Tuesday, September 30, 2008

EhhTee's Picks Results (Week 5)

EhhTee's Picks (Week 5 Results)
UMD 14 UMD 20 0-1 8-6
Clemson 19 Clemson 17
How 'bout 'em Terps.
UVA 10 UVA 3 1-1 9-6
Duke 27 Duke 31
UNC 35 UNC 28 2-1 10-6
Miami 27 Miami 24
Butch Davis is a force
RIU 0 RIU 0 3-1 11-6
BC 47 BC 42
Oh. A safety and a fieldgoal off… Where's Auburn when I need them?
CU 35 CU 21 3-2 11-7
FSU 21 FSU 39
Will the real Florida State please stand up?
Navy 24 Navy 24 3-3 11-8
WFU 27 WFU 17
So Wake got woken up.
USF 31 USF 41 4-3 12-8
USF may be the flag bearer of the Big East.

Monday, September 29, 2008

3 Key Plays - VT vs. Nebraska

1) Nebraska had just scored to make the game 9-7 and Memorial Stadium was beginning to sense a shift in momentum. The Hokies faced 3rd and 10 from the NEB 43 yd-line. Tyrod Taylor eluded the Husker rush and while drifting to his left, fired a pass across his body to Andre Smith 40 yards downfield. The Hokies' drive bogged down and they were held to a FG but this really recaptured momentum for VT and answered the Nebraska score.

2) Again, Nebraska had turned the tide and gotten the crowd back into the game with a huge punt return to bring them back within 5 of VT. The Hokies were faced with 3rd and 3 at their own 45 with 6:00 left and the stadium as loud as it was all game. Taylor exhibited his now becoming trademark poise and calmly rolled to his right and delivered an accurate throw to Dyrell Roberts for a 12 yard gain. An incompletion there would have changed the entire complexion of the game and potentially the outcome. But just like last week's play against UNC on a critical 3rd down, Taylor-to-Roberts came through in the clutch.

3) Think back to Boston College in the middle of the '07 season. Believe me it hurts me as much as it hurts you. But the Hokies had dominated BC all game and gave up two scoring drives at the very end (marked by big plays down the deep middle of the field) to lose the game. In between those drives, the Hokies had a chance to recover an onside kick and end the game. As we all know, Josh Morgan stepped in front of the ball for some reason and it bounced off him and into BC's hands. Ok enough of that, before I get completely sick. Now fast forward to last Saturday and the Hokies having dominated Nebraska all game, give up a quick TD drive marked by passes down the deep middle that brings the Huskers to 35-30. While Nebraska was lining up for the onside kick, I had a massive sense of deja vu, but suddenly, Greg Boone leapt HIGH into the air and pulled the onside kick down, allowing the Hokies to run enough time off the clock to basically seal the win. It's the first onside kick I can remember the Hokies recovering by an opponent since, well I can't even remember the last onside kick the Hokies recovered by an opponent - so if you know when that was please let us know. Bottom line, this was a key play.

As a postscript, everyone was talking about the personal foul on the drive when the Hokies had failed on 3rd and 4 and Nebraska's defensive lineman hit Taylor late out of bounds. That really wasn't nearly as big as the 3rd down conversion earlier on that drive from Taylor to Roberts. The flag occurred on the Husker 35 yd-line. Even if they don't throw the flag, the Hokies have moved the ball into Husker territory and run the clock down under 4 minutes. Faced with 4th and 2, they could have tried a 52 yard FG, pinned Nebraska deep with a pooch kick or gone for the 1st down anyway. The momentum had already been shifted back to the Hokies. So yes, the personal foul (and Coach Bo Pelini's losing his self-control compounding the penalty) was a big play, but not as key as the conversion earlier in the drive.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Game Review - VT vs. Nebraska

For the only the second time since 2001 (the other time was at Miami in 2006), the Virginia Tech offense rose up at the end of a football contest and put the game on their shoulders to win, finishing off the Nebraska Cornhuskers 35-30 in the hallowed ground of Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

To be honest, the offense executed better than it had the entire season in the toughest environment (Nebraska had only lost 3 home games at night in its storied history) and against the toughest team yet. In fact, it was the defense and special teams that broke down at critical junctures in the game and kept Nebraska in it until the very end, putting on display just how much youth this Hokie team has on the field.

On the Hokies first series, the offense's youth was more than evident. Tyrod Taylor read a busted coverage and threw a ball to Dyrell Roberts that should have been a TD down the far sideline. Taylor unfortunately led Roberts to the outside instead of to the inside for the score. It was still a catchable ball and Roberts got lazy with his footwork and didn't bring the ball down in bounds. It should have been a big play and both young players didn't execute. Fortunately Brent Bowden did execute (other than one critical shank near the end of the game, his punting was outstanding the entire night and kept Nebraska pinned deep in their own end) and he put the Huskers on their 6-yd line. The Hokies defense made their traditional huge stop early in the game, to keep the home crowd from getting going, and Nebraska had to punt after a 3 and out (the Hokie D produced five 3-and-outs during the night which is fantastic). And then Stephan Virgil busted through and blocked the ensuing punt out of the end zone for a safety and the game's first score, to make it 2-0.

That was big, but the Hokies couldn't move the ball on offense after the free kick and had to punt it again. However "Sunshine" Bowden pinned the Huskers on their 11 and then Macho Harris made a veteran play, grabbing a pick off of Husker QB Joe Ganz after disguising his coverage. The Hokies' Darren Evans punched it in, the Hokies went up 9-0 and things were looking great,

Unfortunately, the Huskers began throwing deep passes down the middle, which is where VT has been so vulnerable this year, and marched right back down the field to score on a broken play. I originally was furious at Kam Chancellor for blowing his assignment, but in rewatching the footage, it was actually another Nebraska tight end who fell down right in the path where Chancellor was running to cover his man. Chancellor was tripped up by the fallen player and his guy got free for the easy score. Chancellor has done a nice job getting the Hokies in the correct alignment most of the season, but his individual play in the pass game has been sorely lacking thus far. He's been good in run support (minus the ECU game) but he needs to make better plays out in space against passing teams as the season marches on.

As was on display the entire game, these young Hokies managed the crowd and the game by bouncing right back. All good teams answer a score with a score and the Hokies did just that, led by a magical play from the Wizard himself. Taylor escaped the Nebraska rush and hit TE Andre Smith deep down the field to give the Hokies first and goal. Unfortunately Taylor followed that up by missing a wide open Greg Boone in the end zone by about two feet and the Hokies had to settle for the FG.

I noticed, between the Roberts throw on the first series and the missed throw to Boone that Taylor just seems to be trying to make the throw too "pretty". He appears to try a little too hard on a few of his throws instead of just delivering the ball. I'd like to see Coach O'Cain work with him on getting more comfortable or "natural" with some of these throws instead of overthinking it. He obviously has the accuracy and arm strength so it's up to Coach O'Cain to get him comfortable more often.

Anyway, the Huskers and Hokies exchanged a few more FG's and the Hokies ended the half up 18-10. Talking about youth, Hokie kickoff man Justin Myer is a true freshman who has the leg to boot the ball out of the end zone, but for some reason, his kicks were short all night and that wasn't helping the field position battle throughout the night. Fortunately, the third quarter saw the Hokies extend the game to 28-10 behind some great run blocking and some big-time stops on the Nebraska run game. However, in that 28-10 score there were some hidden problems that pointed to this game not being over like it should have been. 

First, the Hokies were awful in the red zone, having to settle for four straight FG's, although Dustin Keys did deliver on all four in a big way. Again, just like the UNC game last week, Keys was just flat-out clutch on his kicks, in front of the biggest hostile crowd he'd ever seen. But the offense should have punched a few more of those in for TD's. Also the defense was showing more signs of being weak down the middle in the passing game (Brett Warren, you have got to start getting depth in your drops on the passing game and read the QB better) and that was exploited over and over again in the fourth quarter, while the Huskers mounted their comeback. There was a disturbing lack of focus once VT was up 28-10 on defense and special teams and following the fourth longest punt return in Nebraska history, which saw an embarrassing tackling effort from at least three Hokies (Cris Hill, Cody Grimm and Greg Boone) the Huskers brought it back to 28-23 with 7:52 left in the game.

