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