mind on the next Clemson possession when they marched 77 yards for a touchdown. No, my friends, I did not. There were again the intangibles. The crowd was in the game. The tackles were crisp. The yardage, on Clemson's behalf, was earned. Quarterback Will Proctor made some good passes for 14, 19, and 12. But these came after Proctor had to burn Clemson's last 2 time-outs.

The rest of the game belonged to the Hokies.

The Hokies took the field and I saw something else, forward movement. Branden Ore was able to push, or rather, more importantly, the offensive line was able to push on short yardage. A key third and inches pickup was actually more important than it appeared at the time. As was the next set's fourth down pickup. Glennon would pass twice on this drive, each for minimal pickup. Ore, Jesse Allen, and he would combine for the rest of the yards on the ground. The Hokies rushed for 74 on their 84-yard march into the end zone. Ore's 39-yard run was the highlight which was a touchdown, but he was ruled out of bounds. Again, I was not concerned. I knew that the Hokies would convert regardless. Two plays later, Glennon on a keeper would tie the score.

Clemson would struggle on the next drive. Brendon Hill should have had an interception but instead Clemson went three and out. The Hokies would take advantage of good position on the Clemson 49 and again would put some points on the board. Brandon Pace would kick a 37-yard field goal. The reoccurring theme, Ore was able to move the ball with relative ease.

After yet another three and out, the Hokies drove for a little while but that drive would stall. A key pass by Glennon to David "I've got a fever" Clowney for 19-yards. If not for losing his footing, he would have taken it to the end zone. Two holding calls would push the drive back, but punter, Nic "Big as a five bedroom, four bath mansion" Schmitt would pin the Tigers down on their two yard line.

Clemson got the ball back with 6:30 on the clock. I want you to envision the amount of time left in the game. There are 36 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game. Now I want you to absorb this stat: On this drive, the Tigers would convert for a first down after being pinned in. This would be one of three conversions for the rest of the game. The second would come late in the third quarter. The third would come with time running down at the end of the game.

One more time: with 36+ minutes left in the game, the Tigers had their last first down until nearly the end of the third quarter. In total they would have eight, five of which came on their second drive on which they scored the touchdown. That said, Clemson quickly collapsed and had to punt once again. All told, Clemson would have ten three and outs.

Glennon would make one mistake in this game and it came on the next drive. Glennon has consistently had trouble with blindside pressure. He has fumbled four times this year when hit from behind. It is vital that he work on protecting the ball in these situations. A sack is far better than a fumble, my friends. Thankfully, Will Proctor would mirror the turnover with a fumble of his own.

The defensive battle would continue into the next half. Tech goes three and out. Xavier Adibi would intercept a pass deep in Clemson territory. The next five plays were all hand offs to Ore. The last one would be for an 11-yard touchdown run. 17-7 Hokies lead.

The Hokies with the ball in their own territory would be saved by what I think was a controversial fumble call reversal. The play in question was a botched reversal by the Hokies. Eddie Royal fumbled the ball on the Hokies 34-yard line. The play was reviewed and turned over. The play was very close and on further review, I personally think there wasn't enough to overturn the call. But, I'm not a referee and the Hokies would maintain possession and would punt. Guess what, the Tigers again went three and out. The Hokie defense was phenomenal. The Hokies allowed 12 yards in the last 12 plays!

The Hokies would drive again on their next possession, this time with a more balanced attack. This is to say, Glennon made two passes: one to Josh Morgan for 9 yards and one to Sam Wheeler for a huge 40-yard strike. Ore would add 31-yards and another touchdown to his total on this drive as well. Ore would finish the day with 203-yards with two touchdowns. This was the second straight game he was able to break the 200-yard mark.

The next drive the Tigers would convert their seventh first down. But that would be all they could muster and would have to punt once more.

The forth quarter was a ping pong match of dueling three and outs. Two things were pretty evident here. One, all of the back and forth was only eating into the clock. Two, the Tigers looked amazingly like the Hokies did against Georgia Tech. There was a aura of dejection and of shock on the Clemson side of the ball. With only a 17 point deficit, the Tigers seemed to fold it in and were half way back to South Carolina in the fourth quarter. It seemed that the emotional high the Tigers felt after defeating the Yellow Jackets five days earlier was gone faster than the caffeine high that was fading from those three Sparks I had earlier.

A Superfan asked on Thursday, what was Beamer's record against the Tigers. Frank Beamer's first game as head coach of the Hokies in 1987 was a loss to Clemson. He lost again in 1988 and 1989. Since then, Beamer and the Hokies have had the Tigers' number. With wins in Death Valley in 1998, the 'Burg in 1999 and in the Gator Bowl in 2001, Beamer moved to 4-3 versus the Tigers as the Hokies' head coach. Overall the Tigers hold the lead 17-11-1.

The Hokies moved to 13-2 when playing on ESPN's Thursday night coverage with the 24-7 victory over the Tigers. The two losses both were against the Boston College Golden Eagles. Something tells me, that Athletic Director Jim Weaver will think twice before scheduling that one again!

