Charlotte, NC – If you followed any of last evening’s coverage of the day in college football, the story that the national media played most was that of the surprise 27-22 loss suffered by the Hokies to the East Carolina Pirates. However, those close to the HokieNation should not be surprised. In fact, at least two out of us here at TSF, in fact, predicted a loss to the Pirates.
Ladies and gentlemen, I will lay it out there: this will not, repeat NOT, be a good year for Virginia Tech football. I, however, would like to clarify the definition of "good year". The Hokies have been blessed over the past fifteen years. The Hokies have been to fifteen straight bowl games -- Fifteen! Who can tell me what the Hokies record were in 1992?? Anyone? Anyone?
2-8-1. That's right. Not 11-1; not 12-1; not even 9-3 (the following year). Now can anyone tell me how many ten win seasons the Hokies have had since 1992? Anyone? Anyone?
Seven. Correct again! Seven of the last nine seasons, the Hokies have had at least ten wins, including all of the last four.
So taking these two stats into consideration, what would be a "good year"? Nine wins? The ACC Coastal Division? An ACC Championship? Eight wins? Seven? A bowl game? A winning season? It's all relative, really. The Hokies have become a perennial powerhouse that is expected to win the ACC. The Hokies are expected to win double digit games. The Hokies are expected to dominate. They're expected to do all these things, that, when faced with a rebuilding year – which this is – the Hokies may and will disappoint all those that are doing the expecting. Let's call these folks the "Expectors."
Yesterday afternoon’s game, my friends, will be just one of a series of disappointments for those Expectors of any of some of the bigger results listed above. However, there is some light to what happened yesterday afternoon. Let's break down some of the things that went wrong yesterday. After the recap I have listed some of reasons, maybe not all inclusive, from least troublesome and most remediable to most troublesome and most chronic. Many can be addressed and in all likelihood will be. But do not be fooled. The Hokies will continue to lose games this year as they try to build experience and the ebbs and flows of working a young team into a powerhouse again. Some of the Expectors will cry for some immediate changes to save this season. However, these Expectors are being short sighted and in the long run this season’s pains will bear fruit for seasons to come.
The Hokies opening drive started beautifully. First, they had an excellent kickoff return by Kenny Lewis Jr. The drive began with three excellent runs but Sean Glennon's first pass of the game was intercepted as he threw the ball over the head of Greg Boone. The interception was one of Glennon's few mistakes during the game, but it puts the question into the Expectors’ heads of whether the Hokies should lift the redshirt off of Tyrod Taylor's shoulders. I shout at you Expectors, “NO! NO!” If Glennon should struggle this year, so be it. Should he get injured, put in Cory Holt. DO NOT lift the redshirt on Taylor.
Glennon came back on the very next drive with a solid pass to Danny Coale, his first reception of his career, a solid pass to Ike Whitaker, and another to Coale. The third pass to Coale was under pressure as he dodged a would-be tackler and accurately hit Coale on the numbers. He then hit Xavier Boyes (Fr) for his first career reception (see a pattern?). He went 4-4 on that drive. It could have resulted in three points had the coaches not decided to go for it on fourth down.
On the next drive, Glennon had a pass to a somewhat open Ike Whitaker. It went through the hands of a defender but Whitaker had a chance to catch it and had he, it would have been for six points.
The Hokies would eventually strike first on defense after the Pirates fumbled a lateral pass which was run in by Stephan Virgil.
The ensuing kickoff was an unplanned squib kick that caught the Pirates off guard and led to a Hokie recovery.
Glennon hit his first two passes to TE Andre Smith. That puts Glennon at 6-8 with one that should have been caught! The Hokies then put themselves up 14-0 on the ground by Lewis.
The Pirates easily drive down field to the Hokies 22 but the drive stalled there only to miss the field goal attempt. This could easily have been a dagger into the wounded Pirates.
However, Glennon made his second mistake of the game. The Pirates intercepted and ran it to the 1-yard line. The Hokies held strong for two downs but the Pirates punched it in to bring the score 14-7 with the point after.
Glennon hit his next two passes during the last drive of the second quarter. With less than a minute to go, Glennon was not able to find any of his receivers and ran smartly to the sideline. That brought up 2nd and 9 with :08 left out of Dustin Keys range. A bad snap would cause Glennon to fumble. It was recovered by Tech and the clock ran out.
