I'm so tired of hearing "Well give the Dukes credit for what they did." I'm not about to take anything away from them, but when you start talking like that, it makes it sound like they were some UNSTOPPABLE force, and that you could not beat them no matter what. That was not the case here. All they did was run a simple little read option and watch our offensive line and defense put the metaphoric gun to our own head.
It's hard to say where this ranks among our most painful losses in the Beamer era, but it's up there if not at the top of the totem pole. Despite how painful it is for me to stomach and even talk about (I think I'm still dreaming), I will try to explain and give meaning to what we will remember as the darkest day of modern Virginia Tech football...I hope (no ill-advised Nick Saban September 11 remarks, I'm sorry).
For all intents and purposes our 2010 season is over before it started, which is extremely disappointing because of the overall level of talent we have and the expectations that were rightfully established after the 2009 season. As it has been written, no matter if we go undefeated from here on out, the national championship trophy that will continue to elude us is long gone, the status of the Virginia Tech program has taken a hit, and no matter what the end result, every fan will remember the season being tainted by this inexplicable and easily avoidable loss.
Additionally, in becoming only the second ranked team (boy isn't that soon to change NOTE: I began writing this Saturday night) to lose to an FCS team, we are drawing many comparisons to the only other team to do it which was Michigan. Even though Spencer Hall of SB Nation said in the What They're Saying that this was not a bigger upset than Appy. State over Michigan, I have to completely and categorically disagree.
No offense to James Madison, but they are nowhere near the team Appalachian State was! People talk about JMU (who finished last season 6-5) like they are really great, but Appalachian State won 3 consecutive national championships, and that Michigan game was during that span. That team produced NFL talent in
Tim Hightower, Dexter Jackson and Armanti Edwards. In fact, I maintain that the Michigan game was not an upset from the standpoint that it is not an upset if the guys on the other side of the ball just flat out cannot catch the guy with the football (Armanti Edwards, who is the fastest player I've EVER seen with pads on live!). That was not the case today.
So let's try to make some sense of this...
- Stiney again gets a little bit of a reprieve because of the conditions.
- Better distribution amongst our talented corps of backs. No offense to Ryan Williams, but when he wasn't making any headway in the Boise State game, I would have liked Bryan to vary it up a bit with another back, even if just for another series instead of just running our head full steam into a wall again and again.
- Was not at fault for any of the 3 turnovers.
- It was another incredibly unimaginative, predictable lackluster Stiney performance. We actually looked more pathetic vs. JMU at home than we did against Boise State in D.C. There's a lot wrong with that equation, and I'm not even close to solving for x yet, but let's hope for our sake that Bryan Stinespring is a math whiz!
- Would it kill you to throw in a screen? C'mon man! They work! They do! I promise!
- I know that we want to improve the left side of our line, and I know that we thought we would win this game handily, so trying to establish that is okay by me. But when you're in a nail-biter with a FCS team and you keep doing that, that's either really ballsy or really stupid...or both. Every major run on the day that didn't involve Ryan Williams or Tyrod Taylor pulling a rabbit out of their backside occurred to the right side of the line. That's too much correlation to be a coincidence for me. RUN RIGHT!
- For all the poor blocking the offensive line is doing, Stiney is compounding it by not allowing pressure to be taken off. Again, Stiney, read above! SCREEN! DRAW! RB IN THE FLATS! PLAY ACTION! PLEASE, DO SOMETHING!
- Where did the option go? No seriously, where did it go? Have we run any more than one option play in two games? When Michael Vick was BMOC the option was a staple of our offense. Especially considering our speed at QB and RB, and our difficulty pounding it inside, we need to get creative offensively, which would make me want to see a whole lot more option! And if we establish it, well guess what? Option pass opens up! YAY!
- Remember how a few weeks ago David Wilson was not redshirted, and the coaching staff vowed to get him touches by putting him at flanker, running him in the wildcat as the slot/h-back (player that comes across on the motion), and giving him carries out of the backfield? Has anyone seen this, because I haven't. Welllllp...looks like it was another classic bluff by Beamer and staff. Yeah, they bluffed themselves into thinking they could change and get this playmaker the ball without totally wasting a year of eligibility. Two games in, the joke is on us.
- One of the biggest issues with this game is not just the problem of losing to JMU and the stigma that comes with it, BUT ALSO it inhibits the growth of younger players who may be called to step into the fray later in the season and beyond. Even if every player just saw one play, that's one play of game experience that they would have gotten. And you cannot simulate game experience, even if it's against JMU. How much good do you think Logan Thomas could have gained from this game? I'm guessing a lot! But now with the season and the 10-game streak in the balance, who foresees Thomas getting any snaps going forward? Who would they come against? This game was imperative for his development and yet he never saw the field. Big loss on that front, especially considering Tyrod's gone by year's end and it looks like Thomas is the guy. Stiney's not the only one to blame for this too. Bud's D was not anything resembling a D, and we'll get to that, but Bud's second unit could have used some more time too. So Bud, this is against you too! (I don't feel like re-writing it for his evaluation).
