Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cincinnati PostGame

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.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Game Preview - VT vs. Cincinnati

Unlike many of you, I was not that fired up after the Bowling Green win last week. It wasn't a key game, didn't deserve 3 Key Plays in what became a blowout and the Hokies got off to yet another slow start this season on offense. The way the offense looked last season, with Coach Stinespring down on the sidelines and O'Cain in the booth, does any human being on the planet understand why Stiney moved back to the booth this year?

The offense has suddenly turned to mush. Last year's offense was no juggernaut but it seemed somewhat crisp at times, for the only time I can remember in Stiney's tenure. Now there is no way that this change back to sloppy play and slow starts can be just a coincidence. The Hokies go into FedEx Field on Saturday against a Cincinnati team that SMOKED the Pitt Panthers. The same Pitt Panthers that took the Hokies behind the ol' woodshed two weeks ago in a game that I gloriously did not and will not ever see. So Cincy is for real and a slow start could absolutely be the end of the Hokies in this one.

VT Offense vs. Cincy Defense
The Hokies will be without RB Tony Gregory as his knee flamed up after a solid performance last week. Michael Holmes seems to have hit a freshman wall, while JC Coleman continues to improve, so don't be surprised to see Coleman get a lot of playing time. And I'm still trying to figure out why Martin Scales isn't getting more carries. But while the Hokies do need to find some running game, the mission critical key to this entire game is going to be the play of Logan Thomas. LT has to rise up and make some plays. Yes, there have been drops and poor protection at times. But he's going to have to take over a game at some point this season and overcome all of that and Saturday seems like that kind of opportunity. Cincy is a senior-laden defense, they're not going to make stupid mistakes. It's going to take bigtime throws and making plays with his feet for Logan to get the Hokies going on offense. Not average plays, but BIG plays. He certainly has the physical talent, it's time to see how psychologically ready he is.

Cincy Offense vs. VT Defense
Cincy will spread the field and then hit you with the Florida running game. Unbalanced lines, motion, QB read plays, it's the full enchilada of spread offense. The Hokies have made a change in the starting lineup on D, with super-athletic Ronny VanDyke getting his first start over the embattled Jeron Gouviea-Winslow at whip. JGW will still probably play, but you need athletes all over the field on defense to slow the Bearcat offense down. Butch Jones is a helluva coach and Bud Foster has his work cut out for him. If the Hokies can get out to an early lead and make the Bearcats more one-dimensional, that would be a huge help in freeing up the defensive line to pass rush, but it'd also be a huge help if Kate Upton applied to be our house-cleaner. Doesn't mean it's going to happen.

Special Teams
The Hokies have been much improved on special teams this season but I think this will be a push between the two teams. Both the Hokies and Bearcats have attempted few FG's, and while Cincy has the edge in punting, the Hokies have the edge in punt returns. I expect field position to be a back and forth tradeoff most of the game.

As it often does, Saturday's game will likely be determined by time of possession and turnovers. Not that it will necessarily be a close game. These two teams are momentum teams, more than most, and if one gets going and scoring points, it could be a looooonnnnnggg day for the opponent. I really hope the Hokies win so I can watch this game, because if they don't, I have a feeling it's because they'll lose worse than they did to Pittsburgh. The crowd leans VT and that could help, so if you're in the DC area, turn out and BE LOUD!!!!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Game Preview - VT vs. Bowling Green

Well, this is certainly an interesting place to find ones' self. For the first time since I can remember (at least 10 years) I have to write a game preview for an upcoming game, without having watched the footage of the Hokies' previous game. Yes, as a recap to those of you who don't know, this season I am recording the Hokie games and then after the game is over, if it's a loss, I won't watch the game. From all the gnashing of teeth I saw on the intertubes this week, I think this decision has served me very well in not watching the loss to a subpar Pittsburgh squad. I can't imagine how the Hokies lost that game, but it was apparently turnover fever on offense, and the defense couldn't stop the run. My heart and liver will take your word for that, HokieNation.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Game Preview - VT vs. Pitt

Pittsburgh is a program in transition in so many ways. They've had 4 coaches in a little over a season. Think about that - 4 COACHES! In addition to that, the Panthers are going to be leaving the Big East and joining the ACC next season. There's just so much in the way of distractions, that it can't help but cause a loss of focus in these players. And that has shown up in their first two games, where they looked terrible and were blown out in both, one of which was to Division I-AA Youngstown State.

