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Bourbon Shots: Big Plays Edition

Everybody's talking about the big plays Virginia Tech's defense has been giving up this season. No really, everybody. As you'll find out in this week's edition of Bourbon Shots, just about every beat writer and blogger is focused in on breakdowns and big yardage when Bud Foster's boys are on the field. I've definitely been guilty of focusing on it a little too much. But until they stop happening, big plays will be a big topic in Hokie World.

Hokie Beat Writers

Virginia Tech winning again despite allowing big plays (Darryl Slater)
"Tech’s defensive coordinator, Bud Foster, hopes his group can improve this season like it did in 2008. In the final nine games, Tech allowed just 30 plays of 20 yards or longer, to finish with 53 for the season, equaling its big-play total from 2007, which also was a 14-game season. (In 2006, Tech allowed 29 big plays in 13 games.) When analyzing the defense’s improvement, it’s also worth considering all the yards it allowed, not just big plays. In last year’s first five games, Tech gave up an average of 328.6. In the final nine games: 252.1."

Big, Bad Plays (Kyle Tucker)
"The conclusion: Tech is playing championship-caliber defense 90 to 95 percent of the time. The rest of the time, however, the Hokies are playing like the Bad News Bears. Below, I’ve broken down every big play Tech has allowed this season, game-by-game, bolding the 20-plus plays and putting stars by the ones that were allowed on third down. Here’s another not-so-hot stat: The Hokies have allowed 12 plays of 15-plus yards on third down ... and six of those gained 30 or more yards."

Defense looks to cut down on big plays (Randy King)
"The numbers sounded like they were straight off somebody's lotto ticket --26, 34, 48, 55 and 74. No jackpot there last Saturday. Just ask Virginia Tech's football team. Shoot, that pick-5 combination almost sent the Hokies to the poor house before they escaped with a 34-26 victory over huge underdog Duke. Add up the numbers and you get 237. It's also the sum of passing yards that Tech's secondary yielded on five pass completions by Duke."

Ups and downs of a decade for Beamer and Bowden (Aaron McFarling)
"Ten years after they met on college football's grandest stage, it has come to this: Bobby Bowden squirms while Frank Beamer smiles. Beamer's not smiling at Bowden's situation, of course. A "there but for the grace of God go I" sentiment exists in the coaching business, and it's all but impossible to dislike Bowden, the man. But Bowden, the Florida State coach? Most aren't too keen on that combination anymore, and Beamer knows how quickly that can happen to anybody in his profession."

Virgil Still Recovering (Mark Viera)
"Virgil, who injured his left knee Sept. 5 against Alabama, missed two games before returning to play against Miami. Virgil, the Hokies’ best and most experienced cornerback, played only 41 snaps against the Hurricanes. In the week of practice before the Duke game, Virgil rode a stationary bike while other players ran sprints. It seemed to be a part of what Gray mentioned when he said the coaches wanted to limit Virgil’s activity in practice."

Pesky Eagles (Nathan "Tommie Frazier" Warters)
"In July, Boston College was picked to finish sixth in the ACC’s six-team Atlantic Division. It appears its demise was strongly miscalculated. The Eagles (4-1, 2-1 ACC) – No. 5 Virginia Tech’s opponent Saturday at Lane Stadium – are in second place of their division, thanks to recent wins against Florida State, an overwhelming favorite to win the Atlantic in the preseason, and Wake Forest, another top contender."

Hokie Bloggerati

The Week That Was (The A-Line)
"What poll voters might have noticed is that, for better or worse, this Tech team is coming up with a variety of ways to win football games. Nebraska partisans can cry about who SHOULD have won, but Tech did. The handful of Canes fans around can claim that only rain that fell on one side of the field stands between them and Complete Backness, but one team did manage to eke out a 31-7 win and it was not the Canes. Tech is doing what good teams do, finding different ways to win games. With a couple of big games on tap, against regular season thorn Fredo and then at Georgia Tech, that ability might just prove handy unless it does not."

Cut Stinespring Some Slack, the Offense IS Improving (College Game Balls)
"More interesting to write about is the emergence of a dependable running game. I’m impressed more and more each week. Stinespring has turned a question mark at the beginning of the season into our strength and one of the best rush attacks in the country (24th nationally). Ryan Williams (and the rocket up his ass), fewer rushes out of the shotgun and negative plays/sacks on Tyrod have all been key factors. Through five games our average yards per carry is up almost a full yard when compared to the 2008 season (4.73 to 3.78). Because of the success on the ground Tyrod has become an ancillary component of offense. And that’s not a bad thing! Instead of carrying the offense he’s been able to make big plays (with his legs and arm) when the opportunity presents itself."