- If you can think of one, let me know. His hair looked pretty awful throughout since it was soaked. Looking bad and getting humiliated on a national broadcast (well, it was the internet, but still)...that's not a game to remember.
- Where to begin...well first, the aforementioned bad hair day.
- His inability to get his troops prepared and motivated for battle. I'll even concede that it's hard to get a team with this much talent to subscribe to the fact that every game (even one against James Madison) is a fight and that you can lose. But, usually a team realizes that in the first quarter, not after it's already happened. Not only was it bad preparation going in, but look at the Virginia Tech sideline in the second half. Did you see Darren Evans after the fumble? That was a great play by the JMU defender (he put his hat right on the ball), and nothing that Darren could have done. Yet he sat there sulking with the rest of the guys accepting the loss as if there was no changing it on a team full of playmakers resigned to the fact that none of them could make a play. As a head coach, you've gotta get your kids up! I MEAN SERIOUSLY!? GET UP! You're playing for respect, your program, your integrity as men and football players! That's all on the line! And you're telling me you can't get them charged up to play? A person like that should not be the head coach of a football team. You can make what you want out of that, but I'm sticking with that statement without going further. That's why Bobby Bowden is no longer a head coach and why Paterno hit a brick wall before he moved into the press box.
- Last but far from least, if it is true what the insiders of the Tech program tell me about Stiney's lack of control over playcalling and his offense, Beamer has A LOT MORE to answer for than does Stiney.
- Foster was doing Beamer's job of riling the kids up in this one, but that's no surprise. Bud is always an emotional shoot from the hip kind of guy.
- There were times (especially early on), where Bud's D not only looked okay, but looked pretty good.
- Although I think Hopkins (the elder one) is better than Kwamaine Battle (who the commentators were mysteriously referring to as Kwame...how do you get Kwame out of that...there are 3 extra letters that they just ignored on multiple occasions), his injury did seem to affect us for the worse, at least from the standpoint that we played worse after he left.
- As terrible as Bud's D played, this is his hardest rebuilding job I can remember. Many people liken it to the 2008 squad, but if you look, even guys who were first year starters like Brett Warren, Purnell Sturdivant and eventually Cody Grimm all had pretty considerable experience. Compared to this year's squad, only Lyndell Gibson and Eddie Whitley have comparable experience. Add in injuries and a second unit that Bud publicly berated by saying he only trusted four of them, you've got our current predicament. Bud's not at fault for that stuff. But, you cannot begin to tell me...
- ...That even if those guys are your best 11 out there, you wouldn't get them out of the game to at least TRY something else, make some kind of adjustment to get them to read and react to plays better and to...
- TACKLE! PLEASE SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, TACKLE A GUY WITH THE BALL! These are Division-I football players, so trust them or not, Bud should have absolutely diagnosed the tackling problem and gotten other guys in there. If I'm a D-Coordinator, I'm always telling my guys "no matter what, no matter how many guys I have to bench, there is no shortage of guys on this team that can tackle!"
- I'm actually going to say that Bud may have been too lenient with the players missing tackles on the field. I'm not advising constant public humiliation of players or being berated in front of their teammates, but sometimes it just HAS to happen. This was one of those times. I would have Beamer call a timeout so I could call the whole defensive unit to the side of the field and teach them the fundamentals of tackling like they were four years old, even if I have to make an ass out of myself. Think that would get their attention? I'm not above ANYTHING that works. It may be too much for some people's tastes, but at halftime of a 2007 Minnesota Timberwolves game, former GM and legendary big Kevin McHale came down to the team's tunnel after a miserable showing. Sarcastically clapping, he yelled out at PF Craig Smith, who played big minutes due to Kevin Garnett's foul trouble "Hey, great job out there Craig! Yeah, you had one more rebound than a dead guy!" Like I said, that may be too much, but for me, if I were playing any kind of sport again, you had better believe that in the second half I would be a man among boys out there and my coach would get the absolute best out of me.
- We have got to take better pursuit angles to the ball, especially on plays where we have it contained and multiple players stack one direction and over-pursue. Give him no lanes to go through and don't try to predict which way a player will go. Especially when you've got a play contained with multiple defenders, you need to stay at home and let the ballcarrier make the first and fatal move.
