Sunday, September 26, 2010

Game Review - VT vs. BC

I am so damn tired of writing the same game review over and over and over again. If you want to know what happened in the VT vs. BC game on Saturday, please read the review of practically any Hokie win in 2006, 2007 or 2008. In a nutshell, the offense stunk, the defense stopped any threats, while also giving the offense the ball inside BC's 40 yd-line twice, which the offense failed to convert to TD's, the FG kicking and punting were very solid and the Hokies ended up winning 19-0.

What has me particularly exhausted is that this year was supposed to be different, according to many. There is no doubt or argument from any quarter about the fact that this is an offense overflowing with talent and ability. Compare the 2007 ACC Champion lineup to the 2010 version on offense and it's laughable.

A freshman disastrously splitting time with Sean Glennon was your QB option vs. a senior Tyrod Taylor headed to the NFL. Brandon Ore was hurt most of the season at RB vs. Ryan Williams/Darren Evans/David Wilson. The WR's were as good or better than the current vintage, but the 2010 TE Andre Smith is a better overall weapon than Greg Boone was at that stage.

The offensive line in 2010 is better than it was in '07 and FAR, FAR deeper. Position-by-position - senior RT Blake DeChristopher vs. a sophomore Ed Wang who couldn't run block very well back then having just moved over from tight end (and it never really was his forte). Junior RG Jaymes Brooks is NFL bound if he can develop some stamina vs. Sergio Render who was a sophomore, but I'll call that one a wash. The center is Beau Warren in 2010 vs. Ryan Shuman and let's put it this way - Warren was Shuman's backup in 2008 and I thought Warren was a better center then. LG is Greg Nosal in 2010 vs. Nick Marshman. Marshman was enormous but nowhere NEAR as talented or athletic as Nosal. And LT is Andrew Lanier vs. Duane Brown which is the only matchup where 2007 has the edge. Backing up each position in 2010 is a very talented player, whereas in 2007, it was a floating Richard Graham who really belonged in Div. I-AA but had a lot of heart.

The reason the 2007 squad won the ACC title was that the defense was unreal. Players who will be in the Hokie Hall of Fame some day roamed the field for that defense. Names like Macho Harris, Brandon Flowers, Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi, Chris Ellis, Barry Booker, Kam Chancellor (when he was in his natural position of rover), there were just playmakers everywhere and the Hokies ended up with the #4 defense in the nation that season.

So yes, the 2007 offense was truly horrid but when you look back over the list by position, it's not hard to see why. If that team, with that lineup could win the ACC, you can imagine why so many Hokie Superfans were looking forward to see what happened this season with the offense outlined above. Yes, the defense was young and would take a few games to get it together and probably half of the season to become a typical dominant VT defense, but no one doubted the talent of the young players on that side of the ball nor the ability of Coach Foster to make it happen. All the offense had to do was carry VT for a few games and.........oh, wait. Couldn't convert a first down to win the game against Boise State. Couldn't hang on to the ball against the mighty Dukes of James Madison. And suicide watch comes and goes without incident. This time.

So we find ourselves waking up after a Hokie win in Boston, the first one in 8 years actually, and well, there's no way to put this delicately so here we go. Did you ever, during your dating years, wake up one morning, all completely hungover and realize that you may have hooked up with someone who you probably would not have if you hadn't had those last 7 shots of tequila? In the final analysis, yes you still hooked up, which is great if you're single, but if you'll recall the look you gave yourself in the mirror that morning, I doubt it was one of pride.

And that's the greasy feeling I had after this win. The Hokies took advantage of a bad Boston College QB, who made even worse decisions than usual in this game. They had the unfair advantage of Coach Foster who took away the one play that worked for the Eagles in the first half - the RB draw to Montel Harris. And so, with a dominant defense keeping the Eagles off the board entirely, the offense had the opportunity to build on the momentum created in the 2nd half of the East Carolina game. And it took that opportunity and BLEW IT RIGHT OUT OF IT'S COLLECTIVE ASS.

I have the sense from those around the program that Coach Frank Beamer's most masterful achievement the past few seasons has been to keep that locker room together. In other words to keep the defense from openly splintering from the offense. They certainly have had reason to. Earlier in this 2010 season it was easier to do because the defense wasn't playing that well either in the losses, but I think the monster that is a Bud Foster coached-defense where the players know what to do, has awoken. And in the post-game locker room against BC, there was a palpable sense during Coach Beamer's speech about getting better, being tough and getting ready to get better the next week that the players knew that the defense was doing it and the offense wasn't.

That had better change this week because the game against the Wolfpack in Raleigh is going to require the defense to play at an even higher level and the offense will actually have to contribute. As for me, I'm going to get some sleep.


3 Key Plays - VT vs. BC

1) With the score tied at 0-0 in the first quarter, the Eagles were in scoring position, facing 3rd and goal from the Hokie 11 yd-line. CB Jayron Hosley made an enormous play, reading QB Dave Shinskie and jumping about 24 feet in the air to snag an interception in the end zone and give Tech the ball back. It led to the Hokies' sole TD drive of the game on offense.

2) With 15 seconds left in the first half, and the Hokies leading 7-0, the Eagles again had driven down to the Hokie 11 yd-line, but this time they were out of timeouts. Football dictates that you take one shot at the end zone and if it's not there, the QB throws the ball away immediately so that you at least get a gimme FG. BC QB Dave Shinskie decided to try and run for it and SS Davon Morgan made a huge effort play to drag Shinskie down at the 1 yd-line. End of half, and the Hokies still led 7-0.

3) Facing 2nd and 22 and trailing 16-0 with 3:00 left in the 3rd quarter, backup Eagle QB Mike Marscovetra had the only real shot for the Eagles in the 2nd half. He threw a deep jump ball up for 6'6" WR Ifeanyi Momah. Momah pushed off on the play (didn't get flagged for it) and grabbed the ball, but couldn't hang on to it as he landed. It was incomplete, Marscovetra was sacked on the 3rd down play and the Hokie defense dominated the rest of the way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Boston College Preview

Virginia Tech heads up to Chestnut Hill tomorrow to play a 2-0 Boston College Eagles. However, Weber State and Kent State aren't exactly good measuring sticks. so it's heard to really measure how good the Eagles are. The Eagles struggled early to produce points early against their last opponent Kent State. However, the defense produced five turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Hokies finally got a victory. They also struggled early and trailed at the half against the East Carolina Pirates. Thankfully, the defense came alive in the second half sparked by better tackling and two huge interceptions by Rashad "Rock" Carmichael and the Hokies were able to dominate and win.

Coach Frank Beamer has been quoted that this wasn't "Our [the coaching staff's] first rodeo." That they are working to improve the shortcomings that led to the losses and to the troubles in the first half. Hopefully, the success the Hokies had in the second half last weekend is an indication of things to come.