All the ingredients for a melt down were there - hostile crowd, momentum shifting to the home team, seeing an 18 point lead drop to 5 points and the offense had been stagnant for two straight drives. In stepped Tyrod Taylor who made a huge 15-yd scramble on 2nd down deep in Hokie territory and an even bigger throw on 3rd down later in the drive. Then Nebraska melted down by hitting Taylor after he ran out of bounds on a 3rd down play and new head coach Bo Pelini made it even worse by overdoing his argument with the ref. The two personal fouls added up to Hokie ball on the 11 and two incredibly tough runs by Darren Evans later, the Hokies faced third and one from the 1 1/2-yd line. Taylor muscled the ball in on a QB sneak and the Hokies led 35-23. That is what I meant at the beginning when I said the offense put the team on its back and carried them to victory at the end of a game and it's been all too rare. I can give some of that credit to Coach Stinespring. Although the playcalling was far from imaginative the entire game, the execution was better. But I still firmly believe that Taylor is pulling rabbits out of the hat with his poise and athletic ability and that's far more responsible for the offensive success than Stiney. That being said, 35 points is 35 points and I'll take it.

Unfortunately the defense did not ice the game and the Huskers flew down the field to make it 35-30 and the Hokies had to have a big onside kick recovery from Greg Boone (who also had a very nice game) to finally put the game out of reach.

Overall the Hokie offensive line run blocked and pass blocked the best it had to date this season. Sergio Render was pushed off the ball some by the Huskers' star DT Ndamukong Suh, but overall the line was very solid. The Hokie defensive line was also very potent, at least when the first string line was in. Unfortunately the backup defensive line is a major weakness for the Hokies right now and generated no pressure on Ganz. And the LB's were great in run support, though I still don't understand why Purnell Sturdivant doesn't break down and tackle very well. He seems to go for the kill shot instead of making a good tackle and that's frustrating because he missed QB Joe Ganz twice because of it on big plays. Coach Foster preaches that you tackle with your feet and I saw him on the sidelines on several occasions ready to eat his headset

The receivers grew up a lot tonight. The trio of Dyrell Roberts, Danny Coale and especially Jarrett Boykin made some very bigtime catches and blocked well. The tight end play from Andre Smith and Greg Boone was top notch, and the whole night should have gone a long way towards addressing what I was referring to last week when talking about the lack of confidence in the receivers that Taylor exhibited earlier this season. Keep in mind that Nebraska played a lot of man defense and that requires a lot less of the QB and receiver in terms of having to read the defense. The results speak for themselves, but the receivers are still going to face many more zone and matchup zone defenses later this season, so that area still needs improvement without a doubt. 

In the end, Nebraska played a helluva game. They were disciplined in their pass rush on Taylor, and contained him effectively 75% of the game. It's only due to his ability that he was able to still make enough plays to move the offense. Nebraska QB Joe Ganz is a gamer and if they would have turned loose the deep passing game earlier in the game it may have been a different outcome. The Huskers didn't give up when they were down 28-10 and proved that under Coach Pelini they are going to be a force to reckon with by the time next season's game in Blacksburg rolls around. I suspect these young Hokies will be much better by then, as well, and that will make for a game that garners even more national attention next year.

Now it's on to Western Kentucky, although without the services of Rover Davon Morgan who really seemed to be coming on this year. He tore his ACL on a cut on a kickoff return (I really hate any form of artificial turf) and is out for the season. Our condolences go out to him, but now it's time for Dorian Porch to step up and be the man.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nebraska Trip A True Test

LINCOLN, NE (I wish) -- So no, this is not being sent from La Quinta Inn in Lincoln. I won't be touring the Osbourne Athletic Complex. I won't be a citizen of Nebraska's third largest city, Memorial Stadium. I had tickets, but alas, I just couldn't make the trip. Also, I think death is going around. First Kyle Tucker, now me.

So, on to talk about Nebraska. The Cornhuskers program is a truly historied one. Through the nineties, under the direction of Tom Osbourne (namesake of the athletic complex mentioned above), the Cornhuskers to three national titles in 1994, 1995, and 1997. After 24 years, Osbourne retired after the 1997 season. They went on to play in one more national title game (lost to Miami) in 2001 and since then the Huskers have struggled. In the years since '01, the Huskers had failed to make a bowl game twice and have continued of their plight to regain supremacy.

This year, Osbourne is back. He is now the athletic director and a new spark may be lit under the Nebraska fire. They've opened up the season 3-0. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was LSU’s defensive coordinator last year. "Pelini is 3-0 this season, but those wins haven’t exactly come against national contenders (sorry, fans of Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State)." -Darryl Slater

A few notes before I begin to break this down by the individual units and match ups.

Nebraska is coming off a bye week. This gave them the extra time to prepare for the Hokies.

According to Frank Beamer, Tyrod Taylor's ankle is "OK. He’s alright. And I’ll say this: We don’t talk about our quarterbacks, and I’ve asked our quarterbacks not to do interviews here this week, once again.”

On the injury front, Xavier Boyce (Fr WR) is doubtful for the game with pain in his knee. Bruce Taylor (Fr DE) is still out with a left shoulder injury.

The game is a late one at 8:00 PM EDT and will be broadcast regionally on ABC and nationally on ESPN360.com.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Nebraska Defense

To say that the Hokies have struggled on offense would be an understatement. The Hokies have passed (combining the two quarterbacks) for less than 400 yards in four games. That makes them the 114th best (or 6th worst) passing offense in the country. To put things in perspective, Nebraska QB Joe Ganz (r-Sr QB) passed for more yards in his first game and a half. To make things sting a little more, Temple has a better passing game than the Hokies... by a large margin.

Overall offensively, the Hokies aren't much better. The Hokies have been struggling to move the ball on the ground as well, though not as poorly. The Hokies overall are the seventh worst offense in Division 1A.

Taylor still has no confidence in his receivers, though it seems he's beginning to take a liking to Danny Coales (Fr WR).

The Nebraska defense, also known as the Blackshirts, has been one of the program's most precious attributed. Swarming lineman, sticky secondaries, were Nebraska's bread and butter. However, last year the Blackshirts were terrible in all categories. Last year they gave up more than 30 points on average, including a 76 point schalloping by Kansas. (Yes that Kansas.) With Pelini in from LSU, they've been better but still not quite up to par just yet. Through three games the Huskers have managed a total defense ranked 63rd. Remember that these were against teams of the likes of San Jose State.

Breaking down the line, it appears that the tackles our going to be Tech's biggest worries. These guys, Ndamukong Suh (r-Jr NT) and Ty Steinkuhler (r-Sr DT) [Best name ever] start the Husker 4-3 set. Behind them, at both positions they are stacked. At nose tackle, Suh is backed up by Shukree Barfield (Sr NT) and Terrence Moore (r-Fr NT) who are both studs as well. Jared Crick (r-Fr DT) backs up Steinkuhler. All five see playing time and all five have been in quarterbacks faces. Amongst them they have four sacks to date.

The ends are big. Heck the entire line is big ranging from 265 (Pierre Allen (r-So DE)) to 300 (Suh). Zach Potter was a menace last year with 11 tackles for loss.

Against the run, the Huskers have done well, but have yet to face a solid running team. Tech will be their best opponent in this regard so far this year (and that's not saying much.)

In the secondary, expect a lot man-to-man. Why is this important you ask. Well we've got a scrambler. Taylor is good at scrambling away from the rush, which Nebraska will bring a lot of. In a zone defense, you'll see a spy (maybe two) that will mark the quarterback and chase him down if he runs. In man, you don't usually have that luxury. Your linebackers are covering receivers down field. If Taylor doesn't see an open man, the linebackers won't be watching for him to take off. Before you know it he'll be in the secondary.

