Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Game Review - VT vs. William & Mary

Let me begin by asking a question - have you ever been so uncomfortable with a 44-3 victory? Let's credit the 1st string defense and special teams for dominating a badly outmanned opponent as they should have. I think the 2nd string defense could have played a lot better and ALL strings on offense need to wake up for Virginia Tech to have ANY shot in the ACC this year.

Starting with what I can stomach - the special teams. The Hokies forced a bad punt snap from the Tribe, had 135 yards in punt returns and Punter Brent Bowden is your All-ACC 1st team punter right now. Try over HALF of his punts have been downed inside the 20 and he's had eight inside the 10 yard line!!! The gunners on punt coverage also deserve some credit as the Hokies are 2nd in the nation in punt return defense right now. Jud Dunlevy is kicking well and special teams is just working in all phases.

I would be remiss without crediting Bud Foster and his 1st string defense as well. They held W&M to basically nothing throughout the first quarter and did what they were supposed to do - overwhelmed a less-talented but still very sound offense that was just badly outmatched by the speed and size of the VT defenders.

I think it's important to mention something about this defense and how they responded. After the LSU game, VT was 95th in the nation in total defense and 79th in scoring defense. I can't ever remember VT ranking that low in those categories. Now after playing Ohio and W&M they have done what they were supposed to do against less-talented opponents and they have already recovered to rank 29th and 19th in total defense and scoring defense respectively and that INCLUDES the debacle in Baton Rouge. Granted the schedule gets much tougher starting this weekend, but from what I've seen the defense has been playing better. I vastly underestimated the importance of team chemistry on defense and earlier this season, the inexperience of rover Kam Chancellor and whip Cam Martin really took a toll on the defense despite their physical talent. They are still not where they need to be mentally but at least the defense is playing more sound in their fundamentals.

2nd string defense had a lot of good things and some terrible things. First the good - Purnell Sturdivant is a STUD at outside linebacker and would be starting at at least 60 other schools in the country. While he's not a 1st/2nd round NFL talent like Xavier Adibi, still expect good things next year at linebacker from Sturdivant. Steven Friday played at backup DE and if the coaches would have just kept him there instead of trying him at whip for a while, he would be even better than he is right now. He will be playing at about 265 next season and if he can keep his speed, watch out. He and John Graves look good on the defensive line.

Mentally, however the 2nd string defense played like the 1st string did during LSU (with the previously noted exception of Sturdivant who was super sharp) which means mental breakdowns at different positions throughout the game. Corey Gordon demonstrated how he got passed by on the depth chart at whip, Brett Warren couldn't get deep enough in his drop to stop a TE seam pass on 3 different occasions (I though Coach Foster was going to have a coronary after the 3rd one), and Stefan Virgil is probably going to be 2nd string corner again next year (stud true freshman Cris Hill will be ready next season to start as a sophomore from what I hear). Dorrian Porch played very well at rover and Davon Morgan is going to be an upgrade from DJ Parker when he takes over free safety next season but he gets too tangled up mentally out there right now. Overall it was awesome experience for the 2nd string defense which really helps the team a lot. Getting this much game film on these backups will prove to be valuable to the coaches in knowing who's a "gamer" and who just looks good in practice.

In STARK (I'm talking Yin-Yang/Up-Down/Red State-Blue State) contrast stands the Hokies offense. Here's a gem from offensive mastermind and coordinator Bryan Stinepring in response to the Hokies ability to outgain William & Mary in this contest by a paltry 25 yards and hold onto the ball a measly 3 FRIGGIN SECONDS longer in time of possession - "Those guys showed some looks on film that they haven't shown before and we didn't do a good job handling it".

Now I don't care if William & Mary was MOONING THE DAMN CAMERA on the game film they sent Tech's coaches to review, if the Hokies can't overcome a scheme change mid-game when they have their opponent so physically dominated in size and speed, what in good heavens are they going to do when they play ACC teams?!?! And by the way, what in the hell does Stinespring NORMALLY get from his opponents when they send over game film - a breakdown of series-by-series ANTICIPATED DEFENSIVE PLAY CALLS for the game?!?! I can see it now -

"Mr. Stinespring, here's footage of what we plan on doing in your third series of the 2nd quarter. We wanted to bring a blitz off the corner with our outside linebacker and drop our defensive end into coverage. Now watch our safety because he may cheat up some anticipating a hot route and we are going to try and pick off that pass."

What an absolute joke. Look, if you want to blame some scheme changes in the secondary for throwing off young Tyrod Taylor who is still just a true freshman, fine, I won't lay all of that at Stiney's feet. Taylor had a poor day going 6-13 for 72 yards and he threw a should-have-been interception that the linebacker just flat dropped. But don't tell me that the Hokies inability to move the ball on the ground or when backup Sean Glennon came into the game is because W&M played a different defensive front. Hey wait a minute, I know - we've reviewed how much the defense improved following LSU when playing outmatched teams. Let's take a look at the offensive improvement after having played Ohio and William & Mary. After LSU, the offense was 109th in yardage and 99th in scoring. Currently the offense is 107th in yardage and 79th in scoring. Of course two of those touchdowns in the past two games are from Beamerball (interception return for TD and punt return for a TD) and without those the offense would rank 96th in scoring. Basically after playing LSU, the Hokie offense has not improved its ranking compared with other teams. For those of you who may be new to the game of football - this is very bad.

Looking back on the game against William & Mary, and knowing that starting right guard Sergio Render is benched for the 1st quarter of the UNC game due to disciplinary reasons, it doesn't exactly take Vince Lombardi to recognize that the offense is in big, big trouble. The amount of execution on offense is so far from acceptable and yet I get the sense that Coach Beamer is going to lay that on the fact that Ed Wang got hurt on the offensive line this preseason and his quarterback is a true freshman. I don't buy it. Let's hope that somehow the magic bullet is found in time for the UNC game on Saturday. Stay tuned for TSF's full game preview.

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