Notable injury report (well there's just one entry,) the Hokies are going to be without Ryan (RMFW) Williams. Darren Evans and David Wilson had good games against ECU, so I'm not to worried about Williams. Nick Becton saw snaps in the game against the Pirates, so I imagine we'll see a lot more of him at LT. This is good news for Tyrod Taylor as hopefully the additional depth will protect his backside better.

The Hokies will travel for their first road game. This is also their conference opener. If the Hokies can salvage anything this season, including a shot at the ACC title, it all begins tomorrow at noon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

3 Key Plays - VT vs. ECU

1) Trailing 17-7 and with the weight of a 2 game losing streak on their shoulders, the Hokies faced 3rd and 20 from their own 19 yd-line with 13:00 left in the 2nd quarter. As he has done countless times in his career, QB Tyrod Taylor rose above the moment and calmly delivered a strike to WR Jarrett Boykin for a 1st down. Unfortunately, Boykin fumbled (how does a guy with hands that huge fumble the ball so much?) and went right to an ECU player who pounced on it......and then the ball squirted free and TE Andre Smith fell on the ball resulting in a 31 yd-gain for the Hokies and a first down. Tech went on to score to make the game 17-14 but the way the Hokie D played early, it could have easily been 24-7 if that fumble didn't escape the Pirates' grasp. HUGE play.

2) The Pirates recovered a Darren Evans fumble at the beginning of the 3rd quarter and had driven down for a 1st and 10 from the Hokie 13 yd line. Already ahead 24-21, a TD would have been big here for ECU. On that first down play, Pirate RB Jonathan Williams was driven out of bounds by S Davon Morgan for no gain and Williams grabbed Morgan's facemask and dragged him down by it as he went down. Just as on defense, an offensive player cannot pull a defender's facemask. It was a 15 yd penalty and the Hokie defense held the Pirates to a FG keeping the game within striking distance.

3) In the 4th quarter, with 13:30 left in the game and the Hokies ahead 35-27, the Pirates were putting together their one good drive of the 2nd half. From the Hokie 36 yd-line on 1st and 10, QB Dominique Davis dropped back and tried to hit the quick out, but CB Rock Carmichael jumped the route, picked the ball off and then willed himself to the endzone despite getting hit at the 15-yd line. The score put the game out of reach and lit a fire in the Hokie defense which played fantastic the entire 4th quarter to close the game out.

Game Review - vs. East Carolina


Hokie fans began to exhale a big sigh of relief when Virginia Tech bean to pull way from the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday afternoon. However, this game falls far short of the execution and level of play needed to take this team to big victories down the road. First, a game summary, and then the analysis.

Game Summary

The ECU pirates sensed a wounded beast in our Hokies after a disappointing loss to Boise State and a demoralizing loss to James Madison University. And with blood in the water of that sort, an energized ECU squad coming off of two big wins had the wind at their backs to hand the Hokies yet another defeat. The underdogs came out swinging and at early points of the game looked capable of delivering a knock out punch.

Comparable to the game against Boise State, against ECU the Virginia Tech defense allowed 17 points in just a little over a quarter of play. During ECU's first two drives of the game, they marched down the field making the Hokie defense appear hapless to stop them from moving the ball. That earned the Pirates a field goal and a touchdown on each drive while having shut down the Hokie offense. Then, Virginia tech responded with a 60 yard drive resulting in a touchdown run into the endzone by Ryan Williams so as not to go quietly through the first quarter.

Upon the opening of the second quarter ECU once again punched in another touchdown off a 7 yard pass from quarterback Dominique Davis to WR Dwayne Harris. On the ensuing VT drive, Tyrod Taylor passed to Jarrett Boykin who caught the ball and subsequently fumbled it only most fortunately such that the Hokies recovered. The play went sloppily for the Hokies, although they ended up with good field position. Ryan Williams left the game early with a hamstring injury. Stumbling their way through the rest of the half, the Hokies put up one more touchdown to close out the half trailing by 3 points.

During the second half, the Hokies took to better form, but before they did Darren Evans fumbled on the Virginia Tech 39 yardline. The defense held the Pirates to a 41 yard field goal on its ensuing drive. The Hokie offense responded with two touchdowns, both on runs by David Wilson.

In the fourth quarter, the Hokies exploded and put on the show that college football fans had expected to see during this weeks game and last weeks game. The defense started getting to the ECU quarterback, opposing drives resulting in punts, and pressure lead to thrown interceptions. Rashad Carmichael's interception lead to a 68 yard run for a touchdown, and Tyrod Taylor completed a touchdown pass of 69 yards to Jarret Boykin. The Hokies ended the day with a 49 to 27 victory.


Obviously, every Hokie fan exhaled a big sigh of relief during the fourth quarter when we realized that our boys wouldn't be going down to 0-3 on the season. After already experiencing the worst season opening in decades, fans rallied behind our Hokies in the hopes of salvaging the rest of the season. But despite this win the Hokies play over the past three games raises some very serious concerns, some of them recycled from seasons past, but one in particular that's very new.

Let me start with the newest and most disconcerting. The Hokie defense hasn't been the terror of seasons past against their opponents. They have a lot of new starters on that side of the ball, but that's never really been a big concern in the past because defensive coordinator Bud Foster knows how to whip his troops into shape to make the lean, mean fighting machine we've all come to know as Hokie defense. The defense has allowed 383, 235, and 361 yards respectively in the first three contests of this season. Against top 25 teams, those make for respectable numbers, but considering contests against ECU and JMU, those numbers are disconcerting. The amount of points scored totals 81 thus far this season, another number the Hokies need to improve. They way the BSU and ECU offenses marched themselves down the field in their respective first quarters of play makes an onlooking Hokie fan want to bury his head into his hands and bite his nails. The defense has traditionally been the rock that keeps the Hokies competitive throughout the season, and the need for that isn't going to go away this season. I hope this breaks down to inexperience that Bud Foster is molding into the defense that we're used to watching as a dominating force on the football field. My suspicion is that we'll see growing improvement, so I'm optimistic that we'll see our Hokie defense come to form. I just hope it happens soon enough so that Virginia Tech can persevere through the ACC in-conference schedule.

