Monday, January 07, 2008

Game Review - Orange Bowl

Being several days later that I have posted this review, you can rest assured that my delay is not rooted in absent mindedness, nor procrastination, nor apathy, but out of sheer misery of having to revisit the thought of this game. Hokie fans, I think that I have to say that Virgina Tech's losses to Boston College and Kansas broke my heart as a Hokie more than any other pair of losses since I joined the ranks of Hokie fandom in 1996. And I'm quite certain that I'm not in a small crowd of Virginia Tech fans by feeling so. We can pick apart the technical aspects of this football game inside and out and find many mistakes that the Hokies made, but the source of this mistake is what makes the lost to Kansas sting just oh so bitter.

First, the offensive play calling of Bryan Stinespring just didn't make sense, not even to the announcers of the game. Fans found themselves bewildered to witness the offensive play calling abruptly switch from a successful running game to sloppy passing game. That play calling lead to Sean Glennon tossing up passes that appeared to be nothing more than lobs of desperation. The offensive line collapsed in the first half in ways we haven't observed since prior to Ed Wang's return from injury. The Hokies allowed Kansas' special teams and defense to beat them at their own game, by playing, as irony would have it, Beamerball with a blocked field goal and defensive scoring.

While all these aforementioned mistakes played a large role in the downfall of the Hokies in this game, a bigger problem exists, and from what I can tell it's rooted in mentality, not ability. When the Kansas Jayhawks took the field, their players charged out of the locker room fired up and read for war. The Hokies meandered onto the field like zombies. The Hokie demeanor was one of two things: a feeling that they had already earned the win and they just had to go through the formality of playing the game or a feeling that winning the ACC Championship was the goal of their season having no sights beyond that. Not until the second half, did the Virginia Tech squad show a sense of urgency and acknowledgment that the season had not yet ended.

Now, I can't do true justice if I don't mention some of the small victories of this year's bowl content. First, Branden Ore had the second coming of his career breakout. He channeled all the frustration of having to sit the first quarter due to a suspension into running hard and overachieving. "'06 Ore better show up, not '07," EhhTee stated late in the first quarter. Ore delivered on that 100%. Let's hope that carries into next season. Also, once Hokies did wake up from their stupor, they battled back from a deficit to get into the game, and they fought up until the end. If there were five more minutes on the clock, we could have very well seen a come-from-behind Hokie victory. Last, but not least, Bud Fosters' squad held the Kansas offense to scoring 17 points. That offense averaged over 44 points a game throughout their regular season.

Back to the problem at hand, historically, the Hokies play more poorly when cast as the favorites, as they were in this contest. You could sense the lifelessness after West Virginia lost to Pitt and hence lost their bid to the National Championship Bowl. Two teams ranked below the Hokies showed hunger in their attitude. Their coaches put calls into the major sports talks shows to state their case. The athletic department lobbied within the ranks of the BCS. They wanted their shot at the title while the Hokies sat content with their bid to the Orange Bowl. I've already written an article (which actually became quite controversial) about how Virginia Tech had earned, by the numbers rather than sheer popularity, the right to play in the National Title Game. One may not agree with that statement but at the same time cannot deny the facts. Yet nobody in the Virginia Tech program lobbied for the National Title Bowl bid. Even Georgia, who did not win their conference, lobbied for the bid. Yes, Frank Beamer himself may have too much class to do it, but I would have expected SOMEBODY in the program to speak out. Why didn't they? How is your team supposed to go into a BCS bowl pumped up to win when you don't speak up for them! Virginia Tech just wasn't hungry enough to win in the post season. This doesn't make for the first time and I'm beginning to wonder if the cause begins at a level even higher than the locker room or the coaching staff.

This is a serious problem with the program. Where's the post season hunger? While we can point at the mistakes of Bryan Stinespring, highlight the dangerous execution of the passing plays, and reiterate the collapse of offensive cohesion, none of those problems stand taller than a genuine desire to show the country why Virginia Tech didn't deserve to be passed over for the National Championship Bowl. Winning the ACC is a big deal, but let's not kid ourselves. The ACC really isn't much more different than the Big East in terms of difficulty, only marginally more challenging than prior to Miami's, Boston College's, and Virginia Tech's departure. If we want a national championship, we must want more than an ACC championship.

I'm not in the locker room, and I'm not in the offices of the athletic department. I can only begin to speculate about the cause, but I can see the symptom.


Hokie Guru said...

Guys, if you wouldn't mind, please do me a favor and give my blog(Fire Bryan Stine Spring) a little but of pub in a separate emtry on TSF... I will make sure that I do this for you... I'm going to refer to the blog as FBS... and myself as the Hokie Guru as I go forward.

Hokie Guru said...

Favor also needed... on your the link on site, you refer to my blog as "Fire Bryan Stinespring Blog"... and I'm massively appreciative that you have linked to my blog, but if you could change the link to read "Fire Bryan Stinespring", I would appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

ummm...plenty of recruiting and hokie basketball goings on to comment on. No?

MadJay said...

Yes. Tons. We will have a huge off-season update this weekend with our views on Hokie basketball and the amazing 2008 recruiting class. Thanks for your interest!