Sunday, November 16, 2008

Game Review - VT vs. Miami

First of all, thanks to those of you who emailed or called to check and see if I was alright after watching the Miami game. As you might imagine, watching the rotating QB's, only one play run out of the Wild Turkey formation, and -11 yards of offense in the 3rd quarter, resulted in MadJay not doing so well. In fact, those who know me might think that I popped a vein or threw myself off of my roof. I am pleased to report that the worst case scenario is that I might have an ulcer, but more likely just a very bad case of acid reflux. Watching this Hokie offense ought to come with a Surgeon General's note that says: "Warning, if you are a TechSuperfan, this may cause unbridled frustration marked by brief fits of rage and indigestion. Could be hazardous to your health".

In a formula that is all too familiar, the Virginia Tech defense again stomped an opponent, holding Miami to 247 yards and 3 inspired goal line stands keeping the Canes to 3 FG's after their opening TD. It was not enough, as an offense as devoid of identity as you will ever see couldn't muster enough points in a 16-14 loss in Dolphin Stadium on Thursday night. The ACC Coastal Division, thanks to a loss today by UNC, is now in the hands of the Miami Hurricanes and it very clearly belongs there after the display I saw on Thursday night. Note that this will not be a pleasant recap of the game, so if you haven't found your "happy place" and come to terms with the game yet, proceed at your own risk.

Let's just jump right in with the opening series.

Both Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon made excellent plays for 20+ yards to WR Danny Coale on the opening drive. Ok now let me just stop right there. That sounds exciting right? Well maybe so, but it makes no sense. Both guys showed they were capable of playing. Why not pick your guy and give him the game right then? This insane QB rotation is not a gameplan. Yes, Stinespring made it work temporarily for those two guys and the team in 2007 (until the Orange Bowl), but it cannot be a winning strategy for so many reasons. There is no clearly defined leader on an offense that needs one in the worst way, both on the field and in the locker room. It doesn't allow either QB to get into a rhythm in the game (Hall of Fame Miami QB Jim Kelly commented on this at halftime - admittedly talking about the Hurricanes QB rotation - but the concept holds true). Neither QB knows when they are going in or out and in the 4th quarter, the Hokies played the hot hand with Taylor for the entire 4th quarter anyway.

WHEN WILL COACH BEAMER AND STINESPRING AND O'CAIN GET IT THROUGH THEIR THICK SKULLS?!?!?! When you try and have two QB's, you end up not having one. This just has the feel of O'Cain trying to give Glennon snaps in his senior year and as the game progresses, Beamer over-ruling him and playing who he thinks gives the team the best chance to win by going with Taylor. It happened at Furman and it happened against Miami. The entire thing is stupid and broken. It keeps the offense from forming any sort of identity and could very well have cost the Hokies a shot at the ACC title this year. Ridiculous. And for those of you who might be new to TSF and think I'm just beating this drum because the QB rotation failed last night, allow me to refer to you a whole host of posts about this point from 2007 in our archive on the left.

Ok, now back to the game. So the Hokies get down to 3rd and 3 at the Miami 20 yard line on this nice opening drive and suddenly a wave of terror struck me. I told the Blonde "oh my God, we are not going get the first down on this play and Beamer is going to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal and it's going to be a run up the middle that's going to get stuffed." How on earth did I know that? Am I some sort of savant? A football genius? A gridiron Nostradamus? Well, those might be debatable points, but no, in this case, you only have to look at what has happened in recent Hokie history. At Boston College on a Thursday night in October 2006 and at Georgia Tech in October 2004, the Hokies had the ball on 4th and 1 at around the opponents 20 yd line in the 1st quarter of a scoreless game. Both previous times the Hokies tried to run for a first down and both times got totally stuffed. 

This is insane. On the road, you need the lead. Take the crowd out of it. Give the players confidence. EVEN IF YOU MAKE the first down at the 20 yd line, you have no assurance of scoring a TD. I can see going for it on 4th and goal from the 1, because the opponent will be backed way up even if you fail. But at the 20 yd line, this is just an inexplicable, poor decision. I mean, what did the coaches think? This Miami game would be some sort of high scoring shootout where field goals would be of little consequence? Tell that to the FINAL SCOREBOARD. Oh and the running play - up the middle to Darren Evans. How creative! Is there a remote chance that the Canes' might have possibly expected that play? If you are going to make this awful decision to go for it in that position, what is the Wild Turkey for? Maybe Greg Boone could get a yard? Or maybe, you line up in the Wild Turkey and with the entire stadium expecting a run from Boone you play action and throw the most wide open touchdown pass in college football history. By the way, the play on 3rd and 3 that led to the 4th and 1? An option run by Sean Glennon. Seriously. You have decided to play rotating QB's and you have Tyrod Taylor on the sideline and Sean Glennon on a gimpy ankle. Yeah, give Glennon the option keeper on 3rd down. Another great call by Stinespring. More on this later.

