Welp...that one sucked. Perhaps I should've delayed my Games We Wish We Had Back, as this game would have been an ideal candidate for that list. But, unlike mentioning a perfect game or a no-hitter in baseball, I don't believe that I jinxed us out of the win. If anything jinxed us, as Joe from TheKeyPlay pointed out, Mr. Beamer didn't get the memo about the Maroon Effect game.
But in actuality, it wasn't some weird curse or ritual that lost us this one. In a week where ESPN ran a film about Bill Buckner and a Billy Goat curse for the Red Sox and Cubs, we ran into a buzz-saw. That's about the long and short of it. But if you want the long explanation, which if you're still reading you do, then click that button and find out why we suck!
- First off and most importantly, despite giving up 24 points, the defense is free of blame in this one. Period. They were asked to do WAY too much! 1. They held Tajh Boyd and Clemson to their worst outing of the season in both points and yardage. We held Boyd, a legitimate Heisman contender who was putting up numbers on pace with Cam Newton, to 41% passing and 28 yards on 10 carries. 2. We forced a turnover and forced Clemson to punt 9 times (including the one where we were penalized for roughing the kicker, which is not reflected in the box score). 3. Given the ridiculous starting field position that the Hokie offense and Scott Demler were gifting the Tigers, the fact that the Hokies were able to limit Clemson to 2 TD's and a FG (at least when it was still a game and our D was still actually playing) is pretty miraculous. We were DYNAMITE in coverage and our D controlled the line of scrimmage in their run game.
- Okay, okay...well, the D did have one BIG boo boo. Whitley got lost in coverage on Dwayne Allen for what may have been the true putaway TD. He got turned around and disoriented as he turned back. The only thing I don't and can't understand is why Whitley stopped running on the play. Maybe his angle blocked the ball in the air. Maybe he thought the ball went elsewhere. Maybe he was just gassed and gave up on it (I'm guessing a combo of all three). But no matter what, you shouldn't EVER let a guy who's still running get behind you if the whistle hasn't blown. That's not characteristic out of Eddie, but it amounted to the biggest defensive mistake of the game and might've been the knockout punch. I look for much better out of him going forward.
- Why couldn't Cris Hill be this guy for 4 years? But enough about the defense and the good. Now onto the BAD. And I mean B A D!
- Offensively, it was a crap shoot. I have so many problems with what we did offensively I barely know how to start. A little GOOD note to the Bad section...I guess we can get used to completely relying on our defense again! And all things are right again in the universe.
- I have been positive throughout the season to this point, because as I pointed out, Logan Thomas hype reached an unreal and UNREALISTIC point in the offseason, and I knew it would be a work in progress. Those of us who thought we were National Championship contenders in any other circumstance than if we ran the table and everybody else lost we would have a chance were being blindly optimistic.
- With that being said, it is telling that our offense has made this little progress to this point. 5 games in is sort of make or break, no matter the opponent. If there is no visible progress by then, two things are true. 1. It's a legitimate concern and 2. It's probably not going to get much better.
- A critique of Logan Thomas: We're getting pretty close to knowing what the rest of Thomas' 2011 campaign will be like. I will stop short of saying we know, because the offensive line played SO poorly against Clemson and at many times during the year that it is unfair to put the burden on him. But here's what we do know:
1. Logan throws the ball too high. I'm guessing that since he has a very high release point (being 6'6" and correctly bringing his arm over the top in his throwing motion), that he has trouble getting the ball to fly at a normal heigh. The bad news is his high balls have led to drops, tips, and inevitably interceptions. Furthermore, when Thomas tries to make an adjustment to his balls being high, instead of learning how to get the ball lower in the receiver's pocket, he tries to take something off of it. The result has been predictable, those throws have led to drops, incompletions and interceptions. So ideally Logan needs to find a way to get his throws down while maintaining his current velocity. Let's hope the coaches see that too and are working on it with him.
2. Because of that, Logan is prone to the turnover. He is one of many players, young and experienced, that are trying too hard to make the big play right now. He's not going to protect the ball as well as Tyrod this year (and we shouldn't have thought he would).
3. He's still struggling with recognizing and hitting his checkdowns, just a sign he needs more time to get comfortable.
4. His completion percentage has greatly increased, but that is in part to the staff catering to him. He has a lot of completions on bubble screens and outs, which is one of the reasons why he is averaging less than 12 yards per completion on the season. I think his accuracy has generally improved, but in regards to the completion percentage, it's not as good as it looks, much like it wasn't as bad as it looked early on.