Key: If the Hokies can muster any rushing yards, perhaps they can open up some routes that Taylor and his receivers feel comfortable with.

Nebraska Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense

The Huskers will come at the Hokies evenly from the ground and the air. Ganz has close to 800 yard through the air, but he's also a threat on the ground. Marion Lucky (Sr TB) had a 1000-yards rushing last year and has a good start with 179 yards this year.

Through the air, Ganz has two big senior targets. Todd Peterson (Sr WR) and Nate Swift (r-Sr WR) are tall and will give the Hokie's secondary some work.

The line will be tough to penetrate as these corn-fed 285 to 320 lb boys will make life difficult for the defense. Mike Smith (r-So LT) may be the weakest point at only 285 lbs. This is his first year starting so it'll be interesting to see if the Hokies line up Orion Martin (r-Sr DE) on him to see if he can sneak by for some tackles for losses or sacks.

Key: Tackle. Tackle. Tackle. If Nebraska has been paying attention, the short dump route has been Tech's biggest weakness so far. Dumping a slant or a curl at four to five yards has been very effective against Tech's defense -- especially after missed easy tackles. The Hokies will need to stay at home and play assignment football.

Key Matchups

Orion Martin vs. Mike Smith - As stated above, Smith is the least experienced and smallest of the offensive line. Martin (or Nekos Brown (Jr DE)) need to take advantage of this.

Stephan Virgil/Macho Harris vs Todd Peterson/Nate Swift - The corners will have to stay at home with these guys. Depth at wideout isn't there for Nebraska, so it's imperative to shut these two down.

Tyrod Taylor vs. the Blackshirts - If there ever was an opportunity for Taylor to step up this is it. Taylor will have, in theory, an easier time reading the man coverage, and potentially sneaking past them, with no spy to cover him.

EhhTee's Picks (Week 5)

Today we'll be focusing on the ACC. I'm too busy this week to comment on each game. Plus death is in the lobby and I need to go badge him in.

Maryland @ #24 Clemson
Pick: UMD 14 - Clemson 19

Virginia @ Duke
Pick: UVA 10 - Duke 27

North Carolina @ Miami (FL)
Pick : UNC 35 - Miami 27

Rhode Island @ Boston College
They can fit a football stadium in Rhode Island? Pick: RIU 0 - BC 47

Game of the Week
Colorado @ Florida State
Pick: Col 35 - FSU 21

Navy @ #16 Wake Forest
Pick: Navy 24 Wake Forest 27

#13 South Flordia @ NC State
Pick: USF 31 NCSU 24

Technically, the VT @ Nebraska game is the game of the week, but as you know I never predict a Tech game in EhhTee's Picks. The game will broadcast regionally on ABC and nationally ESPN360.com at 8:00.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Game Review vs. UNC

On Saturday 9/20, the Virginia Tech Hokies took to the field against a fired up UNC Tarheel squad. While Frank Beamer is perfect against the 'Heels since Virginia Tech's joining the ACC, he didn't head back to Blacksburg with a win quite as easily as times past. After North Carolina jumped out to an early lead, the Hokies squeaked out a three point victory by the score of 20-17. Before I unload on the ranting, raving, and usual TSF commentary, I'll give a brief recap of each quarter's highlights.

First Quarter: The Hokie defense holds UNC's first drive to inside Tarheel territory, resulting in a punt. After the Hokies take over, the offense move the ball 23 yards in 5 plays only to end the drive with an interception. The 'Heels take over at roughly the 35 yard line and bring the ball inside the 15. Again, the defense holds. UNC blows a scoring opportunity with a missed field goal. The Hokie offense subsequently goes three and out. Then, to repay the favor, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster's squad holds the UNC offense to a three and out series of their own. And yet gain, the Hokie offense goes three and out. UNC takes possesion in Hokie territory, and they finally drove in a field goal.

So what can I say about our defense? Spectacular! And what can I say about our offense? Atrocious! Now being a Hokie fan for more than a decade, I've become quite accustom to saying this, thinking this, and just accepting this. But I mean really??? In this case, we're talking a whopping net gain of 9 yards by the offense against...UNC! The defense did exactly what anyone could have expected of them and more. During every opposing possession, they contained, contained, and contained. The offense looked sloppy, non-fluid, and chaotic. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor was so disoriented at one point, he called timeout twice in a row. Folks, I can't remember the first or the last time I ever saw a football team call time out twice in a row, save for trying to ice a kicker.

Second Quarter: UNC opens the quarter with a drive to inside the Virginia Tech 10 yard line, and they close it out with another field goal. After the ensuing kickoff, the Hokie offense musters a healthy drive into Tarheel territory, but has to kick it away after 39 yards. Seeing UNC's offense with their backs up against their own endzone, Foster's squad gets hungry and causes a fumble turnover inside the UNC 10 yard line. Then, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring's squad takes over and moves the ball six yards in three plays. Hokies settle for a field goal. One mediocre UNC drive and another Virginia Tech three and out later, UNC moves the ball 68 yards into the end zone to close out the scoring for the half.

So revisiting the offense, the Hokies moved the ball 58 yards this quarter and managed to get on the the board, albeit with the help of a UNC fumble. The Virginia Tech passing game was virtually nil. Any and all completions were low single digit gains with exception to one 28 yard pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor to receiver Danny Coale.

Third Quarter: Virginia Tech opens the half with an offensive drive that moves the ball 25 yards in three plays, but ends with a second interception thrown by Tyrod Taylor. The Hokie defense holds the ensuing UNC drive to nine yards in nine plays. After another Hokie three and out, UNC orchestrates a one play drive resulting in a 50 yard rushing touchdown, the only breakdown in the Hokie defense during the contest. Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the Hokie offense, however, had an answer to that with an 89 yard drive resulting in a rushing touchdown by Darren Evans. Also, in this quarter, UNC quarterback TJ Yates sustains a twisted ankle, and he doesn't return for the rest of the game.

Taylor's interception was reminiscent of the second half of Sean Gleannon's first bowl game against Georgia at the end of the 2006 season. It was essentially a, "jump ball," as the announcers put it. We can talk about the inexperience of the Hokie wide receiver core, but that type of interception can't happen. It looked like a throw of desperation. On the other side of the ball, the defense broke down in a way that we don't observe too often. UNC running back Greg Little cut through the Virginia Tech defense with some shake and bake while making good use of his blockers. It was a rarity in Bud Foster's track record, and I can guarantee you that all eleven of them wanted to have a change to defend that play gain.

Fourth Quarter: Virginia Tech moves the ball 35 yards in 6 plays to tie the game with a rushing touchdown. UNC's offense doesn't convert on third down and punts. The Hokie offense moves the ball a pitiful 1 yard in 3 downs, but capitalizes on a field goal. UNC's offense, with backup quarterback Mike Paulus at the helm, moves the ball 38 yards down the field in eight plays. Paulus in panic throws an interception caught deep in Hokie territory caught by Victor Harris. Virginia Tech's offense burns 4:23 during their following possession, leaving the 'Heels with 3 minutes to march down the field. Tyrod Taylor exits the game not to return with a twisted ankle. The Orange and Maroon defense hold 'em, and game ends.

So, watching this game, I began having the sudden physical ailments that Mad Jay often describes of himself when he can't believe what he's watching. First and foremost, on that note, we were trailing UNC (That's North Carolina of the ACC for crying out loud!!!!) for most of this game. Our entire offense slept walked through the entire first half. Folks, I know it's a rebuilding year, but rebuilding means steady, albeit maybe slow, improvement. It doesn't mean zero progress in a critical facet of the game. Waiting until late in the third quarter to turn on the jets just isn't going to cut it against our opponents in inter-conference and bowl play. (And yea, the ACC has some serious PR headway to make in its out of conference performance. I'll have more on this further down in this post.) After watching Tyrod Taylor during last season and the last two games, I'm starting to loose faith in this hybrid running back/quarterback approach to offense. When Taylor's taking the snaps, the passing game is reduced to too great of an extent.