3 Key Plays - VT vs. Austin Peay

I was so disgusted with how terrible the Hokies played against Austin Peay for the first and third quarters that I didn't do a 3 Key Plays. But now that I've had some time to simmer down, I will.

1) The Kyshoen Jarrett punt return was THE key play. It fired up the team, put them in position to score the first touchdown and got the fans into the game.

2) 12:32 left in the half and the Hokies had 4th and 1. I couldn't BEGIN to tell you how much this play angers me. INFURIATES me. Ok, so it's at home against Austin Peay and it's 4th and 1 with Logan Thomas under center. Everyone in the stadium, including the folks selling turkey legs under the stands know that he's going to QB sneak it here. Is there REALLY a chance the Hokies are going to lose this game if they fail this 4th down? Is this not the exactly, once-in-a-season, perfect chance to fake the QB sneak and throw the easiest TD pass to a TE or back leaking out of the backfield? Think about it - by running some sort of fake here, you basically strike fear in the hearts of every defensive coordinator you face the rest of the season by showing them that you do have a fake off of this formation. It forces them to prepare for something other than Logan Thomas on the sneak. I was livid that the Hokies didn't fake it here and then I was damn near unconscious when I saw that they couldn't push Austin Peay back enough for him to get a yard. As excited as I was about the 3rd and 1 play action pass to George George against Arkansas State last season, I was at LEAST that furious over the lack of creativity on this play. I swear to you all, there is something wrong with Bryan Stinespring being in the booth this season. I swear it. More on this in a later post, but I know this is causing problems for O'Cain.

3) 3rd and 4 from the Austin Peay 9 yard line with 7:50 left in the 3rd quarter. Michael Holmes makes a great, GREAT cut and gets not only the first down, but the touchdown as well. This score iced the game, but it also gave me hope that Holmes and the Hokies can run the ball in the red zone. He isn't the fastest, nor the strongest back the Hokies have had. But I keep saying, he just has a knack. He's tough to tackle, he carries the ball properly, and he has that instinctive way of sliding off of direct hits. Emmitt Smith (no I'm not comparing Holmes overall to Emmitt Smith, of course) had that same knack to avoid the big hits over the course of a game. It makes you fresher late in the game and you can't teach it.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Game Preview - VT vs. Austin Peay

The Hokies take on the... what?!..the who?!.....the Austin Peay GOVERNORS?! In the history of terrible mascot names that has got to be one of the all-time worst. And other than the Florida A&M Rattlers in 2004 (a game that yours truly attended and saw the first "do-over" kickoff ever when the Hokies recovered the live opening kickoff in the end zone and the refs, out of pity, made them kick it again), this is probably the worst team to ever come into Lane Stadium.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

3 Key Plays - VT vs. GT

Great googly moogly, I can so easily imagine the congestive heart failure I would have suffered watching the Hokies' game live. I'll take being up until 1:30 AM watching it knowing the Hokies had won over probably losing a piece of furniture and yet another remote, not to mention the aforementioned palpitations. For some insane reason, the final drive playcalling was just as bad as it's ALWAYS been in the Beamer era (what were those two passes to Malleck?!?!?!), but Logan Thomas and Corey Fuller refused to go out like that. So much heart shown by both teams, I couldn't have asked for a better opening game to the season. This segment is about the 3 Key Plays and I make a concerted effort to limit it to that, but on rare occasions (and this is one of them) there are more than three plays. In this game there were undeniably 4 plays that decided the outcome. Here they were:

1) Facing 4th and 8 at their own 46 late in the first quarter, freshman AJ Hughes was back to take the snap and punt his second career punt in live college football action. He muffed the snap and the result was a loss of 22 yards with the Yellow Jackets taking over on the Hokie 24 yd line. Up to this point the Yellow Jacket attack had been absolutely shut DOWN by the Hokie defense which already was sitting on a 7-0 lead. This one play flipped the momentum and pulled the Jackets into the game. If the Hokies could have tacked on another score or two they would have forced GT out of their gameplan and probably won going away. Instead, this was just further proof that Beamerball is no longer about stellar special teams, anymore.