On the other side of the ball, we've seen some of the same problems on the field. Sorry to keep beating this dead horse as we do here at TSF so often, but it's a fact. The first thing I noticed was the playcalling. There's a lot of aspects the playcalling to criticize, but I want to focus on one in particular. During this game and prior games of the season, the passing game continuously has gone for the "home run" pass, sometimes as a called play and sometimes as the result of a play breaking down. Sometimes it makes sense to pull a long pass to catch a defense off guard or in times of sheer desperation, but I see the Hokie offense going to this too often. Instead they need to focus on more frequently executing the short pass. It plays into controlling the pace of the drive and the clock, which is extremely important in the later minutes of a close game. Also, I'm uncomfortable with the number of times our quarterback has had to rush to escape the danger of a sack. It's great that Tyrod Taylor's foot speed give the Hokie offense that option, but the frequency with which he has to use it worries me. Quarterback rushing may do well against the non-BCS conference teams, and even against most of the teams in the ACC, but it won't win an ACC championship and it certainly won't win a major BCS bowl. Of these broken down scrambling plays, Taylor had nine rushes for 32 yards. Against a more formidable defense, any of those nine plays could have resulted in big losses for the Hokie offense. Given the experience and talent of this Hokie offense, these problems should be in their rear view mirror, but we'll do what we do as fans every season in this regard, hope that it gets better.

The Hokies open their ACC season against Boston College next week. The's a lot of season left to salvage, and a big win against the Eagles could put the season on the right track towards intra-conference success.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Game Preview - VT vs. ECU

The fact that the Virginia Tech-ECU football game means so much to this season is a great indicator of how horribly the things have gone for the Hokies. It's a non-conference matchup against a team that has played Tech tough over the years but still has only one win against the Hokies since 1993 (and that was a real gem of an offensive showcase for Bryan Stinespring as the Hokies choked away a lead in Charlotte - a game I painfully attended). And now the Hokies are in a must-win situation to prevent their entire season from ending up in the below-.500 toilet. You all know how we got here so there's no sense rehashing the horrors of the past 10 days. Lets take a look at the matchup.

Vegas loves the Hokies as 19.5 pt favorites and for the life of me I don't see it. Bud Foster's defense is going to play hard, that much I am certain of, but this is a potent offense they are going up against and frankly, I'd love it if the Hokie offense could muster 19.5 points, so how the bookies think the Hokies are going to win by that many astonishes me.

ECU's offense is an entirely different attack than what VT has gone up against the past several seasons when they've faced off against the Pirates. The Air Raid brought in by Ruffin McNeill and his staff from Texas Tech is an intricate passing attack that spreads the field and depends heavily on the QB knowing where to go with the ball based on the defense. After watching the ECU-Tulsa game, there really is no way to stop the offense when it is executed flawlessly. So how do the Hokies win? Well that's why you come here and read TSF isn't it? What the Hokie defense has to do is three things:

1) Tackle - there will be MANY times on Saturday when a Hokie defender is in a one-on-one situation with the ECU player and they absolutely have to make the tackle. Tackling like they did against Boise State and {gulp} JMU will lead to a Pirate blowout. But proper tackling and gang tackling like we're used to seeing from the Hokies could help create turnovers which will be huge in this game.
2) Disguise the look - Dominique Davis was the Boston College QB against Tech in the ACC title game in '08 and while he got worked over pretty good in that game, it means this isn't his first rodeo. Foster is going to have to be crafty so that Davis thinks he knows where to go with the ball based on his pre-snap read and then after the ball is snapped, finds that the coverage has changed. This will let the defensive line get pressure which is a normally a very difficult thing to do since the Air Raid has so many short routes in the playbook. Make Davis go to his 2nd or 3rd read and the defense has a chance to get off the field.
3) Pray - this last one may sound strange, and it is, but it comes down to praying that the VT offense can run some clock. Keeping the Air Raid on the sidelines helps prevent them from getting in a rhythm, limits the number of possessions they'll have in the game, gives the Hokie defenders a chance to get rested, and allows Foster a chance to work his magic with adjustments. I keep reading everywhere on the internets about a shootout, and believe me, I've watched teams try to get in shootouts with Texas Tech over the years and far more often than not, the Air Raid wins out. If the Hokies can run the ball and burn clock, even if it doesn't lead to Tech scoring every time, the defense will have a better chance to get stops against the Pirates. So if you see the defensive linemen lighting a few candles on the sideline, or chanting some Latin passages you'll understand why.

A quick glance over the ECU lineup shows not only Dominique Davis, but WR Dwayne Harris and RB Jon Williams, all of whom could play for most Division I-A schools. These are physical, athletic players and they can make big plays especially in this fast-paced offense. This game will not resemble the 16-3 game in Greenville last season as I expect ECU to score every time the Hokies miss a tackle on a drive or don't create a turnover. What does that mean? Well if you figure the Pirates could have as many as 12 possessions, and the Hokies miss tackles or don't create turnovers on 1/2 of them, you are talking about 6 scoring possessions, which is good for about 30 pts. And that would be a great achievement for Tech's defense considering ECU is averaging 50 pts/game (good for 7th in the country).

So let's look at the possibilities for a Hokie victory. The Hokie defense is either going to have play out of its mind and hold ECU to under 25-30 pts, or this football season for Virginia Tech is going to come down to the offense putting the whole team on its shoulders for 60 minutes. Normally, I would just say "Well forget it. The defense is either going to be miraculous or we're 0-3." But in this particular instance, there actually is one little speck of light at the end of that tunnel.

That speck of light is best envisioned as a scale. On one side of the scale, you have this incredible collection of talent on the VT offense, with huge linemen, NFL caliber running backs, Tyrod Taylor (who I will be the first to admit had an AWFUL game against JMU last week), an NFL tight end, and great wide receivers. On the other side of the scale is an EXTREMELY undersized ECU defense (one of their defensive ends is less than 200 lbs), trying to learn the new assignments and concepts of a 1st year defensive coordinator, who last season was the cornerbacks coach at Texas Tech where they had the 73rd best pass-defense in the country. The results of the ECU defense year-to-date have been predictably awful in light of those facts (119th out of 120 teams), and so while the scale seems tipped very favorably towards Tech, we all know that the Stinespring-factor balances that out some.

However, even I cannot bring myself to think that Stinespring can't develop a simple gameplan that can be well-executed against the Pirates. It involves RUNNING THE HOLY HAND GRENADE OUT OF THE BALL. Put it this way, if Virginia Tech can't run the ball against this defense, they may as well pay the university back their scholarships for the season, because that would mean they aren't worthy of playing football at this level. The caveat of course is if Stiney tries to "show" us all how clever he is with a pass-heavy attack for this game. I couldn't hang that on the players, though I could hang myself if that's what happens.

I'm not saying some timely play-action, or check down plays called by Taylor would be out of line. In fact, those would be perfect. But if there is a series in this football game for the Tech offense that consists entirely of passing plays, I will ask The Blonde to lock me outside so that I can't damage anything valuable in our house. The reason is that even if a pass-only drive were successful in scoring it would surely involve an incompletion or two, stopping the clock and more than likely, would be a shorter scoring drive than if a few runs were also involved. As I said above, winning this game involves shortening the game itself. By the 4th quarter, ECU's defense needs to be exhausted to where the Hokies can impose their will and run the clock.