College Football Viewing Guide Week 6 (Beer Control Offense)
"The underrated rivalry of the new ACC and right now the best. The teams are physical, play smash mouth and most importantly they play good football. Some teams over the years might have had more talent {cough} Clemson, f$u {cough} but not with the toughness, discpline nor physicality of the Hokies/Eagles. The records reflect that. VT's D is playing well for 85% of the game, but that other 5% is giving up A LOT of big plays. Not good. b.c. is rounding into form with Chris Weinke part ii, Dave Shinski getting his gridiron legs after a 7 year layoff after a minor league baseball flameout. This game will not be easy for VT and after 3 regular season losses in a row to a team VT use to dominate, they know this. Last week was unispired, we are unlikely to witness a shitty effort like this again. I do expect VT to tackle much better and give Shinski, many, many new looks to confuse him along with a Grimm blitz or 2. This game will tell us where VT is at mentally and physically."

Penalties, Big Plays Keep Duke Game Close (Tech SuperFans)
"On defense, the Hokies were extremely aggressive. The Hokies allowed only 38-yards on the ground. However, aggressive defense without discipline coverage leads to big plays. The Blue Devils did indeed produces some big plays which kept them in this game to the very end."

Penalties, much? (The Football Girl)
"But, the penalties. Good grief, Charlie Brown. Did it not seem like Ed Wang was off-sides the entire game? And is Jake Johnson just being allowed one bonehead personal foul per game? The lack of focus here was really disturbing, and I consider it to be a coaching issue. These games are only "classic letdown games" if you let them be. Did Frank forget to tell the age old 1998 Temple story? I still occasionally, in my darkest football hours, get a flash of watching Nick Sorensen pass to a wide open Ricky Hall, who dropped it like it was a live grenade. These guys should have been ready to play, and they weren't."

Boston College Bloggers

Who Needs This Game More? and the Big Finish (BC Interruption)
Brian and Jeff take time away from hearing how beautiful Jim and Pam's wedding was: "Jeff: Margin for error is smaller in the Coastal. If Virginia Tech beats Boston College and then loses to Georgia Tech, they might miss the ACC Championship Game at 7-1. On the other hand, the Eagles just need to win four of their next five in any possible combination to head to Tampa. The Eagles have no more dates to circle on the calendar in ACC play this year (except for NC State and the older players that might have been recruited by Tom O'Brien)."

BC-Virginia Tech preview (Eagle in Atlanta)
"I think it will be a tough game, but this is winnable. The key will be our offense. If we can put up some points and not get rattled, we can win this game. I think Shinskie will step up and continue his quick progression. I think our defense settles down after the past two weeks and I think we hold on again in a close one."

3 Questions heading into Blacksburg (Eagle All Access)
"Having played against Virginia Tech five times in the last three seasons we can almost be assured that Tech's aggressive defense will bring plenty of blitz packages. Virginia Tech is known for fast pass rushers and they try to create turnovers by getting to the quarterback. The line did an excellent job keeping the Seminoles away from Shinskie, but can they prevent an aggressive attack from the Hokies?"

The ACC Ethos

What to watch in the ACC: Week 6 (Annette)
"1. Interceptions in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor showed significant progress in the passing game last weekend against Duke, and didn't throw any interceptions in the process, but the Eagles have picked off five passes this year. Both teams have a knack for interceptions. Virginia Tech, in fact, has registered more interceptions (182) since the start of the 2000 season than any program in the country. Oklahoma (174) is second, and BC (173) is third during that time span."

The Podcast Presented By, Oct. 8 (ACCSJ)
"First, Joe and Jim talk about the ugly, ugly situation down in Tallahassee. A stubborn Bobby Bowden, dissension in the coaching staff and a trustee comparing pushing Bowden aside to putting a dog to sleep. Wow. Just … wow. Then they turn their attention to the recruiting battle to end all recruiting battles between Duke and UNC over Harrison Barnes. That inevitably leads to several Glengarry Glen Ross quotes. They also wonder whether anyone’s still "All In" with Dabo Swinney and why we always overlook the importance of the offensive line."

