Friday, December 28, 2007

Hokies Try to Cap a Victorious End to a Successful Season

G’Day Mates! It’s good to be back from the land down under. Having missed much of the regular season, it’s good to be back where the toilets flush in the correct direction. The bowl season’s well under way and we’ve already had some great games.

Along those lines, on January 3rd the Hokies will take on the Kansas Jayhawks in the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. Despite what many may call a poor match-up, both the Hokies and the Jayhawks have a lot to prove and will come out playing hard on both sides of the ball.

The Jayhawks finished the season 11-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of the Missouri Tigers. The loss kept a then undefeated Jayhawks team out of the Big Twelve Championship Game and gave the honor to the Tigers. The Tigers then lost to the Oklahoma Sooners which in turn gave way to the Jayhawks to pick up an at large bid to the BCS bowl games. Some have cried foul over the choice, but Confusius say what has been decided shall be. The Jayhawks bring with them the desire to prove that their 11-1 season was not a product of poor schedule and circumstance but rather the result of a good team playing good games culminating in a successful season and big bowl victory.

The Hokies also have much riding on a BCS bowl victory as well. The Hokies finished the regular season at 11-2 including a victory in the ACC Championships giving them their second conference title and first conference title game victory (the first title was not decided by a championship game because Boston College had not joined the conference at that point.) This has been a great season – some could argue the greatest – which had many ups and downs both on the field and emotionally off the field.

The world united behind the Hokies earlier this year and throughout the season teams across the nation honored the Hokies in respect of the tragedy on April 16th. The thirty-two names symbolically honored in the mighty lunch pail carried around by the defense. The banners and car magnet ribbons emblazoned with “We are Virginia Tech” and “We will prevail.” [Here’s to you, Car-Magnet Ribbon Maker Guy!] Many took on the Hokies as the darling team; the team that could help heal the school of its many wounds. To a degree this was true.

However, the team would face adversity on the field as well. After an embarrassing loss to LSU early in the season, the team looked for a direction. With an offensive line faced with injuries and a quarterback who came under scrutiny, the loss would create, not a controversy, but questions at the point position. Sean Glennon started the year as the starting quarterback and lost the job to freshman Tyrod Taylor after the team’s loss to LSU. Understandably, Glennon was upset by the loss. His initial paroxysm at the media was in the heat of the moment. Even Chris Crocker showed up to scream at everyone to leave him alone. Ultimately Glennon, EhhTee’s new favorite all-time player, showed true determination as he worked and fought his way back into the system. He showed his ability on the field when he got the chance when Taylor went out of the Duke game with an injury. Glennon excelled and it was soon announced that the Hokies would be going with a platoon system at quarterback.

Later, the Hokies would once again face another major setback on the field. Up 10-0 with six minutes to play against the then number two Boston College Golden Eagles, the Hokies gave up two touchdowns. Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan led his team to a victory, scoring the second touchdown with just 11 seconds left on the clock, which will surely give Eagles fans that warm and fuzzy feeling when they’re watching the game on ESPN Classic someday.

For the Hokies, it was a moment suspended in time. From that moment, a proverbial fork in the road ahead was created. The Hokies took that moment to produce the greatest second half of any season by any team… ever. The Hokies defense, under the fire and rage of defensive coordinator Bud Foster, would allow just 29 points in the second half of the last six games. Astonishingly, the D did not allow a single point to be scored in the fourth quarter of those games – the same fourth quarter that on that miserable day in October, the Hokies gave up fourteen. This includes a complete shutout of the Eagles for the last 39:25 of the ACC Championship Game.

Charged up with the energy and the fury of an amazing end of season run the Hokies defense will once again have to shine against a balanced attack by the Jayhawks led by QB Todd Reesing and RB Brandon McAnderson. The Jayhawks run a spread offense, similar to what the Hokies have seen in the past from West Virginia and Clemson. The spread should string out the offensive line enough to give linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall and the Hokie front line some opportunities on the blitz. It’s likely the Jayhawks will look to establish the run early which could set up situations where the Hokie secondary will be called on to make the play in single coverage.

The Jayhawks offense struggled early in their loss to the Tigers – they were not able to put points on the board until late in the third quarter – and will be looking to solve those issues early. Along with McAnderson, the Jayhawks have a second punch at RB in Jake Sharp. Sharp and McAnderson combined for just 42 yards in the game against Mizzou while the rest of the season they averaged over 163. Reesing went six games without a pick leading up to that last game in which he had two interceptions. Summarily, the Hokie defense is looking at a mature, disciplined offense that slipped up in their last game. They’ll most likely come out looking to prove that their stumble on the field against the Tigers was little more than that: a stumble.

On the line, the Jayhawks bring an Outland Trophy finalist in OT Anthony Collins. DE Chris Ellis will most likely be matched up against the All-America Team tackle. This is certainly one match-up to watch.

All in all the Jayhawks bring a 6th ranked overall offense, which is 14th in the nation in passing, 28th in rushing, and 2nd in scoring only to be outdone by Hawai’i. However, it can be said that the Jayhawks have not faced a defense the likes of that brought to the field by the Hokies. The average national ranking of the defenses that the Jayhawks have faced is 82.6. Colorado and Missouri were the best defenses that they faced and they were ranked 65th and 60th respectively. By comparison, the Hokie defense is 5th in overall defense, 4th in passing defense, 4th in passing efficiency, and 5th in rushing defense. Only Ohio State is better at letting up points as the Hokies are 2nd in scoring defense. Second! This is despite the 48 points given up to LSU. But hold on now. The Hokies also have not faced an offense with stats like Kansas. LSU (20th), Boston College (27th), and Clemson (47th) had offenses in the top 50. The Hokies are 2-2 against these teams. What do these stats really tell us then? They tell us that when the Jayhawks have the ball, we’ll probably see two very well coached sets of eleven players battling hard and strong.

On defense, the Jayhawks again look impressive. Led by All-America cornerback Aqib Talib, the Jayhawks come in with the 14th best defense in the country. Their passing defense is 10th, rushing defense is 7th and they are 4th in the nation at holding their opponents to the fewest points. This is where the true test of the Hokie offense will have to perform. The Jayhawks have faced some of the better offenses, at least on paper, in Missouri (5th), Oklahoma State (8th), Nebraska (10th), Toledo (19th) and Central Michigan (21st). They have also faced some of the worst in Fla. International (119th) (only Notre Dame was worse!), and Iowa State (103rd).

On offense, the Taylor/Glennon led Hokies are 100th in the nation in overall offense. They’re 86th in passing, 83rd in rushing, and 50th in scoring. However, these stats may be padded by an early season plagued with injuries on the offensive line, as well as a suspected slow recovery from an early injury to RB Brandon Ore. The numbers on paper make this look like one of the worst offenses in the country, but in reality, with the offensive line back at full strength, Ore appearing to be near 100 percent towards the end of the season, and arguably the one of the best receiving corps in the country, and truly the best in Virginia Tech history, this offense could pose a formidable test to any defense.

Do Numbers Tell The Full Story?


Total Offense


491.1 ypg


Virginia Tech

332.4 ypg


Total Defense


318.2 yds/gm


Virginia Tech

293.3 yds/gm


Passing Offense


294.5 yds/gm


Virginia Tech

198.8 yds/gm


Passing Defense


106.73 rating


Virginia Tech

97.93 rating


Rushing Offense


196.6 yds/gm


Virginia Tech

133.5 yds/gm


Rushing Defense


91.4 yds/ gm


Virginia Tech

86 yds/gm


Scoring Offense


44.3 pts/gm


Virginia Tech

29.3 pts/gm


Scoring Defense


16 pts/gm


Virginia Tech

15.5 pts/gm


SOS – Massey



Virginia Tech


Keys to this game for the Hokies on offense will be to establish Ore’s running attack early. Keep the Jayhawk linebackers honest. Key also will be the turnovers. Glennon will surely remember last year’s bowl game against the Georgia Bulldogs in which he turned the ball over four times with three interceptions and a fumble. Make sure the passing lane is there before releasing. Eddie Royal, Josh Hyman, Josh Morgan, and Justin Harper will do the rest.