If we can't design a playbook that develops Tyrod's ability to throw the ball now, Stienspring might as well play with 10 linemen to block and have Taylor run every play. Maybe every so often he could only play nine linemen and send out Kenny Lewis Jr. That way, we could keep the opposing defense guessing...as to which will run the ball. [sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell]

All kidding aside, I have to admit that it's a fun style of play to watch, especially when I think back to days of Michael Vick and Bryan Randall. However, what's happened to Taylor this season and last? He's had to exit the game early due to an ankle injury, last year's more serious than Saturday's. When your quarterback is rushing almost as much as your number one running back, that's a risk, and that's a problem. Look at the Michigan's, the Ohio State's, the USC's (the one in California), and the Florida's around the NCAA. They've developed programs that can boast inter-conference and post-season success year after year, and the approach they take at quarterback is very different from Virginia Tech: quarterback first, athlete second. Repeat after me: "quarterback first, athlete second." Taylor or course has the posture, the judgment, and the all around ability to be that type of quarterback, but I think we're leaning on his running back skills too much. Now let's be fair. If he wasn't running the way he was against UNC, Virginia Tech wouldn't have stood a chance. But that's a different problem that we need to address at the, ahemmmm, offensive coordinator role. And I know this next statement is going to evoke some groans, but the Hokie offense is not making enough use of quarterback Sean Glennon. He's one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the ACC. He has a great arm, and he's very accurate when executes properly. He'd probably still be the starter if (a) he didn't make one to two completely bone-headed plays a game and (b) if ECU hadn't blocked Virginia Tech's punt at the end of the Hokie's season opener. Between Taylor and Glennon at this point, Glennon has better demonstrated the ability throw the long ball, and that's an important part of every offense that succeeds at the highest level of the NCAA. By the time Taylor's in his Senior year, he'll likely have all the same, or probably better, throwing talent of Glennon. But for now, the Hokies need that element in their offense, even it's just 30-40% of the snaps.

On to another topic, let's not forget that the Hokies have had some major help in their last two victories. Against UNC alone a number of fortunate things happened.
1. First Quarter: UNC missed a field goal
2. First Quarter: UNC delay of game penalty on 4th and 1 at the VT 5 yard line
3. Third Quarter: UNC personal found during VT 68 yard touchdown drive
4. Third Quarter: UNC pass interference deep in Tarheel territory
5. Third Quarter: UNC starting quarterback injured, does not return to the game
6. Fourth Quarter: UNC late hit penalty during VT punt return

All of the above items contributed towards decomposing the momentum UNC had established for itself and giving the Hokies much needed opportunities to get themselves back in the game and finally to pull ahead. If I coached UNC, I would tell my squad THEY lost that game, not that Virginia Tech won. In comparison to what the Hokies have ahead of them, UNC is small potatoes, and other opponents aren't going to make those kinds of mistakes or likely sustain an injury to such a key player.

So looking onward past UNC, Virginia Tech needs to seriously think about how its inter-conference play doesn't just reflect on Virginia Tech, but the whole of the ACC as well. Given the ACC's out of conference and bowls records, other conferences that don't have an automatic BCS bid may start to make a case for why they deserve one and the ACC doesn't. As I utter the infamous words, "I hate to say I told you so," I have to tell you that I did. My very first post to TSF made the argument that leaving the Big East would weaken the Virginia Tech football program, and after the hype of the new ACC has now worn away, by the numbers, the move to the ACC has weakened the program. Now, I'm not stating that Virginia Tech should have stayed in the Big East and forgone that ACC's invitation, given the circumstances. Besides, it's nice being in a conference that doesn't tell you that they carry you the way a pedestrian's tennis shoe carries stepped on chewing gum. But I am saying that the ACC isn't a football conference. The Carolinas have never been a region that prioritizes football over basketball, and that's half of the ACC's make-up. (Yes, the Big East is a basketball conference at the level of those who run the Big East, but the Big East football schools are very football oriented.) So if Virginia Tech wants to shake some of the funk of the ACC, it's football program better start looking at how it performs outside of the ACC. Next up is Nebraska. This is the most important game of Virginia Tech's 2008 season, and post-season.

Let's Go Hokies!

EhhTee's Picks Results (Week 4)

Well, ECU let them slip again. Wake is emerging as the clear favorite in the Atlantic Division. Ohio State is starting to prove that they are still overrated.

EhhTee's Picks (Week 4 Results)
WVU 24 WVU 14 0-1 4-4
Colorado 17 Colorado 17
The Big East is in real dire straits. Embarassed twice on consecutive Thursdays.
UGA 51 UGA 27 1-1 5-4
ASU 7 ASU 10
A lot of folks were calling for the upset. I didn't see the game so I can't tell you how close it really was.
LSU 39 LSU 26 2-1 6-4
Auburn 13 Auburn 21
Auburn held in there better than I thought they would.
Troy 6 Troy 10 3-1 7-4
OSU 42 OSU 28
Don't let the score fool you. This one was NOT a blow out. Troy had OSU's number deep into the third quarter. OSU finally broke it open on sheer depth alone.
ECU 17 ECU 24 4-1 8-4
ECU disappointed me last week with a meager showing at Tulane. I just had the feeling that they would not be able to pull it this year. A shame really. I've always liked the program.
WFU 15 WFU 12 4-2 8-5
FSU 34 FSU 3
What can I say? Maybe Wake is for real this year.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

3 Key Plays - VT vs. UNC

Yes, 3 Key Plays has been missing this season. Because the key in each game has been inept offense and that's been about it. Not exactly a lot of analysis needed. In fact, that was the case against UNC for 2 1/2 quarters as well. But the team dug deep to pull out the win, so it's time for us to dig deep as well and bust 3 Key Plays back out. 

1) With 6:34 left in the game and the Tar Heels up 10-3, they faced 2nd and 12 at the Hokie 29. Things were looking bad in Hokieland as T.J. Yates had been Superman at QB for the TarHeels. Well, call Orion Martin "Kryptonite" as he busted through the line and tackled Yates for an 18 yard loss. The result of the play knocked the TarHeels out of scoring range and knocked Yates out of the game with a busted ankle. The Hokies might not have won the game if Yates was in there the whole way. 

2) Despite knocking Yates out of the game, the Hokies D (I'm talking to you Kam Chancellor, who had a miserable game) got out of position and the Heels tacked on a long TD run to go up 17-3, late in the 3rd quarter. On the ensuing drive, the inept Hokie offense was facing a 3rd and 7 from their own 14. Failing to convert this down would very likely ice the game for the Heels as they would get the ball back in great field position yet again, with all the momentum. But Tyrod Taylor completely transformed the game. Moving up in the pocket and then running to his right, Taylor began getting dragged down by UNC LB Robert Quinn. As he was falling down, he threw a strike to Dyrell Roberts over the outstretched arms of two more TarHeels and the Hokies converted only their second 3rd down of the entire game. Keep in mind how poorly Taylor had played to this point in the game. We cannot overstate how difficult it is to keep calm and make plays in that situation, knowing the game is on the line, much less that sort of incredible play. All we are left with is "wow".

3) With the score tied at 17 apiece and the Hokies facing 3rd and 6 from the UNC 25 and 10:00 left in the game, Taylor rolled to his right and incredibly took a sack. Yes he can make magical plays, so it's easy to forget he is just a sophomore. But he made a few big mental errors in this game, and none bigger than this one. However, the "key" play was Dustin Keys coming in and calmly (this kid was a walk-on until this year) nailing a 46 yarder on the road to give the Hokies the lead. Neat time to hit your career long FG don't you think? On the road, in the 4th quarter? Ends up winning the game? Yeah, Keys will get a big confidence boost from this one.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

EhhTee's Picks (Week 4)

Today we'll be visiting the teams with something to prove. These teams have all had a little bite taken out of their collective hype and this week will look to show the pollsters they've still got it.