So on Saturday we'll find out if all the tough talk this week is just that, or if it's a sea-change in the level of play that Virginia Tech brings to the field. They say football is a game of inches, but this week, it's a game of seconds and if the Hokies can run those seconds off the clock, they can begin the process of getting this season turned around.


Monday, September 13, 2010

JMU Review - A Dark Day

I can't believe I'm rewatching this game again.

The cards were in James Madison's favor. First, the weather. Anytime, there's a game played in the driving rain it favors the underdog team. It forces a slower game, typically lower scoring than a dry game. Second, the extremely short week coming off a very disappointing loss on Monday. Third, it's becoming more and more evident that the injuries on both sides of the ball are really hurting the Hokies. I thought that Andrew Lanier had a good game playing for Nick Becton, who's out with turf-toe, but he did get burned a few times. Chris Drager was out for the game and two drives into the game, Kwamaine Battle went down with what we learned yesterday is a season ending ACL injury. This makes the defense extremely thin on the defensive line.

JMU came out fired up. The Dukes came to Bleaksburg and right away they came out with a huge run. The Hokies eventually calmed them down for a few plays and were able to hold the Dukes to just one first down in the first half (not counting a very long touchdown run.)

The first thing that I remember while rewatching this game is how nervous I felt Saturday. The Hokies steadily drove down the field from deep in their own territory. It was an impressive drive. In fact, they were able to drive down field most of the game. The offensive line held well, especially Lanier who was doing well in pass protection. The Hokies scored, but I remember thinking that it took too long. Sure it was raining and that slows the game down, but 8:48 to score seemed too long.

The second drive was moving well with success on the ground with Evans and Williams. However, it stalled with an unlucky dropped ball and turnover by Taylor while he made a good athletic move to avoid a sack. The Hokies would commit three very costly turnovers. Two of which were on drives that had scoring potential.

The Hokies had a third drive in the half that resulted in a field goal. It was another drive that went long down field in 10 plays for 55 yards.

Another thing that is disturbing me: How could Taylor not find open receivers against a slower, weaker, smaller James Madison backfield? How can these very fast, okay except for Danny Coale, receivers not be finding and/or opening up holes in the secondary? Why are we seeing Taylor scrambling and then having to make it happen, or not happen, with his feet? I'm not pointing any fingers, but you know what I'm thinking. Speed, talent, size, strength mean nothing if you're not being taught how to find the openings or if you're being told to run a route that's obvious and predictable.

The first half ended with some discussion on whether the Hokies should have gone for it on 4th and two at the JMU 25-yard line with two time outs and :25 left on the clock. I think, going for the field goal was the right call for many reasons:
  1. You're supposed to dominate this team and you're confident you will. No sense in not getting any points by turning the ball over on downs.
  2. You have a very inexperienced kicker in Chris Hazley. What better way to get him some good situational experience than a 42-yard angled kick in the rain?
Defensively, the Hokies looked okay up until late in the first half. It's amazing how many times Bill Roth said things like "[Jamal] Sullivan bounces off one tackle." The defensive injuries are obviously affecting the play. Chris Drager was out of the game to begin with. Kwamaine Battle came out on the second JMU drive with an injury which the Hokies announced yesterday was a torn ACL. Battle is now out for the season.

With out Drager and Battle the Hokies initially appeared to still be able to dominate on defense. With a 3rd and 18, JMU was in trouble of another three and out. However, let me count the missed tackles: on a quick screen dump off in quick succession Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Steven Friday, and Bruce Taylor missed make-able open-field tackles. The screen play results in a Sullivan 78-yard touchdown pass play.

Then, JMU took the ball down field 15 plays to score again on an option run by Drew Dudzig into the end zone. This brought the Dukes within two points late in the third and you feel the nervousness in Lane Stadium. That nervousness was exacerbated by Taylor's throw directly to a purple shirt on the very first play of the Hokies drive and an immediate personal foul by the defense. The Dukes marched down field methodically only to watch Dudzig run the exact same play into the end zone. Dukes would take and hold the lead. The Hokies drove to the 17-yard line but, down five with 10 minutes to go questionably went for it on 4th and 2. A straight line 34-yard field goal would have brought the Hokies to within two points. I don't understand the logic of this call. Again, it's a question of very suspect coaching decisions.

The Hokies worked the ground only due to the extreme talent on the field. They moved into the red zone and were looking like they'd score. But the most devastating play of the game came as Evans cut and had the ball popped from his hands only to have the Dukes fall on it. The Dukes were able to take that and drive down field to run the clock down. The Hokies would lose 21-16 to JMU for the first time in seven meetings. It is also the first time the Hokies have lost a non-conference home game since 1995 (Look Familiar?).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Look Familiar?

When thinking suicidal thoughts, it's important to remember your close friends and family and how many more great memories you will have with them. Unless you're laying on your death bed (and if you are, we are proud that you had "Read TechSuperfans' blog" on your bucket list), you've got a large balance of happy times ahead to help offset the horrible sadness and sickness you feel. A hug from my oldest daughter and a kiss from my wife certainly helped me gain some perspective on an otherwise nightmare day of college football yesterday.

But before closing the door on the pain, I decided to take one more quick look around, and I noticed there was a certainly familiarity with the surroundings. I started trying to place where I'd seen this pain before. Boston College in 2007? No, that was gut-wrenching, but it was more hazy, less-focused. There was still a pale light in the room. Miami in 2005? Close, but the smell of optimism still lingered after that one. And then it hit me - I'd last seen this pain sitting in the stands in the rain after Virginia Tech lost to Cincinnati, in the 2nd game of the 1995 season when the Hokies last went 0-2.

Yes, that was it. That complete and utter despair. A week after losing a nationally televised game to a highly ranked opponent when an offensive series came up short at the end (in '95 it was 20th ranked BC), the Hokies followed up by playing like garbage in the rain and losing against an outmatched opponent. On top of getting kicked while we were down, the firghtening thought occurred that maybe the great excitement of the previous few seasons was just going to be a flash in the pan and the program would recede back into the shadows, below the nation's radar again. It has happened to countless other programs (Kansas State, Northwestern to name two), why not us?

The finishing touches on this particular pain were the worry that the Hokies might have a losing record on the season, and frankly after getting shut out by Cincinnati in '95 and JMU in 2010, who could the Hokies really beat?

