Had someone told me Tech would follow up last year's offensive embarrassment with an even worse performance (110th in the country), would yank the redshirt from Tyrod Taylor after one game and play musical QB's mid-season, have Jason Worilds play half the season with one arm and Cam Martin half the season with one good knee, and lose Kenny Lewis, Jr to an Achilles injury in the 4th game, I would most DEFINITELY have predicted a 6-6 or worse campaign.
And yet last Saturday afternoon, this team proved once more that there is a factor in football that does not show up on any stat sheet or roster card. Call it heart, call it togetherness, call it toughness, call it whatever you want - the Hokies not only made it to the ACC title game, but they soundly defeated Boston College 30-12 in a double rematch (last year's ACC title game and this year's loss in Chestnut Hill to the Eagles).
Look no further than with 10:00 left in the game and Boston College taking possession at their own 29 yard line having just cut the score to 24-10 and forced a Hokie punt. Jason Worilds, whose shoulder has popped out in EACH of the last 3 games and been popped back in on the sidelines, willed his way past the BC offensive tackle to swat the ball out of BC QB Dominique Davis' hands. Former walk-on Orion Martin, who showed up at Tech 4 years ago weighing 230 lbs and trying to make the team as a tight end, bull rushed his man into the QB and snatched the ball off of the bounce to dash into the end zone and put the game out of reach. What scored that touchdown and clinched the game was a burning desire to leave everything on the field for one's teammates.
Virginia Tech unofficially has the 5th most freshmen/sophomores in their two-deep in the entire country and despite the youth and injuries found a way to win the ACC. It's definitely tempting to call this a feel-good story and make a network Sunday night movie all about the power of the human spirit. Better yet, let's make it a PG-13 movie where everyone can well up at the end as the little underdog Hokies make the impossible possible.............
Except that I can't. I hate PG-13 movies. This needs to be considered with the wide-eyed stare of an R-movie. We have to portray reality here even if it means blowing some myths up into smoke. So with that in mind, let's look back over several aspects of this ACC title to truly assess this Hokie squad. After all, that's what you came here for, not some fairy-tale phony pants brown-nosing kiss-up to the Hokie program. If you wanted all that stuff you would have went to UVa. Without further ado -
The ACC was the toughest conference in college football with the toughest schedule, the best non-conference record and it sent 10 teams to bowls.
There are no top level teams in the ACC this year. Georgia Tech over Georgia was the only victory over a top 15 team, many non-conference win were non-BCS conferences, and there are 34 bowls which means 68 teams play in a bowl this year. Come on. This is a solid conference, no doubt, and better than the Big 10 and Big East, but you have to have at least ONE contender worthy of being top 5 to be considered close to the best.
The Hokies avenged a regular season loss to BC for the 2nd year in a row to successfully defend their ACC title.
Last year the Hokies should have won that regular season contest in Blacksburg and used that loss to fuel a drive to the ACC title game where they beat down a QB who is going to be the NFL rookie of the year this year. This year the BC team in the title game was led by a redshirt freshman in his 2nd start instead of the 5th year senior (Chris Crane) the Hokies faced in Boston. Granted, Coach Foster crafted a brilliant defensive scheme as he always does, but this was far from an elite BC offense that was defeated in Tampa Bay.
The Hokie offense might have only put up 234 yards in the title game but they had the lead and played conservatively. Not to mention they scored early in the game and took a 14-7 lead into the half.
The Hokies would have won this game 56-12 instead of 30-12 if the offense was able to play like they did on their two scoring drives for an entire game. All the Hokie Nation wants is an offense that can play like the Hokies did on their first two scoring drives. But guess what? Defensive coordinators make in-game adjustments and VT's offensive coordinator does not. The Hokies run game was stuffed after half-time. After the half, 6 passes were attempted and 2 were completed for 14 yards. Where was Wild Turkey? Where was any sort of adjustment? Why must the team always rely on the defense to be unstoppable? Yes, the defense nearly always is, but to take the team to the next level, the offense must become competent over the course of a game. Setting records for fewest yards in a BCS conference championship game (win or lose), or worst offense (in terms of yards/game) to win an ACC title in 17 years, is NOT something to be proud of.
The coaching staff did the best job of their careers in overcoming all the youth and injuries. Send all their names in for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the year awards, put Beamer up for national coach of the year and give everybody a set of steak knives.
Let's be very careful here. Some of the coaches were at a level to be incredibly proud of. Billy Hite was a shocker to me, as I thought after his mismanagement of the Brandon Ore situation last year, that he was over. And then he went and coached the running backs over the course of this season as good or better than I could possibly imagine. The entire defensive staff was out-of-their-mind solid, but Coach Wiles on defensive line deserves special praise for playing 6 guys in a unit that normally needs 8 to stay fresh, and turning them into a brick wall. And needless to say Coach Foster orchestrated a rise back to the top 10 in defense, despite a terrible start. He is the master and we do need to bow to his greatness. Coach Sherman had me very worried mid-season but he did develop the receivers some by the end of the year. He gets one more year of reprieve in my view, but I will have greater expectations next season. However, coaches O'Cain/Stinespring/Newsome formed a Triumvirate of Disaster, or perhaps The Holy Trinity of Awful, if you prefer. Newsome and Stinespring can recruit, but I saw little development or improvement from beginning to end at the QB position, the offensive line, or the offense in general. I'll reserve my views on Coach Beamer's coaching until I see how he handles these guys in the offseason. His special teams were weak this year for the most part, although they too were vastly improved at the very end of the year.
The Hokies killed BC, winning by 18 points and the score wasn't as close as indicated. The Hokies won the turnover and time-of-possession battles and had fewer penalties.
As mentioned, BC QB Dominique Davis was a redshirt freshman and the Hokies knew he had to throw to beat them so they let him make mistakes, and make them he did. His two interceptions were terribly thrown and he had a fumble that Brett Warren should have recovered for the Hokies, but Warren wanted to pick it up instead of falling on the ball. That being said, I will admit that was certainly the best performance in three weeks for this team and it's good to save your best for the championship game. Two guys you don't have to make any excuses for are whip LB Cody Grimm and K Dustin Keys. Keys hit his career long (and ACC title game record) with a 50 yarder and Grimm was a man possessed with tackles, sacks, forced fumbles and a near interception to go along with some big hits on special teams.
So while there are some things to be pleased about from the ACC championship game, there are certainly plenty of areas of concern. But please realize that even I set aside the "Mad" for a bit to enjoy this victory. In fact, I am still reveling in the victory this very evening with a nice single malt scotch and some Electric Ladyland from my main man, Jimi Hendrix and here it is, three days removed from the game. I just wanted to make sure all Hokie fans recognize that the room make look nice at first glance, but you do still have to look under the bed and in the closet sometimes. I can assure you that the players and coaches recognized some of the shortcomings I've discussed here and that (along with losing to a Kansas team the Hokies had NO BUSINESS losing to last year) has helped drive them to change the practice schedule and curfew schedule for this trip to the Orange Bowl. Going down to Miami and getting embarrassed against Cincinnati on national TV would turn this thing from PG-13 to NC-17 in a hurry. Let's support the Hokies and make sure that doesn't happen.