#21 West Virginia @ Colorado
With a relatively important game tonight for both teams, it will also give us better insight into what WVU's loss to ECU really meant.

West Virginia with something to prove. Pick: WVU 24 - Colorado 17

#3 Georgia @ Arizona State
Georgia has won their last two games but fell a spot in the polls each week, going from #1 to #3. That hasn't happened since 1985. The team that did that in 1985? The team that just passed them to the #2 spot Oklahoma.

A Georgia smack down. Georgia 51 - Arizona State 7

#6 LSU @ #10 Auburn
Auburn fell last week after winning by the second third lowest possible score, 3-2 against Mississippi State. Multiple missed field goals, sloppy play all around, in perfectly good weather. They have to do against a very potent LSU team.

Sorry Tigers. LSU 39 - Auburn 13

Troy @ #13 Ohio State
Ouch. Sorry Troy. Here comes Achilles. And by Achilles I mean Beanie Wells. Troy will get stomped as Ohio State looks to recover from last week's embarassment.

Troy gets sacked by the Poisonous Nuts. Troy 6 - OSU 42

#15 ECU @ NC State
ECU didn't fair as expected in the Big Easy. They had some serious trouble with Tulane and that's a bit disappointing. After knocking off two (then) ranked opponents ECU struggled against a bottom dwelling Green Wave. NC State is another bottom dweller, but not as low. Does ECU get it together and sweep up the Wolfpack?

Upset special. ECU 17 - NC State 27

Game of the Week
#18 Wake Forest @ #24 Florida State
Who would have thunk that Wake Forest would be the best team in the ACC right now? Who would have thunk that Florida State would break into the rankings this year and that a non-ranked Seminoles team is more the norm these days? This one's gonna show who's for real and who's pretending.

Pretend is not a word in Bobby Bowden's vocabulary. WFU 15 - FSU 34

Technically, the VT @ UNC game is the game of the week, but as you know I never predict a Tech game in EhhTee's Picks. The game will broadcast on ABC and ESPN360.com at 3:30.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

EhhTee's Picks Results

Here are last weekend's EhhTee's Picks Results:

EhhTee's Picks (Week 3 Results)
Cal 31 Cal 27 0-1 0-1
Maryland 14 Maryland 35
Nobody could have expected Maryland to pull this off. Go ACC!
Duke 25 Duke 41 1-1 1-1
Navy 16 Navy 31
Pretty much dead on except for the amazing lack of defense on both sides
NC State 17 NC State 9 2-1 2-1
Clemson 44 Clemson 27
ECU 27 ECU 28 3-1 3-1
Tulane 0 Tulane 24
ECU totally scared everyone in Lane Stadium. Thankfully they pulled off the late drive to win it.
Michigan 24 Michigan 17 3-2 3-2
Notre Lame 17 Notre Lame 35
Wisconsin 10 Wisconsin 13 3-3 3-3
Fresno St 17 Fresno St 10
Fresno State had a chance to win it but "You blew it!"
OSU 31 OSU 3 4-3 4-3
USC 49 USC 35
I expected domination, but I was giving OSU the benefit of the doubt. They still can't win big games and are consistently overrated.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Game Review - VT vs. Georgia Tech

The Virginia Tech Hokies took a huge step forward as a football team on Saturday, defeating the scrappy Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 20-17. There are a litany of things that need improvement with this Hokies team, but one aspect that isn't missing is heart. These players are playing hard and there isn't a lot of 'me-first' showboating. Those are two signs that a team is truly a TEAM and we must give Coach Beamer some credit for that.

Before reviewing the Hokies performance, let me congratulate GT coach Paul Johnson on getting his players to buy into his option style of football. Many people, (yours truly included) figured Johnson would be a minimum of a year or two away before his triple option offense would be competitive but they are very competitive already. When Johnson gets some of his recruits into this program, the Yellow Jackets are going to be an extremely difficult out on the schedule. 

As expected, the Yellow Jackets ran early and often and dominated the first quarter of play, taking a lead of 3-0. But the Virginia Tech coaches, who we have bashed continually for fumbling on the QB decision, appear to have finally seen the light. After dabbling with the redshirt, and then faking us into thinking they were going to use the dreaded two-QB system, Messrs. Beamer, Stinespring and O'Cain finally made the right choice and named Tyrod Taylor starting QB. He did not disappoint.

Following the Jackets opening FG, Taylor led the team on an 80-yard drive capped off by a beauty of a run by Darren Evans to give VT the lead, 7-3. Taylor used his arm and legs effectively on the drive, including a magical conversion on 3rd and 7 that really put an exclamation point on the decision to make him the starter. We've said it for two seasons and we'll say it again - Tyrod Taylor has uncanny poise. He just plays the game so calmly that it is hard to believe he is only a true sophomore, and it leads to him being able to make big plays on big downs. His arm and elusiveness are impressive, but his knack for the game and ability to remain calm (announcers always call these the "intangibles") are what have separated Taylor from Glennon.

Unfortunately, the defense is not what it has been in years past and a huge breakdown in the secondary led to a big 41 yard pass play from Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt to A-back Roddy Jones and put the Jackets back on top. Big John Graves got a paw on the extra point attempt and the score remained 9-7 (Graves is the first Hokie to block 3 kicks in 3 games in the history of Beamerball). 

But to go back to the defense for a second, this defense is very fast and just as green. They played about 50% of the Yellow Jacket snaps with discipline and stuffed the plays, and the other 50% of the snaps were just free-for-alls, some of which led to big plays by the Jackets. I still don't see what I want out of Brett Warren, despite his high tackle count and since I told you how smart I was about Tyrod Taylor it's only fair that I tell you I was wrong about how dominant Kam Chancellor would be at free safety this year. He still has the tools to get there, but right now he is missing tackles and assignments and the Hokies even gave Dorrian Porch some snaps at free safety. The UNC game will involve a great deal more passing and the most talented receivers the Hokies will see all year, so Chancellor needs to improve in a hurry.

A huge play occurred with 1:10 left in the half and Georgia Tech at midfield, still leading 9-7. A missed handoff between Nesbitt and B-back Jonathan Dwyer (a stud of a football player who the Hokies stuffed all day) put the ball on the ground and the Hokies were back in action. This time, Taylor took them down to the 2 yard line and on 3rd and goal at the 2 with 10 seconds left, Stinespring did NOT pull him for Glennon and Taylor did what he does and pranced into the end zone to put the Hokies back up 14-9.

The third quarter was a lot of back and forth, field position battling. Brent Bowden is still in contention for team MVP three games into the season and his work in the third quarter was huge, out-footing the Jackets punter in this quarter and protecting the Hokie field position. And Darren Evans showed that he should be the starter at RB without question. In fact allow me to release a demon here that's been torturing me for a while now, and maybe some of you, too.

What is Coach Billy Hite DOING?!?!?! I ranted about his misuse of Branden Ore last year and not playing Cheeseman more. This season, it is even more evident why Hite didn't give more carries to Kenny Lewis, Jr last year. Despite having good speed, KLJr is not a starting tailback. I'd love to see Josh Oglesby get some more carries and find out if he's a better threat than Lewis, but in the meantime, the blatant, obvious decision that just stares you in the face is that Evans should be the starter over Lewis. Evans has been nothing but impressive in every game. I was worried about Coach Hite's ability to manage this backfield in the pre-season and while one headache has been dealt with (Jahre Cheeseman has been moved to fullback) and one has been postponed (Ryan Williams is headed for a redshirt), there are still 4 backs fighting for carries and for some reason Josh Oglesby is odd man out. More than ANYTHING, the Hokie offense needs its best players on the field and until I see Oglesby being given a chance to see what he's got (I don't care that he expressed some frustration to the media lately, the kid is right) I disagree with Lewis being 2nd string much less the damn starter.