On defense, it will be important to stop McAnderson. I’ll bet dollars for donuts (Mmmmm… donuts) that the Jayhawks will come out also trying to establish the run as well. Second, the Hokies must keep the offense guessing. Throw blitzes and change the looks in coverage often. Should the Hokies allow Kansas to establish a rhythm, the game could get interesting quickly. All in all, if the defense takes care of business as they have during the season, the Hokies will be in good shape.

On special teams, the key is simple: Beamerball. Kansas will be afraid of two things: the frightening attack of the block rush and the even more frightening Eddie Royal return. Whenever a kicker has to worry about both a block and a return, one will surely fall through the cracks.

Finalmente, si los Hokies van a jugar en Miami, ciudad más o menos bilingüe, acabo en español. El Hokies se han fortuna actualmente, pero no son de mucho. Y a pesar de toda la controversia y especulación creadas por el BCMess, los SuperFans de los Hokies llegaran para arriba en sustantivo con casi toda la asignación de las escuelas vendida y que es adquirida seguramente más con marcar anaranjado del tazón de fuente. Cada oficial de los Bowls sabe que el HokieNation llegara para el juego y es feliz invitarles a que jueguen. La ciudad del anfitrión de Miami es una lugar muy magnifico esta tiempo de año. ¡Va adelante HokieNation y animó en el Hokies a su primera estación del año de 12 triunfos y trae una victoria de BCS para el ACC!

Va Hokies!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Future Site of ACC Championship

The Charlotte Observer has posted an article noting that the ACC will hold its football championship in Tampa and then Charlotte over the next several years.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

3 Key Plays - VT vs. BC ACC Championship

1) After having just answered the Hokies TD, the Eagles extended their lead to 16-7 and were trying the extra point. Duane Brown blocked it and Brandon Flowers returned it and the Hokies found themselves down one score at 16-9. This swung the momentum of the entire game.

2) With the game tied at 16 in the third quarter, the Eagles mounted a drive that got down to the VT 29. Facing 4th and 1, they decided to go for it. A conversion here would probably lead to at least a FG and put a lot of pressure on a Hokie offense that hadn't done much all game. But the VT defense rose up and snuffed out the play action pass attempt which fell incomplete and the threat was averted.

3) Following Vince Hall's interception with 2 minutes left in the game, the Hokies looked like they had it sealed up but they couldn't get a first down. The Eagles would get the ball back with about :35 seconds left and punter Brent Bowden was standing on his own 6 yard line. A shanked punt here and the stage would be set for more possible Matt Ryan heroics. But Bowden calmly blasted a 47 yard punt that actually travelled 59 yards in the air and allowed for no return. That punt helped clinch the game and the championship for the Hokies.

Game Review - VT vs. BC in ACC Championship

"A minor setback for a MAJOR comeback" - Victor 'Macho' Harris VT Cornerback

The quote above was created by Macho Harris in the locker room following the Georgia Tech win. He got a game ball and the context was that he wanted to remind the team that the BC game in Blacksburg was a minor setback but it set the stage for a major comeback. By beating Georgia Tech the Hokies could start down a path that would lead to a rematch with the Eagles for the ACC Championship.

In between there would be a ton of hard hitting, and a lot of blood and sweat but there were no tears. All the tears were left that Thursday night after losing to a miraculous Matt Ryan comeback. But the Hokies wanted BC. They cheered for the Eagles to beat Clemson and earn a spot in the title game representing the Atlantic division. And then the Hokies beat UVA to earn their spot. 

All week leading up to the game the Hokies tried to downplay the revenge factor but you knew it was there. The players admitted as much after the game was over. They needed an opportunity to exorcise the demons of that heartbreaking loss. And exorcise they did.

The first half was all BC. Matt Ryan was his typical effective self. He kept checking down to his running backs and hitting crossing patterns over the middle. The Eagles went up and down the field at will. But a funny thing happened when they got within striking distance - the Hokies rose up and would not let them score. The Eagles had a blocked FG, they were stopped on 4th down twice and came away with only 9 points offensively.

Meanwhile the Hokies offense was apathetic for most of the half. Tyrod Taylor had a fumble on a poor decision to try and late pitch on an option play and that led directly to the Eagles first TD.  Sean Glennon couldn't mount a drive. Branden Ore played miserably and looked like he was avoiding contact on nearly every run. Finally Taylor found some rhythm and moved the Hokies down field. Glennon capped it off with a perfect fade pass to Josh Morgan to make the score 10-7 BC.

But the defense let the Eagles march right back down field and sure enough, BC got another TD - this time on a ridiculous rushing TD from 14 yards out by Matt Ryan (I mean he's mobile, but the Hokies just didn't come up and hit him). And then the turning point of the game occurred. Duane Brown got his second block on the extra point try and this time Brandon Flowers scooped the ball up and dashed all the way down for a 2 point play for the Hokies. Instead of being down by two scores at 17-7, they found themselves down by only one score 16-9. That turned out to be huge as a few minutes later, Glennon answered the bell leading the team on a well executed two-minute drill. He capped it off with a very non-Glennon play - avoiding a heavy rush and while moving to his right, throwing a nice pass back across his body to Josh Hyman for the tying score.

So after being thoroughly dominated statistically, the Hokies found themselves tied 16-16. I knew that at halftime Bud Foster was chewing up one ass and down another and making the right adjustments, but I had no idea the masterpiece he and his players would pull off in the second half. In summary, BC had 112 yards, 4 first downs and zero points in the second half and 58 of those yards were on one drive with 5 minutes left. In the final few minutes the defense forced two huge turnovers by guess who - Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Hall made the first interception on 4th and 4 with 2:25 left in the game. The offense wasn't able to get a first down and Brent Bowden, having his second enormous game in a row, BOOMED a 47 yard moonshot that wasn't returnable. With only 0:34 seconds left, Ryan got desperate and a tipped pass fell into Adibi's hands who rushed it in to close out the scoring at 30-16.

The offense on the other hand made me ill in the second half. They had 4 possessions in the 3rd quarter, 3 of which involved snaps taken on BC's side of the field. Not once did the Hokies try a deep pass to Harper or Morgan while on BC's side of the field. They got exactly zero first downs while on BC's side of the field in the 3rd quarter. It was pathetic play calling. I was having a heart attack following each failed drive. I was calling everyone I know saying the offense doesn't want it bad enough. But the Hokie defense kept coming up with huge stop after huge stop. And finally, pinned deep in their own territory, the Hokie offense got rolling behind a huge 31 yard run by Taylor. That led to a big TD pass from Glennon to Eddie Royal to make it 23-16 and was the lone spark by the offense in the second half - but thanks to the Hokie defense, one spark was all that was needed.

Yes it was an enormous victory and we are all so proud of the team. They rallied the entire second half of the season and the defense closed out the final 5 games giving up zero points in the 4th quarter. But there were some serious issues exposed in the title game that the Hokies must address.

First of all, the playcalling was horrific. A terrible mixture of runs and passes that BC almost knew was coming on every play led to the offense going nowhere for most of the game. Bryan Stinespring has improved this year, but he was coming from such a Beyond Thunderdome distance away from anything resembling competent that improvement has still left him far short of what a program of this caliber deserves at offensive coordinator. I credit him for handling the QB situation (more on that in a sec) but most of the offensive improvement can be attributed to Curt Newsome and the job he did with the offensive line. To put it simply, I will not be happy with this offense until it either 1) performs at a top 25-30 level for a season or 2) see #1.  I doubt that will happen under Stinespring.

