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.

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