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