So that was the last time I'd seen pain like this, and that felt familiar, but as I closed the door (for what I pray is the final time), I began looking at other indicators and why this season may not be completely lost. In 1995, the Hokies' game the following week after starting 0-2 was against #13 Miami, whom they had not beaten in Big East play. Ever. And what followed was the real turning point of the entire Virginia Tech program. Michael Vick likely wouldn't have ever been in Blacksburg if the Hokies hadn't put together one of the grittiest performances in history, beating the 'Canes 13-7 and beginning the march towards their first Big East title and a Sugar Bowl victory against Texas.

Unfortunately, the 2010 Hokies don't have a big name opponent to rally around this week. And this isn't the Little Program that Could anymore, just trying to climb the mountain. This is a program with a target on its back after 10 win seasons the past 6 years and 3 ACC titles. That team in '95 didn't have any added pressure. No expectations built on a tradition of success to be nervous about. They just went out and played their hearts out every week. This 2010 squad carries the added weight of that tradition on their shoulders. So they are REALLY going to have to dig deep down for the type of run that team in '95 put together. But the realistic goal for this team coming into this season was an ACC Championship and that is still on the table for them. Vince Lombardi said -

"Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist but football is only two things - blocking and tackling."

He wasn't a man prone to saying things because he thought they sounded cool. He spoke the truth. It is going to take execution in the areas of blocking and tackling that is on a level equal to the talent on this Hokie football team. The Hokies also have to protect the football. If they can find a way, despite the pain they're in and despite all the naysayers after their 0-2 start, to handle those things, VT can still put together a great season. If they cannot, well it can't hurt any worse than it did on Saturday, and it might lead to some long-needed coaching changes on staff. We should learn a lot against ECU about what the psychological make-up of this team is, but the two straight ACC road games after that are where we're going to see if they can execute the football basics. Either way, I'm still around to cheer them on. After all, we can't give up on this team if we ask them not to give up on themselves. Or else we may as well stop calling ourselves Superfans.


I, A Hokie, An Open Apology To The Broncos

Yesterday was embarrassing. I, a Hokie, must apologize to the Bronco Nation.

In the days to come, it falls on my shoulders to review this game (it's an unwritten rotation that the TSF writers have agreed upon).

But tonight/early morrow, I only can think (as the newest fan on the possibility of a BCMess bust by Boise St) that we, the HokieNation have done a disservice to your nation.

This loss does nothing but ruin... I mean absolutely demolish... any claim you can make about beating a solid team.

That, my college football friends, is the most painful aspect of this loss: A team can no longer claim that a victory over the Hokies is a big deal...

I'm going to try to cry myself to sleep now.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Game Preview - vs. James Madison

Making my first post to TSF of the 2010 football season, I welcome back all of our Hokie/TSF faithful for another fun packed season of Hokie football, so...welcome back welcomed-backers. Our same staff have returned to bring you lots of napalm...if by napalm you mean game previews, game reviews, rants, raves, sarcasm, frustration, and jubilation. The President of Diligence, the Prince of Anger, the Utmost of the Utmost for offering Criticism, “Mad” Jason Oakley still has his standing offer to the Athletic Dept. to accept a $100K salary as offensive coordinator, and his future posts will evoke such sorrow that you may throw up...outside...of your mouth. We've got Anand “EhhTee” Trivedi crunching the numbers, making the predictions, and trying to discover the optimum amount of time to boil noodles such that they stick to the kitchen wall for the longest amount of time possible. It's not an odd habit. I know because I've already mastered it, but I digress He's so sharp about college football that disgraced samurai fall upon him to preserve their family honor. And then there's me, the Sinister Minister of opinionating and opining, Brian “Where's the Ice?”. It's September; still melted; so sad. But then again, I don't live somewhere that ice actually freezes, at least not outdoors.

Coming off their near miss against Boise State, the Virginia Tech Hokies will take the field against the James Madison Dukes at Lane Stadium for the second game of Hokie's 2010 season. Since just a few short seasons ago, when Appalachian State gave the mightiest of the mightiest of upsets by beating the Michigan Wolverines, every Division IA school would only risk the peril of embarrassment not to consider something of the like happening to them. And I hope that Frank Beamer and the Hokies have that in mind as well. A loss to the James Madison Dukes would probably result in every Lane Stadium attendee running full speed to the Duck Pond screaming in horror at game's end to drown themselves in the most expedited of fashion. But I only conjure this nightmare to paint the worst of the worst pictures. It's not like we ever lost to TEMPLE or anything.

The Dukes come off a crushing win over Morehead State. (That's not a joke. The school's actually named that.) They came away with a 48-7 victory. The offense put on a scoring display that had the game over before the first half ended. Let me describe exactly who the Hokie defense has to contain during Saturday's contest. Senior quarterback Drew Dudzick stands 6' 1” and weighs in at 210 lbs. During last week's game, he threw for 189 yards of passing, which exceeds his total passing of his prior years as a backup combined. He threw for a 53% completion rate. Catching Dudzick passes, wide receiver Kerby Long reached 112 yards of receiving on the day. He stands 5'11” weighing in at 185 lbs. The Dukes have a handful of tailbacks who can carry the ball well. Senior Jamal Sullivan stands 5'9” weighing 220 lbs. He only needs 160 yards this season to pass the 1000 yard career mark. Griff Yancey, another Senior, stands at 5'11” weighing 205 lbs. He had 66 yards of rushing against Morehead and has already broken the 1000 yard mark with 1332 yards on his career with 18 touchdowns. He also has the hands of a receiver, so JMU's playcalling can make use of him more dynamically than just handoffs for rush yardage. And finally, Freshment running back Jordan Anderson had a good day against Morehead State also rushing for 66 yards. He stands 5'11” and weighs in at 200 lbs. One common characteristic you've probably noticed, all the JMU offensive stars stand under 6'0” and don't weigh a whole lot. The Dukes have a serious size disadvantage against the Hokie defense. I expect that Bud Foster's squad will manhandle them unless they've got some really good tricks up their sleeve. On the defensive side of the ball, the Duke's holding of Morehead State to a mere 7 points of offense, coming in the fourth quarter, speaks something about their defensive abilities, but when they face an offense that scored 30 points against Boise State after blowing an entire first quarter, we can safely predict that Virginia Tech shouldn't have much trouble getting themselves on the board early and frequently. But still, let's hope our kicking doesn't go wide right inside the 30 yard line.

I think that the Hokies need to keep their main focus on getting a solid victory to regroup as a team and get some wind back into their sales after the Boise State loss. I really dislike watching my team let big games like that slip through their fingers, but especially with regard to season openers, I've gotten a little used to it. With Boise State's schedule only getting easier from this point onward, the Hokies could well establish themselves as the season opener to beat for a team to march themselves to national champions. Think back over USC, LSU (second game), Alabama, and now potentially Boise State winning the crystal trophy.