Ok that feels better, now back to the game. So one thing we know for certain is that Josh Nesbitt is a whale of an athlete at QB for the Jackets and he did most of the heavy lifting for that offense on Saturday, especially in the third quarter. Fortunately he threw a pick to Cody Grimm on the Jackets' most threatening drive of that quarter. Meanwhile, the Hokies were well contained due to zero effective passing game by Taylor and the young receivers.

I've heard comments from several Superfans in how disappointed they are in the Hokie receivers this season and how they thought the recruiting class was better than this. To use the words of the hated Lee Corso "Not so fast my friends". The real culprits here are inexperience, QB Coach Mike O'Cain and of course Bryan Stinespring (he actually isn't mainly to blame here, but damn he is so terrible it can't help but have some negative effect). Despite what it looks like, receiver is not just about running down the field on a particular route and catching the ball when it gets thrown to you. There is a lot of reading the defense and the QB and WR need to both read the defense and read it correctly to connect on passes consistently.

What is happening here is that the receivers just don't have the snaps to do this on a snap-by-snap basis. However, they have enormous physical talent and they are blocking effectively. And on a few occasions they do still run the route correctly but Coach Mike O'Cain has coached Taylor to pull it down unless he feels comfortable with the throw and Taylor just has more confidence in his feet right now. The one receiver he seems to have developed a repoire with is Dyrell Roberts and Roberts is probably the only guy Taylor will throw a 50/50 ball to.

That needs to change in a hurry because, unfortunately, the QB scramble can't be the most effective offensive play for a season for two reasons: a) the QB will get hurt eventually and b) teams will be spying the snot out of Taylor starting with UNC. Just watching what USC did to Ohio State whenever QB phenom Terrell Pryor came into the game gives you the blueprint for how to stop a scrambling QB. Put two spies on him. That can be overcome if the passing game can take a step forward but with Coach Stinespring running this offense, how much confidence do you really have in that happening?

Anyway, back to the game (and before I start getting too nauseous) the 4th quarter saw a Hokies FG and then the defense showed their youth and gave up an 81 yard drive to the Jackets. Coach Johnson demonstrated a real gunslinger mentality in going for two to tie the game (or maybe he was afraid of Mr. Graves) and the Jackets were successful. I was particularly furious at LB Purnell Sturdivant who, while he may be starting for the first time this season, is still a 5th year senior. He was out of position twice on the drive and gave up the 18 yard TD run to Nesbitt, taking a bad angle. At least as furious as me, Coach Foster basically gnawed Sturdivant's facemask off when he came off the field after that drive. More on that later.

All good teams answer scores and the Hokies were able to do the same - helped by a terrible call from the refs. On 3rd and 7 from the VT 23, Taylor ran for 2 yards and went out of bounds. He was hit by GT safety Cooper Taylor (no relation) and the ref flagged it as a personal foul "helmet-to-helmet" contact. This was the type of penalty that happens too often in the college football - on the home team sideline and against the QB. If that's on the GT sideline or it's a player other than the QB the ref very likely keeps the hanky in his pocket. Sometimes fortune smiles upon you and that's what happened to the Hokies. Of course, they also still had to earn their way down the field to get into FG range and they did, making it 20-17. 

The play of the game occurred on the next drive. First let me take you back to the Hokies 27-3 victory in Atlanta last year. Midway through the game, Josh Nesbitt came in (then as a freshman playing in a completely different offense) and after faking the run, threw a deep ball to a wide open James Johnson who had gotten behind Kam Chancellor by 10 yards. The score was only 17-3 at the time and a TD there would have changed the whole complexion of the game. Fortunately the ball fell JUST beyond Johnson's outstretched hands and the Hokies went on to a big victory. 

Fast forward to 2008, the Yellow Jackets faced 3rd and 7 from their own 34 with 2:30 left in the game. Yet another miscommunication in the Hokie secondary led to GT receiver Roddy Jones running free behind Kam Chancellor. Again the ball fell just a yard beyond Roddy Jones and incomplete. I know Nesbitt was thinking the exact same thing I was (how did I miss that throw two years in a row???) Purnell Sturdivant obviously got the message from Coach Foster and made a play on 4th down to seal the game by sacking Nesbitt. 

So the Hokies closed out a 20-17 win despite being outgained by 140 yards. They won the turnover battle 3-0 and had 5 fewer penalties and made a few more plays. It was a hard fought battle and a total team victory. It also exposed the enormous weaknesses in the Hokie passing game and the chinks in the defensive armor due to inexperience. This season is going to take a lot out of me, I can feel it already.

P.S. I don't if any of you fans saw the huge billboard on the way into the stadium or saw the message on the Jumbotron in the pregame that said "Hi I'm Bryan Stinespring and I'm going to call a WR Screen to Macho Harris on the very first offensive play of the game against Georgia Tech." Ok so there was no message but there may as well have been. The Hokies haven't had him on offense all season but they've threatened it all pre-season and then Stiney puts him out wide on the very first play of the game and throws a WR screen to him. Gee, do you think that just maybe perhaps GT MIGHT suspect something there? Why not decoy that play? I want to just give up but I can't. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Return of EhhTee's Picks

That's right SuperFans, your favorite feature is back. I'm starting with week three, but heck better late than never. Besides, I'm glad I didn't start earlier. I don't think anyone would have predicted last night's UNC 44 over Rutgers 12 walloping.

So lets begin:

12:00 PM #23 Cal at Maryland
This would be a great game for the ACC -- coming off of a dismal pair of weeks -- to redeem itself. Although UNC's win last night was impressive, it was over Rutgers and another struggling conference, the Big East. The two conferences had a terrible showing over the last two weeks. Cal has had an impressive win over Michigan State and blew out Washington State. Maryland barely beat Delaware and lost to Middle Tennessee. Ouch.

Although they're at home the Terrapins won't survive this one. Cal 31 - Maryland 14.

12:00PM Navy @ Duke
Navy's coming off a loss to Ball State on the national stage. Navy had looked impressive on paper coming into the season and looked as if they might have an impressive season. Navy is 1-1.

Duke has the same record, beating JMU and losing to Northwestern. Duke appears to have a high powered offense.

Navy comes in lackadasically and Duke comes out on fire. Duke 25 - Navy 16.

12:00 PM NC State at Clemson
Two words Death Valley.

Clemson handily beats the Wolfpack. Clemson 44 - NC State 17.

Shut out special:

03:00 PM #14 East Carolina at Tulane
Hurricane Ike is going to miss The Big Easy so it's game on. The Green Wave are no match for the plundering Pirates. The Pirates have batted down two BCS conference teams, one of which had MFC aspirations. Both the Hokies and the Mountaineers couldn't handle ECU... and neither will Tulane.

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.... East Carolina 27 - Tulane 0.

03:43 PM Michigan at Notre Lame
3:43???? What the heck is that? Michigan and Notre Lame square off and the only reason anyone's paying attention is that it's Michigan and Notre Lame. Both teams have fizzled into mediocrity and this can only be a game of who stinks less.

Michigan smiles while Touchdown Jesus switches sides and cheers for the Wolverines: Michigan 24 - Notre Lame 17.

Upset special:
#10 Wisconsin at #21 Fresno State
The Badgers have won decisively in their first two games including a crushing of We Are... Marshall. However, they open up conference play next week with Michigan and in two weeks Ohio State.

Fresno opened up by thrashing Rutgers, who appear to have returned to the days of old. Fresno is at home. They are well equipped on both sides of the ball.

The Badgers look too far ahead: Fresno State 17 - Wisconsin 10.

Game of the Week:
#5 Ohio State at #1 USC
Everyone and their grandmother is talking up this game. Unfortunately, everyone knows what happens to Ohio State in the big game. This game is so played up, I don't even want to write another bit about it.