ACC Chamionship Game Divisional Tiebreaking Procedures

For all of you wondering if the Hokies have a chance to get into the ACC Championship, the answer is yes. However, the Hokies would have to win out the rest of the season and the Yellow Jackets would have to lose to two of three versus NC State, UNC, and Duke. Possible: yes. Probable: no.

From Section VIII-3 of the 2006-07 ACC Manual

Two Team Tie
(1) Head-to-head competition between the two tied teams
(2) Records of the tied teams within the division
(3) Head-to-head competition versus the team within the division with the best overall record. (divisional and non-divisional) Conference record and proceeding though the division. Multiple ties within the division broken from first to last.
(4) Overall record versus all common non-divisional opponents
(5) Combined record vs. all non-division teams
(6) Record versus common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish (divisional and non-divisional) and proceeding through other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division.
(7) The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the end of regular season games shall be the divisional representative in the ACC Championship Game.
(8) The representative shall be chosen by a draw.

Three or More Team Tie
(Once tie has been reduced to two teams, the two-team tiebreaker format is used)
(1) Combined head-to-head record among the tied teams
(2) Records of the tied teams within the division
(3) Head-to-head competition vs. the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference record, and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken first to last.
(4) Overall record for non-division teams
(5) Combined record versus all common non-divisional teams.
(6) Record versus common non-divisional with the best overall Conference (divisional and non-divisional record) and proceeding through the other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within the division.
(7) The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the conclusion of regular season games shall be the divisional representative in the ACC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the ACC Championship Game.
(8) The representative shall be chosen by a draw.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Special Shout Out


My esteemed colleagues will bring you a full preview of the Clemson game shortly, but there is a special point (and player) that needs highlighting. Lost in the importance of the victory and all of the stars of the game is the fact that Brandon Gore received a gameball from the coaches and as far as I'm concerned he was the MVP of the game.

Ryan Shuman has had a pretty bad 2006 football season. The sophomore guard was playing miserably and then against Southern Mississippi he finally had a good game. Fortune did not smile upon him though as with 4 minutes left in the first quarter against Clemson he tore his ACL and is now out for the season. We all feel bad for the young man who has worked hard and is making improvement, but the cold hard truth is that he and guard Sergio Render have been the weak links on the offensive line this season.

But in stepped Brandon Gore, to fill in for Shuman at left guard. Gore is a senior with one start in his career and this season he's been spelling Sergio Render at right guard because of Render's poor play and the fact that Render's a freshman who hasn't been ready for the college game thus far. And now that Gore was going to be playing at left guard, Render would have to step up his game against Clemson and he did. But MY GOD, if you go back and watch the tape you will be awed by what Brandon Gore did on Thursday night.

This 350 pound man, who has only been playing sparingly, facing the "best" defense in the ACC, proceeds to have not a single false start or holding call against him. He proceeds to not allow the man he is blocking to be in on a tackle or a sack until midway through the 4th quarter when the game is already in hand. That last sentence was so unbelievable that I had to go back and watch all of the Hokies offensive series again just to be sure. On a night where the Hokies Branden ORE had a huge game and ball control was critical, the backup guard was nothing short of dominant. He blew his man off the ball time and time again. He picked up blitzing linebackers. He was phenomenal to the point of me wondering just what the heck was this coaching staff doing not starting him earlier this season, this man who gave up one single tackle in an entire game against Clemson.

And so Ryan Shuman will be back next season to take over at center (Shuman's natural position) for Danny McGrath. I don't know where Brandon Gore will be, since he will have used up his eligibility. I hope he continues to play well enough at guard to justify some attention in the late rounds of the NFL draft. But what I do know is that last Thursday night in Blacksburg, VA, he put on one of the better performances by an offensive guard that I can remember seeing and he did it as a backup filling in for an injured starter. Thanks to the heart and ability of Brandon Gore, Branden Ore was able to have a huge night and lead the Hokies to a big win.

3 Key Plays - Clemson


1) Facing 4th and inches from his own 36 yard line and down 7-0, Coach Beamer decides to go for it and calls a QB sneak. Sean Glennon gets the first down and the Hokies go on to complete the drive with a TD to tie the score at 7-7. Two weeks ago, TSF badly criticized Beamer for going for it deep in BC's end with the score 0-0. A field goal was needed on the road in that situation. Under the circumstances of this past Thursday night, however, this was the right call, as the Hokies NEEDED to swing the momentum back after Clemson's TD drive. Credit to Beamer, the offensive line and Glennon for having the guts to make the right call and then executing the play.

2) Late in the second quarter up only 10-7, the Hokies defense recovers a fumbled snap by Clemson QB Will Proctor on 3rd down. This series was following an incredibly bad play by Sean Glennon who fumbled and gave Clemson the ball deep in Hokie territory. The defense rose up and stuffed Clemson on two straight plays and then recovered the fumble to end the scoring threat. This was just an enormous play as it kept Clemson from regaining the momentum going into the half.