2) 4th and 6 at the Hokie 37 yd-line with 3:03 left in the game. Paul Johnson called for a punt and then 2nd guessed himself and called a timeout to go for it. With the Hokies leading 14-10, and the Jackets with only one more timeout remaining, a stop here might not have completely locked the game up but it sure would have made it much easier to win. And the Hokies totally stuffed the play. But credit to Tevin Washington and BJ Bostic for pulling out some sandlot football and mucho crappy play by Detrick Bonner allowed for a huge 19 yard gain right along the sideline that set up the Jackets winning score.

3) 4th and 4 at the Yellow Jacket 47 yd-line with 13 seconds left in the game. The game looked over. Under quarterbacks not named Tyrod Taylor or Logan Thomas it would have been. But Thomas immediately found a wide open Corey Fuller who turned it upfield for a massive 23 yd gain and a first down at the GT 24yd line, giving Cody Journell his chance to redeem a miss earlier in the quarter and send the game to OT.

4) 3rd down and 6 from the Hokie 10-yd line in OT, and Tevin Washington scrambled to his left. With no one open he just had to throw it away. But he held onto it one count too long and LB Bruce Taylor got there and spun Washington onto his back foot where he couldn't get enough on the ball to throw it away. Instead it settled into the hands of Kyle Fuller whose interception meant that a 2nd Journell FG would win the game, and sure enough it did.

In order to compete for championships, you have to have a few lucky breaks and you have to have a never-say-die attitude. That attitude has been in the Hokie locker room on some teams, but there have definitely been others (I'm looking at you 2003 and 2006 Hokies) that didn't have it. It goes without saying that this Hokie team had a chance to prove right out of the gate that there's certainly no quit in them. I saw a lot to be excited about and a lot to improve on. I definitely hope I get to watch the Austin Peay game and see some more.

GO HOKIES!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Game Preview vs. GT

Well, my Calm and Beloved Reader, the season is finally upon us! And while I won't be doing game reviews this season, I can still get fired up about game previews. The familiar nausea and butterflies are already forming in my stomach as Monday approaches. The Hokies taking the field to Enter Sandman on national TV always plays well across the country. This is a high profile game and the team has been preparing for this all summer. So let's get into it.

First of all, there is no underestimating the importance of this game to Virginia Tech's season. Coach Beamer wanted every meeting with his players this preseason to wrap with him saying "Beat" and the players responding "Georgia Tech". Now I believe he's going to do that for every game this season, but because this is the first game, "Beat Georgia Tech" has been pounded into these guys' heads over and over all summer. And let's not forget that the winner of the VT-GT game has gone on to play in the ACC Championship game for the past 7 YEARS! So there is no mistaking how up for this game the Hokies will be.

VT Defense vs. Georgia Tech Offense:

This is the matchup that has decided every game in this series. GT Head Coach Paul Johnson vs. VT defensive coordinator Bud Foster is literally the best chess match you will see in any game all season. These are masters of their craft; masters of preparing schemes, making adjustments and countering what the opponent tries to do. Already, the chess match has begun with the Hokies shaking up their starting lineup on the defensive line. Corey Marshall starts at one end in place of JR Collins and Tyrel Wilson starts in place of James Gayle at the other end. Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins get the start inside. It's about getting athleticism on the field against the Jackets' cut blocking schemes, but it also sends a message to last year's starters (Collins and Gayle) that you have to show up in practice and you have to be tough to be a starter at VT.

