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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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