The defense was again inexplicably flat to begin the game. This was the same phenomenon that occurred against Florida State in 2005 in the ACC title game and that time it cost them the game. I just can't get my mind around how to channel what the Hokies did on defense in the Clemson game this year and bring that same intensity to the beginning of every game. I hope they don't play that way in the first half in the Orange Bowl.

Regarding the QB situation, I just don't like it. Tyrod Taylor was unable to get in a rhythm and unless you were on Pluto, you saw what he is capable of when he gets in a rhythm during the Florida State game. He played at a level in that game that Sean Glennon just cannot reach. Now, did Glennon play well from the Duke game until now? No question. He played much better than last year and more importantly played up to his absolute best. I was proud of him and happy for him to win an ACC title and play well. He has done all that Mike O'Cain can ask of him. Is he as good as Taylor? No. For now, I'll just bring up one play - the critical 4th quarter TD pass from Glennon to Royal. Glennon threw an ok ball. Royal made a phenomenal backward leaping catch. The throw was good enough to get the job done because of the receiver, but the Hokies lose those four stud WR's that have been making catches like that for four years. Next year it's going to take excellent throws while the new WR's come up to speed on their routes and work on their hands. Taylor makes excellent throws already, and remember that he is also about to go through his first offseason and first spring practice. You think that might help him improve a little bit? I do. And then what do you do Opening Day 2008?

I guess that's a question to argue then. For the next four weeks however, I get to fret and worry and get nervous about the defense as they prepare to play a very talented Kansas Jayhawks offense. And I get to chew my fingernails and work up an ulcer about why Billy Hite won't play Kenny Lewis, Jr more at RB instead of a something's-missing version of Branden Ore. But I would be lying if I said that between Saturday and today I really have been basking in the glory of Virginia Tech being the 2007 ACC Champions. We don't get many moments like this so take one and enjoy it my Calm and Beloved Reader. It's times like these that reward the Superfan in all of us.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Big Time Recruit Commits to Hokies!

The Hokies landed a verbal commitment yesterday from Vinston Painter - the top rated offensive lineman in the state of Virginia and one of the top offensive linemen in the country. This is a big deal for several reasons: 1) The Hokies are demonstrating a resurgence in offensive line talent that was a hallmark of the program from the mid-90's through 2004 and 2) Whether or not Painter pans out or not, by repeatedly signing the top talent in Virginia, VT further strengthens its pipeline in the state encouraging other big time players to join the Hokies.

This has the potential to be one of the best recruiting classes in VT history which is impressive coming off the heels of a 2007 class which landed the likes of Davon Morgan, Chris Drager and Tyrod Taylor all of whom played as true freshmen this year.

We will have TSF's full recruiting breakdown after Signing Day in February.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Why Virginia Tech Deserves to Play in the National Championship

Ohio State is a one-loss team conference champ, and the lone team who can fit into that category, so of course they deserve the number one ranking and a berth in the national championship. However, LSU isn't standing on such firm ground. Yes, LSU has two losses resulting from multiple overtimes. Yes, LSU blew Virginia Tech out in their meeting this season. Yes, LSU plays in the toughest conference in College Football. But make no mistake my fellow BCS (err BC-MESS) critics, by the numbers LSU received their berth in the national championship by popularity, not by what they earned.

First and foremost, they have two losses, not overtime losses. The NHL distinguishes between the two, but the NCAA does not. Therefore, they have two losses. Those two losses came at the hands of teams who do not have a Top 25 ranking at the closing of the pre-bowl season. Virginia Tech stands out as the only conference champion to have two losses to teams currently ranking in the BCS Top 25.

Secondly, the thought of a head-to-head tie breaker doesn't hold water. The schedules of these two teams are very different given that they play in different conferences. For teams playing in the same division of the same conference, such a tie breaker makes sense because there is a level playing field. (Pardon the pun, unintended.) This is not the case between Virginia Tech and LSU.

Thirdly, favoritism towards SEC teams is discriminatorally unfair. LSU plays in the SEC by their own choice. If they wanted to play in another conference, they very well could. Weighing one conference above all others in terms of bowl selection promotes bias that can lead to assumptions that skew perception of how good teams really are. The most fair way to judge a team is on what they've earned on paper, not public opinion. And Virginia Tech has earned more than LSU. The BSC system has only, in this respect, screwed Hawaii more so than it has Virginia Tech this year.

Fourth, LSU has had to overcome injuries in their games this year. So has Virginia Tech, probably more so that LSU. I can list Ed Wang, Vince Hall, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon (although only briefly), and Eddie Royal just off the top of my head. You could even consider Branden Ore playing a number of games not at 100% with his ankle problems. The BCS standings didn't consider Oregon's loss of Dennis Dixon, so LSU shouldn't receive consideration any differently. Injuries are part of the game and too subjective to incorporate in BCS standings and bowl berth selection.

Fifth, and this is the king daddy of them all, after defeating number 16 (number 14 from last week) Tennessee, LSU leaped over two other teams who won in the BCS standings, one of whom was Virginia Tech who had defeated number 14 (number 11 from last week) Boston College.

Sixth, Hokie fans would travel to the national championship as equally well as LSU, so that's no excuse for the BCS big whigs.

Lastly, some may argue that Oklahoma may deserve the national championship game berth ahead of Virginia Tech. WRONG! Again, Oklahoma has two losses at the hands of teams not currently ranked in the BCS Top 25.

I am more mad than Mad Jay when he thinks of Brian Stienspring. I hope the Hokies give Kansas the most merciless pounding the history of the Orange Bowl and that LSU has the worst day of their entire life as a football program, which I'm considering to not even watch as a form of protest against this shoddy decision making.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Game Preview - ACC Championship

Here we go again. On Saturday, the Hokies will have an opportunity to exact revenge upon the Eagles of Boston College after a two minute total collapse leading the forfeiture of a ten point lead in the two teams' first meeting this season. In that game, quarterback Matt Ryan orchestrated a two touchdown run with the help of an offense that did nothing with an interception at roughly the 6 minute mark, a bobbled onside kick reception, and a defense that allowed two quick drives down the field each earning an Eagle touchdown.

When the Hokies retired to their locker room after the loss, Sean Glennon rallied the team to keep one thing in mind: the ACC Championship. The team hung signs all over the locker room that read "6:01", the time the game began to get away from the Hokies. The Hokies haven't lost since in earning decisive victories over Virginia, Miami, and Florida State. With Boston College winning the Atlantic conference, they now have a rematch and seek redemption with hopes of a BCS bowl in their sights. This marks the first time in more than 100 years that Virginia Tech will play the same team twice in one season.

This game has a lot of mental aspects to it. Either team can win this contest. Some of these aspects are in favor of the Hokies. Squeaking by with the victory against the Hokies and subsequently loosing to Florida State, who the Hokies beat, and Maryland, the Eagles know that this game is not in the bag for them. Nothing would cast more of a shadow over their October comeback than a loss to the same team in the conference championship game. The Eagles also have to face a more healthy Hokie Squad. Vince Hall returns to the lineup. Tyrod Taylor will take a number of snaps to mix up the offense rather than the Hokies only making use of Sean Glennon's passing abilities. The entire receiver core is healthy and seems to have more chemistry with Glennon than at the mid-season point. Branden Ore has seemed to wake up in the last couple of games and looks more in the form of his 2006 performances.

On the other side of the mental situation, the Hokies are missing some elements from the regular season matchup between the two teams. First, they will not be playing in Lane Staduim in front of a stadium primarily packed with screaming Hokie fans. They also are not an underdog by the BCS standings, and the media has coined the Hokies as the favorites. Historically, the Hokies play better as the underdogs. Also, the rainy weather and muddy conditions of the previous game inhibited Matt Ryan's ability to throw the ball accurately. Virginia Tech tends to lean more on the passing game too, but not like Boston College does with a quarterback like Ryan. The weather will inhibit Ryan far less on Saturday's match. Lastly, the Hokie style of play this season has been to get way ahead of their opponents early in the game to demoralize them while seeming to slack a little in the second half. With a quarterback of Ryan's abilities, being way out front on the scoreboard early isn't a sure thing for a victory. If the Hokies take that approach to this game, they could very well set up a similar ending as the previous game against the Eagles.