3) Midway through the 3rd quarter up 17-7, the Hokies tried a reverse to Eddie Royal. A fumble was called on the play and Clemson would have taken over on the 30 yard line of VT, but the replay booth overturned the call. This was nothing short of karma finally coming back around for the Hokies. After being on the bad end of so many reviews, some of which were blatantly the wrong call, VT finally had a key call overturned in their favor despite the fact that this time there appeared to be minimal video evidence to overturn the call on the field. This truly iced the game because if Clemson got the ball here and scored, the game would likely have turned out VERY differently.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Game Preview - vs. Clemson

Game Preview vs Clemson

by Brian "Where's the Ice?"

Clemson ranks first in the ACC in offense with 1564 of passing and
2075 yards of rushing. Clemson ranks first in the ACC in defense
allowing only 576 yards of rushing and 1267 yards of passing. The
Tigers' only loss comes at a one point loss to Boston College.
Besides that single loss, they've assembled a record that includes
seven wins, all but one of which involves a clear victory of more than
a touchdown.

It's true that one of the downfalls of the ACC lies in the Carolinas
failure to produce a consistently winning football team, but this
year, Clemson is the real deal. (Whether this continues through
seasons to come, we have yet to observe.)

This week, the Virgina Tech Hokies take on the Clemson Tigers, a team
fast making a name for themselves as the season's best in the ACC.
While each pair of teams can match up against each other differently,
we can still make the observation that Clemson's record against common
opponents fairs better than the Hokies' in their stomping of Georgia
Tech and their single point loss to Boston College where the Hokies
lost miserable to the Yellow Jackets and even more so to the Eagles.

Breaking down the Clemson offense, quarterback Will Procotor has a 61%
completion rate. 5'11', 210 lbs, sophomore running back James Davis
has 961 yards of rushing and 16 touchdowns. James Davis leads the ACC
in rushing, and although he sustained a shoulder injury during their
game against Georgia Tech, Clemson lists him as probably for the game
on Thursday night. His backup, CJ Spiller, also has some impressive
numbers in 573 yards and 7 touchdowns. Moving on to the passing game,
receiver Chansi Stuckey has 331 yards of reception and 3 touchdowns.
Aaron Kelly has caught for 257 yards and has 2 touchdowns. From
watching this team play, I've observed them work as a cohesive
offensive unit.

Their defense doesn't make for anything at which to scoff either.
This defense held Calvin Johnson to an unprecedented zero catches.
While you can't consider the way each pair of teams match up against
each other, you also can't help but compare what the Hokie defense did
against Georgia Tech.

Before I close my piece, I want to shed some light on a couple of
things that could give the Hokies the momentum they need to prevail
over the Tigers. (Yes, be believers; it is possible!) First, the
game happens Thursday night in Blacksburg. The Thursday night
Blacksburg crowd has the potency to cripple even the best of the
nation's teams. Also, in their losses to Georgia Tech and Boston
College, the Hokies hit a low point in terms of morale, self esteem,
and expectations, especially considering the suspensions of Chris
Ellis and Josh Morgan. They regrouped against Southern Miss and came
together as a team when they had nowhere to go but in an upwards
direction. The momentum gained from that win and feeling of a good
possibility of spoiling Clemson's season could give the Hokies enough
motivation to win this game on heart alone. Get ready Hokie fans.
It's Thursday night football!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Game Review - Virginia Tech vs. Southern Mississippi


Kum-Bah-Ya? No.

by MadJay

Well, well, well, I bet you Hokie fans are feeling pretty satisfied. I hate Lee Corso as much as any of you (although let’s be honest, Lou Holtz makes Corso look like a genius doesn’t he? I mean how does Holtz keep that gig? He’s a bumbling fool), but I’m here to say “Not so fast my Calm and Beloved Reader”. Why can’t the Hokies come out and play a sharp first quarter for once? Let’s review the first quarter scores of the games this season –

vs. Northeastern – 21-0
vs. UNC 7-3 (and down 3-0 early on)
vs. Duke 13-0
vs. Cincinnati 5-0
vs. Georgia Tech 7-21
vs. Boston College 0-0
vs. Southern Miss 7-6

With some quick calculations, that’s a total of 53-30 with the edge to the Hokies but honestly, look at that schedule!!! How can the Hokies only have that slight of an edge when 4 of the teams have 2 wins or less?!?!?

Again on Saturday night, the defense played awful early as well. Here’s a question to Bud Foster, whom I admire, but seriously – how many times on the first defensive series of the game are the Hokies going to get burned on a deep seam/post route for a big play??? I count 4 so far. Think the opponents have found something on film there Mr. Foster?

“Oh, but Mr. Madjay, the Hokies had the Golden Eagles stopped on the first possession, it was just a roughing the kicker penalty that let them get a field goal “. Really? Well then explain the second drive of the game when Southern Miss went back down the field and got a second field goal without the aid of any roughing penalties at all. Honestly, I am not questioning the level of heart shown by the VT defense, it’s the heart and soul of this team and they have had their backs up against the wall because of poor offense more times than I can count this season (or at least more times than I can count before I start crying). And I know they were pumped up on Saturday night against Southern Miss and I know they will be even more pumped up with emotions through the roof on Thursday night against Clemson. But the reality is that unless they come out from the first play and EXECUTE and play better than they did against the Southern Miss offense (which was missing it’s one real offensive threat), then my friends, it could be pretty ugly.

