Thursday, December 06, 2007

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!!!!!!!!

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