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Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15: Hokies Barrel On Despite Shortcomings

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It wasn't pretty, but if it had been pretty we probably would have lost. All the Hokies did against Nebraska was make another barrel.

The Hokies played a good team and found a way to win at the end. That's the positive. Even with an offense and defense that has regressed, this team can still make barrels. Even when they play poorly on offense for 58 minutes, they can make a play at the end and win.

Even when the defense is having an off day, it can make stops when it matters and do what it needs to get the job done. We played tough, held them when we had to and eventually the opponent made mistakes that we took advantage of to win.

But despite the good, there's a lot of things to Hokies need to fix before they move on this season.

Culture of FAIL vs. Culture of W.I.N. (This probably should have been its own post)


  • So you want to fire Bryan Stinespring, do you? Well, be my guest. He's a bad offensive coordinator. But don't expect this offense to improve this year or next with Stinespring out of the equation. This offense is diseased much deeper than having a bad OC.
  • No one on this offense is confident it will gain yards or score points. That's the difference between us and Miami. The Hurricane offense is confident that what Mark Whipple has installed will work. I'm not sure you can say the same thing about the Hokies. Looking at Tyrod Taylor's body language on the sideline late in the game made me think we had no chance. Fortunately Tyrod made the plays we needed to win at the end. I hope that gives him confidence in himself and his teammates that they can succeed.
  • However, Tyrod hasn't progressed as a passer since he arrived in Blacksburg. That's Mike O'Cain's fault. If he's fixed the hitch in his passing motion, it sure hasn't helped. He's still the same inaccurate quarterback he was when got here in 2007.
  • The offensive line, which was supposed to be a strong point this season, can't pass block against a decent defense. That's Curt Newsome's fault. Our offensive line is strong at run blocking and absolutely horrible at pass blocking. Maybe it's because a few of them are former tight ends run blocking as opposed to pass blocking is the strong suit of tight ends. Or maybe Newsome just can't develop players.
  • The playcalling has been horrible and has put the offense at a disadvantage. It seems the next play is always trying to compensate for the previous play with this offense instead of the first play setting up the second play. This is Bryan Stinespring's fault.
  • It's also his fault that we're so easy to prepare for. There's no secret to what we're going to do on offense.
  • So while the overwhelming sentiment is to fire Bryan Stinespring, nothing is going to change unless there's a full overhaul of the offensive coaching staff and of the culture that exists on the offensive side of the ball.
  • The culture of FAIL that exists in our offense actually starts at the top. Frank Beamer treats the offense like second-class citizens by saying that it only needs to score enough points to win, control the ball, have one turnover or fewer. There are three fewer posted goals for the offense and they aren't as difficult to achieve as the defense's goals. The culture of FAIL starts because the program believes the offense exists only to complement the defense and support it. While in the long run that's the goal of every offense, ours goes much further than supporting it. 
  • Our offense exists almost solely to benefit the defense and the expense of its own success, like Minor League Baseball teams support their Major League affiliate. Treat the offense as sternly and expect just as much out of it as you expect the defense and you'll get results. That's where it starts. 
  • I'm not saying the offense can't still exist to support and complement the defense, but you have to have higher expectations for it before it can start to improve. How about expecting the offense to score 21 points or more as a posted goal? How about average 4.0 yards per carry or, I don't know, allow zero sacks. Maybe that will light a fire under some asses, including Stinespring's.
  • The defense already has a culture of W.I.N. (Bud Foster's What's Important Now). It's time to take that same mentality to the offense and get rid of its culture of FAIL.


The Offense

  • To give credit where credit is due, the Nebraska defense was outstanding, especially Ndamukong Suh. He disrupted both the running and passing game for Virginia Tech and their linebackers and secondary played better than I expected.
  • Ryan Williams played outstanding again, averaging over five yards per carry.
  • The receivers had a few moments where they cost the team yards, but for the most part they played well, especially Jarrett Boykin.
  • Nebraska did a good job of containing Tyrod and letting him get big yards on the ground.
  • Where were the misdirection plays and QB-RB give options? It seemed to me like those would work against a team like Nebraska, who may not be as fast on the edge as other teams we will play this season. These are plays we have to have success with against Miami to use their speed against them. Shotgun spread option plays are different than flexbone option plays because they are more about misdirection than give, pitch or keep plays.

The Defense

  • The dirty little secret this year is that the defense isn't very good. They kept Nebraska out of the end zone, but there were a few things that showed me they will be susceptible to big plays against teams like Miami.
  • Nebraska's Roy Helu was outstanding. He fought through tackles, hit the holes hard and got tough yards. He's a great back.
  • The thing our defense does do well is get pressure on the quarterback. They did this against Zac Lee, who seemed afraid to take a sack or throw an interception, so he was quick to throw the ball away, once on an overthrow and once on the final play of the game.
  • Pressure on Lee was a big reason the Huskers weren't able to do much through the air on Saturday.
  • Like the previous two weeks, the Hokies allowed an opposing running back to go over 100 yards. Good running backs like Ingram, Marshall and Helu are going to give us fits all year. Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson aren't doing as well against the run as I'd like and that gets magnified because our defensive tackles are getting handled by the other team's offensive lines.
  • We're still very average defending passes over the middle which is where Miami made its hay against Georgia Tech. The same things the Yellow Jackets struggled with against the Hurricanes are the same things we struggle with. I think the Canes are going to get their share of big plays against us this week.
  • We desperately need Stephan Virgil back in the lineup. Rashad Carmichael struggle in man coverage and in coming in on run defense from the boundary side. 
  • Cody Grimm, Jason Worilds and Kam Chancellor were outstanding against Nebraska. Hopefully all three play just like that in every other game from here on out.

The Future

  • The difference between the offense and defense is I have a lot more faith in Bud Foster fixing what ails the defense. Getting Virgil back will help and the maturing of Johnson and Rivers will help as well. The key next week will be avoiding big plays against the Hurricanes. The key for the rest of the season will be improvement from the defensive tackle and the linebackers becoming less hesitant and able to read plays better.
  • The offense has to get better from the inside out. It starts with the offensive line getting better at pass blocking. It leads to Tyrod Taylor being more confident in the pocket and hopefully able to be more accurate than he has been. It results in teams not being able to key on Ryan Williams and going in with the mentality that they are going to make someone other than Williams beat them.
  • Please, God, never let McDonough and Millen call another one of our games. Brutal.