On the other side of the ball, I will be the first to admit there was improvement in the offensive unit on Saturday. Sean Glennon threw a great first ball and it was one of my key plays of the game. He pulled the ball down or got rid of it after his 2nd read almost the entire night and made more athletic plays than I thought he was capable of. The offensive line blocked valiantly and there was a commitment to the run that I hadn’t seen thus far this season. Some of that is attributable to better play by the tight ends, but did anyone notice that the Hokies used a whole lotta fullback Saturday night? I’m like Christopher Walken in the now famous Saturday Night Live skit, but instead of more cowbell, I’ve been pleading for more FULLBACK. Let teams fear the REAPER!!!!

Alas, amidst all the good warm fuzzy feelings from the offense, I had to go back and watch the game a second time. Oh dear. If you take away Glennon’s first pass, he was 3-10 for 59 yards, 1TD and 1 INT. I was in the stands for Grant Noel’s all-time worst performance against Miami in 2001 (4-16,71yds, 0TD,4INT and a fumble). I was in the stands for Marcus Vick’s 4 turnover performance against Miami in 2005. This performance by Glennon was not as bad as those, but this opponent wasn’t exactly national championship caliber Miami ; it was the mighty Southern Miss Golden Eagles. And in that context I thought Glennon’s level of play was such that if he doesn’t improve then there is no chance against Clemson. Even Sean’s TD pass to Josh Morgan was a poorly thrown ball that Morgan had to make a great adjustment to.

So I know what you all expect, but BOOOM there goes the dynamite. Ike Whitaker is not ready for the starting role on this team either. I saw flashes of star power in Whitaker on Saturday night. He gives the team another dimension and they will need that at some point in the Clemson game, as well as later this season and in 2007 if he’s not the starter, it is the wrong decision, period. But I will eat my crow with some salt and pepper and say that Whitaker is not NEAR polished enough to start. More than just a better grasp of the offense, he has some fundamentals that still need to be beaten into his head. I was still so glad to see him out there so we could actually evaluate him a little and I re-iterate that the game just seems to flow to him more naturally. But while he is the answer in the future, from what I saw against Southern Miss, Glennon needs to be the starter against Clemson and he needs to not only be better than he was on Saturday, but better than he has been all season.

One last point, and I am going to use a very specific play as an example, so bear with me, but football is a game of inches and I think this play illustrates the small difference between 2006 VT football and 2005’s national-best-defense that’s had a huge impact.

13:38 left in the game, Hokies up 22-6 and Southern Miss faces 3rd and 1 from their own 10 yard line. A stop here basically ices the game. The Golden Eagles snap the ball in the shotgun and the RB goes out wide and they fake a screen pass out there to the RB. Orion Martin, Brendan Hill and Brandon Flowers had it read and completely smothered vs. the one offensive tackle who has run out to that side. The wide receiver who would normally be out blocking on the screen has run inside however to the middle of the field. Vince Hall whose responsibility on this play is the middle of the field, sees the QB look over to that RB like he’s going to throw the screen pass, and Vince, despite having 3 teammates out there to cover the screen, forsakes his assignment and the aforementioned wide receiver sneaks up in the middle where the Southern Miss QB hits him for a 10 yard gain. This is different than a QB looking off a safety downfield. In that instance the safety has over-the-top-help responsibility and he’s trying to help the DB who the QB is looking at throwing against. But in the specific example I mention (and watch it yourself if you have TiVO), Vince does not trust his teammates to make the play and as a result gives up a first down.

Now I am not picking on Vince Hall, but I have seen that issue occur in quite a few instances (tons in the Boston College game), and it sickens me. Darryl Tapp is in the NFL right now because of his discipline on defense. He is nowhere NEAR a prototype defensive end in size or speed, but he was drafted by Seattle and is playing on Sundays right now because he is smart and plays his assignment on every play. How many friggin times are Noland Burchette, Orion Martin and Nekos Brown going to get caught looking into the backfield and giving up the perimeter to a QB rolling out after a fake handoff?????!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Darryl Tapp is a millionaire because last year he blew that play up at least 10 times by staying on his assignment until teams just stopped calling it period. The 2005 team had many players like that and I would have thought that philosophy would have carried over to this team but it hasn’t. On display Saturday night were missed assignments and if teams like SOUTHERN MISS and CINCINNATI have exploited that weakness on this year’s team, just what exactly do you think a team like Clemson is capable of doing on Thursday night? They won’t be converting those mistakes into just field goals I can promise you.

It’s time to stop singing Kum-Bah-Ya about the win on Saturday night and see just what this team has learned in 8 games. Are they ready to execute early on in a game? Are they ready to trust each other? Can they pull it together for a classic Thursday night showdown against a team that I think is one of the 5 best in the country? My colleagues will do a much better preview of the game on Thursday night for you, so I leave these questions to them and look forward to a HUGE game.

