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Two Turning Points Turned the Tide Against Tech

Here are extended thoughts on the game after watching it on DVR. Tomorrow morning Clark will have his take on the game and what he thinks it means for the season and for Virginia Tech's football program.

It was with about five minutes to go in the third quarter that I started to believe. Virginia Tech had just recovered a fumble on the tail end of a big run by Alabama and then got two quick first downs to get near midfield. That's when I finally let myself believe we had a chance to beat Alabama.

Tyrod Taylor escaped containment and had a big gain on the first play after the turnover. It looked like he and the coaching staff were finally figuring out how to let his athleticism shine through. Then two tough runs by Josh Oglesby made it look like we were finally going to start getting yards on the ground against these guys. I was wrong on all three counts.

I did not think at this point the Hokies should have gone play action and thrown over the top. The defense was starting to be worn down by the Crimson Tide and now was the time to pick up first downs and give them a breather. It was here that things started to go horribly wrong.

Two questionable play calls

A run up the middle by Oglesby was stopped for a loss. Then came two play calls that can best be described as questionable. First, Virginia Tech ran a speed option and threw a shovel pass to Ryan Williams in the middle of the field. This play almost worked for a big gain in the first quarter, but Rolando McClain got away from Sergio Render and made a great play to stop it for no gain. This time, it seemed the entire Alabama from seven was waiting for Williams to stuff the play.

I don't know what Tyrod's read was on this play. He threw the ball directly into the middle of the defense and left Williams out to dry against Donta Hightower. Who knows what would have happened if he had stretched the play to the boundary and flipped the ball to Oglesby.

The next play defied the imagination. It was a slip screen to Jarrett Boykin, again into the teeth of the Alabama defense. Why do this? This play had no chance of working. Without adequate time to recoup, the Virginia Tech defense came back onto the field winded and saw its arm tackles easily broken by Mark Ingram.

Alabama didn't score on its next possession, but flipped the field on the Hokies and took the edge in field position. A key holding call then negated a Virginia Tech first down and sent the defense back onto the field against an energized Alabama offense. The Crimson Tide took the lead two plays later and never looked back.

The Hokies fumbled the ensuing kickoff, sent the defense back onto the field again, this time with a short field, and the game was over.

A QB comes of age

I was wrong Saturday night when I drunkenly said Greg McElroy had time to throw all night. He never did. Our defensive ends and zone blitzes kept him from being comfortable in the pocket almost the whole night.

Early in the game, McElroy had happy feet in the pocket. There were times where instead of stepping up in the pocket to deliver a ball, he actually stepped back more, right into a VT rush end.

But with 5:30 left in the second quarter, the light turned on for McElroy. He stood tall in the pocket, took a hard hit and delivered a big-time pass to Julio Jones for a first down. From here on, McElroy was excellent. He's going to be a solid quarterback and a great leader of the Alabama offense.

Watching this game on DVR, these were the two turning points that I thought spelled doom for the Hokies. The defense was worn down thanks to its own offense and Alabama's quarterback found his stride. After that, it was over.

Other Observations

  • Kam Chancellor is not a free safety. He's a rover. We need to stop pretending he's a free safety. Get someone competent at that position and let Kam get back to worrying about the run and KTFOing fools.
  • Our receivers weren't nearly has bad as I thought they were. But they're still not very good at getting open down field.
  • Brett Bowden had his best game and might be the best punter in the ACC.
  • Dyrell Roberts may go on to be the best kickoff return man we've had.
  • Stephan Virgil wasn't nearly as bad as I thought he was. He did a solid job against whoever he was lined up against and was even better on run support.