The Hokies have a long season ahead themselves, and that season consists of a very winnable schedule to get back to the ACC title game, and even a BCS bowl. They certainly have their challenges ahead of them, especially in the Yellow Jackets and Hurricanes, but if the Hokies play at their best, they could win the Coastal division and even the conference title. Alamaba's a great team, but we don't see many teams run the table two straight season in a row. Ohio State could go down to Miami, especially considering how the rebuilt Miami squad has been coming strong out of the gate early in recent seasons. Texas has more than a couple of tough contests on their in-conference schedule. The top of the rankings still leave a lot of room for a VT squad to reach by season's end.

Let's go Hokies!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Game Review - VT vs. Boise State

"You broke my heart Billy. That's the thing about you, you break all of our hearts" - Jules (played by Demi Moore) to Billy (played by Rob Lowe) in St. Elmo's Fire

I woke up this morning and couldn't go to work. I'm not sick by the technical definition of the term (no fever, no headache, runny nose or sore throat) but my stomach is killing me. It feels like I ate a crushed glass sandwich. I'll go to a doctor later today for a more clinical diagnosis, but maybe this is what a truly broken heart feels like. Or I could just have a raging ulcer.

The funny thing is, the Hokies losing 33-30 to Boise State wasn't surprising, but it hurts worse than any loss since BC in 2007. Why wasn't it surprising? Let's check the past 10 HUGE games the Hokies have played with the whole country watching against top opponents -

1999 National Championship against FSU - Tech fell behind 28-7 before clawing and fighting back to a 29-28 lead only to lose 46-29.

2001 hosting #1 Miami - The Hokies fell behind 20-3 and somehow miraculously overcome the worst big game performance by a QB in history by Grant Noel to fight back to 26-24 only to lose on a dropped 2 pt. conversion

2002 @#2 Miami - The Hokies fell behind 28-7 only to fight, scratch and claw their way back to 56-45 in a great never-say-die performance

2003 hosting #2 Miami - Hokies got ahead 10-0 and went on to win 31-7 in a completely dominating performance by a talent-laden head-case of a team.

2004 - neutral #1 USC - The Hokies fell behind 7-0 early but exhibited great resolve in battling what was essentially a semi-pro team and the game turned on a completely phantom offensive pass interference call on Josh Hyman, and I still can't believe the ref made that call. Wonder if it was the same ref that overturned the block-in-the-back call last night?

2004 - Sugar Bowl against #3 Auburn - The Hokies fell behind 16-0 and the only reason it wasn't more than that was the greatest defensive performance I've ever seen by a college defense playing against four first round NFL talents on Auburn's offense. The Hokies managed to fight and claw their way back to a 16-13 loss.

2005 hosting #5 Miami - The Hokies fell behind 27-0 and were completely overwhelmed in the spotlight. No fighting and clawing here, just a late TD to make it 27-7.

2007 hosting #2 Boston College- The Hokies went ahead 10-0 in the rain only to lose by an unbelievable performance by Matt Ryan in the final 4 minutes of the game when he rallied the Eagles to a 14-10 win which was also helped by a special teams breakdown on an onside kick with the game on the line.

2008 Orange Bowl against #7 Kansas - The Hokies fell behind 17-0, only to fight and claw and give up on the run when it was working, leading to a 24-21 loss to an overmatched KU team.

2009 - Kickoff Game against Alabama - The Hokies fell behind 7-0 to only to return the kickoff and miraculously stayed in the game, finally losing 34-24 while achieving only 155 yards on offense.

That is 10 games against the top competition, with the nation watching, only to see the Hokies fall behind early in 8 of them, often by more than one score. The team almost always fights back, only to come up short in the end which endears the program to many around the country as a bunch of hard-fighting blue collar guys taking on "The Man".

At the same time, this looked to be the team that would break that trend. Finally, the Hokies could match up against a top squad OFFENSIVELY, and all signs pointed to a group that was talented, experienced and handling everything this pre-season in a businesslike manner. There was real optimism that past 1st quarter disasters might not be repeated. And what happened? A lost fumble on the 2nd snap of the game and a blocked punt on the next possession led to 10 points and the next thing you know, the Hokies are down 17-0. Again.

And just like the scriptwriters would have them do, the Hokies fought back. They clawed and bled and Tyrod Taylor played his heart out and they found a way to take the lead 27-26 in the third quarter. Then Boise State missed a FG and Taylor put the team on his back one more time to lead them on a FG scoring drive to go up 30-26. The defense got a patented Bud Foster stop and the offense got the ball back with about 5 minutes to go. After some well-executed plays, they found themselves in an amazing situation. A chance to take the monkey off their back and show that this was the Hokie team we were all waiting for. You think I'm going to blast the pass on 3rd and 8? Read on my Calm and Beloved Reader.

The Hokies had just rushed for 4 yards with Darren Evans. Ryan Williams had DOUBLED his rushing total for the game on this one drive. You could see that Boise State's defensive line was getting tired. The Hokies faced 2nd and 6 with 2:10 left and Boise State called a timeout. This was the game. Boise State had only 1 timeout left. Get a first down and the Hokies were going to win the game. Two plays to get 6 yards. And Stinespring had an entire timeout to come up with two plays to get those 6 yards. The first play on 2nd down HAD to either be a WR screen (which was really working this game because of the physical advantage the Hokies WR's were having in blocking the Boise DB's) or a run with Williams or Evans. You have to keep the clock running and you need to gain a few more yards on 2nd down and then you have the entire playbook for 3rd and 3 or so. Or best case scenario, the 2nd down play gets you a first down right off the bat. One broken tackle by Ryan Williams or Darren Evans would do it.

The play call? A QB run. Sure, the man that had been hurting Boise all game was Tyrod Taylor but they were spying him with two guys on this final drive, which was why the running backs were starting to gain yards. Even the announcers agreed, saying for Boise to (unbelievably when you consider who the RB's are), make the RB's beat you, don't let Taylor run on you. And the run wasn't a quick hitter up the middle, it was a longer developing play where Taylor faked a handoff and tried to go outside. It lost 2 yards and Boise used their final timeout. In my heart of hearts, I really thought the Hokies had just lost the game right there. I thought Beamer would run it one more time, and then punt the ball and the young Hokie defense would be hard pressed to stop a Boise State offense with that much experience and that clutch of a QB. But to my pleasant surprise the Hokies threw the ball on 3rd and 8 to try and get the 1st down!!

Now let me be clear on a few things - first of all, don't imagine for a SECOND that this was Stinespring's decision. Everyone on that coaching staff knew that call was going to be the game decider. You were either going to put the game in the hands of your offense or your defense to try and win it for you and the way the Hokies were executing on offense up to that point, I liked taking a shot. So with the game on the line, you know it was Beamer that said, go for the first down.

