Sunday, September 11, 2011

Penalties; Low Confidence Struggles The Story In Win

I don't know what some folks are talking about. After briefly discussing the game with MadJay and seeing comments from Illinois Hokie, I was expecting to see more dropped balls than orientation day at Carrot Top's Juggling School For The Blind. I just didn't see it.

As a side note, I didn't get to watch the game live but watched it Saturday evening after the awesome Notre Lame loss.

First off, I wish the coverage wasn't pushed back due to the Iowa State and Iowa game going to triple overtime. I missed what I think is three drives plus a bit of the fourth. In those drives, I only noticed two incomplete passes in the play-by-play.

Second, thank you, thank you, thank you and another thank you to the defense. This game could have been pretty ugly and, with the offense struggling, the defense answered the call. Five sacks, nine tackles for losses, and countless hurry-ups caused Dominique Davis and the East Carolina offense 92 negative yards. With that, the Pirates netted -15 yards on the ground. Through the air, Davis barely managed to break 127 yards. The coverage (for the most part) was phenomenal. There were a few dropped balls by ECU receivers that could have caused problems. Overall, this was one of the best defensive performance that I have seen in a long time. (Again, I didn't see the touchdown drive.)

A last note about the defense is that they actually committed five of the twelve penalties the Hokies accumulated in the game. Two pass interference calls (one of which was bogus), and four offsides (one of which was declined.) I want to speak more on the penalties in a bit.

Notable offensive accomplishments include Jarrett Boykin becoming the all-time Tech leader in receptions with 129 receptions. The previous record of 126 was held by Ernest Wilford.

Boykin finished with four receptions which was half of the total eight receptions (two by Danny Coale, and one by David Wilson and Marcus Davis respectively.) These eight came off of 20 attempts by Logan Thomas. He also threw four passes that should have been intercepted (one of which was.) This leaves eight incomplete passes to which one could refer to in discussing whether the receivers were to blame for the poor passing performance.

The first of these (that I was able to see) was during Tech's second drive. After two excellent completions, Thomas tossed one up in the end zone to Danny Coale. Emmanuel Davis covered the route well and as Coale caught the ball he managed to strip the ball out of Coale's hands. This was just good defense. One could argue that Coale should have been able to fight off the strip, but I'll leave that to you.

On Tech's third drive, Marcus Davis had to adjust to a ball that was behind him. Derek Blacknall did well to knock it out of Davis's hands with his helmet. I think we have the same situation here by which I mean one could say it was good defense or just sloppy ball handling.

In the third quarter, a pass to DJ Coles was super low on 2nd and 8. This one was clearly not his fault. The following 3rd and 8 play had Thomas throwing to Boykin. This was the first pass that I saw that was completely the fault of the receiver. Boykin should have caught this ball and, had he done so, he had a clear lane for some serious yardage.

Thomas was visibly uncomfortable in the passing game. Coach Mike O'Cain obviously noticed this and the play calling became extremely one dimensional. The running game did have success. David Wilson ran for 138 yards, Thomas for 66 and Josh Oglesby for 46. Oglesby scored both of Tech's touchdowns. Wilson had his second 100+ yard game on his way to his goal of 1,700 yards for the season. The most impressive thing about all of these runs was the yards after contact. All three runners bulldozed their way past one, two, even three would be tacklers. A lot of this is due to the shear size and athletic ability discrepancies between Tech and ECU.

The coaches realized that they were not prepared and went back to what they know best: power football that wears down your opponent. This works well when you're facing lesser opponents that will, in fact, tire from such a constant assault. Coach Frank Beamer knew that this was not a well prepared for game and even offered an apology, "Mentally, we were just not where we need to be, and that's my fault."

Another problem area was Beamer's baby: special teams. We already knew the Hokies would struggle in the kicking game. Punter Scott Dempler started things out with a short punt that gave the Pirates key field position that led to the Pirates only touchdown. Cody Journell failed to hit a field goal from 30 yards, though he later made up for it by hitting one from 39 yards. But the real problem was when receiving the ball.

Many poor decisions were made in returns. Jayron Hosley returned punts for 3, fumbled (and recovered) his second while the Hokies received a block in the back penalty, and ran backwards 12 yards on yet another.

And lastly, let's address the penalties. The Hokies doubled the average yards the Hokies were penalized in 2010. This was also more yards in penalties at 92 than yards passing at 91. Twelve penalties is also twice the average number of penalties in 2010. These penalties came at some crucial moments. An offsides penalty that offset an interception, another with a third down incomplete pass, three false starts on third and manageable distances, and a [BS] pass interference on an interception all gave ECU more life than they deserved.

Overall, the Hokies were lucky to walk out of Greenville with a Frank Beamer's 200th win. There are a significant number of things to address before the Arkansas State game if the Hokies want to continue to win.


MadJay said...

Apparently all that cigar smoke in your pimp den has clouded your vision my friend. Yes that drop by Danny Coale can be forgiven as it was a good play by the defender. But the drop by Marcus Davis in the end zone was ABSOLUTELY inexcusable. The drop by DJ Coles was ABSOLUTELY inexcusable. It wasn't as good a throw as it could have been but it was completely catchable. The drop by Jarrett Boykin was UNBELIEVABLY inexcusable, because of the caliber of receiver he is - although he made up for that at the end of the game.

Forget Logan's stats for a minute, consider how different the game itself would have been has those plays been made. With Coale, you are talking about a TD on a drive that instead ended in a missed FG. The Davis drop would have been a TD on a drive that ended in a (super good) interception by ECU. And the Coles and Boykin drops were when the Hokies were deep in their end and would have helped flip the field at a bare minimum, if not led to a Hokie score. Instead they had to punt from deep and the Pirates got their lone FG out of the subsequent possession.

