I have had several of you contact me and ask how things are going in my new approach to the season where I find out the Hokies football score after the game and then only watch the game in a win. So I would like to take a brief opportunity to address that and then comment on the season to date.
When I check the score of the Hokie game at the end, or after its over and see that the Hokies have lost, it still hurts. It is painful. I posted on Twitter that finding out that the Hokies lost a game is like having one of my kids come tell me that they are hurt. It saddens me, it frustrates me (if they were hurt by someone else) and it bothers me a great deal. But WATCHING the Hokies lose a game is like watching one of my kids get hurt. It is a visceral, utterly primal reaction. It is hard to breathe for a second and for any of you who have kids (or as much a Superfan as I am), you have experienced this directly. It is extremely unpleasant and I have chosen this season not to subject myself or my family to feeling that way by avoiding watching the Hokies play in a loss. So far, the furniture, the TV, my health and my family have all benefited from this new approach, since otherwise they would have seen me experience two losses already.
And that brings me to my comments on the season to date. I read the comments on Twitter last night and the articles on the game this morning. And I can tell you that it is only a half-truth to say that I haven't seen that Cincinnati game. Because I have. I've seen that same game so many times before. See if this sounds familiar -
"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".
That is what I wrote after the Boise State loss in 2010 on the same field and in an eerily similar fashion. Now granted this Cincinnati team isn't nearly as good as Boise State was or some of the other teams that Tech has lost to in this way over the years, but all that does is highlight how wrong the direction is that things are headed. In fact, in EVERY game this season, the Hokies have played absolutely terribly for the first 15-20 minutes. So what does this mean?
It may be illustrative to highlight other teams here for a moment. In countless other games I DID watch on Saturday both teams came out crisply. Georgia-Tennessee, Oregon-Washington State, and Oregon State-Arizona are three I'll pick, ignoring the obvious choice of West Virginia-Baylor because I think that was an instance where neither team has a defense that's worth a damn. But in all three other games, both teams executed at a similar level throughout the game. Sure, there were momentum swings, and big plays one way or the other but the teams battled throughout the game and the one that made the most plays won.
There was one game that looked and felt very familiar to me, however - South Carolina vs. Kentucky. The #6 ranked Gamecocks trailed 17-7 at halftime to the Wildcats, despite having a clear talent advantage. Of course, South Carolina woke up in the second half and mowed the Cats over, finishing them off 38-17, and that difference in level of play was what was so fascinating to me. Because South Carolina doesn't do that very often. Well-coached teams don't do that very often. In fact, it is more remarkable to me, the level of success Coach Beamer has had the past 8 years when you consider how awful his teams have played at the beginning of games so consistently particularly on offense.
Can it be a result of anything other than coaching? And more specifically, I think it's exactly tied to not having an offensive identity. The Hokies come out, the other team has changed up some aspects of their scheme, and suddenly the Hokie offense acts like it's playing this game with an oblong leather ball for the first time in their lives. If the Hokies had an offensive identity, they could go out there at the beginning of the game knowing what they wanted to do. Let the defense try different looks, don't run anything too complex right off the bat, and then execute extremely well. You don't even have to score a TD or FG on the opening possession (though that would be nice). But you get several first downs and good plays and a good look at what the defense is doing differently than what they showed on film. And you can begin to make your adjustments, like running a different play out of a certain formation than you ever have before. In other words, flip the script.
I've posted on here until I was blue in the face about the Beamer-Stinespring dynamic. Last season, despite still getting off to a few slow starts, with Coach O'Cain up in the box and Stiney serving as main cheerleader down on the sidelines, the offense had one of its best seasons I can ever recall from a play-calling standpoint. Why on earth did Coach Beamer change that up and let Stinespring sit back up in the box? What was broken that needed to be fixed there? And aren't the results year-to-date enough to suggest that change is needed?
I can only hope something happens before it's too late. ACC play starts back up and we'll have the North Carolina preview back up later in the week, but at first glance, the Tarheels are VERY dangerous. I can only hope I get to watch this coming weekend's game.