The opening kickoff of the second half was returned to the 39-yard line by ECU after a very short kick by Freshman Tim Pisano to the 20-yard line. Pisano’s kicking was a little suspect all game, though one of those kicks worked in Tech’s favor.
The Pirates were once again able to move the ball well on the ground using Patrick Pinkney, on the scramble, as well as Brandon Simmons and Jonathon Williams. That set up the pass and two passes later they were once again in the end zone and the Pirates were in a position to tie the game with a point after attempt. Beamerball was able to come up once again with a block of the kick by John Graves which was run back by Virgil. This prevented a tie, and gave the Hokies a 16-13 lead.
The Hokies drove well from here with a good balance of rushes and passes. Glennon went 3-3 on this drive. It would stall, and Dustin Keys came in to attempt a 44-yard field goal. This is difficult for anyone, let alone a freshman kicker. Nonetheless, Keys had the distance on his kick but it hit the right upright and failed to go in.
On the next drive Virgil was shaken up. The Pirates would once again march down the field. The Hokie defense looked very tired and there were a lot of “hands on hips”. However, the Hokies were able to bring up 4th down and four. The Pirates with a decision of a long field goal, a short punt, or going for it the Pirates, decided to go for it and were stuffed. The Hokies would get the ball on downs.
On the very next play, Glennon hit Dyrell Roberts for his first career reception. It was for 62 yards! Darren Evans finished the job and the Hokies increased their lead. Keys missed the extra point and that would make the score 22-13.
The Hokies pounded the ball with 10:18 to go but would only take off a little more than two and a half minutes off the clock. There was an incredibly stupid call to throw on second and six with eight minutes to go! Can we please get rid of the idiot that called that one?!? Now they had to throw on third down and it was incomplete again.
The Pirates would take advantage and marched down the field again against a very tired Hokie defense. The Pirates scored bringing them to within two points.
Now comes perhaps the worst part of the entire game. Virginia Tech takes the kickoff to the 25-yard line. On the next play the Hokies would move to the 40 after a 15-yard face mask penalty on ECU. There’s 3:21 on the clock. Tech lets the clock run down and calls a time out??? Why not run a play? The game is too close to be wasting timeouts. Run a run play. You’ve been running well and you could get maybe three yards and keeps the clock rolling. Two plays later, the Hokies throw a screen play that loses nine yards. Two plays after that, the Hokies had the punt blocked and ECU ran it in for six. With the extra point the Pirates go up 27-22.
Glennon would not be able to move the ball and the Hokies would go four and out. The Pirates would be able to run out the clock and the score would end-up 27-22.
Why The Hokies Lost
As I said earlier, here is a list of some of the reasons, maybe not all inclusive, from least troublesome and most remediable to most troublesome and most chronic.
10) The heat
Yesterday's game was played in 90+ heat with high humidity. Weather like that has not been seen in Blacksburg this late summer during fall practice. Blacksburg and much of the Mid-Atlantic has been blessed with very mild weather and the sudden turn to heat may have affected the Hokies. The Pirates coming out of Greenville, may have had weather like that of yesterday and been better prepared for it.
9) Macho Harris
Macho is the leader of the defense. After considering an early exit to the NFL, Harris came back to lead the defense this year, to return punts and kickoffs, as well as to potentially help out on offense as a receiver. An all-around star, Harris hurt his foot in the last scrimmage of fall practice and did not play yesterday. This definitely changed the entire dynamic of the defense. Specifically, his leadership was probably the most missed aspect of his absence.
Nerves on defense could have been quelled with the presence of Harris. Nerves on offense may have been a factor from the inexperienced receiving corp. Nerves are something that can be remedied over time with experience.
7 (tie) Inexperience D
ECU was able to move the ball relatively easily on the ground. Between their very elusive scrambling quarterback Pinkney and the tandem of Simmons and Williams, ECU racked up 158 rushing yards. Pinkney was able to move the ball well through the air mostly on short routes. The defense had too many missed tackles.
7 (tie) Inexperience Receivers and Backs
The Hokies are rotating two backs and three receivers who have never played a single snap. Lewis is the only experienced tailback and Whitaker the only experienced receiver (if three receptions can be called experienced!). Greg Boone at tight end would have been expected to be the primary target for Glennon, but he only had one reception for nine yards.