So here we are with all the makings of a great potential comeback. One thing is fairly certain, this game will be close into the fourth quarter. I expect a nail biter regardless of who wins.


ACC Championship Game
1:00 PM ET, December 1, 2007
Alltel Stadium , Jacksonville , FL
Broadcast on ABC and ESPN360

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Game Review - VT vs. UVA

Virginia Tech won the biggest game in the history of VT-UVA and in the process salvaged a chance at the ACC title, a rematch against Boston College, and at the same time prevented my four week clinical depression I was getting seriously worried about. And believe me with the Hokies ahead 23-21 but losing momentum and the Cavaliers holding onto the ball in the 3rd quarter, the prospect of that depression was becoming far too real. I ran to the bathroom thinking I was going to be nauseous. And that's when I realized how big this football game was.

So I pulled myself together and ran out to see Barry Booker stuff Andrew Pearman on 3rd and 1 and the Hokies got the ball back and went on to a glorious victory. My stomach didn't calm down until later that evening, but my heart was joyous and overwhelmed from the moment the clock read 0:00.

So let's take a look at how the Hokies accomplished this amazing feat.

The first thing that jumped out at me was special teams. This was classic Beamerball, but the special teams opened with some new-school Beamerball by showing off a reverse on the first punt return which put the Hokies in great field position. Jud Dunlevy went on to show just how strongly that pre-season question of "How do we replace Brandon Pace?" has been answered. He hit 4-4 FG's and now is only 1 behind the all-time record for FG's in a season by a VT kicker. And Brent Bowden, who I have been hard on for a while, REALLY responded booming 4 kicks for an average of 48.2 yds/punt including a long of 57 yards!! He boomed one out of his own end zone towards the end of the first half at a time when the team needed it. Of course, we must mention the big blocked punt by Davon Morgan which set up a FG for the Hokies to make the score 23-14 VT. The special teams all year has just been lights out and in this game the difference in special teams proved to be the difference in the game.

The defense played simply average. Now keep in mind that average for the Hokies is still good defense for 100 other football programs out there. The Wahoos were limited to 241 yards and there were several big plays by Tech defenders (Booker's tackle on the 3rd and 1 where I nearly lost my lunch, Brandon Flowers' 5th INT of the season, etc.) But the 3rd down defense was ATROCIOUS (7-17, 41%) for most of the game. Tech couldn't get the Cavaliers off the field, especially after turnovers. 3rd down defense has been a real strength of VT's this season and that "get off the field" mentality needs to return for next week's game against BC. There were several missed tackles and some bad angles by Vince Hall that I saw, so again the defense was average.

I will take this opportunity to highlight Kam Chancellor and Cam Martin. Those two guys bear no resemblance to the two guys that started against LSU in the 2nd game of the season. And while Kam Chancellor has made some strides, (though he's still not as disciplined as I would like in the mental part of the game), I don't know if I can ever remember a player improving more during the course of the season than Cam Martin. I mean he has become a holy terror at whip LB. He is consistently one of the top point getters on the defense each week and he has several hits that are candidates for Hammer awards. Not to mention he has overcome a mid-season bout with mono. I just want to say that Jim Cavanaugh earned his coaches salary with the work he did with these two players this season and don't be surprised to see All-ACC honors for them in upcoming seasons.

Now for the almighty offense. Consistent is the best word I can use to describe them. I said earlier this season that if the offense could just be solid, the entire team would become elite, and that is exactly what has happened. The offensive line contained a guy who is easily a top 10 pick in the draft next season - Chris Long. Yes he got two sacks and caused a fumble but only one of those was the offensive line's fault. The running lanes were there for Branden Ore all day - and while I'll admit Ore has improved, he is still a half step slow compared to last year. But the pass protection also allowed VT to respond every time the Cavaliers tried to capture the momentum. The entire offense has turned around with the play of this offensive line.

As a result the receivers who were also underachieving, have stepped up. I have been hard on Kevin Sherman, but the past 4 games the receivers rose up to the challenge. Not only has their blocking been vastly improved (with only 1 holding call on the receivers in that timespan) but Eddie Royal, Justin Harper and Josh Morgan have EACH had a monster game in the past 4 games, while Josh Hyman has been consistent and made solid plays in every game. Against UVA is was Eddie's turn with a 6 catch, 147 yard, 1 TD effort. But Josh Morgan gets my Tough Man award, for re-breaking the finger he hurt against LSU and the pin that was inserted into it. He went in just before halftime to get it worked on and came back out to make a huge catch in the 3rd quarter. I don't even know how he did it but the whole team was aware of it, be sure of that. It's representative of the toughness this team has and for the 4th straight year they "out-toughed" UVA.

And finally let's look at QB and offensive coordinator. I have nothing but love for Sean Glennon and I am happy to see him succeed. He threw his best passes of the season on Saturday against the hated Wahoos. I can't stand Bryan Stinespring, but I will admit his playcalling was much improved (notwithstanding the retarded flanker pass option where Royal threw the interception) during the UVA game. He also is balancing the Tyrod Taylor/Sean Glennon QB situation very well despite my disagreement with the decision on principle. I think it's working for two reasons: a) because those two kids are class acts and b) the team hasn't lost yet with this new QB rotation. This sets up nasty possibilities for next season in the locker room in terms of leadership and chemistry, and I still think it hurts both QB's ability to get into a rhythm and the feel of the game. But I must concede that they are making it work and that Glennon is playing at the very top of his game which surprises me.

You want to be playing your best football at the end of the year and there's no doubt that's what happening with this senior-laden class of Hokies. They played with a lot of "want-to" on Saturday but they also executed, which was missing on offense up until the last 4 games. As a result they overcame a road crowd and 2 turnovers to take a big win in Scott Stadium and close out this senior class as going 4-0 against UVA. They also are the first VT class to get 10 wins in all 4 seasons, they sport a 15-1 road record in the ACC and right now are the only team in the nation to get 10 wins in 4 consecutive years (although Texas and USC both have a chance to do that this year as well). The senior class still has a few more goals they want to accomplish but take a minute to appreciate how proud they have made Hokie Nation, and nevermoreso than with everything on the line against a hated rival for the ACC Coastal Division title.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Game Preview - VT vs. UVA

Well folks, here it is - the single biggest game in the history of Virginia-Virginia Tech. A good bowl game vs. a crappy one. State bragging rights. A chance for the ACC Championship. My sanity. All of these things hinge on the outcome of this already spirited rivalry.

When the Hokies lost to LSU, I thought to myself - "Well if we can just beat Virginia this will be a successful season". When the Hokies lost to Boston College I thought to myself -  "Well as long as the Hokies beat Virginia, this will be a successful season". Now that the big game is here I'm thinking to myself - "If the Hokies lose this game, the season will be a complete failure, and I will have a firsthand glimpse at what Dante's 5th circle of hell looks like." 

I always ignore the statistics when talking about rivalry games because honestly, they don't mean anything in these cases. Does it really matter that the Hokies have a slightly better defense statistically and a slightly worse offense? No. I have taken a look at the matchups and there are a few interesting tidbits there, so I'll lay those out and then tell you what this game will really come down to.

Matchup-wise this will be the toughest defense for the Hokies offensive line since Georgia Tech. Not only do the Cavaliers have Chris Long, who plays like his dad Howie, with a non-stop motor and great balance, but they also play a 3-4 defense which means blitzes can come from any combination of linebackers. The offensive line is JUST coming into form but this will require phenomenal communication made tougher by the fact that the game is on the road. 