3 Key Plays - Southern Miss


3 Key Plays

1) After Southern Mississippi scored a field goal, the Hokies responded on their first offensive play from scrimmage with a 41 yard bomb to Eddie Royal. Down 3-0 at home to a big underdog, the Hokies could have tanked their season right there, but this successful play led to a TD drive that put the team up 7-3 and gave them the confidence they needed that everything would be all right.

2) Brandon Flowers forces a safety by getting the Southern Miss QB to intentionally ground the ball while throwing from his own end zone. This put the Hokies up 12-6 but more importantly it gave the defense the fire that they played with the rest of the night. After giving up two early field goals the defense seemed to draw strength from this safety and played much better football the rest of the way.

3) Branden Ore busts a 70 yard TD run in the 4th quarter to ice the game at 29-6. This run was so badly needed by Ore and the offensive line. His big run against Cincinnati earlier in the season had been called back due to holding by Eddie Royal but here was a play where the blocking was well executed and Ore made a beautiful cutback to run untouched into the end zone. A feel good play for the team to be sure.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Game Preview - Virginia Tech vs. Southern Miss


Where are the Hokies' heads?
by MadJay

The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles are much like the Cincinnati Bearcats were earlier this season. They are outmatched talent-wise against the Hokies but not by very much and they are a very well coached football team. Unfortunately for Southern Miss, they are going to be missing two of their best football players for the game against Virginia Tech – Damion Fletcher their best all-around player who has been 33% of their offense this year and Travis Cooley one of their best offensive lineman are hurt.

One might think that this is great news for Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech fans because it sets the stage for a positive scenario. First of all, the defense needs a team that they can dominate to get their confidence and try to get their sense of “team” back. Southern Miss is a terrible passing team and now they are without a great RB and a great offensive lineman. All factors point to the VT defense just smothering everything Southern Miss tries to do.

And therein lies the problem. It is nearly impossible for the defense to feel good after this game. The only possible way they can feel even decent about themselves is if they destroy this opponent. If the defense isn’t dominant or even worse, plays like it did against Boston College, then there are going to be some VERY, VERY dark clouds over this football program. The only good thing I see here is that even if they hold Southern Miss to 3 points or less it still won’t make them overconfident heading into the Clemson game.

Offensively is where the real opportunity is in this game. I have seen Coach Beamer’s decision at QB and I disagree but that’s all said and done. Sean Glennon is the starter and against Southern Mississippi both he and the entire offense have a chance to get some much needed confidence. These Golden Eagles defense played the high powered Florida offense very tough for a half so scoring a lot of points against the Golden Eagles qualifies as a genuine achievement for the VT offense. The Golden Eagles have a few injuries in the defensive secondary so it’s an even better chance to air out the ball and showcase a strong passing game. If that happens, then the running game can get going. The opportunity for execution on offense is there against an overmatched opponent and I hope that the entire group on the VT offense is excited and plays well. If they do not, watch for the Clemson game to become an absolute disaster. If the Hokies can’t generate a very solid offense and put up points on Southern Mississippi, the team is in for a very long rest-of-the-season.

The other reason I hope that the Hokies jump out to a big lead at halftime is that Ike Whitaker at QB and Elan or Kenny Lewis at RB need valuable game time in the second half. These players have to get out on the field in real-live situations and develop experience. Right now the backups have almost no meaningful snaps and that could really bite the Hokies badly if they suffered even a minor injury to the first string. Not to mention these players could be contributors to the program in the future, but you only find that out based on how they play the game. I want someone who practices well, but who the Hokies really need on this team are gamers.

We’ll be able to tell a lot about the mentality of the team watching this game. If they play disciplined football with few penalties and no personal fouls and focus entirely on Southern Mississippi as a team, I’ll believe that the season has a chance to be salvaged, and the coaches and seniors will deserve a lot of credit. If they continue what happened last Thursday night at Boston College, there is no bottom to how low this team can go in the remaining games. As I always say, we’ll find out when they play the game.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Midseason Report- The Truth Hurts


The Cold Hard Truth - MadJay

The loss to Boston College was like a splash of cold water on my face. It opened my eyes and so with this clear vision unclouded by what I wanted to be true, I went back and watched the Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Boston College games again (thank you Tivo). I've spent 25 years intently watching football games and I offer up this insight into the 2006 Virginia Tech football season at the midway point. Be forewarned, this is the objective, often harsh truth about the team this year. Do not read on expecting empathy or compassion for the team or the program. Not today.

The "Next Step" has been the TSF theme for 2006 and while it was originally intended to support the team taking the next step on its path towards a national title, what it has become is what this team needs to do in order to avoid taking the "Next Step" backwards. Since Michael Vick left for the NFL draft in 2001, the obstacle has been high expectations. Many of you may have heard Kirk Herbstreit announcing the Boston College game on Thursday as he ripped into the Hokies for having a "me-first" attitude similar to the 2003 Hokies. I have been acknowledging this problem since the recruiting boom that has existed since Michael Vick played at Virginia Tech. Herbstreit has been quietly voicing this opinion for about 3 years and he was much more vocal about it last night than he has been in the past. This struggle is less about "me-first" than it is about expectations, but I'll admit they are somewhat linked together. The caliber of player brought in leads the players, coaches and fans to expect to be among the nation's elite every year. That in itself is a good thing. The problem comes in when that expectation is followed up by a feeling of entitlement.