Condoms over Poisonous Nuts. USC 49 - Ohio State 31.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Orange Effect in Affect

Break out your burnt orange gear. The Orange Effect will be on for the game against the Yellow Jackets this weekend.

Game Preview vs. Georgia Tech

What most of the ACC football community has coined as, "The Battle of the Techs," happens this Saturday at Lane Stadium. Last year's contest ended with a 27-3 win for the Hokies and Sean Glennon, who had one of his most successful showings throwing for 296 yards. He did all of this while wearing a Georgia Tech jersey with his name hand scribed on the back. (Somehow the supply staff failed to procure him with a spare jersey after his regular one landed some paint stains from Clemson's field the week before.) While last season's competition sported two teams not too unevenly matched, this season's match-up pits a rebuilding Hokie squad against a little closer to established Ramblin' Wreck, who defeated another rebuilding team last week, Boston College.

So, more specifically, what do the Hokies face this week? At the team level, the Yellow Jackets have jumped out in front of the ACC in rushing, totaling 511 yards. The team's passing game isn't quite so strong coming out of the gate with only 208 yards, only surpassing (you guessed it) Virginia Tech on that statistic within the ACC. On the defensive side of the ball, Georgia Tech is beating the Hokies yet again by allowing roughly 50 less yards. However, one aspect of that statistic is that the Hokie rushing defense has outperformed its passing defense. That could match up well against Georgia Tech in favor of the Hokies.

Focusing more on the individual players, quarterback Josh Nesbitt has some attributes with which Hokie fans are familiar. He's quick. He can move within and away from the pocket with agility. He can throw on the run. He can evade defense with his shake and bake. He has almost as many carries as the Yellow Jackets' starting tailback, and he has exactly half the yardage of the running back in rushing. That sounds familiar right? Well, it should because it describes four of the last six Hokie quarterbacks. Nesbitt's weakness lies in his inexperience. He backed up quarterback Taylor Bennett through the 2007 season, and now he's got the starting job. His passing game and overall technique as a quarterback leave room for some improvement. Overall, though, he's a threat the Hokies must contain.

Running back Johnathan Dwyer, standing 6'0" and weighing in at 228 lbs., presents another concern for the Hokie defense. He has amassed 220 yards in rushing during his first two games this season. With that statistic, he ranks second in all of the ACC, trailing Da'Rel Scott of Maryland by exactly 100 yards. Many players at the college football level get into trouble with too much East to West, but Dwyer executes well with a clear North to South vision of running. He exhibits a great deal of power and ability to break tackles. Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Tyler Melton have each caught for 65 and 22 yards, respectively.

So how to the Hokies combat the Georgia Tech offensive weapons? Both the Yellow Jackets' offensive squad and the Hokies' defensive squad are young and inexperienced. So we can kinda think of these as a wash. Next, as noted above, the Yellow Jackets rely primarily on their running game. This year's Hokie defense has demonstrated the ability to stop the running game. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has a lot of speed and raw talent on his squad. If Foster's gang mentally prepares themselves for the game, they will contain the Georgia Tech offense. Mark my words, readers. While this Hokie defensive squad is young and inexperienced, Bud Foster will have them transformed into a well oiled machine before season's end.

As for the offense, the Hokies still have a lot of questions. Who's the primary quarterback taking the snaps? I know everybody feels pretty sure Tyrod Taylor will be taking over the job, but I tend to look more closely at history, and that indicates a mix between Sean Glennon and Taylor. After Taylor's 112 yards of rushing last week against Furman, he's tied with Kenny Lewis Jr. in total yardage for the season to date. I expect to see Tyrod Running like that again, and no athlete can be on the field for every offensive play while keeping his lungs from collapsing. For that reason I believe that Glennon plays an important role in the snaps he takes, albeit likely a lower number than Tyrod on Saturday. The Hokies have a brand new receiver core, and our favorite [sarcasm] offense coordinator leads the surly gang. While I've seen some moments of brilliance in the young wide receiver Dyrell Roberts, Taylor and Glennon generally don't have strong receivers on which they can rely. The Hokie offense's success depends on three factors: 1) Tyrod Taylor's success in gaining yardage during quarterback scrambles, 2) Sean Glennon's ability to have his usual handfull of plays where he exhibits brilliance while minimizing or even eliminating the plays where he does something completely foolish in what seems to be pure desperation, and 3) last but not least, the offensive line giving Taylor and Glennon the time to execute. Georgia Tech has a good defense, but it does leave a little be desired in how they stop the running game, which is Tech's most potent offensive weapon.

In closing, I'll say that while listening to the game against Furman, I began to have chills over the thoughts that the Hokies may not even reach bowl eligibility, but after examining the statistics and this match-up more closely, I'm starting to have some optimism, about this game at least. Sometimes the devil is in the details for these contests. Make no mistake, though; Virginia Tech is still the underdog by the numbers and by the sheer momentum Georgia Tech has already established for itself. But don't get too down just yet Hokie fans, I'm thinking we could see a big step towards the rebuilding of our beloved program.

Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Lane Stadium/Worsham Field, Blacksburg, VA
3:30 p.m.

Let's Go Hokies!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

10 Things We Know After Furman

Here are 10 things that Superfans know after watching the embarrassment that was the Furman game on Saturday. The Hokies should have been trailing 7-0 except for an illegal man downfield penalty on Furman.  VT did go up 3-0 on a FG with 29 seconds left in the first half and then came back and finished the job winning 24-7. The offense played uninspired for most of the game and the defense, while certainly better, wasn't as dominant of a Div. I-AA school as I would have hoped.

1) Tyrod Taylor is the answer at quarterback. 

The Hokies moved the ball when he was the QB more effectively than when Glennon was the QB and that's why Taylor took the vast majority of snaps in the second half (where the Hokies scored 21 points). 

You know, I found it EXTREMELY interesting to look at how another program has handled a very similar quarterback situation to the one the Hokies are in this year. This program has a QB who has been a starter for 3 seasons, has over 7400 yards and 39 TDS and won an ACC title with his team, capturing game MVP in the process. 

Sounds like Glennon, but it isn't. It's Drew Weatherford at Florida State. Despite his stats and the fact that he's a senior this season, I've always been unimpressed with Weatherford. In fact, if you read the TSF game review for the FSU from last season (here), you will see that I was very high on Christian Ponder and thought he was the future for their program.  I've always viewed Weatherford as an average QB who looks the part but just doesn't have that intangible "it" that Ponder did in his performance (and which Taylor exhibits as well). And the Florida State coaching staff led by Jimbo Fisher, coming off of a poor offensive campaign in 2007 - sound familiar? - made a very tough decision this year and benched the rising senior Weatherford in favor of the sophomore Ponder. The coaches were obviously able to see that their offense was more effective with Ponder running the show and made the right call. Weatherford is a great safety net to have in case of injury, but you start your best option at QB, and that's that.......

Unless you're the VT coaching staff. They wanted to run the two QB system this year, and then when Taylor and his parents suggested that he wanted to redshirt if he wasn't the outright starter, the coaches agreed to give it a try (a decision that we at TSF certainly respected as being good for the long term success of the program). Then when it became obvious that the offense just wasn't going to be effective with Glennon as the sole option, they pulled the redshirt off of Taylor. Taylor masks the ineffectiveness of the offensive execution and playcalling (much more on that later) with his ability to improvise and turn broken plays into big plays. And while there is a glimmer of hope that Taylor will be the sole starter (a la Florida State), for some reason the spectre of the two QB nightmare still lurks. 

Please keep in mind that despite how tough we've been on Glennon for his play over the years, he is a stand-up guy and a Hokie through and through. The booing he hears is tough to stomach and I hope he knows it's directed at the coaching staff for mismanaging this situation. If you think you have two QBs you don't have any, and that will always be true. Taylor should be the starter the rest of the season with an experienced Glennon able to come in if Taylor gets hurt.

2) The defense is fast as hell but they are still learning to play as a team. 