The first game of the season is also usually the sloppiest game of the season. If the Hokies can throw a few wrinkles at Georgia Tech and create some turnovers, the crowd can take it from there. I've been in Lane for some potentially tough matchups where the Hokies got a few early scores and then it turned into a blowout as the crowd took the opponent completely out of their game (2005 vs. Georgia Tech comes to mind). The Yellow Jacket offense depends HEAVILY on timing and if that gets a little off, the Hokies can capitalize. However, the VT  has some young guys at the back of the secondary in Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett and I am gravely concerned about them being tricked on play action. I remember an NFL-type player like Kam Chancellor getting toasted on several pass plays against the Jackets in past seasons, so you can understand my apprehension.

More than any other, this defensive scheme is about the linebackers playing their assignments. Fortunately, the Hokies bring Jack Tyler in at Mike, slide Bruce Taylor over to backer and have JGW at whip. This is the game where that group of seniors are worth their weight in gold. They need to be so disciplined in their responsibility and fundamentally sound in their tackling because one missed play and GT can take it to the house. But Tyler and Taylor have been in this game before and been successful, and JGW while held out of this game two years ago and missing last year's due to injury, has made being in the right spot the strength of his game. In fact, he's used that to beat out two physically superior players in Ronnie Van Dyke and Alonzo Tweedy. Now we'll see if they can put all that together out there with the bullets flying.

VT Offense vs. GT Defense

Logan Thomas is getting all the hype, but this year's offensive success is about fitting a lot of new pieces together to make for a cohesive attack. The offensive line is going to involve 4 new starters, the running backs are talented but new, the receivers are new starters and the tight end will be a new starter. On top of all of that, the Hokies are going to a pistol formation and adding some uptempo no-huddle schemes. Other than that, not much is different. But seriously,  that is going to require a TON of alchemy to forge that new group together. And they don't get time to do it because the first game is critical against a very tough opponent.

In previous seasons, I would have just thrown in the towel. I would have said, with that many new faces on offense, and Coach Stinespring as coordinator, the defense would have to hold GT to 14 points or less or a loss was guaranteed. But this is a new day. Mike O'Cain is actually the offensive coordinator (though not in name) and his playcalling last season was actually sane. It actually appears that O'Cain knows how to run an offense that his QB is comfortable with. And while there are new faces everywhere, there is also talent up and down the offense.

Of course, facing the Jackets involves another wrinkle - the 3-4 defense. The Jackets bring 4 linebackers in behind 3 big space-eaters at defensive line. You never know where the pressure or free man is coming from and it's going to be an incredible challenge. While the chess match between Paul Johnson and Bud Foster has been the key in years' past, this year, I think the key to the game will be if the Hokie offense can integrate all these new starters and execute without too much first game sloppiness.

VT Special Teams vs. GT Special Teams

This is the first season that Georgia Tech has a dedicated special teams coordinator. But even with that, I think the Hokies have the edge on special teams. Cody Journell worked through his off season legal "challenges" and enters as the starting placekicker. And returning kicks the Hokies have Demetri Knowles and JC Coleman who are super-dynamic players with the ball in their hands, while Dyrell Roberts makes his "return" to the return game as the starting punt returner. Georgia Tech might have an edge in the punting game as the Hokies have chosen one true freshman over another in going with AJ Hughes. But Hughes will be better and more consistent than the three headed monster of Demler/Branthover/Coale was last season, IF Hughes can get over the true freshman issues of playing his very first game in front of 67,000 people. Fortunately this game will be in the friendly confines of Lane Stadium.

The Money Shot

When you boil it all down, the Hokies have traditionally played so terribly at the beginning of games and at the beginning of the season that it's easy to see how they could bomb on Monday night. Georgia Tech is far better on offense than people are giving them credit for. This is their best offensive line in the PJ era and Tevin Washington runs the option EXTREMELY well as a senior. And unlike the Hokies, Georgia Tech has a history of big plays early in the game. I do genuinely think this game could be settled in the first quarter. If the Hokies contain Georgia Tech with their defense and can make some plays on offense to get on the board early, the Hokies can win going away. But if the Hokies get behind and GT gets their offense going with their time-eating and going for it on 4th down approach, this will be a hard way to open the season. All of you will be watching the game on Monday night, whereas if the Hokies win I will be watching it late into the wee hours of Tuesday morning. But either way,