So later in the first quarter, the Canes have a 3rd and 5 at midfield and DE Orion Martin breaks free and hits Miami QB Robert Marve, who just chucks the ball downfield to his receiver as he gets hit. It's actually a nice throw but the receiver can't hold on so the Hokies get the ball.......oh wait, there's a flag. Personal foul on Orion Martin? It couldn't have been late, so it had to be a hit to the head. The replay clearly shows Martin hitting Marve in his upper chest and non-throwing shoulder just after he throws the ball and Martin's helmet never even touches Marve. Where was the penalty? Blown call. Then a fumble later in the drive bounced right to Cane Laron Byrd for another first down. Things just went Miami's way on the drive and they scored a TD as a result. It would be their only TD of the game. 

The Hokies defense began punishing Miami and eventually forced them to punt from their own end zone. The offense capitalized on the great field position and Taylor took a broken play and rushed 14 yards for a TD to tie the game midway through the 2nd quarter. But the real killer happened at the end of the 2nd quarter. The Hokies had completely recaptured the momentum and Jarrett Boykin had just made a phenomenal catch to put the Hokies on the Miami 25 yard line. On 2nd down the Hokies had a perfect pump and go for a TD and as Glennon pulled back to throw the ball he got blasted by Miami DE Marcus Robinson. You know Robinson right? He's the Miami freshman who prior to the Thursday night game had 3 tackles and no sacks ON THE SEASON. He ended up getting 3 sacks in this game, none bigger than this one as he blew past Blake DeChristopher and knocked the Hokies back enough to force a 51 yard FG attempt by Dustin Keys, which missed. Between this and the opening drive fiasco, that's two FG's that Virginia Tech left on the table. This momentum shift just before halftime ended up being huge. 

In fact, the Canes who were averaging 1.7 sacks/game ended up with SIX!! That's right, the Hokies offensive line that everyone loved so much last week, gave up 6 sacks to a defense not known for getting to the QB. Three of those plays were situations where both Glennon and Taylor had time to throw and didn't, but three of them were simply the Hokies' linemen getting abused. This was nothing short of horrible and embarrassing. I keep coming back to execution and when you watch the game footage, the regression from last week's performance is nothing short of inexplicable. The offense does not execute. How much more plainly can it be put? The playcalling raises eyebrows, the establishment of an offensive philosophy or identity is nonexistent and the execution in all areas on offense is not even NEAR the level it needs to be to compete at the top of college football. 

Then came the third quarter. Both Taylor and Glennon got one series in this quarter. One series lost 5 yards and the other lost 6 yards and both were three and outs. Darren Evans' longest run in both series was 1 yard. The defense rose up like champions and held Miami to two FG's in the quarter, but a key factor in the Hokies losing this game occurred during the first 15 minutes after the half. If the Hokies could have moved the ball one time and given the Canes a long field, it would have prevented one FG and that was the difference in the game. Disgusting to say the least.

The fourth quarter began with the Canes finishing off another short drive to kick their third FG and go up 16-7. The Hokies and Canes went back and forth not doing much and then with 7:43 left in the game, Tyrod Taylor decided to take it upon himself to try and win the game. Anyone who says Taylor isn't an accurate passer needs to watch this series. His deep throw to Dyrell Roberts was nearly as perfect a 55 yard throw as can be imagined. It hit Roberts in the hands on the run in a position where the defensive back had no chance to make a play on the ball. Roberts ran a great route and then...........dropped it. Roberts' second deep ball dropped this season and this one, though not as costly since the Hokies would score on the drive anyway, still hurt. I feel badly for Roberts, but damn kid, you have to catch that pass in Division I-A football. You just have to. Undaunted, Taylor used his legs and arm to lead the Hokies down the field. He hit Macho Harris from the pocket and then hit Greg Boone on the run and both balls were as good as one can throw it. Taylor closed the drive out from 6 yards out with a run to bring the score to within 16-14 with 4:15 left in the game.