5. I don't think this is even on the horizon, but given the expectations, and especially the history of our offenses and our fans reactions, the possibility still exists that Thomas could end up as a TE. As crazy as it sounds, and as solid of a commitment the staff has made to his as THE guy, if he continues to stagnate this season and Mark Leal were to make a tremendous push, it's not inconceivable that the staff would concede to the analysis that recruiting experts made: this guy's a TE. I may be completely wrong for suggesting this, and again I have ZERO confidence that this is going to happen. I'm just saying it is not out of the question and if he continues to struggle, he may not be a viable option down the road. But right now he gives us the best chance to win.
- I will say this: Watching this offense makes me realize that it is the 2006 offense. Wilson is not dissimilar to Ore (at least in between the lines), though obviously Wilson is Ore 2.0...or maybe 6 or 7.0 is in order. But the point is, we are riding Wilson like we rode Ore. Offensively, we are Vanilla.
- The offensive playcalling is obviously the biggest problem with what we did last night. Our coaches put together a piss-pore gameplan. We started by tipping our plays like a 60 mph. changeup. Run, David Wilson up the middle. Run, David Wilson up the middle. Throw. Run, David Wilson up the middle. Run, David Wilson up the middle. Throw. Repeat over and over. Don't get me wrong, I know and believe David Wilson with the ball in his hands is our best option. But teams know we run on 1st and 2nd and throw on 3rd. Imagine if the opposing offenses knew we were blitzing _ player on _ down all game long. They would make an adjustment and stop it. So we need to vary it up. We can still give Wilson 65% of the touches or whatever percentage works, but please oh PLEASE Mr. O'Cain, do we have to hand out our plays to the opponents D before the game? Vary it up.
- Now I say that, but the second half was completely different. It was changing it up for the sake of changing it up. He got the message but responded incorrectly. He threw "The Price is Right" offense out there. He spun and whatever play he landed on regardless of the situation and the personnel he called. Yeah, the defense didn't know what was coming, but there is SOME structure to how you should call plays. It IS situational to some degree. For instance, you have a 6'6" 260 lb. QB and he doesn't get the ball 3rd and 1 when he averages 3 yards on such plays? Instead, Josh Oglesby, our POWER back gets the call to run the stretch!? On 3RD AND 1! Equally sucky is being down by 21 and still running bubble screens. What do you hope to accomplish? If you're packing it in, run it up the middle or down it. We all know we've seen plenty of that to know our coaches are okay in doing that. But if you're going to make an effort of it, DO IT! Don't just go through the motions!
- Scott Demler...this kid...I don't want to rip on an amateur athlete who's struggling under pressure. But there is a legitimate level of expectation that comes with a starting spot at a Top 25 program. I hope he DOES get it right, and I want the kid to succeed. But either he's way too in his own head or he doesn't have the leg required to do this on this level. I think it's the first of those two. But either way, if he doesn't sort it out YESTERDAY, somebody find this kid a seat on the bench.
- Kyshoen Jarrett may be a big-time prospect, but he has been a big-time headache. Among the highlights of his 2011 season: Getting beat for a TD that should've been an interception, almost getting hit by a punt because he wasn't paying attention, muffing a punt and a costly and stupid block in the back penalty. He reminds me of D.J. Coles. D.J. had some real dummies before he reached where he is today. Kyshoen might get there, but I think I'm against burning the shirt for special teams duty where guys seem to freeze and err under the lights. It could eventually impact a season for us. A walk-on could do what he is doing just fine.
- Jayron, I will never knock you for what you're doing on defense. He is becoming a more complete corner than Brandon Flowers and giving him a run for the best DB we've ever seen back there. But please stop trying to make too much happen back there. We need you to make big plays back there yes, but we can ill afford ANY negative or high-risk plays. And don't even get me started on the prospect of losing you on some punt return shenanigans.
- Also what gives with the two-man punt return formation!? Me no likey.
So the undefeated journey is over, but at least we went 4-0. Hell, at least we went 1-0. But the real casualty of the game is our future recruiting class: A lot of potential signees, high ranked ones who were excited to see us play (some for the first time) were in the stands to see us get rolled. Hopefully some of that will be offset by the atmosphere, but I certainly would've come away from last night's game saying: "Who was that other team out there with Clemson?"