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Virginia Tech Vs. Pittsburgh Film Review And Analysis

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Well, what can we say about this one? The Hokies laid a stinker. One that was unexpected, but that we were concerned about for several reasons. As I said all week long leading up to the game, the Panthers weren't as bad as everyone was saying they were and the Hokies weren't as good as they were billed. That was certainly true of Saturday's loss, but really it was more about what the Hokies didn't do (no matter what Beamer's presser quotes say).

So after a long time in front of my iPad breaking down game film, I have made several conclusions about why Pitt was able to not only win, but go into beatdown mode against the Hokies Saturday. For the complete film review and analysis, continue reading after the jump.

Before we get into it, if you're interested in Cardiac Hill's point of view on the game, here is their post-game wrap-up. Now onto the film review.

  • On Pitt's first drive, Sunseri's 33-yard 3rd-and-7 completion to Devin Street: Bonner lined up close to the line of scrimmage to play bump-and-run on Devin Street. Ultimately, after giving a simple hesitation fake, Street swim moved the initial bump to the outside and sprinted upfield, beating Bonner by about a step and a half. Sunseri's pass wasn't terrific, as if Bonner had gotten his head turned around, he could have easily gotten in on the play. It was a back shoulder throw that was high, and really was more about Street making a terrific play and holding on. Those who have pointed out that Donaldven Manning was partly responsible for the breakdown are correct. Manning at first appeared to be playing man coverage on the outside receiver, but a few seconds into the play, he still hadn't moved off of his spot, indicating that he was in zone coverage. Once he saw Bonner was in trouble, he contemplated leaving his spot for over the top help (which he was almost certainly responsible for as Kyshoen Jarrett was only about 7 yards away from the line of scrimmage at the snap, and played man coverage on the tight end) but right at the moment Sunseri released the ball, Jarrett tried to deke him by taking a hard step towards the underneath receiver. It was a gamble for Manning, who needs to know that allowing a short route to is better than allowing a long route. He HAS to be there for help, or else there's always a chance Bonner can get burned on that play.
  • On the 1st and 15 counter trap on the Hokies first drive, there was a hole for Michael Holmes to run through, but when he got into the hole, it closed and he was met immediately. A big part of the reason for this is that Nick Becton and David Wang both blocked the same player on the play. Two guys on offense blocking the same player is okay when helping in pass protection in situations where not enough players are blitzed to equal the number of blockers, but on running plays, ESPECIALLY one that involves a delay component, two guys blocking one guy is inexcusable. To make matters worse, both players were concerned about sealing the man to the outside when the run was going through the 1-hole (or the hole between the center and the left guard). C'mon guys! Put a hat on a hat.
  • On the very next play, Logan Thomas rolled right, waited for Marcus Davis to complete his curl route (which he ran lazily, not giving himself as much room as he would've if he had run it at full speed. Thomas therefore had a smaller window, and launched the ball on the run, thinking he had to get it in there quicker. The result, he overthrew Davis, a 6'4" receiver with 44-inch vertical jump by several feet. Although Thomas wasn't to blame on this one, but it is disturbing that almost all of Thomas' overthrows this year have been intended for Davis. You can just see how frustrated Davis is after he's overthrown, as he just turns around and stares Thomas down with a look of disgust. Just because he's a freakish athlete doesn't mean you don't have to put the ball on target.
  • On Thomas' first interception, the 3rd-and-13, three things happened: 1. The offensive line broke down although Pitt only rushed four, 2. Thomas in an ill-advised move, stepped backwards to avoid the pressure and tried to throw all in the same motion, and 3. even though the ball was ill-advised, the Pitt player who was defending Davis on the play had his hands on his back after his in cut, and played through Davis' body until the pass arrived, eventually tackling him to the ground. Davis immediately got up clamoring for the penalty (and we've seen penalties where the defender plays through the receiver called ALL YEAR! Definitely a penalty). The ball was subsequently tipped and picked.