If there were growing pains early last season breaking in three new starters, there are growing agonies trying to break in 8 new starters. Unlike the offense, I have great confidence that by the end of the season, Coach Foster will have a very strong unit. But right now they get out of position a great deal. The biggest surprise here is that Brett Warren has been surprisingly quiet for a 5th year senior. Sure there'd be an expected dropoff from Vince Hall but Warren hasn't been very disruptive at all and his weakness (pass coverage) has been exploited by both ECU and Furman.

3) Stephan Virgil is the real deal at field corner. 

His level of play at field corner has been nothing short of stunning and explains why Cris Hill hasn't been able to break in over there. Virgil had a pick and some big hits in the secondary against Furman. With Eddie Whitley and Lorenzo Williams showing signs as true freshmen, this is definitely becoming Defensive Back U.

4) Macho isn't yet at full speed. 

The coaches probably have a few plays they'd love to run with Macho on offense against Georgia Tech, but unless he can get himself healthy, he needs to take all of his snaps on defense and maybe split time at punt returner with Dyrell Roberts.

5) The offensive line - WHAT?!

All we heard all off-season is how we finally wouldn't have to worry about the offensive line. Now granted Blake DeChristopher went out early against ECU and hasn't been back (get well soon BDC!) but goodness where is the left side of the line? Nick Marshman and Ed Wang have been very underwhelming in run blocking and the pass protection is piss poor due to ineffective communication. The defensive lines are running stunts and are throwing the o-line into a tizzy. It is no good and needs to get one HELLUVA lot better in order to even remotely have a chance against Georgia Tech. Furman stuffed a 4th and 1 for the Hokies on their first drive and were getting pressure on both QB's all day. Bad O-line makes for a sick Mad Jay. 

6) The defensive line - WHAT?!

Ok so I said there were huge depth concerns at D-line in my season preview position breakdown. And that the backup defensive tackles had me curled up in the fetal position with worry. But lo and behold, NOBODY expected that the starting defensive line would have 1 sack in two games. I mean, seriously?! And there's been very little push upfield, either off the edge or up the gut on run plays either. Coach Wiles is ready to kick ass and chew some bubble gum and he's all out of bubble gum. I wouldn't want to be on the d-line in practice this week. Granted, against the option you aren't trying to rush upfield like against the pass heavy offense Furman used, but I'm nervous about the d-line's performance against Georgia Tech anyway. 

7) ECU is even better than I thought.

And I though the Pirates were very good. They just whooped up on West Virginia. Just makes me more sick that the Hokies threw that pick at the end of the first half and couldn't tackle a scarecrow in that game or they'd be ranked pretty well right now. 

8) Ryan Williams will get a redshirt. 

Barring - and let me use a great Coach Hite quote here - "a grenade going off in the backfield", Ryan Williams will first see the field in 2009. He's agreed that with a year of Gentrification and learning the playbook he could be a scary player next season and may not be fully ready this year. I'm sure there's still a small chance of him seeing the field this season, but if the play from Darren Evans continues to be so solid, with decent support from Kenny Lewis, Jr, there'd be no reason to burn Williams' redshirt. The coaches are saying the final decision will be made after the UNC game, but reading the tea leaves here, Ryan Williams won't play in '08 (I see a Williams-Evans backfield being phenomenal next year).

9) The Greg Boone Experiment has been a total failure.

Two of the interceptions thrown this year were tip balls off of Greg Boone's hands. He has had a twisted ankle and hasn't been running the ball effectively. And Boone was the guy who missed the block on the ECU player that blocked the punt in Charlotte two weeks ago. A rational person would believe that Boone has been kept under wraps and used as a decoy to set-up his introduction as a key cog in the offense for the Georgia Tech game and the VT coaching staff just didn't want to give the Yellow Jackets any film on him. But that leads me to the final thing we know about the Hokies after the Furman game.

10) A change is needed at offensive coordinator.

The offense, which has been so capably carried by the defense and special teams for 4 years, has not been able to pick up the slack when the defense and special teams have returned to just "good" instead of "ridiculously amazing". Many of you have heard Coach Beamer, both Monday night and today on the teleconference, talk about how he doesn't want to hear any of this talk about ineffective offense over the past several seasons. In fact, he cited the scoring offense has had 4 of it's best 5 years in the past 8 seasons. 

Obviously, you Superfans will know, based on the scoring offense vs. total offense analysis we did a few weeks ago that the Hokies have an ENORMOUS gap between their scoring offense and total offense. The reason is Beamerball. The defense and special teams score a ton of points and those go down under "scoring offense". Also, the defense gets great field position for the offense (blocked punts, turnovers, or just pinning the opponents deep and forcing them to go three and out and punt to midfield or so). 

Nothing wrong with that and it wins games, even ACC Championships, but don't go citing the scoring offense, Coach Beamer, as your defense for Coach Stinespring. I will grant that, to Beamer's credit, he is doing what a head coach with integrity does - he takes the heat from fans and critics alike and deflects it off of his coaches during the season. The question is - Will Coach Beamer do another thing a head coach does and that is make a change when the results indicate one is needed? If not now, at least before the 2009 football season??

After all, there is no doubt anymore that a change is needed. We've certainly pleaded vocally for a change for a minimum of 4 years (the inability to pick up the blitz against NC State in 2004 was really the tipping point). Recently, the calls from the ECU game have been skewered all over the internets (though none quite as well as our own EhhTee) but then Stinespring added incredible fuel to the fire with the offensive (pun so very intended) performance against the mighty Paladins.

Just to pick out the most egregious example, let's look at the end of the first half. Tyrod Taylor has finally gotten a drive where he could take all of the snaps - the first time that had happened all half - and he led the team down to the 5 yard line on an 8 minute drive, a real beauty. It's 3rd and goal from the 5 and here's where Taylor has shined throughout his brief career. Against UNC, Florida State and Virginia, he has been deadly near the goal line. So what does Coach Stinespring do? He subs in Sean Glennon who's been on the sidelines for 8 minutes, to come in a throw a pass to the back of the end zone, which shockingly enough was incomplete. While watching it, I thought I had accidentally taken acid and was on a seriously bad trip. It was a surreal moment, watching Glennon come in and take that snap. Even if he had thrown a TD pass there, the decision was beyond baffling. 

Now in the interest of fairness, let me post Coach Stinespring's response when asked about this very decision:

"It was a specific call, it was a worst scenario, third and seven or so," he said. "It was a route we worked on, run and two point play, down low kind of scheme, read in middle of field, for a high ball where he has to throw it over people and read the linebackers. It was a better setup at that standpoint, that was a prominent reason for change in."

First of all, have you noticed lately that Stiney's responses have started to include a great deal of football jargon? I think he's trying to show the "average fan" just how much football he knows. Of particular interest is the Furman post game interview he gave (which you can read on Kyle Tucker's excellent blog here).

Second of all, Stinespring can spout every read, scheme, setup, route and call he wants. Anyone who has been involved in football at that level should know that you don't bring in a cold QB off the sideline to throw a ball on 3rd and goal, especially if you have a hot QB, who's just led the team 70 yards down the field and the cold QB actually ELIMINATES your run/pass option which is so effective near the goal line. Once our daughter learns how to read, one of the first books we'll be going over is Bill Walsh's "Finding the Winning Edge" and she will learn all sorts of great football jargon. But guess what - she'll still be 4 years old and while she'll walk around saying stuff like "zone blitz" and "outside leverage", she won't understand the nuances of the game......yet. But an offensive coordinator of a perennial Top 25 program should damn well better know this stuff and when he doesn't it's time for a change. 

So that's what we've learned after the Furman game. It's going to be a bumpy ride fellow Superfans and probably pretty exciting. This year is the fire to harden the steel for next season and it may get pretty hot. The coaches need to coach up these players and get a lot of growth over the course of this year. At TSF, we'll always be behind the Hokies and we just hope that at the end of the year there's an honest assessment of each coach and the improvement the players in their group have made.