Monday, November 28, 2011

Game Review - VT vs. Virginia

Thanksgiving doesn't get much better than that does it? Two Hokie wins in basketball and one of the worst smashings in the history of the Virginia Tech-Virginia rivalry as they blanked the Wahoos 38-0 in Charlottesville. It was the first shutout of the season for Coach Foster and Co., the first home shutout for the Cavaliers in DECADES and a proud weekend for Fighting Gobblers everywhere to be sure. Let's get to the meat and potatoes.

What struck me as I watched this game live and then even moreso going back to the tape was not just that the Hokies won, but the WAY in which they won. Nearly every physical contest on a given play was won overpoweringly by the Hokies. There were so many plays where a Hokie defender just threw the Cavalier player out of his way. Or where David Wilson dismissed a tackler by pushing him away or running over him at the end of a run. Or Blake DeChristopher just flattening a linebacker. Defensive end James Gayle actually summed it up nicely when he said after the game that he was a little let down because after all the hype about Virginia he expected it to be more of a battle.

The game started off like I wish more Hokie games would - with VT playing with focus and effort from the opening whistle. This happens all too rarely, but I'm glad Tech chose this past weekend to decide to do it. After kicking off, the Hokies forced a punt, and then opened their series with an all-too-predictable play action bomb, although this time WR Marcus Davis just totally outmuscled All-ACC First Teamer DB Chase Minnifield for the ball (on which Minnifield received a defensive pass interference flag too boot) and made the catch. They proceeded to bash their way downfield, ending on a beautiful read-option by Thomas for a 14 yard touchdown run.

The Cavs made FAR too many successful big plays in the passing game and after a few of them on their second drive they found themselves facing 3rd and 5 from the Virginia Tech 10 yd line. Then came the critical two play sequence of the game. QB Michael Rocco tried a QB draw to get the first down, and had a clear path to get it, but DT Derrick Hopkins threw off his blocker and leapt for Rocco's feet, dragging him down short of the first down. This set-up a 4th and 2 and in a physical match-up, the Hokies came out on top. LB Jack Tyler read the play and flew through the line of scrimmage knocking RB Kevin Parks off balance and he was tackled short of the first down.

The end of that series defined the entire tone of the game. From that point on, the Hokies were smashing into Cavaliers everywhere. This showed up in the crushing blocks the Hokies made the rest of the game as well as the aforementioned runs of Wilson. You got the sense that both teams understood what that 4th and 2 play meant - the Hokies were going to be relentless and tough for the entire game and the Cavaliers didn't seem to want any part of it.

How can I say that? Well just look at the next two series. The Cavs got the ball at midfield and were just stoned on 3 straight plays. They punted the ball down to the Tech 4 yd line and for the 5th time this season (that has GOT to be a Virginia Tech record) the Hokies marched more than 90 yards for a touchdown. Just as he has been the past 6 games, Logan Thomas was clutch on third down all three times they faced it on the drive. On the final third down he threw yet another NFL caliber pass to WR Jarrett Boykin, threading a 3 player UVa seam to deliver a 16 yd TD strike.

Other than a COMPLETELY inexplicable jet-sweep to Danny Coale deep in UVa territory that went for a 2 yd loss, the playcalling in the first half was crisp. The Hokies weren't picking up the run blitz very well, but they would make the adjustments at halftime and simply smashed Virginia's face in throughout the second half. David Wilson ran rampant for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cavs had one scoring threat in the 2nd half. Facing 3rd and 3 from the Hokie 10 yd-line it looked like the shut-out was at risk. But James Gayle and fellow end Zack McCray got great pressure and Gayle finally sacked Rocco for an 11 yd loss leading to a missed 38 yard FG. Other than that drive, in the 2nd half, the Hokies were as dominant as they have been since the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the Wake Forest game. And I think a shout-out is deserved for a few of the unsung Hokie players who contributed to that level of dominance.

DT Skip Hopkins played beside two freshmen for almost every snap of every game since his brother went down to an ACL injury and in the UVa game he was a disruptor and essentially all over the field. For him to not make the All-ACC squad this season is just a joke. LB Jack Tyler has quite simply played outstanding football in every game he has taken the field for Tech. He filled in wonderfully for Bruce Taylor in the ACC Championship game last season and that experience should pay off bigtime on Saturday against Clemson. Against UVa he was ferocious, and had a great nose for the football. Tyler made big hits, recovered a fumble, knocked Parks down on that key 4th down early in the game and was awarded the defensive gameball by his teammates at the end of the game. Aside from a late hit penalty in the Georgia Tech game I have been nothing but ecstatic about Tyler's play. And finally, how about Kyle Fuller? The guy played cornerback, nickel back and whip for the Hokies at various points during the season, and played a hybrid of nickel and whip against UVa on Saturday. RB Perry Jones for the Cavs who was such a huge part of their offense in the passing game coming into this contest? Try zero catches. Thanks to Fuller and Tariq Edwards, Jones was WIPED from the game plan.

It was players like these that represent what Virginia Tech is all about. They give everything on the field for their brother and though there were mistakes made on various plays, it certainly was never due to lack of effort. You can be sure these guys will leave everything they have on that field in Charlotte now that they have another shot at Clemson. And it was players like them that made me proud to be a Hokie watching that game against Virginia on Saturday afternoon. No matter what else ever happens in VT vs. UVa games, on Saturday November 26th 2011, Tech went up to Charlottesville and won 38-0. It was absolutely delicious. Or if you're a Cavalier fan reading this let me put it in terms you might understand - the game had some floral notes on the nose, a bit of citrus on the palate and left a warm, sweet finish in my mouth.



Illinois Hokie said...

There's nothing wrong with play action bombs if:

1) Your run game is dangerous and your play caller has proven he WILL stick with it throughout a game.

2) Your quarterback throws a good deep ball, and

3) Your receivers are good enough to go get it.

MadJay said...

Your three points are absolutely DEAD-ON. I love play-action bombs in this year's offense. The all-too-predictable part is that FAR too often, the Hokies open the game with one. Teams know what's coming. That I do not like.