  • The second Bonner/Manning mistake was just as costly. Bonner was deep this time, but Manning was either playing a short outside zone, or completely whiffed on the play. Pitt ran a play-action pass out of a formation with two tight ends (one as an h-back) and two wide receivers tight (or snugs if you prefer EA's NCAA football jargon) to the left side. The underneath receiver, Mike Shanahan, ran a wheel route to the sideline. Manning bit on the play-fake, and by the time he recovered, Shanahan was by him. This is where it becomes unclear what Manning was supposed to be doing, as what he does next is absolutely and completely confusing to a former DB. Manning stops running with Shanahan, passing him off to Bonner, and proceeds to take the man running a delayed short out route. Jeron Gouveia-Winslow was covering that route, but passed him off to Manning. Here is where it becomes incredibly confusing. Manning then waits until the quarterback is ready to throw and then jumps the underneath route seemingly to try to lure the quarterback into throwing to that route, but when he realizes it is going to the original man he passed off to Bonner, he gets on his horse (not the normal way a player who is out of a play would pursue a receiver 30 yards further downfield than him, but rather more like "SHIT! I MESSED UP!") trying to get back in on the play. So here are the potential reasons why this breakdown happened: 1. Manning was in man coverage and completely whiffed on the play, passing Shanahan off to Bonner on a route that was difficult to cover from Bonner's position by the time the throw was made, and then trying to atone for his mistake (although instead amplifying it) by covering someone else's zone, 2. Manning was in zone, and as he went with Shanahan for several steps, confused Bonner into thinking he was in man, before passing him off to Bonner fractions of a second later, 3. Bonner completely and absolutely whiffed on the play, biting on the play-action and stumbling on the way over to Shanahan. After watching the play several times, it is still unclear what exactly happened. If it was the first possibility, Manning absolutely CANNOT make mistakes like that, and if he does, he has to keep playing. He cannot just give up on the play and try to do something other than his assignment. If it's the second, the secondary needs to communicate better. But if it is the third possibility, Bonner can't bite on that fake so hard that he effectively gives himself no chance to make that play, even if Rushell Shell just racked up three-straight first downs.
  • On the first Sunseri touchdown pass, Bonner just got beaten with the flag route in man coverage. He didn't move at all at the snap (nor did Manning, something I saw several times watching the film) and didn't move until the receiver had passed him to the outside. I have no clue why our DB's were doing that.
  • Logan's second interception was...I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE! The ESPN announcers pointed out that Randall Dunn and Demitri Knowles ran into each other on the play, but so what!? Dunn was running a semi-deep out route and Knowles what appeared to be a post. But that is irrelevant. Thomas didn't see a receiver in the area and threw it anyway, just assuming the receiver would get there. Furthermore, the ball was thrown 10-15 yards too deep and way too high (something Thomas has done often through the first three games), as even the Pitt safety that made the interception had to jump for it, and no one was within ten yards of him. Terrible.
  • The Michael Holmes fumble early in the second quarter...well, it was a fumble. The Pitt defender got off his block and put his hand on the ball and knocked it loose. It was really that simple.
  • Ronny Vandyke had a phenomenal game. He blew up a return on the kickoff team. He had the blocked that sprung Kyshoen Jarrett for the touchdown on the punt return (knocking two Pitt players out of the play), and reading French's film review a week ago on The Key Play, it is clear that he does some things on the defensive side of the ball the JGW isn't physically capable of either. This guy had better start getting some serious time.