6) Sean Glennon
Breaking down each drive we see that Glennon really only made two mistakes. Some may say that some of his failings were not what mistakes he didn’t make, but what dazzling plays that Taylor could have made in his place. While true, this is not the year for attempting grandeur. Use a rebuilding year for what it is: rebuilding.
1. Interception #1 – This was the first pass of the game. It was unfortunate, but just one mistake.
2. He would redeem himself by going 4 for 4 for 24 yards. The drive stalled and someone made the call to go for it (see 3,2, and 1 below)
3. Even though he was sacked he came right back to thread the needle to Ike Whitaker who should have caught the ball. It would have easily gone for six.
4. After a kickoff recovery by the kicking team, Glennon led the team by completing 2-2 for 21 yards. At this point he is 6-8 for 45 yards.
5. On the next drive he would make his biggest mistake:
a. First down: Started with an incomplete pass that should have been caught by Xavier Boyce
b. Second down: He would be sacked as the Pirates sent six defenders on a blitz.
c. Third down: Inteception #2 – His second mistake BUT see 5 below. He had a very poor snap and could not see the defender. Granted he had time to make a better decision.
6. Again he would redeem himself on the next drive:
a. 2-2 for 21 yards (8-12, 66 yards)
b. Good rushing decisions when no receivers to be found. He was able to get out of bounds with the clock winding down in the first half.
c. Bad snap (again) led to a fumble that was recovered. It ended the half because the Hokies had no more timeouts.
7. 3-3 for 22 yards! (11-15, 88 yards) But the drive didn’t get it to the end zone and would end up with a missed field goal.
8. 1-1 for 62 yards. (12-16, 150 yards) A beautiful strike to Dyrell Roberts.
9. 1-3 for 4 yards. At this point he has been 13-19, 154 yards.
10. The last two drives I won’t even put in here. The first of which, he should not of been passing. The second he had no choice and could not find a receiver to throw to.
Bottomline, if anyone says Sean Glennon lost this game, I will slap them silly!
All game the balls were being snapped low, high, and all sorts of other problems. The center-quarterback exchange needs and will be worked on I’m sure.
4) Kicking/Special teams
Freshman Tim Pisano had a few "interesting" kickoffs. The first was a squib kick that worked out for the Hokies. The second also worked out but was a slow dribbler that went to two-yard line as Jerek Hewett could not handle the bounce.
To open the second half Pisano barely made the 20-yard line with his kick giving the Pirates excellent field position on their 39-yard line.
Last but not least, 3, 2, and 1) Bryan F*&#ing Stinespring
Below is the three drives that killed us. Call them MadJay’s Three Key Plays, but I won’t steal his copyright.
3) Going for it on fourth down with 5:00 left to go in the first quarter, with the score 0-0. What are you thinking! Who is the moron who came up with that idea? Oh wait, Bryan F*&#ing Stinespring. Let's go into the red zone twice and come away with zero points. Yeah, that's a good idea. A good offensive coordinator would realize that 3-0 is much better than 0-0, especially when the heat and other factors are not on your side.
2) You’re winning the game. The score is close, but the clock is on your side. Why would you pass on 2nd and six with 8 minutes left on the clock? It would be incomplete and the clock would stop. Who would call a passing play when the rush was getting consistently two to four yards on the ground? Bryan F*&#ing Stinespring, that’s who. It forced another passing situation at 3rd and six. It would be incomplete again and the clock would stop at a little under 8 minutes.
1) Tech's second to last possession. How many things can we point out?
1a) Letting the clock run down and taking a timeout with 2:56 instead of running a play??? Timeouts with the score so close are invaluable. Why would you burn a timeout instead of running a run play and hoping the clock would run? Why? Because you’re Bryan F*&#ing Stinespring!
1b) Lets set this one up: Two minutes to go and you’re down by two. Your opponent has the ball. It’s second and nine on the 40. You have three timeouts left but the clock is running. You’re opponent set up with one man in the back field. Who do you spot?? Who do you mark like he’s Jesus’s second coming? The back!!!!! What does your opponent do? Sets up a screen play TO THAT BACK TEN YARDS BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE!!!!!! Who would do such a thing? Who would be that dumb? Who would basically hand the Pirates more momentum then they could possibly know what to do with?? Hmmm, would it be Bryan F*&#ing Stinespring!?!