The play call itself? A terrible choice really. The Hokies should have used slants or posts or crossing routes or even an out route to someone other than Boykin would have been very unexpected. A QB rollout to put pressure on the defense (is Taylor going to run or throw?) would have also been a great call IF you hadn't just run him off to the right side for a 2 yard loss. A simple crossing route would have been great. I also would have been happy with a pass to the flat with David Wilson or Ryan Williams against outmatched Boise linebackers. Anything to get one of the multitude of playmakers the ball in space. Even if they couldn't get the first down, the clock would have still run. I'll say again, the decision to throw for the first down felt like the right call to me, and it showed faith in an offense that has obviously improved. Convert that down and it's three knees and you're in the locker room with the biggest win in school history.

But execution with the game on the line is just not the offense's forte. They have done it, what, TWICE in 5 years? (Miami in '06 and Nebraska last season). And never against a top opponent. Ever. It's not who they are. Even with a legend like Taylor at the helm, the offense lacks that killer instinct, that clutch level of execution that was exhibited by Boise State on their game-winning drive.

Sure the Broncos were helped by an impossibly overturned block-in-the-back call (the ref who threw the flag was the closest one to the infraction, how did any other official overturn that?) Sure that call on Bruce Taylor for late hit out of bounds was a joke, because the whistle hadn't blown. But in the end, Coach Peterson knew the weakest link on this defense was the inexperienced whip and he and Kellen Moore attacked it with the game on the line for a perfectly executed touchdown. Conversely with the game on the line for the Hokies, Coach Stinespring went away from the bruising runners that were wearing down the Broncos at the end for a QB draw that lost two yards and stayed away from attacking the Boise State linebackers on 3rd down with a crossing route or a pass in the flat to go with a fade pass to the outside.

Make no mistake, I'm disappointed in Coach Foster's defense at the very end, but really, after they settled into the game, they went toe-to-toe with one of the best offenses in college football and don't forget that they gave the Hokies a chance to win by stopping the Broncos near midfield with 5 minutes left. I have all confidence that come midseason, this is going to be one of the fiercest defenses around.

Meanwhile, the offense is very talented as well and I think the Hokies are going to win a lot of games this year if they don't let this loss de-rail them. Incidentally, if I were on the team, this loss would de-rail me because hell, I don't even play for the Hokies and I can barely function today. So it will take a lot to regroup and refocus on an ACC championship, but at the end of the day, isn't that really all we, as Hokie Nation, truly want anyway? We say we want a national title and I know I'd love to see one in the trophy case, but it just won't be there until an overhaul in the offensive coaching takes place and someone who can prepare the team to execute in big games, both early and with the game on the line, is in place. And the fans aren't ever really going to force that issue as long as the team can contend for ACC titles.

It's philosophical more than anything. It's an overall approach that, despite widely varying differences in tactics, is taken by Nick Saban, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Urban Meyer and Boise's own Chris Peterson have all exhibited over the years and it rubs off on the players - you make the biggest plays in the biggest games seem routine. The players on teams led by those men have time-in and time-out had the confidence to make game winning plays on defense AND offense AND special teams against Top 5 competition and the Hokies have not. That's why, despite this loss not being surprising, it is so painful. Because I thought this was the year that the team could really do that and that I would be wrong about Coach Stinespring. Alas, I was not. And it breaks my heart.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Now Witness The Power of This Fully Operational Defense

The wait is finally over. College football officially made its 2010 debut with last night’s games. This weekend across the country football fans will once again be able to watch the game they love. Can I get a “Woohoo?”

No game this weekend is bigger than the one pitting the #3 Boise State Broncos against the #10 Hokies. (#5 and #6 if you look at the Coaches Poll.) The game will be played at “neutral” FedEx Field in the metro-DC area. Metro-DC, being perhaps the largest concentration of Virginia Tech alum, can hardly be called neutral. It’s like saying sure I can outswim a shark, but only if the race is in my neighborhood pool. Water is still water and he’s still in his element.

Still, one must give AD Jim Weaver and the rest of the decision makers credit for even scheduling Boise. In a world where everyone feels compelled to dismiss the Broncos success as a product of the perceived weakness of their schedule, it seems that there are few that will actually step up to the challenge of playing them. I’m looking at you Gators.

The truth is the Broncos will have to continue to show their dominance in order to gain the respect that they deserve. This brings us to this game on Monday.

The Broncos have everything to gain with a win against the Hokies. Outside of Oregon State, the Broncos will not see this level of competition the rest of the season. (Yeah, yeah, there’s that pesky weakness of schedule talk. You’re telling me there aren’t other schools that don’t have only two “real games” on their schedule?) If the Broncos do win on Labor Day, they’re going to look pretty damn good for another run, and be the first team outside of the BCMess conferences to play in the National Championship Game.

Conversely, the Hokies have a team that is stacked on offense. That, combined with Coach Bud Foster’s ability to produce diamonds from coal dust, can put the Hokies in a good place if they can pull off this victory.

Here’s a breakdown of the different matchups we’ll see next week.

Boise State O-line vs. Virginia Tech D-line

Boise offensive line is pretty lean. If you couple that with a big shuffle of personnel, we could see some jittery plays, especially early on. Like the Hokies, the Broncos have injury problems on the left side. Joe Kellogg, their left guard, has injury problems and may have practiced on Wednesday. Nate Potter has been playing guard even though he was the left tackle last year. All in all it looks like they’re still trying to figure out how to play the line and that can’t be good.

The Broncos are heading to DC tomorrow evening (which seems late) and will probably still be making adjustments.

The Hokies have some questions here, but I like the likes of Steven Friday, and J.R. Collins. Both did well in the last scrimmage.

Overall, I like this fact: the Hokie offense has vastly improved from years past. What this provides is a great springboard to work on the skills of this less experienced defense.

Boise State Wideouts vs. Virginia Tech Secondary

Much has been heralded about the attack that Kellen Moore’s arm and ability to get to the end zone. His ability in the red zone is sick. In 2009, he had 27 red zone touchdowns with one interception. However, the cat’s out of the bag and the majority of those were Austin Pettis. As we’ll see later in my keys to the game, smothering him, especially in the red zone will be one of the keys to winning this game.

The other receivers are pretty sick as well, most notably Titus Young. The Hokie backfield will have their work cut out for them. Coach Foster's strategy may have been revealed slightly when the travel roster came out last week.