Bowden Haters Will Be Greeted As Liberators (850 & 620 THE BLOG)
"Florida State president T.K. Wetherell did his best to quiet the insurgents in Tallahassee by releasing a statement saying Bowden’s job will be re-evaluated at the end of the season. In the meantime, rumors continue to circulate that coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher will be given a new 5-year contract that would effectively put him in charge and place Bowden as some sort of coach emeritus. Look it doesn’t take a genius to know that every organization thrives when it has two leaders. Go ahead, name a country that doesn’t have two presidents. A boat that sets sail without two captains. Where would Catholicism be, without the popes? /office’d"

What’s wrong with Georgia Tech’s run game? (Is anything?) (Smart Football)
"Finally, there have been some changes in defensive tactics. Most notably almost everyone is playing Georgia Tech with a nose-guard to help stop the midline option and to either stop Dwyer up the middle or at least muddy that read. Miami in particularly played their base defense but simply moved one defensive tackle over to nose guard. This isn’t an end-all be-all scheme, as it has opened up some outside lanes and various counter plays, but GT has not always executed those plays well. Rewatching the Clemson and Miami games in particular one is struck by the fact that there are big plays to the outside to be had, but the Jackets just keep missing key blocks. Now credit both Clemson and Miami for fending off the myriad chop cut blocks and making tackles, but if Johnson wants to continue having success they will have to make teams pay for crowding the middle, and the passing game can only go so far."

Reverse Hatfield Syndrome: Clemson Coaching Situation (On The B.Rink)
"If we have learned anything in these five games with Clemson, the cupboard may have been a little more bare than we thought. Maybe not in talent so much, but in the ability to pull together as a team and execute. Coaching is an issue no doubt, but players make plays. Those plays are not being made in Clemson in the key situations. The players that are making plays are easily seen in guys like C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, or Deandre McDaniel, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Clemson is a team with good-to-great players, but just not a good-to-great team right now. The Tigers were not quite the take one coach out–insert another and they win the ACC that many thought they could be."

The Boston College Double Stuffed Rushing League (Instead of Texting)
"Harris’ performance was impressive, but there’s a problem lurking in the BC running game. Harris and his primary backup, Josh Haden, go nowhere more often than any non-Re’quan Boyette running backs in the conference. On nearly a third of Haden’s and Harris’ 148 carries this year, they’ve been stuffed, gaining no yards or going backward. Haden has the highest stuff rate in the conference, moving in neutral or reverse on 42 percent of his carries this season."

ACC Coastal

Weekend review (From Old Virginia)
"Which, he's right: if you recall, Butch Davis had about exactly as much time as Verica used up to move the ball fewer yards downfield than Verica had to and try to kick the game-winning field goal, and instead opted for overtime. You can tell UNC - no offense, really, it's just the truth - is a basketball school because if this was Clemson who kept losing to us like this, the fans would not only have backed a moving van up to Davis's house but in the dead of the night they'd have broken in and packed it up, too."

Georgie vs. Georgia Tech in CFA Kickoff 2011? (From The Rumble Seat)
"Rivalry week is always the final weeks in the year. It's what I look forward to, you look forward to. It's the cherry on top of any season, good or bad if you win. And then to just completely sell out to the "national exposure, sponsorships, and hoopla" just leaves a bad bad nasty taste in my mouth."

Don’t Talk To Deems May About Basketball (Tar Heel Fan)
"That being said, I understand what May is saying though I think it could have been phrased better. While there is a likely static reality concerning the level of passion UNC fans might have for football versus that for basketball, I also think it is counterproductive to express the kinds of things May complains about here. Saying "well at least we have basketball" or "football will never be any good" adds nothing to the conversation. Those of us who take a vested interesting in both football and basketball would like to see success in both. Yes, we are probably all basketball fans first and foremost but I have an interest in seeing the football team win and even get to a level where competing for an ACC title is a possibility."

Party Like It’s 1999 (Tar Heel Mania)
"This season the defense has been awesome and the offense has been terrible. I admit that I wasn’t expecting the offense to improve by leaps and bounds this year, but i don’t think anyone believed it would be this bad. All in all, this season has had a very Torbushian feel to it."

ACC Atlantic

Meet the Dab-O Meter (Block-C)
"Moreso than being mine or Willy Mac’s personal opinion of Coach Swinney, this chart attempts to gauge his standing among the clamoring masses on the internets and radio air waves. The x axis measures his Southern Folksy Charm Rating on a scale of Andy Griffith to "Georgia man who slapped a three year old in a Wal-Mart." The y axis follows the tried and true measure of coaching ability on the scale of Danny Ford to ham sandwich."