Look at it this way – it is very likely that all of you reading this can accurately throw a 15 yard pass to a very particular spot. You are able to do it. If you practice a lot, you can even begin to expect yourself to be able to throw it consistently. However, you can't just go out and throw the ball up without focus or effort or and expect the ball to go to the right spot. You still have to go out and execute. You have to attempt to go through the same motion that you developed during your practice of throwing. You are not entitled to have the ball go exactly where you want just because you want it to. When the situation is upgraded in complexity with the addition of 11 defenders and 10 other players on your team, it becomes even more critical that everyone execute instead of just expecting that everything will be just fine regardless of their focus. The odds that you can throw a 15 yard pass to the right spot when someone didn't focus on the blocking scheme and you are being hit in the back are extremely low. So yes, Kirk has a point – the focus and discipline on offense and defense are not where they need to be. Plain and simple, the coaches from Beamer on down have not successfully driven the concept of TEAM home to this group of players (after all the TEAM is why you need to have focus and discipline) and the senior leaders have not stepped in and led to the level that is needed.

But my Calm and Beloved Reader, throwing our hands up and saying "Oh yes, the team has too many blue-chip recruits and prima donnas and they just don't have the focus and discipline" doesn't allow us to address the other half of the problem. The one we don't want to admit. That is, the level of play at some positions is not good enough this year. Yes the talent may be there (in some cases), but I think that the turnover in coaching staff combined with the flat-out inexperience at some positions has really been the key factor in VT's poor performance. Let's go group-by-painful-group through the 2006 Hokies.

Secondary – I start with the defensive secondary because it is the perfect example of what I was just speaking of. A new coach (albeit one who I am convinced is right for the position in the long term) in Torrian Gray and a stunning array of physical talent but two sophomores who just don't have the reps and experience to turn it into results. Brandon Flowers is one of my favorite Hokies and he and Macho Harris will be stars in my opinion. But Harris needs a lot of work on his technique and Flowers has blown several coverages that have resulted in huge plays for the opponent. Aaron Rouse COMPLETELY blew the coverage on the nail-in-the-coffin TD by Boston College (hence the argument on the sideline with him and Vince Hall) plus he has far too many late hit fouls to lead by example at this point. D.J. Parker gave up the big pass on the first play of the Georgia Tech game two weeks ago among MANY other mental mistakes he's made this year. Watch for Cary Wade to get significant snaps at both rover and free safety unless or until Parker and Rouse can bring their level of play back up.

Linebacker – Linebacker play has been very solid for the most part. Vince Hall has blown three plays that I've seen (big rush by Cincinnati, the rushing TD by Georgia Tech that made it 21-0 and the big run by Boston College on the play after the critical facemask penalty committed by Chris Ellis). Xavier Adibi missed a few plays in pass coverage, but I am not asking for perfection. The issue at linebacker isn't in the level of play, but rather in their contribution to the lack of focus and discipline. Hall and Adibi are jawing it up and pushing and shoving after every single damn play and Brendan Hill made a complete ass out of himself dancing on the field with the Hokies down 20-3 to Boston College. Symbolically, this is Bud Foster's group to coach on defense and you can be damn sure he is up these guys' ass so far he's coming out of their earhole following the BC game, so let's see how they respond.

Defensive Line – Chris Ellis is symbolically what is wrong with the VT team. Here is a guy who studied under Darryl Tapp and has the ability to become a dominant force but instead he bitches to the refs about being held all the time and doesn't do squaDOOSH in the Cincinnati game and then he commits a game-changing facemask penalty in the Boston College game (the 2 nd facemask penalty he got called for was BS). Oh yeah and he follows it up with a cheap shot personal foul when the game is out of hand. And this is supposed to be one of the leaders of the defense? All-in-all the defensive line has played pretty well against the run but the pass rush has been awful. Their technique on passing downs has been embarrassing – it's almost ALWAYS a spin move. Surely Charley Wiles has taught them more than that. Because of Clemson's offensive line, they have the potential to completely destroy this Hokie defense if the defensive line play doesn't improve and that is just a fact. And by destroy I mean it could be the worst home loss in 15 years.

Defensive Coaching – Bud Foster always has my respect. He has earned it. He isn't happy about what's happening on and off the field right now. But dammit some of this is his fault. Here's a stat for you – 4 sacks in the last 3 games. 1.3 sacks/game against the likes of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Boston College? I counted 1 blitz the ENTIRE GAME against Boston College. Their QB, who doesn't remind anyone of Vince Young when he's healthy, had a bum ankle for GOD'S SAKE!! What the hell are the Hokies doing dropping everyone back in coverage when we've already learned the front four can't get the pressure like last year? The defense is the only unit that can stack up on the field with other ACC opponents, but it must have the focus and discipline to execute a good gameplan. Too many plays by Cincinnati and Boston College were simply bad plays by those offenses ( i.e. dropped TD's, fumbles, etc) as opposed to good plays by the defense. If the defense doesn't improve, the Hokies will have a real fight on their hands to be bowl-eligible (wins against Kent State and Southern Miss were pre-season gimmies that now give cause for concern).