And now for the part of the game that defines Virginia Tech the past several years. There was little doubt in any Superfan's mind that the Hokie defense was going to hold Miami and give the offense a chance to win the game. Sure enough, Foster's bunch delivered with a three and out. And the tragic part is that there was also little doubt that, despite all the momentum, and the ACC Coastal title on the line, the offense would NOT deliver. And sure enough, they did not. 

Why would Superfans feel confident in the defense, but not at all in the offense? Well just take a look at this season - the Hokies defense has been on the field with the game in the balance with 3:00 or less left in the game 6 times this season. They only failed to stop the opponent one time and that was against Florida State when the Hokies were already down by 7 points. The offense has been on the field with 3:00 or less to go with the game in the balance 5 times this season and they have only succeeded one time - against Nebraska, and that was when they were already ahead by 5 points. Every time, the Hokie defense has needed to get a stop to protect a lead and win the game they have done it. Every time the Hokie offense has needed to score to win the game, not only have they not done so, THEY HAVE NOT EVEN PICKED UP A SINGLE DAMN FIRST DOWN in those situations!!!!! The coaches always say "all we want is a chance to win the game". Well, in all 4 losses this year, the Hokies have had a chance to win on offense at the end and haven't even come close a single time.

So let's break down what happened against Miami. First down with 2:57 left, Taylor hit Greg Boone with a nice throw to make it 2nd and 2. On 2nd and 2 they tried a deep throw to Boykin but it was well covered and was incomplete. So far so good. I liked the play calls and I figured with timeouts left and all this time left in the game, the entire field is available. On either third or fourth down, one would expect a run/pass option with Taylor, rolling him out of the pocket to give the Hokies their best chance to get the first down. After all, Taylor on broken plays was the entire offense in the 2nd half. So third down sees a draw play. Interesting attempt to catch the Canes sleeping, but the odd part here is that Dustin Pickle is the guy carrying the ball. Now in the first few games, I understand why Dustin Pickle is your two minute offense guy. He's a senior who plays hard on special teams and he knows the offense. But by the 10th game of the season, hasn't Darren Evans shown that he a) doesn't fumble and b) is your best running threat with the ball in his hands? Why on earth wasn't Evans in there carrying that ball? But the real kicker is that on 4th down another drop back pass was called and Taylor got sacked. No roll outs, no quick hitters to the middle of the field. Just a handoff to a 4th string running back and a deep dropback pass. That's how the offense ended the game and took the loss.

The coaches spend a lot of time talking about how young this team is and how they've overcome injuries and played their tails off, etc. Those are fine points to bring up, but the coaches' jobs are to give the players a chance to win the damn game. From Beamer's blown decision at the beginning of the game, to the coaches' ridiculous insistence on the QB shuffle, to the development of a Wild Turkey formation that has great success against Maryland and was then used one time against Miami, to the playcalling at the end of the game, the coaches are NOT giving these players the full chance they deserve. This will be - statistically - the 110th best offense in the country at the end of 2008, meaning that the average offensive ranking from 2006-2008 will be about 103rd and it will have gotten worse every year.

I think it's a fair question to ask Coach Beamer - what measuring stick is Coach Stinespring being evaluated against? At what point does he say - ok this is no longer acceptable for the program I care so much about? We've just witnessed in Miami on Thursday night another example of what NOT making a change has cost this program. It may also very well be what causes Bud Foster to leave the program, even if it's for a school he might not normally consider leaving for. I bet Foster doesn't get the Clemson job (though he certainly does deserve it), but he may take the head coaching spot at one of these lesser programs because he's just got to be so sick over the offense at VT not carrying their weight. How much collateral damage is Coach Beamer willing to tolerate to the Virginia Tech football program in order to remain "loyal" to Coach Stinespring? I'm tired of watching the offense's ineptitude, I'm tired of writing about it and I bet a lot of you are, too. Let's hope a change occurs in the 2008-09 offseason. As it stands now, we have to all cheer for Georgia Tech to beat Miami next weekend and keep VT's hopes alive for an ACC Coastal Division title!



Hokie Guru said...

Awesome post... I've linked to yours and the north endzone in my latest post.

MadJay said...

Many thanks HokieGuru. I think you'll like my follow up post even more. Ok now I have to go get some sleep.

Anand "EhhTee" Trivedi said...