If the Hokie QB can get good protection (don't get me started about this rotating QB situation), the Hokie receivers have a distinct advantage on the UVA secondary in terms of height and speed. This class of 4 senior receivers - Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, Justin Harper and Josh Hyman - have all gone over 1000 yards for their career, which is the first class of receivers to do that in Virginia Tech history. All but Josh Hyman will be either be drafted or make an NFL squad.

Defensively, the Hokie linebackers matchup very well against an athletic QB and the defensive line has been shutting down the opponent's running game for the past 4 weeks. But I think we will see a commitment to the run from the Wahoos that has been missing from the Hokies' opponents. Unless Tech gets out to a huge lead early, Virginia will probably continue to try and run the ball if for no other reason than the Hokie CB's are better than the Virginia receivers. Brandon Flowers will be All-ACC again and be gone to the NFL where he'll get drafted. Macho Harris will likely be back for his senior season but he's also having a huge season. It should be tough to get big plays through the air for Virginia, but I guarantee they will take a few shots deep in the first half if only because the Hokies aren't expecting it. 

Now, let's face reality. This game, which is already big for both teams because of the rivalry, is made enormous due to the ACC Coastal Division also being on the line. The deciding factor in the game is simply going to come down to who can handle the magnitude of the moment. UVA has been in close, tough games all year (setting an NCAA record by winning 5 games decided by 2 points or less). This Hokie senior class has been in big games as well, winning the ACC title in Miami, beating Clemson at Clemson, crushing UVA 52-14 two years ago in Charlottesville. But the mental toughness is going to decide things like penalties, turnovers, mistakes on special teams. It will be mental toughness that will decide this game. Who can make the fewest big mistakes?

And as crazy as this sounds (I told you not to get me started), if you reason this out with me you will agree that the true freshman is the better player at QB for these circumstances. When have you seen Tyrod Taylor flustered? I saw him angry when he got hurt last week, but I've never seen him shaken up by a situation. Sean Glennon has a history of playing poorly in big games. His one exception is the Georgia Tech game this season, but I have never seen poise like Taylor's. Remember the Clemson game this year in Death Valley at NIGHT? With everything on the line in the 4th quarter, Taylor made a HUGE run down the sideline that led to the score to ice the game. Remember Florida State in Blacksburg? Down by 1 point, in the 4th quarter, Taylor made a throw that an NFL QB would have been proud of that put the ball on the Seminole 2 yd line, then ran in the score himself to give the Hokies the lead on a big 3rd down. It's hard to believe a freshman can have that kind of poise, but in the final analysis I am an engineer, and I have to believe the data. Taylor has proven in similar circumstances he can handle this. Glennon has shown that, for the most part, he cannot. So I love the idea of telling UVA that they need to prepare for both QB's and then after kickoff give the start to Taylor and don't look back. If Taylor gets hurt you have Glennon coming off the bench, who in that situation, might play looser because he wants to prove he should still be co-starter. 

Regardless, this should be a huge hitting game. There will be a lot of trash-talk which the Hokies have done a LOT less of this year (nice job Coach Beamer) but there's no way to avoid it in a game like this. What the Hokies have to be careful of is to not let that extend into stupid game changing personal fouls (either killing their own drive or extending a Cavalier drive). I think all you need to know about the mentality of Virginia comes from their coach, Al Groh. Listen to this direct quote from his opening statement during his press conference on the game -  "with those four receivers that we'll be very pleased to bid adieu to after this game". Who says "bid adieu" when talking about football??? Could you stomach the thought of losing to someone who wants to bid you adieu? It makes me nauseous just thinking about it. Now the Hokies need to show the Cavaliers how to say goodbye in HokieSpeak - "See ya'll later!" - and go and kick some tail in Charlottesville on Saturday. Noon kickoff everyone so be ready early.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CFB Weekly

We received another invite to do the CFB Weekly interview for this week and were glad to participate. You can check it out at

TSF actually got 2 segments in the show this week so be sure to stay tuned until the end of the show! 


Monday, November 19, 2007

Game Review vs. Miami

In week 11 of the College Football season, Virginia Tech defeated the Miami Hurricanes by a score of 44 to 14. After a rushing touchdown followed by a passing touchdown, the Hokies led the Hurricanes 14 to 0. Virginia Tech kicked a subsequent field goal, and circumstances looked as though the Hokies may run away with the game early. Then, Miami battled back to get on the board with a touchdown just before the end of the first half. Miami would earn 7 more by getting into the paint one last time, but that would be the last of the 'Canes scoring as Virginia Tech would hold them to no subsequent points while putting 20 more on the board themselves.

In critique of this game let me begin with analysis of the Hokie offense. The return of Eddie Royal added significant value without any doubt. Victor "Macho" Harris is a good punt returner, but Royal is a great punt returner who rushed for 45 yards on punt returns for the day (making him now the all-time ACC leader in punt return yards). Branden Ore had his best game on the season to date with 81 yards of rushing; finally, he looked like a tailback who wasn't injured. Starting quarterback Sean Glennon had 171 yards in passing including an amazing one handed snag by Justin Harper. (It seems like the Hokie receivers are producing roughly one of those in each game.) Tyrod Taylor's substitutions for Glennon produced gains in rushing yardage that set up Hokie scoring. Overall, the Hokie offense performed very well. It followed in suit with typical Hokie wins in getting a big lead early, which often demoralizes the opponent. After a small slip where Miami seemed to be making a game of the contest, the offense responded strongly by putting up big points on the board.

Also, the possession time for each team was almost dead even near 30 minutes. That shows much better offensive control of the play than in some other recent games for the Hokies, such as against Boston College. In an almost paradoxical sense, however, the Hokie offense performed successful drives very efficiently. For example, the following drives all resulted in touchdowns: 61 yards in 2:46, 57 yards in 3:23, 60 yards in 4:32, 68 yards in 2:40, and 65 yards in 1:55. In an area where the offense needs to improve, 6 of 14 successful third down conversions will not cut it against Virginia. That's less than 50%.

Saturday's offensive performance calls for some commentary on the Virginia Tech quarterback situation. Head coach Frank Beamer benched Glennon, the original starter, after a disastrous offensive performance against LSU in the Hokies' second game of the season (disastrous across the board, not just Glennon). Tyrod Taylor relieved him and performed spectacularly against LSU who at the time held the number two spot in the rankings. After Taylor's brilliant performances in subsequent games, Glennon's career as a starting quarterback looked as over as it could be, but a high ankle injury that Taylor sustained against Duke brought Glennon back into the game to once again take the snaps. Even though the opponent was Duke, Glennon put on one of the best displays of his career to date. He played fairly well given the conditions against Boston College and then overachieved against Georgia Tech leading the Hokies to a definitive victory. Moving on to the Florida State game, Glennon sustained a concussion putting him out of the game early. Taylor came into the game as the main quarterback once again, and he led the team on some drives that Glennon most likely could not have, due to some breakdowns in the offensive line over a few plays. That period of the game could have become a turning point for the Seminoles, so Taylor played a HUGE role in securing the victory.

Against Miami, however, Beamer made the call to keep Sean Glennon in the starting spot, and I think that was the right call {note: Mad Jay certainly and respectfully disagrees}. The interchange that we've seen between Taylor and Glennon over the past two games is what I believe to be the best way the Hokies can field the position over the rest of this season. If you turn the clock back a couple of seasons ago, Beamer had a two quarterback situation on his hands of a very different sort. He was trying to share the position between an overachieving Bryan Randall and the rising star, Marcus Vick. This power sharing situation had quite a different makeup, however, because Randall and Vick possessed virtually the same assets. Switching quarterbacks in mid-game served no strategic advantage and ended up hurting the team in the sense of not having a singly identified, established leader. But the situation with Glennon and Taylor is quite different given that both quarterbacks have very different playing styles. This forces an opposing squad to prepare to defend against different styles of play. If the pocket passing approach isn't working, Virginia Tech can switch to an approach more adaptable to scrambling.