Virginia Tech O-line vs. Boise State D-line

There’s been talk about how strong Ryan Winterswyk is at end and how much trouble he may give Andrew Lanier since Nick Becton’s status is still unpredictable with the recent turf-toe injury. [Becton was given the go-ahead to play yesterday, but it’s unclear how much.] While I agree this is a question, especially since we're talking about Tyrod Taylor’s blind side, I think Lanier has been practicing well and I envision 18-eggs-a-day Greg Nosal can help out a bit on this side. David Wang (brother of Ed Wang) is Nosal’s backup and he has already proven to be a valuable asset at guard. Overall, the Hokies O-line looks pretty solid, especially if Becton is back and can be affective. Boise’s D-line had been productive in 2009, but I don’t believe they’ve faced the talent that we’ll have in the trenches.

Also, with four threats in the back-field (Ryan Williams, Darren Evans, David Wilson, and Tyrod Taylor), I’m confident that the Hokies will be wearing these guys down and forcing the defense to put way too many in the box. This should open up the secondary for the big play… if Stinespring has the vision to see that. Play action screens, something that Stiney learned to do late in the season last year will be important once the Broncos are tired and/or when they start to cheat. See keys to victory below.

Virginia Tech Wideouts vs. Boise State Secondary

The running corp. aside, the Hokie wideouts are tremendously talented. Danny Coale, Dyrell Roberts, Jarrett Boykin, and D.J. Coles all had fantastic summers. I have watched these guys mature over the years and, it wasn’t until mid-season last year, that the coaches figured out how to use them properly. See MadJay’s post on Stiney.

Boise will have to be guarding against the run. With that much concern going into stopping the monster backs, the big play potential is there.

Speaking of big play: the Hokie coaches seem bent on emptying the clip on this year. Every possible weapon they have, they’re using. This includes not redshirting David Wilson and potentially playing second-string quarterback Logan Thomas at tight end. Though, since it’s been announced that Thomas is truly the second-string QB, it’s doubtful the staff will endanger him in this way.

Overall Keys To Victory

1) Contain Pettis – Based on what I’ve seen in the travel roster, I truly believe that Foster will be running several plays in the nickle of dime, giving the Hokies an extra back (or two) to contain Pettis. Based on the guys they’re taking, I think Foster is going for one thing: SPEED. They’ll need that speed to close the gaps, especially if they double Pettis and play the other receivers loose. I think Foster is like the lead architect of the second Death Star. You think it isn't ready but when you send in the rebels... cue General Ackbar.

2) Establish the run game, control the clock – This is absolutely necessary for several reasons.

a. Wear down the Broncos' front line

b. Burn the cheating DBs on play action or screen/slant passes.

c. Keep the ball out of Kellen Moore’s hands.

3) Score early – Lets face it, that’s always a key, but remember that this is – for all intents and purposes – a home game. Keep the Hokie faithful involved and force Boise State to be single minded and this game should go in Tech’s favor.

4) Everyone’s favorite key – Special Teams – We don’t know how our kickers are going to perform at game speed. If they can pull through and knock in those fieldgoals and make field position the Hokies’ friend, MadJay’s and my heart rates will stay just under the danger level.

On that note, I think we’ll have 9-1 dialed into our phones, just in case.

Let's Go!


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Is 2010 the Year of Bizarro World Offense at Virginia Tech?

Over the years, we at TSF have called for Coach Stinespring's head on many, MANY occasions. He never deserved the offensive coordinator spot in the first place, and once in it, his flair for buffoonery and ineptitude has really been unmatched in all of college football. An excellent tight ends coach and recruiter, Stinespring has left poor decision after poor decision in his wake when it comes to the Virginia Tech offense. The program has risen to prominence with a tremendous defense and a boat anchor for an offense. And we've called Coach Beamer to account for tolerating this incompetence.

On top of all of that, we've blamed Stinespring for Mike O'Cain who is an absolutely terrible QB coach. Yes, Tyrod Taylor is starting to get recognized this year, and while we're happy to finally have some company on that bandwagon, let's not forget that this is in SPITE of O'Cain not because of him. Taylor is a prodigious talent who should have reached this level earlier in his career. If Stinespring really knew football, he would have had Coach O'Cain forced out long ago. All that said, I detect a difference in the offense this season, and it comes from the high standards Coach Stinespring is setting in pre-season practice. Standards that were never in place before, because he didn't have the credibility from the players to be able to set them.

Following the utter debacle against Nebraska last year, saved only by two completely MIRACULOUS plays by Tyrod Taylor, we heard something from Coach Stinespring that had never been heard before. He owned up to the disaster. For the first time, it wasn't the talent-level, or the rotating QB's or a guy just "not getting it done" out on the field. It was Stinespring, standing up in a team meeting and acknowledging the role that he had played in the offensive failure and then going hard to work on how to correct it. We don't know whether Coach Beamer sat Stiney down or not, but it doesn't matter. From that point on the season changed.

Coach Stinespring began using some ideas like a middle screen, and a moving pocket for Tyrod Taylor and combined with the enormous talents of Ryan Williams, Tyrod Taylor and the receiving corps, the offense actually started being productive. And all this team has needed to compete at the elite level of football is for the offense to just become productive. It doesn't need to be a record setter. It doesn't have to be a top 10 offense. It just needs to be efficient.

The fact remains that Stinespring still does not have a good feel for the game and I don't like how he calls it most of the time. His insistence on misusing his personnel continued even through the Hokies' strong run on offense to end the 2009 season. But he's sitting on the greatest collection of talent EVER on offense - and that includes the 1999 season. There are at LEAST 8 NFL caliber players on this offense - Williams/Evans/Wilson/Taylor/Boykin/Marcus Davis/Andre Davis/Brooks. Stiney knows that if he tries to get too fancy with an offense like this and blows it, not even whatever blackmail material he has that's kept him in this job thus far (ok so it's probably just Coach Beamer's blind loyalty) will be enough to save him this year.

Now in the interest of being fair, I do want to take one second and acknowledge something I have been wrong about with this offense. WR Coach Kevin Sherman, when he came over from Wake Forest looked like a surefire disaster and his first season in 2006 was not impressive at all. I wrote about what a mistake bringing him on staff was. But since then I have been nothing less than ecstatic with what Coach Sherman has been doing. Yes, he has had some great raw material to work with - and does again this year - but the receivers block properly (when was the last holding call on a receiver you can remember?) and they have really become a weapon in the offense, overall. Kudos Coach, for proving me wrong.

Speaking of being wrong, I have also said on more than one occasion, that VT will never win a national championship with Coach Stinespring running the offense. You don't know how badly I want to be wrong about this. I hope I get to write mea culpa, after mea culpa and eat crow for breakfast, lunch and dinner about how great this season is. But if the first play from scrimmage on Monday night against Boise State is an attempted bomb off of a play-fake that ends up in an 8 yd loss on a sack, you'll know where to find me - I'll be throwing myself off my roof.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!