I found myself reading your post with way too much familiarity. I think I am going to build a Review-o-matic (Patent pending) computer program to generate reviews going forward in the rest of the (hopefully 3 games long) Stinespring era. I enlist the help of those readers involved in developing "The BAUD" [inside joke] to help with the development of the Review-o-matic.

Here are some key phrases that will be spit out by the program:

...and Taylor took a broken play and rushed 14 yards for a TD...

...up the middle to Darren Evans. How creative!

...gave up 6 sacks to a defense not known for getting to the QB.

Disgusting to say the least.

Tyrod Taylor decided to take it upon himself to try and win the game.

Foster's bunch delivered.

...the offense would NOT deliver.

So third down sees a draw play.

Brian "Where's The Ice?" said...

After watching that game, I think the Miami offense is developing into a well oiled machine. They are young and executing very well for their levels of experience. Other teams in the ACC are going to have their hands full when playing Maimi over the next several seasons.

MadJay said...

You are making an excellent point that frightens me even more about the prospect of Coach Stinespring staying on next season. The conference cycle is running its course and the ACC is going to re-emerge with bigtime programs like Miami and Florida State showing great promise and programs like Georgia Tech and UNC getting it geared up as well.

It is going to mean something to win the ACC here in another year or to because it's going to be very tough to do. It also means that a team emerging from the ACC without a loss will have a proper resume to argue going to a national title game.

The flip side of that is that the Hokies will also have a phenomenal collection of young talent on the team next year but if the correct coaching moves aren't made, it can be squandered and suddenly, in a much tougher conference, it's easy to see a 16 year bowl streak getting snapped - especially in light of a potential departure from Coach Foster.

My only prayer left is Coach Beamer tells Foster to give him another two seasons, gives Foster a raise and promises him that he's canning Stiney (or at least demoting him). If the Hokies can't do it in 2009 or 2010, Beamer will either step down to let Foster take the reins or send him to whatever program he wants to leave for with his blessing.

Anand "EhhTee" Trivedi said...


And I want world peace! That is the ideal. But we'll know for sure either on 12/1, or after whatever bowl game. I can't imagine an announcement coming at any other time than those. And should it not come, God help us all.

Brent Hobbs said...

I knew the game was lost when they decided to go for it on 4th and 1 in the first quarter. Not when we didn't make it, mind you; but when the decision was made. How many times have we lost games because of that idiotic move?

hokiej88 said...

Beamer has been very bad the last few yrs at making in game decisions.

Jeremy said...

I have two quick (unrelated) things to say:

1) I cannot imagine Virginia Tech football without Bud Foster. Seriously. That would be a huge stomach punch for me.

2) I know Tyrod Taylor appears to be the only person on the offense who can make big plays, but I've been taken aback a bit by his body language in the past couple of games. I understand that he gets upset with the receiving corps from time to time, but a leader doesn't look that pissy on the field. A leader picks up his teammates when they make mistakes. It's as if you can see him thinking "Forget you guys, you're useless. I'm going to win this game without you." Even back when Vick the Elder ACTUALLY WAS winning games by himself, he never looked that down on his teammates.

MadJay said...

Brent, I can think of 3 times on the road in scoreless games in the first quarter where Beamer has gone for it on 4th and 1 and failed - at GT in 04, at BC in 06, in Charlotte against ECU this year and at Miami this year. Every single time has been a run that has failed to get the yard and every time the FG is the right call. Beamer is a glutton for punishment.

The players are behind Taylor 100%. It's a QB's job to know when to back a guy up and when to jump his shit if he makes a terrible play. Roberts needed to make that catch against Miami. Period. Taylor should have been every bit as pissed as he was (and as I was).

Jeremy said...

I know Roberts should have caught the ball and Taylor has a right to be pissed, but this isn't the first time I've seen this. I'm thinking back to the B.C. game (the last time I saw Taylor on TV) where it hit a point where Taylor would drop back to pass and barely checked his receivers before running. I know the offense has been anemic, but if your running game isn't working, it's probably not helpful to abandon your receivers like that. And frankly, in that game it wasn't just the receivers who were contributing to the poor passing game - Taylor missed a few throws.

MadJay said...

I freely admit that Taylor's bad game this year was BC. But he has stepped up and made huge plays in just about every other game he's been in. He is a leader and his receivers haven't been getting open. Finally they are starting to and then Roberts goes and drops that ball with the ACC Coastal hanging in the balance. I'm just saying that Taylor has always been so poised and sometimes you have to show a little emotion to let the team know you care about winning.