Although the cries to pull Glennon from the field have diminished to some extent, I still feel the need to voice something that I wanted to voice at the beginning of the season. Virginia Tech is a football team that adopts a blue collar mentality. Blue collar teams think and act like one unit supporting each other even through rough times, and this should extend into stands where we as fans sit. Tyrod Taylor is going to flourish into one the greatest, maybe even the greatest, quarterback to play in Lane Stadium, and un-redshirting him this season was the right decision. But when Sean Glennon's on the field taking the snaps, he's our guy. HOKIE NATION, GET BEHIND YOUR GUY!

Moving to the other side of the ball, Bud Foster's squad held Miami to only two drives that led to scores. Outside of that, the Hokie defense held the 'Canes to only two drives that produced double digit yardage, one of which ended with a fumble and the other with a turnover on downs. Vince Hall made his return for this game wearing a special cast similar to the one Cedric Humes wore two seasons ago to brace his arm while recovering from a broken bone. Hall made 13 tackles on the day, the team high. Overall the Hokie defense held the 'Canes to 13 first downs, 215 yards of passing, and -2 yards of rushing. They also produced a total of three turnovers.

Including the loss to LSU, Virginia Tech ranks fifth in the country in defense for the season to date allowing 3183 yards of offense from opponents. Take away the LSU game, and that figure is only 2585.

Next, the Hokies turn their attention to what has built up to be the most weighty game of the season so far. They play their in-state rivals, the Cavaliers of Virginia, for the Coastal division title of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Shooting in Victor Harris' Apartment

Fortunately, nobody was hurt in this incident, but Virginia Tech was very close to enduring yet another tragedy. You can read more in this article on the Richmond Times Dispatch website.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Game Review - VT vs. FSU

Wow. That's the first thing I thought of when I watched the game footage of this week's big Hokie win. To go up against Florida State without Vince Hall, Ryan Shuman, or Eddie Royal (all of whom will be back against Miami) and get a win like that says that this team has truly adopted the blue collar mentality and come together to show great resilience.

From the opening snap this was the hardest hitting game since LSU. Sean Glennon got knocked out and Tyrod Taylor came in and had a monster game (more on that later). Players on both sides were getting knocked silly and having to sit out for several plays the entire game. Drew Weatherford took a wicked but clean shot from Brandon Flowers and Weatherford had to sit the rest of the game.

So imagine this - you are a freshman who hasn't taken a snap in college football and your opening snap is on the road in one of the harshest environments in college football with your team trailing. Tyrod Taylor faced that situation against LSU in the 2nd game and FSU backup Christian Ponder had to do the exact same thing on Saturday. Give Ponder credit - he played incredibly well until the very end of the game. Under those circumstances to play like that? I would say that bodes well for the Seminoles down the road. I have always been underwhelmed with Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee for the Noles, but I think they may have a good one for the future in Ponder.

And believe me - the Hokie defense smelled fresh meat and was bringing the lumber. Noles RB Antawn Smith had 50% of his team's rushing yards on the season. Saturday he had less than 10%. The Hokies held FSU to 267 yards of offense. They had 2 picks and a safety. They didn't get any sacks but they had 10 QB hurries on the afternoon. I picked on the defensive line at the halfway point of this season and claimed they were the weakness of the defense and they truly were. But after picking my teeth with some crow bones, let me be the first to say - welcome back Dline!! The level of play from that unit has absolutely been as productive as I've seen since 2004. Every position is playing at the level we all expected at the beginning of the season. Jason Worilds showed the kind of closing speed that VT defensive ends have gotten famous from and he was in the QB's face nearly every snap he played. Barry Booker had a HUGE hustle play chasing down FSU's surprisingly speedy QB and forcing a fumble. Carlton Powell has elevated himself to a 3rd/4th round pick in next year's draft the past 3 weeks. And Chris Ellis' play speaks for itself. He will join former Hokie Darryl Tapp in terrorizing NFL quarterbacks next season as well.

Oh well, just another day at the office for a defense that is REALLY hitting its stride right now at the right time. You may remember that I questioned Foster's calls at the end of the BC game, and I still think he was wrong in that instance, but I wouldn't trade him for any defensive coach in football, period. How's this for a stat - after the LSU game, the Hokies were 95th in defense and 79th in scoring defense. After the FSU game the Hokies rank 8th and 3rd in those respective categories. Can you comprehend how RIDICULOUS that is?! If you throw out the LSU game (and Lord knows I wish I could), or even if you just replace the game stats from LSU with the current Hokies average, the Hokies would lead the nation in scoring defense and be 2nd in total defense with a chance for that third straight year I was talking about at the beginning of the season. In a way, I think by including the 600 yards and 48 points that LSU hung on the Hokies it almost makes their current national rank on defense even MORE impressive because they've had to be that much more dominant over the rest of their opponents.

The special teams on the other hand were well below subpar. How on earth does Frank Beamer give up a fake punt to Bobby Bowden when the entire buildup to this game was how Bowden outdoes Beamer in special teams? Fortunately the Hokies were able to recover the onside kick that Bowden tried later in the game. But Jud Dunlevy missed an extra point and a FG, there was very little in the way of the return game (although I agreed with this - no reason to risk Macho Harris getting hurt on a return with Eddie out) and Brent Bowden went into the TANK. He averaged 35 yards/kick in a game where field position was the key battle and early on the Hokies were losing that battle. I hope this can be chalked up as a fluke and the special teams roar back next week to continue there heretofore stellar level of play.

But the real key to this game was the offense. Just a few weeks ago I was asking when the last time the offense had made a clutch play to win a game and sure enough Tyrod Taylor answered the bell in the 4th quarter. Down by a point with 10 minutes left in the game, Taylor (who had thrown a pick six earlier) rolled to his left and throwing on the run he delivered, and when I say perfect I mean a PERFECT, pass 50 yards downfield to Justin Harper on the sideline at the FSU 2. It's impossible to understand how hard it is to run to your left, and while running, throw the ball to the left, when you're right handed, that far downfield, along the left sideline and keep the ball inbounds, in the one spot where your receiver can make a play on the ball. It was as if Taylor ran the ball 50 yards downfield and handed it to Harper.

The main key to the win was Taylor on offense but let's give some credit where credit is due here. Beau Warren, stepping in for injured starter Ryan Shuman has faced, in 3 consecutive weeks, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Florida State's defensive lines - otherwise known as Murderer's Row in the ACC. He has given up two sacks in those games but more often than not he has fought and scrapped and with great technique and talent, gotten the better of the guy lined up across from him. He also made good line calls (I am sure he had a few mistakes in there, but look at the results). Way to go Beau! Also stepping up were the receivers in place of injured Eddie Royal. Josh Hyman and Josh Morgan attracted coverage and drew penalties against the Seminoles, but Justin Harper rose up and became a true playmaker. He made catches all over the field and he blocked extremely well. It was fun to see him playing at that level.

And now let me address the QB situation in a little more detail. I came up with an analogy (it's great in my mind, see what you think) to describe my thoughts more clearly. Brett Warren has been playing for an injured Vince Hall and I think he's been better than admirable, he's been very solid. I love his effort, he's faster than I thought he was, and I feel pretty good about him competing for the starting job in the spring. Saturday's game against FSU was the first game where I thought, while watching the footage, ok Vince's absence is being felt. Warren wasn't quite able to make a few plays on the QB when he ran the ball and he missed several coverages in the middle of the field that Hall would have made. But Warren was stout in run support and I contend he has been every bit as good in relief of Vince Hall as Glennon has been in Taylor's absence, if not better. However, no one is remotely questioning the fact that when Hall is healthy for the Miami game he will return as the starter. It's a given. You put a player like Vince Hall on the field when he's healthy, end of story.