- Play through the whistle. This is just terrible. The 78-yarder should have been stopped for a loss, partly because of what I said just above (we had it contained and then several players overcommitted), partly because of some of the worst tackling I've ever seen, and partly because our players for whatever reason don't want to play through the whistle. This game it was on D, but in the Boise State game, on the last drive where the punt was returned down the sideline and they eventually picked up the flag, our guys just attempted to corral him instead of knocking him out many yards beforehand. Was it because of the penalty flag? The fatigue? Both? Either way, it's unacceptable.
- The biggest strategic error on Bud's part is that he is bringing the blitz way too often and going for the big play with the same frequency. Already we have been burned for huge runs up the middle because we stacked the box, blitzed, and had no support if we missed...which every single one of our players did. I know you want to get off the field and make a statement, but the risk is far greater than the reward. As I wrote this, I thought back and remembered a disproportionate amount of long runs beating our D over the years, and I guess now that could be attributed to this. But the frequency that they have occurred with so early in this season is scary! I know you can't be yourself without blitzing Bud, but mix it up and be a little bit more conservative with it.
- Furrer4heisman and everybody else who has highlighted the tackling is absolutely right! Bruce Taylor (although has had two terrible calls go against him in the first two games) and Jeron Gouviea-Winslow can't tackle or cover to save their life. Especially Winslow (he doesn't deserve the extra time for the hyphenation) who looks absolutely pathetic out there on the field. They are among the many culprits who are missing tackles at a CRAZY rate. These kids are D-I college football players! They know better than to go in high for tackles, yet they keep doing it!
- I know that the coaches can't help it if players don't execute (to a certain extent), and as TheKeyPlay noted, certainly the Tyrod pick and fumble and the Evans fumble were not the coaches' fault. But, when those things keep happening, it absolutely is the coaches' fault. I have to say that I am more pissed from a preparation and adjustment standpoint, both of which I fault the coaching staff for HEAVILY!
- Did anyone see Ryan Williams' quote? According to CBSSports.com and ESPN.com, Williams is quoted as saying "I don't know what's going on. I really don't." Sounds like the problems go a lot deeper than on the field on gameday here. I'm not so sure we can just up and turn around this mess if our best player is saying this. It sounds like for the first time in a looooooong time we've got some locker room and chemistry problems.
- With that said, if we tank this season is anyone interested in TEAM DIVIDED bracelets to counter the 2004 TEAM UNITED? Cause if so, I'm your guy!
- I really think this may be the end of the Beamer era of dominance. We've had teams talented enough to take us over the top but didn't live up, we've reached the pinnacle of our recruiting success with the team on the field right now, it's going to be very hard to convince Commonwealth prospects that we are the elite program in the state and one of the best in the nation when we can't fend off FCS teams at home, and I think teams have finally figured out how to beat Beamer. His gameplan is very static. This James Madison win proves that there is a roadmap for beating the Hokies under Beamer, and with the increased availability of technology and exposure of a team's tendencies, teams will be downloading that map to their TomTom (no more MapQuest for them) and getting their directions easy-peasy. Right turn ahead ECU.
- Remember when I said last week that we should retire the black jerseys and never return to FedEx field? Well I think we now need to scrap those fugly white ones on Herma's Readers' Day. We always play pathetic in those things.
- It will be interesting to see if any redshirts are lifted in an attempt to save the season, particularly on the defensive line, where stud freshmen Nick Acree and Zach McCray are talented enough to come in and make an impact immediately.
- Unfortunately, I see us being 0-3 after this weekend. As much as I hope that this is rock bottom, I watched ECU's first two games, and I have to say they are almost as potent as Boise. I just don't know if we can stop them. You remember the running back and wide receiver that ran all over us two years ago in the opener? Yeah, they're still there.
- I don't want to be one of those people who loosely throw out the "Fire Stiney and Fire Beamer" statements, but as Hokie fans, we do not deserve the inordinately high number of letdowns that a football program of our stature endures. It is unacceptable, and I implore you to not let the Beamer shtick of "we are sorry for our fans" and "we are disappointed for our players and our fans" and "we're still a good football team" and "this won't define our season and we still have plenty to play for" to suffice and ease your mind as if it never happened. That is just Beamer talking in circles, and it lets him close ranks and validate what he and his staff are doing, even with tempered success (like if for instance we finish the season 8-5 again). We can't just let his good-natured persona and his attachment to the program give him a free pass. Changes MUST be made. Are those changes firing Stiney and or Beamer? I don't know yet. But believe if we lose this weekend that I will be screaming from the mountaintops for their heads as should you. I'm not saying revolt just yet, but everybody be on standby.