1) Drama? TNT thinks it knows drama? Nuh-uh. "The Closer" has NOTHING on the finish to this game. Here's how nuts this finish was - after the final touchdown and then the Hokie interception to seal the victory, we began filing out with the rest of the thousands of fans down the ramps behind the stadium. Suddenly it was pandemonium behind us. People were yelling, sirens were going off and two big guys charged into the crowd to spread us out ahead of one of the handicapped transport carts. Except instead of transporting a handicapped person, there was a driver and two paramedics atop a lifeless Nebraska fan who had apparently collapsed of a heart attack following the insane finish. Huskers and Hokies alike found a way to clear a path for the cart as they rushed the man to the ambulance at the very bottom of the ramps.
Two thoughts popped into my head: first, "Whoa, I sure hope that guys ends up ok" and second, "There but for the grace of God, go I, following the loss to BC in 2007 on a Matt Ryan TD pass into the same end zone with seconds left." It made me realize that there are Superfans of Hokie opponents as well and finishes like these aren't healthy for any of us. Whew.
2) WR Dyrell Roberts returned the opening kick 76 yards, but because of the weaving, he probably ran closer to 100 yards. So the first play from scrimmage, and I really wish I was making this up, was not just a play called for Roberts who was obviously gassed from the huge return, but it was an END-AROUND where he had to run from one side of the field all the way to the other (53 yards if you're keeping track at home). Needless to say he wasn't very fast at that point and was thrown for a loss of 3 yards. One would have to be either completely incompetent, or actually trying to sabotage the offense to call his number without giving him even one play on the sideline to grab a Gatorade splash and catch his breath. I know which one I think it is. This is Exhibit "A" as I build my case.
3) Zac Lee for Nebraska is going to be one helluva good QB. He reminds me of Christian Ponder from Florida State in his first start in Lane Stadium; not very good numbers, but you could tell that the situation didn't have him rattled and there's really almost no tougher place to play on the road when you only have a few starts under your belt. He was cool, calm and collected and made some big plays for the Huskers including that called back TD on the holding penalty. Lee got rid of the ball just before being sacked in several critical situations and saved his team field position and likely at least one FG because of it.
4) Ndamukong Suh is the best defensive tackle I've seen this year for any team (yes that includes Cody from Alabama) and actually is probably the best one I've seen in the past three years or so. He is unbelievably strong and quick and has great hands. Suh had 8 tackles along with 4 pass knockdowns. Jaymes Brooks and Beau Warren played their asses off and got a stalemate on 40% of the plays, won about 20% of the plays and then lost the other 40% of the plays against Suh. That isn't great overall, but I'll take it when you consider that Suh is going to be a top 5 pick in the NFL draft next season. I feel very good about those two guys now that they've faced Cody and Suh in their first three games.
5) Straight from the 'Can our Personnel Management on Offense Be Any Worse" Department, the Hokies threw seven crossing routes against Nebraska. Three were complete, two were dropped and two were deflected. NONE were to Dyrell Roberts. Not a single one. Why are the Hokies not hitting a playmaker like Roberts on the run with a crossing route? Conversely how many deep balls were to Jarrett Boykin and Xavier Boyce? One. Any fade routes to anybody? No. Exhibit "B" as to the incompetence of the offensive coordinator. If you know why this willful misuse of the receivers is occurring please post it below. Better yet tell Tyrod Taylor. He is getting very frustrated at the play calls and play designs. The wrong people are running routes, not taking advantage of their different skills, and the whole thing is identified pre-snap by the opposing defense. I'd be getting frustrated, too.
6) You want more pre-snap read disaster? Here's my favorite example. So the Hokies are down 12-10 in the opening minute in the 4th quarter and are facing a 3rd and 1 from their own 29 yard line. The Huskers shift their defensive line so that nobody is lined up over the center. All Tyrod Taylor would have to do is run forward behind Beau Warren, as long as a run was called and a first down would have been guaranteed. Instead of guarding against this play (taught to QB's all the way down to middle school I might add), Nebraska cheated to the left side of the field and sure enough, the Hokies called a running play to David Wilson to the left. He was met in the backfield for a loss of two yards. How demoralizing do you think it is to the offense when they know the defense knows what play is coming before it happens? I'll just say Exhibit "C".
7) All the press is going to the great play by Tyrod Taylor and Danny Coale, but back that up a few plays. None of that happens without an INCREDIBLY gutsy performance by the Hokie defense on their series to get the ball back. Seriously, these guys had been on the field most of the 2nd half and had to be exhausted. The offense had let them down for the umpteenth time, this time on a 4th down dropped pass by Dyrell Roberts. So what does Coach Foster's bunch do? They rise up and stuff the Huskers on three straight plays forcing the punt that gave the Hokie offense another chance to win. Champions are made of that stuff. It gave me chills watching the defense, even though at the time I thought it wouldn't matter and that the offense wouldn't produce.
8) Speaking of the miracle finish by the offense, let's briefly review the two huge plays that happened. First of all, the 81-yarder to Danny Coale was a broken play. Taylor wanted to go to the left but everything was covered. Coale saw Taylor scramble and broke his out route off and took off up the field. Taylor saw him just in time and let it fly JUST as he got blasted by Suh. Then on the TD to Roberts, that was nothing but pure sandlot football. Taylor and Roberts made a play, and again, Taylor had Suh draped all over him but the throw was nothing short of spectacular. My point? Neither of the game winning plays was a called play from the offensive coordinator. Both were by playmakers on broken plays who overcame the odds to win the game. I'll take the win, but it sure would be nice to see the offense have more success on intended plays. It will probably be necessary against Miami.
9) One last point I'd like to make about these great plays at the end - the offensive line deserves a lot of credit. On the huge pass to Coale they gave Tyrod more time than he had all day to make that play. And even more critically, remember that the pass to Roberts was a play that took 12 seconds. It was a called rollout to the left and both Ed Wang and Sergio Render were engaged with their defenders. When that side was covered and Taylor ran back to the right, if you watch closely, Ed Wang and Sergio Render both look over their shoulders and see him scrambling back and they show their senior experience by making sure they stay within a yard of the line of scrimmage so as not to be flagged for "ineligible man downfield" even though they're not blocking anyone anymore. That attention to detail is what allowed the amazing ending to occur.
10) For all those fans who are saying that the offensive struggles are because Tyrod can't throw the football, let me explain why that is not the case. Sure he had some bad throws on Saturday, there can be no doubt of that. He wishes he had some of those back. But there were several key drops on some good throws and several other stupid formation and holding penalties that nullified very good pass plays. With the game on the line, Taylor's throw to Coale was as he was getting hit by a first round NFL defensive tackle and it travelled 60 yards in the air and couldn't possibly have been thrown more accurately. His play to Roberts, I am telling you for a fact, is a play that probably five quarterbacks in all of Division I-A football could have made. Tyrod Taylor is a physical talent who has had the bad misfortune to play for a terrible offensive coaching staff. He's not being prepared for the next level and I hope you guys can get some sense of how sickening this is for me. There are many things I am not good at (I'm sure we could do an entire series of blog entries on that list) but one thing I can do is gauge football talent. Taylor has a lot of it. Enough to play in the NFL if he were properly coached. It's too bad he's not and on that note......
Let me close the tidbits with this gem from ABC announcer Sean McDonough to his compatriot in the booth, Matt Millen, as they went to commercial break at the end of the third quarter. And I quote:
"Maybe you can explain to me how the Hokies win 10 games or more every year with this kind of offense. I mean how great does your defense and special teams have to be to do that?"
Case closed, Your Honor.