It's no different at QB. Saturday against Florida State was Exhibit A-Z, your Honor, of why Taylor should be the starter. Glennon played hard but, for example, his first deep ball to Josh Morgan should have ABSOLUTELY been a touchdown. I mean Morgan was as open as you can reasonably ask a receiver to get on a deep route. The bad underthrow of the ball resulted in pass interference, true, but it should have been a touchdown, instead of expecting Morgan to make the super tough play. Taylor had a nearly identical throw later in the game, in much tighter coverage and he threw it perfectly. Glennon has made several very nice passes this season that he never made last season, that is for sure. But he has never made some of the plays, running OR passing that Taylor made on Saturday. It's just the difference between NFL and college talent. Taylor threw some balls like an NFL QB would have (on a good day). And his poise was utterly unshakeable. The perfect throw to Harper when the team was down by a point was thrown as if Taylor was rolling out on the practice field. Now keep in mind, I am ignoring Glennon's stat line (1-4 for 3 yards). I know he can play better than that, and I know that his value in this game was forcing FSU to prepare for both QB's but with an ACC championship on the line, you go with the best guy. Vince Hall at MLB and Tyrod Taylor at QB and you don't look back.

Lastly, let me just pat the crowd on the back for a second. Just like against BC that fateful Thursday night, last Saturday the crowd was the old Lane Stadium again. It was rocking, the atmosphere was electric and it was really tough on the Seminoles. They had to burn a timeout, had a key delay of game penalty on a 3rd and 1 and had two false starts, all of which Hokie Nation contributed to. In watching the telecast, Bill Curry announced that his son Bill Curry, Jr. a center for Virginia, claims that Lane Stadium at night is the toughest place to play in college football. Let's keep it that way this coming Saturday for the hated Miami Hurricanes.


3 Key Plays - VT vs. FSU

1) After the Hokies scored the game's opening TD, Jud Dunlevy proceeded to miss his 3rd extra point of the season. Dunlevy has been a phenomenal kicker this year, but these extra points must be addressed. This was the difference between a 21-20 game in the 4th quarter and a tie game. It turned out to be a huge play that set the stage for the Hokies' dramatic comeback but it could have just as easily turned out the other way.

2) Sean Glennon gets knocked out early in the 2nd quarter with the score tied at 6 apiece. Tyrod Taylor comes in for good at that point. On that specific play it was 3rd and 5 and Taylor calmly hit Boone for a first down, keeping a drive alive that eventually led to a Hokies TD. More importantly than that TD, it kept the coaches from continuing the QB carousel which was not the right decision (more on that in the game review). TSF would never wish injury on any Hokie especially one as classy as Glennon, but instead wishes the coaching staff would make the right decision and just start Taylor. Tyrod Taylor playing the last 3 quarters against FSU was the main reason the Hokies won the game.

3) 9:32 left in the 4th quarter, the Hokies had just turned the momentum and taken a 28-21 lead, and the Seminoles were trying to respond. A GREAT hustle play by Barry Booker knocked the ball out of FSU QB Christian Ponder's hands and Cam Martin grabbed the loose ball and gave possession to the Hokies on the FSU 29 yd line. The ensuing drive led to a FG and a two score lead and the defense finished it off from there.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Game Review – VT vs. Georgia Tech

I don't know if you've stopped to think about how difficult it must have been as a Virginia Tech football player to lose that game against Boston College last week. But it must have been even harder to put that loss behind them and rise up to deliver the greatest performance of the season so far. I often criticize Coach Beamer and his staff for gameplans and in-game playcalling, but Beamer has always been a MASTER of having his team ready to play and overcoming the emotions of both big victories and big defeats. It was never on greater display than Thursday night against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta.

First and foremost let's tip our collective hat to Sean Glennon. For a guy who has gone through a lot of lows in his career, the latest of which involved being benched in the 2nd game of this season, he showed why I have been a fan of his as a Hokie for so long. I have been very critical of his play and his talent, but I have NEVER questioned his heart and his toughness and he showed both in spades against Georgia Tech. The team needed the backup QB to play his very best and Glennon did that on the road in a big time ACC game.

But let's not get too caught up in this shall we? Glennon is still a backup QB in terms of his playing ability. I won't nitpick his plays, but even offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was able to recognize (from his post-game comments) that Sean left a lot of plays on the table against the Jackets. Lord knows, if Stinespring can see it, it's obvious to the point of a 72 font, all bold, exclamation point billboard. I am glad Glennon is on the team and if we need him against FSU I know we can count on him to play his best then as well, but Tyrod Taylor was the starter when he got hurt against Duke. Until Tyrod shows that he isn't continuing to make progress, then when he is healthy, he needs to be the starter again. He has talent and ability that Glennon doesn't have, plain and simple. And more than that, a starter in college football should never lose his job to injury. If the backup is playing better than the starter, then certainly I understand making the change, but Taylor was 5-0 as a starter and was getting better every game. The decision is obvious, which probably means the coaching staff will go completely against it and start Glennon against FSU. Of course, I guess the absolute worst case would be some sort of QB carousel like Beamer tried to implement with Marcus Vick and Bryan Randall in '03. But I think the lessons Beamer learned that year were so painful, I doubt he would try it again.

Being Mad Jay, I see a ton of areas for improvement that should involve far more focus than the QB position right now, since both QB's are playing well. The defense missed some tackles (I KNOW Coach Foster will be having them hitting the tackle dummy this week), some of them embarrassingly bad wrap-up attempts. Also, Josh Morgan gives up yards to try and make the big play instead of getting the sure first down. He did that twice in this game and it's simply unacceptable when this offense needs first downs like a man in the desert needs water. I love Morgan down field making plays on the ball, but I don't like him with the ball in his hands out in the open field. Branden Ore STILL is missing that "pop" that he had in 2006. I saw him make one GT player miss in the hole the entire game. He made his living off of making defenders miss last season, of beating the first guy to him, and this year he just isn't doing it. Coach Hite has me completely stumped. Why he won't run a true 2 back offense I can't understand, but it keeps Lewis, Jr. from getting into a rhythm and from being a contributor to the offense. The team will badly need Ore down the homestretch in November and I'd sure feel a LOT better if Lewis, Jr. had some relatively meaningful carries thus far to make certain that Ore isn't overworked or if God forbid, Ore gets injured and has to miss a game.

But enough about that stuff. Revel in the fact that the offense hung 481 yards on the ACC's statistically toughest defense and had the ball for 15 more minutes than the Yellow Jackets. The Hokie defense held the GT offense to 271 yards and forced 6 turnovers. This was the most complete performance by the team yet.

Again, I don't think one can overstate how hard it must have been to recover from a devastating loss like BC and go out and play the best the team played all season. We, as fans, have to show similar character and rebound from the BC game to make the FSU and Miami games just as tough on those opponents as the crowd was for BC. Always remember that being a TechSuperfan means you are expected to leave it all in the stands, just as the players and coaches are expected to leave it all on the field.


3 Key Plays - VT vs. Georgia Tech

1) With 2:18 left in the 1st quarter, on 3rd down from the GT 12 yd line, QB Sean Glennon tried to escape the rush and fumbled the ball. The Hokies were trailing 3-0 and they had just executed a MONSTER drive down the field to get into FG range to tie the game. If that ball doesn't take a perfect bounce to where Glennon can fall right back on top of it, the entire game would have changed. Glennon had a PHENOMENAL night, but his Achilles Heel is that he can't feel pressure from the defensive line and it nearly cost the Hokies a huge amount of momentum.

2) Immediately following the converted FG, Jud Dunlevy executed a perfect onside kick (wasn't I just talking about the Hokies recovering onside kicks in the BC game review?) and fell on the ball after it went 10 yards. This led to a TD scoring drive and it took a real toll on the Georgia Tech defense for the rest of the game as the Hokies for more than 10 consecutive minutes.