Offensive Line – Here's some more cold, hard truth for you: this is the worst offensive line I have seen at Tech. Go back and watch some of the Cincinnati game and you will see just how bad the push was by the offensive line and how much work Branden Ore had to do by himself. Georgia Tech only had 6-7 guys in the box and the Hokies couldn't run on them at all. Boston College only had 7 in the box on 3 RD AND DAMN 1 AND FOURTH AND GODDAMN 1 and the Hokies couldn't get a yard. Realize, for those of you counting at home, that with 7 defenders in the box there's a blocker to hit every defender, and even with a stud like Ore running the ball the Hokies couldn't get 1 yard on 2 attempts. The pass blocking by the tackles and center have been very good but the pass blocking in terms of recognition and even physical ability by both guards is an embarrassment. Holding has cost the Hokies three huge scoring plays this year (which, with this offense, is like taking water away from a man in the desert). This offensive line is outmatched by ACC opponents and frankly will be tested by Southern Miss. The only thing we can hope is that the big recruits on the offensive line this year will be able to contribute next year and that the returning starters on this offensive line have one hell of an offseason.

Tight End - only the biggest disappointment on the entire team. Greg Boone can block but he can't catch the ball and the other two guys, Wheeler and Wang, can catch but can't block. I think it's become evident just how huge a weapon tight end has been over the past two years for this offense. Having a big target on a seam route keeps linebackers from blitzing as often and keeps the safeties honest in the middle of the field. Without that big target, nor the good blocking that has typically been a mainstay for the Hokies, the tight ends have essentially contributed zero to this offense. That will be brought up again when I discuss coaching, but we'll come back to that.

Wide Receiver – Overall the wide receiver play has been excellent. Justin Harper has turned into a serious threat. It'd be nice if this unit could show some respect for the program and themselves and quit getting arrested, but their on-field play has been solid. I also wish David Clowney would spend as much time working on holding onto the damn ball once he catches it as he does talking in the locker room. But the receivers have blocked extremely well this season and really their only trouble has been some drops. Eddie Royal had one HUGE drop against Georgia Tech, David Clowney had a tough drop against Georgia Tech, and Justin Harper had one against Duke. Josh Morgan could have had a TD catch against Boston College if he had turned his head one second sooner. But again perfection is impossible and while is there is plenty of room for continued improvement this is one area where I have to credit the new receiver coach for not screwing up an extremely talented bunch of receivers.

Running Back – Branden Ore is an example of a player who has handled expectations. He can serve as a leader on this team next year. I am proud he is a Hokie and he plays hard and plays well. Yes he missed the block against Georgia Tech that led to the fumble return for a touchdown by the Yellow Jackets, but nobody is perfect and his positives have far outweighed his negatives. As for the rest of the running backs, we have forsaken the fullback for some reason and the backup running back position is a disaster. Billy Hite is too nervous to put Elan Lewis or Kenny Lewis in the game to give Ore a much needed breather. This is required and if Hite doesn't play Elan or Kenny Lewis extensively in the Southern Miss game he won't know if he has the type of player he needs to relieve Ore in later games. The bullet needs to be bitten. Either Elan Lewis or Kenny Lewis can get the job done or they can't, but you're not going to find out the answer by keeping them on the bench.

Quarterback –Ah yes, the position you've all been waiting for. Quite an unexpected result came from my review of the game footage. I expected to blame Sean Glennon a lot more than what he actually deserves. Let me explain, because this will take a while. You see, Sean Glennon is focused and disciplined. He is being coached well. I think he is actually playing at about the peak of his ability. In high school football, the coach would say "he is doing all you could ask" and he'd earn his playing time. Unfortunately this isn't high school football. This is Division I-A football and we are talking about a program that expects to be competing for the ACC Championship and eventually a national title. Glennon is giving it everything he has. Unfortunately the game does not come naturally to him. He has to work at it very hard, and to his credit he does. He benches 350 pounds but his throwing motion is deliberate and the ball doesn't seem to have that "zip" it should have. And I notice nearly all of his mistakes come because he is trying so hard NOT to make a mistake. He is coached not to throw a pick because the offense can't afford a turnover. The result? He holds the ball too long or always checks down to the 3- 4 yard pass. He is coached not to watch the rush, but to keep his eyes downfield. The result? He isn't feeling the rush from blind or front side and keeps fumbling from big hits. And so what we have is a situation where you can't BLAME Glennon but at the same time to give the team their best chance to win you have to start Ike Whitaker. The reason is that if the offense is going to suffer from sacks, fumbles and interceptions, why go with the guy who doesn't have the playmaking ability. Why not give a playmaker the chance to get experience? Follow me here for a second – I work in the composites industry. I can tell you that you can pour resin over carbon fiber and mix it up and re-organize it however you want and all you get is a big mushy pile of resin and carbon fiber. However, if you add a catalyst to that mixture you get something that can stop AK-47 bullets or function as the wing for a jumbo jet. Whitaker can be a catalyst for this offense; he can be the X-factor that defenses have to account for freeing up the receivers and Branden Ore not to mention take a little pressure off the offensive line. And consider the alternative – let's say Glennon starts the rest of this season and Whitaker gets few meaningful snaps. What has the team done to itself for next season? In 2007 how can the coaches justify benching a guy they started the entire 2006 season for a guy who has never started a game? And don't even say Tyrod Taylor to me. At this level of college football, almost all quarterbacks (99%) need a season to get stronger, smarter and learn the system. So there you have it. The answer at quarterback is to thank Glennon and start Ike Whitaker. By the way, if Ike Whitaker doesn't get it done in the remaining 6 games, I have no problem with re-opening the QB competition next spring. Who knows, maybe consistency at quarterback is the only thing the offense will need next season? Unfortunately Beamer won't bench Glennon. It's a hard decision, but it makes sense, and yet Beamer is loyal to a fault sometimes and he will play Glennon until Glennon gets hurt.