That's a potential 17 point swing in the score of the game. 31-7 is MUCH, MUCH different than 17-10. Especially to the voters. THAT is the reason those drops were so critical and other than Coale's drop in the endzone with tight coverage the others were everyday catches for players at that level.

I thought the playcalling was solid, I liked O'Cain's willingness to stick with what worked (how many times has Stiney out-thought himself). I really liked Logan's demeanor throughout the game, and while he definitely made some ill-advised throws he also made some great plays with his arm and feet. That play to Boykin on the game winning drive on third down wasn't very accurate but it was super clutch because of how good a read he made pre-snap and Boykin made a great catch.

The drops were bad but the ugly in this game for me was clearly the costly penalties on both sides of the ball and the punting. If I'm Beamer, dressing Branthover for this weekend's game against ECU is more than a warning to Demler. I would absolutely give Branthover a chance or three in this game to kick it and see how he does. And the penalties just quite simply had to be a fluke. When Coach Beamer says those were his fault, you can be DAMN sure he meant that he was going to fix it. I heard that Beamer delivered a message to his staff when they got back from the ECU game. No he wasn't kicking and stomping, that's not his style. But he was serious and what that means is that any lapse in focus in practice this week by any player is going to met head-on and with intensity by the coaches.

Brad said...

Great article EhhTee.

By my count, Logan threw 12-13 balls that were catchable. Of those, the receivers caught 8, dropped 3, and failed to make a play on a couple more. Even if we were to count the failure-to-make-a-plays as catches... that's around a 25% droppage rate on catchable balls.

The receivers dropped some big ones last game too. Davis and Coles should be huge weapons, but they continue to marginalize themselves with inconsistency. Interestingly, neither played receiver their senior year of high school ball. Hopefully more real game action will settle them down.

I suppose i liked O'cain alright. I thought the 100% running drives were a bit over the top though. I realize he was taking down the clock at the end of the half, and it was a super impressive performance. But I think it still makes sense to try and hit one or two pass plays in there. Consider those nits picked.

Also, how about Oglesby. He ran HARD. Impressive stuff from a guy that could easily have called it a day on playing big time football. I'd like to see the coaches do a better job of keeping D-W fresh and softening up the opposition with some more oglesby counter punching.

Clearly wilson got winded, and it seemed to me to affect his burst. Was that just me?

How many times has the opposition scored a TD on their first possession and then been kept out of the end zone the rest of the game? It seems like a ton (i know it wasn't ECU's first possession, but it may as well have been). Bud made some great adjustments. Most of those sacks were coverage sacks, and that rarely happens to ECU. Impressive stuff.

Illinois Hokie said...


I was starting to feel like a Hokie blogger in the wilderness here. So many people looked at the final score and went from zero to Gary Busey about the offense, without stopping to realize that the last two and a half quarters were a textbook example of what ball control offense is supposed to be.

Frank Beamer's 200th win at VT was a GREAT one, because it's one we had absolutely no business winning. But the defense stood up, and for once the offense did what it needed to do to contribute to a win - grind out some long, sustained scoring drives to rest our defense. This defense is legit, our O line is (finally) legit, and our backfield is all world.

No, we won't be able to do this every game. Yes, the passing game HAS to get better. And yes, sorry, the receivers are dropping balls. Some of the drops against ECU were while facing great coverage, but they were still drops. We have an upperclassmen corps of receivers who last year came down with the exact kinds of balls they're dropping this year. That has to get fixed and LT has to get his completing percentage at least into the mid fifties if we have a shot of doing something amazing this season.

But in spite of all the penalties and all the growing pains at QB and the kicking game, this was not a miserable game. It was smash mouth, here-we-come-try-and-stop-us football.

I just sincerely hope that as a fan base Hokie Nation hasn't become so enamored with the spectacle of Michael Vick and Tyrod Taylor that we've lost our ability to appreciate some old school smashmouth football.

MadJay said...

Funny you mention that IH. There were plenty of fans not sold on Tyrod Taylor either until his senior season.

Two huge things that are overlooked about LT and this offense are a) that he is making almost none of the type of game management mistakes that I expected from a first year starter and b) he is making a great first read.

Most of the time we are in the right formation, snapping the ball on time, very few delay or illegal formation penalties. Those are a reflection of the QB.

He is also doing a great job of making his pre-snap read. I attribute that to a much more well designed passing route tree this year and all the pre-snap motion helping LT recognize the defense. He is finding the right guy soon after the snap because of how much he is seeing pre-snap which is a big deal and if the first guy is covered, he is finding his next read - I'm thinking of that one 3rd down conversion when ECU corner blitzed, LT felt it, rolled away from it and went to Boykin across the middle with a perfect strike after his first read was covered. This is something Taylor was terrible at early in his own career (and you won't find a bigger TT fan than I was and have been since his first game which is well documented here on TSF).

I always attributed that to O'Cain being a bad QB coach but I'm starting to wonder if it was just a poorly designed passing game. Now Thomas has a lot to improve on in footwork and accuracy and if he doesn't there could be some trouble, but I think he just might be able to do it. This receiver dropsy thing though has me literally beside myself. They need to fix that, like yesterday. If for no other reason then selfishly, these guys will cost themselves a ton of money in the NFL draft if they can't show consistency in their ability to catch the ball.

Zurdo said...

I'll note that the penalty situation looked fishy to me. While most of the penalties called against us looked to have some basis in reality, to have no penalties called by the home team's conference refs on the home team (who happend to be the bell cow for that conference) is ridiculous. The late hits on our guys who where obviously down (or should have been called for forward progress) were plentiful. Yet, no calls (or whistles). DW4 was nearly bent backwards the wrong way on one of those instances in the 2nd quarter. He was clearly not the same until well into the second half after this play. That is all.