3) Up 17-3, the Hokies had Georgia Tech facing a 3rd and 2 with 9:00 left in the 3rd quarter, when backup QB Josh Nesbitt executed a perfect run fake and pulled rover Kam Chancellor up to the line of scrimmage. He then threw over Chancellor to a WIDE OPEN receiver James Johnson but it was slightly overthrown and Johnson made a poor adjustment to the ball. The resulting touchdown would have made the score 17-10 and completely turned the game around. Instead Georgia Tech had to punt. Probably THE key play of the game and depending on what happens from here on out, could be (just like the Eddie Royal TD in Atlanta 3 years ago) the key play of the season.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

CFB Weekly Radio Show

MadJay's not one to pat himself on the back, but we were asked to do an interview for the College Football Weekly Radio Show. CFB Weekly is the premier sports/talk radio show covering college football from the perspective of the sport's most passionate fans: the bloggers!

Here is the show in full: The CFB Weekly Radio Show.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Game Review – VT vs. BC

“The plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies room” - Iceman from the movie Top Gun

After watching the game footage of the Boston College-Virginia Tech game from last Thursday night, I felt the same nausea I felt while watching it in person. It just hurts to lose a game in that fashion and it hurts to watch it again. But I’m glad I did because I saw some things that changed my understanding of why the Hokies lost. And it only cost me a broken remote watching it on TV when I already knew the outcome. If I had been watching the game live at home when this happened, who knows what household items would have been lost?

First of all, with 4 minutes left in the game and ahead 10-0 with BC on their own 8 yard line, Bud Foster did not go to a prevent defense in the strictest sense of the word. Yes, he dropped the defensive secondary and the linebackers back a few yards, but that’s not really a prevent defense. However, what had worked throughout the game was mixing up the defense. Sometimes bringing a five man rush, sometimes bringing three. Sometimes dropping a defensive end into zone coverage, sometimes blitzing a cornerback. This confused and bewildered Matt Ryan into a 16-37 performance for 128 yards and 2 interceptions until that fateful drive with 4 minutes remaining. Truly it was one of Foster’s crowning achievements and the defense played its tail off. But then, Foster ran his standard defense nearly that entire drive with the secondary playing back. It was always a three or four man rush and there was a busted coverage on the tight end twice. What that did was let Matt Ryan get into a rhythm. And we saw what happened when Ryan got into a rhythm. He led two TD drives making some phenomenal throws that were certainly Heisman-worthy. So Foster deserves some blame for going to a vanilla defense, if not technically a “prevent”.

The special teams deserve some of the blame as well. The game may have ended very differently had Josh Morgan either recovered the onside kick or let it go past him to be recovered by another Hokie. I can’t remember and can’t find anywhere the last onside kick the Hokies kicked and recovered. If you know, please post it below. But I do know that three of the last four onside kicks tried against the Hokies have been recovered by the opponent. That is ridiculous. The special teams have been special all season, but if Morgan wants to step up and get the ball before it has gone 10 yards, he had better be damn sure he GETS THE BALL!!!

Interestingly, the failure to recover the onsides kick wasn’t the worst screw-up on special teams. Even if the onside kick been recovered by Tech it wouldn’t have guaranteed a victory. BC had two timeouts and had they forced the Hokies into a three and out (very likely), they would have gotten the ball back with about 1:10 left deep in their territory. The way Ryan was playing against VT’s vanilla zone defense, he very well might still have led the Eagles to a TD or a game-tying FG.

No, the worst mistake on special teams was the personal foul on BC’s punt attempt from the back of their endzone late in the 3rd quarter. With BC facing a 4th and 32, the Hokies decided to come after the punt. This was an awful decision. Similar to Beamer’s decision to kick onside with 3:30 left in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last year, he demonstrated a complete lack of recognizing the game situation and just went to what he’s done in the past. In this situation, the Hokies had all the momentum. The defense had just pushed BC from their 20 yard line back to their 4 yard line. The crowd was into it. The Hokies had the 2nd leading punt returner in ACC history at midfield and were already ahead 10-0. A safety, which is all you would get if you block the punt there, would make it 12-0 which is still only a two score game and you would get the ball back in worse field position. It was a terrible decision to not set up for the return that might have led to a game clinching TD or at least run more clock off on the BC side of the field. I was yelling and screaming my head off about this as soon as I saw that the Hokies were going to come after the punt. But even with that bad decision, it looked like Tech was going to get away with it when Dustin Pickle bumped the shoulder of the punter with his facemask as he tried to pull up. It was very clearly a 5 yard running into the kicker penalty and BC would have declined it. But the Hokies already had a running-into-the-kicker penalty earlier in the game and the ref wanted to make an example showing that he was going to protect the BC kicker, so he called the 15 yard personal foul variety and gave BC a first down. This “flipped the field” and when the Hokies finally got the ball back they were in their own territory instead of taking over at midfield. Worse than that, the BC drive burned away all the energy and momentum the Hokies had built up. It was a devastating play, a bad play call by Beamer and a bad call by the ref that added up to keeping the Eagles in the game.

While at the game, the atmosphere was so electric due to the high caliber defense, I didn’t notice just how many opportunities and screw-ups the offense made. The offense had three critical drive killing penalties, two of them in BC territory. After what should have been a game clinching interception by DJ Parker with 6 minutes left, the Hokies didn’t do jack or squat with the ball and ended up only running off a minute and a half from the game clock. I am sure you are thinking – MadJay, it was the defense that lost this game, the offensive play calling was pretty good. Well, I will admit the play calling was decent. In fact, the play calling is definitely improved over last year. But the execution is far worse and to be worse than last year’s execution, you really have to dig deep into the Pit of Terribleness, which is not a good place to be.

The reason I chose the quote I did at the top of this piece is that Virginia Tech has been trying to join the college football elite for some time now. They have definitely secured their position among the “good” teams due to a nationally elite defense and solid special teams play. This has been enough to win against other good teams that they play. But in order to sit at the table with the big boys you have to win the big games. VT is now 1-27 against Top 5 opponents all-time. Folks that is embarrassing. That gets your name put on the “alternates” plaque in the ladies room. Sure, for years VT was a doormat, but with the teams the Hokies have had the past 5-6 years, having only one win against an elite team shows that despite getting the athletes and the talent, Tech is NOT elite yet. The mentality on offense is “just don’t lose the game”. That’s pathetic. The offense is a lead balloon keeping this program from reaching the heights that the players, coaches and fans aspire to. That national trophy case will stay empty until a well-executed offense joins the defense and special teams. And by “well-executed” I simply mean among the Top25 offenses in the country. The Hokies don’t need the most yards or points in the country to win, they just need more than what they are getting in order for this program to become elite. Whether the offensive coordinator is replaced, or suddenly finds a well of inspiration to tap into, I don’t care. But neither one seems likely to happen and that is a real problem. The Hokies use a three legged stool to symbolize the total team. Right now they are trying to stand on a two-legged stool to reach the big boys table and it isn’t working.

Let’s go over what an elite team that knows how to finish off games does in almost the exact same situation VT found itself in on Thursday nightOhio State vs. Michigan State two weeks ago. The Buckeyes dominated the entire game and were up 24-0 with 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Suddenly Michigan State scored on two straight Ohio State turnovers and then got a field goal to make it 24-17 with 3:42 left in the game. Despite Michigan State having two time outs left, Ohio State proceeded to run out the clock getting three straight 3rd downs and winning the game. That is how a good overall team gets it done. Since 2005, have the Hokies won a game because of a clutch play by their offense? It didn’t happen on Thursday either. The defense is phenomenal but you can only go to that well so many times.

Despite the loss on Thursday, the Hokies do have a chance at redemption. As in life, you either pick yourself up after getting knocked down or you curl up in a ball and cry for your mommy. The goal of this team that was laid out at the beginning of the season – winning the ACC championship – is still completely in their control. If they win the rest of their games they will have a chance to play for the title. If they don’t they can sit around one day when they get old and tell about how this one time, they beat the #2 team in the country for 56 minutes. And that will have been the highlight of this season for them. How they respond will be on display this Thursday night against Georgia Tech.