So who really is at fault? (Clempson Football)
"What I am hearing from those I know, and yes it is technically heresay so you can make up your own mind, is that Coach Swinney is changing 1 or 2 plays a series from what is called in the booth by Napier. Also, some of the personnel groupings that are sent on the field are not what Napier intends, and don't match the plays called even when Swinney changes them, as well as the entirely wrong play being signaled in, which Swinney takes a part in."

Another Air Raid (Backing The Pack)
"Lewis will be wearing his arm out again on Saturday (unless things go terribly, terribly wrong for us), but much like Duke's offense as a whole, you can probably expect Lewis to pile up his yardage methodically rather than explosively. I don't think that's anything to be overly concerned about. Unless you figure that his performance against VT is a sign that the passing game has turned a corner."

What Would You Do About the Running Back Predicament? (Testudo Times)
"If Ralph does decide to play one of them, you can bet that only one will see the field (otherwise, something got messed up somewhere). In that case, is it Adams or Porzel? Adams is the bigger, more reliable power back, more Meggett than Scott. Porzel is the prototypical, Jahvid Best-ian college back: undersized, ridiculously quick, and ultra-shifty. If we were doing the overplayed "Thunder and Lightning" combo, Adams is Thunder, Porzel is Lightning."

Out of Conference Opponents

Nebraska's Keys to Victory Over Missouri (Corn Nation)
"Be honest with yourself, for once in your life. Do you really trust Zac Lee to win this game for Nebraska? Or are you going to be like me - hold your breath whenever he's throwing the ball because his only road start to date was as unpleasant as an infection. Until Lee has a good road game (which please let it be tonight!), expecting him to win a game is wishful thinking. Until then, Lee represents unrealized potential - not something you can count on.... yet."

Game Film Breakdown: Julio Jones (Roll 'Bama Roll)
"Personally, going into the Kentucky game, I paid little attention to Julio's lack of production to date. After all, we had played only four games in the season, and Julio practically missed two entire games with a bruised knee, plus Virginia Tech's Bud Foster effectively approached the Alabama game with the intent that hell would freeze over before he would let Julio Jones beat his Hokies. In other words, the lack of overall production to date was really just more of a result of a small sample size mixed with a little bad injury luck, neither of which would constitute a major concern moving forward. But with the two catch, 13-yard performance against Kentucky, the critical fires were only further fanned, and after that I decided that closer scrutiny was warranted."

Stuff Only I Care About

Strong-armed (The Boston Globe)
Amalie Benjamin, who I love and in a heartbeat would give up my hard-drinking, road-tripping bachelor ways for, goes over the saga of the Sox pitching staff in 2009: "It was not what general manager Theo Epstein had planned after spending last winter signing low-cost, low-risk bodies to complete a starting rotation that appeared to go double-digits deep back when the team was running sprints in Fort Myers, Fla. He seemed to have it all, a rotation that was dominant at the top, solid through the middle, and stretched far enough that the team would have no trouble filling out starts the rest of the season."

Was bringing Blount back the plan all along? (George Schroeder)
"Regardless of whether you believe LeGarrette Blount should return to the football field or not—later this morning, Chip Kelly is expected to outline the way the running back could play for the Ducks again, and relatively soon—you have to wonder about what we’ve been told up ‘til now about the suspension."

 A Day in the Life of the OU – Miami Game (The Lost Ogle)
"I don’t know if that was cute, genius or simply pathetic. Whatever it is, I’m still frightened that this idea popped up in my head. Seriously, I’m driving home from work and "A Day in the Life" is playing on KRXO and before you know it I’m writing out fake song lyrics about OU on my laptop. I think I may too big of an OU fan. I should also be thankful that I didn’t hear "Benny and the Jets." Wait! Ah, nevermind."

A Statistical Look at the Sabres Loss to Montreal (Die By The Blade)
"It's only one game but there has to be some concern that Derk Roy, Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek were all on the ice for a total of four shots. Those three players are supposed to be the key offensive contributors for the Sabres and they can't score goals without taking shots-on-goal."

How the top teams spend their cap space (From The Rink)
"I haven't crunched all the numbers on how this has evolved over time since last season, but I'd be willing to wager that those low end numbers have continued to fall as the "Starting 6" and top 11 players pull in more and more of the pie. Cap or no cap, the skilled players are getting their contracts; it's everyone else who's fighting for what's left. And that's probably the way it should be."