Coaching – Well, it should come as no surprise that Stinespring coaches the tight ends. They have been terrible. And let's briefly discuss the gameplan against Boston College. I see that the Eagles were 109th against the pass in Div. I-A headed into this game. The Hokies gameplan? Throw two deep passes the entire night. One was an interception on a miscommunication and the second one was a TD to Clowney which was called back due to holding. I like the short pass to the running back in the flat and Stinespring has used that this year to his credit. The wide receiver and running back screen have also been effective weapons. However you cannot construct an offense with those being your central plays unless you run an entire West Coast offense. And the Hokies still try and run the ball a lot. They also don't utilize the tight ends (because they can't right now). And so trying to run a half-baked West Coast offense leads to no identity on offense. An offensive coordinator has to be able to answer the question "What are you trying to do on offense?" I have no idea what Stinespring's answer would be to that question and I wonder if he does. The fact is that with the tight ends so inept, Stinespring should build gameplans that better utilize the Hokies very good fullbacks. But he doesn't. I said above that Glennon isn't the answer, but people are going to debate that. After this many years, there can be no debate left about Stinespring. Just watch the footage on The halftime videos contrast Stinespring talking to the offense with Bud Foster talking to his defense. It is painfully evident that while Foster knows exactly what he wants to do with his defense in the second half, Stinespring fumbles around with vague statements and heads off in 4 different directions. After this season he can no longer be the offensive coordinator. Let him move on.

Special Teams:
Kicking/Kickoffs – the single best unit on the entire team. Pace on Field Goals is a machine and Dunlevy/Develli have been stellar on kickoffs. The blocked extra point issue has been resolved. End of story.
Punting – Insane. Schmitt has the leg of a professional wrestler and when given a chance booms 50 yarders, but the blocking and snapping have been ridiculous. For a coach like Beamer to hang his hat on special teams and have poor punt coverage, safeties due to bad snaps to the punter and blocked punts, I mean it just makes a mockery of Beamerball. This has to be addressed as again, the lack of focus and discipline is just so blatant here.
Coaching: Frank Beamer failed to reel in his players with $100 fines and 6:00 AM Wednesday morning runs. What difference do those penalties make to a guy who will make a minimum of $500,000/year in the NFL? The only way to enforce how serious Beamer is about on-field and off-field discipline is to have it affect playing time. You can't hurt a draft choice anymore than by taking away his chances to get on the field. Not to mention the black-eye it puts on his "character" which, while seemingly meaningless once you're in the NFL, appears to have a huge impact on where you get drafted. I look forward to seeing what Beamer does here because, just as he was in 2003 against West Virginia, he and his football program were shamed on national TV in a horrible loss, not just by losing but in the way they lost. The easy comparison for the 2006 Hokies is to those 2003 Hokies because of a similar lack of focus and discipline. But the 2003 version was more talented (they destroyed Miami – the GOOD MIAMI - 31-7 that year) so this 2006 team is going to have to go above and beyond to save the season. It won't be easy and requires tough decisions by the coaching staff. It also requires a willingness for the team to be disciplined and focused and I can't overstate how hard that is and how easy it would be for them to just phone it in the rest of the year.

My Calm and Beloved Reader, I told you at the beginning, I would be offering harsh truth in this entry and in the spirit of being honest, I don't expect the coaches to make those tough decisions and those players to respond positively with focus and discipline. If they prove me wrong they have an excellent chance of turning this season into something positive, but if they continue on this path, the Hokies will be playing in a very bad bowl, if one at all and the "Next Step" for 2006 will have been backwards. Your one last ray of hope is that according to The Blonde I am wrong approximately 98% of the time and the other 2% of the time we are both right. You can cheer the team on and help prove me wrong starting this Saturday night against Southern Miss.