  • Thomas' third interception was either a result of overthrowing Corey Fuller on a deep out or underthrowing Dryell Roberts on a deep post. It appears he was throwing to Fuller, as the ball would've also been behind Roberts. At any rate, the third pick is somewhat due to pressure, as three Virginia Tech blockers failed to block the player who got in Thomas' face at the time of the throw.
  • On the Jarrett return, the blocking was perfect, the only thing Jarrett had to do was get outside and then make the punter miss, everything else was taken care of for him. That's a fantastic job by the return team.
  • On the play in the early third quarter where Thomas overthrew Marcus Davis, Davis would've been gone. The ball was just a few yards past Davis' outstretched arm. You can't expect him to make that catch with the ball there. Thomas just has to reign it in a little, something he's struggled with so far.
  • Contrary to what I originally thought, the offensive line was not at fault for Thomas being stopped on the QB plunge on 3rd-and-1 midway through the third quarter. Either Thomas or O'Cainspring was at fault on the play. If the play was designed to have all of the offensive linemen take out the defensive line by diving at their feet (which they did successfully) and then have Thomas try to run around the end, that would be an idiotic playcall on the part of O'Cainspring. If Thomas did it of his own volition, it was a terrible idea, as he would've easily gotten it by going up the middle.
  • On the 4th-and-1 play where Pitt lined up with 10 players in the box, if you're going to run it, you have to do it with Thomas. You can't block 10 guys right on the ball with 8 guys for long enough to get a guy 7 yards behind the football a yard past the line of scrimmage. That's an example of terrible O'Cainspring call.
  • The personal foul call that went against Bruce Taylor was absolute BS. That's the second play I can remember where Taylor was called for a personal foul after the play BEFORE the whistle was blown. The other was against Boise St. in 2010 in which Bruce was called for a late hit as the Boise player had run out of bounds, came back in bounds, continued to run, and yet the whistles didn't blow until Bruce had hit him and was on the way to the ground. Both calls were terrible, but the Boise one was obviously worse, and helped them to win. This one was just big because it kept a Pitt scoring drive alive when the Hokies were down just 11.
  • On the play that really finished it off, Pitt's fourth touchdown, Bruce Taylor, who wasn't paying attention at the time of the snap, started blitzing the backfield even though there was no running back there. Ray Graham came out of the backfield on a wheel route, and by the time Taylor realized and tried to recover, Graham was by him. Sunseri saw him and it was six.
  • Twice the Hokies returners hesitated before coming out of the end zone. Both times the return fell short of the 15-yard line. I know he has suffered injuries several times before on kickoff return, but I would really like to see Dyrell Roberts back there. Without him, you're missing an explosive return man back there, and losing a guy with the experience to say "You know what, this is not one I should try to take out," versus the current crop's "This is how I'm going to get big playing time. I had better take it out." David Wilson was even guilty of that.
  • On the 85-yard touchdown pass from Logan Thomas to Marcus Davis, Thomas went through all his reads and started over again. That was really the best job he did of that all day, and we need to see more of that from him. That will help him get back in 2011 form...if only the line can keep him upright long enough to do that.
  • The long pass late in the third that went from Sunseri to Shanahan for 40 was the result of a blown coverage and missed tackled by Michael Cole. Once Cole's man crossed out of his zone, he took a big step as if he was going to run downfield, but then immediately Shanahan came through his zone. Shanahan was wide open and caught the ball, but Cole recovered to make the hit...but not hold on=big gainer.
  • Antone Exum's interception was truly a beauty, as he jumped the route, dove for the ball and came up with it. His celebration was pretty cool too...even if it was a little Brenden Hill for my tastes given the score.
  • On the J.C. Coleman long loss to start the fourth quarter, Matt Arkema completely whiffed on the block, allowing the defender to get to Coleman as soon as the handoff exchange was made. That has basically been the theme this year: When the offensive line blocks, the running game has success. When they don't, the Hokies look like they did against Pitt.
  • The Hokies were gashed on the Panthers last scoring drive in the run game by missing tackles.
  • The 4th-and-3 conversion by Pitt was an inside out route with a blatant offensive pass interference by Pitt receiver Devin Street that went uncalled. He picked Kyshoen Jarrett by extending his arms as if he were run blocking and running right over the defender. He then continued his route. Donaldven Manning was screened out of the play as a result. That said, it was a GREAT route by Shanahan and a poor throw by Sunseri.
  • On Sunseri's last touchdown pass, Exum was set up inside, and turned in that direction just about when Shanahan made his break to the outside on the flag route by Shanahan. Sunseri lead Shanahan with the pass and there was no making up the difference with such a short field to work with.
  • The hit on Thomas on 3rd-and-3 late in the fourth quarter was ABSOLUTELY a clear-cut late hit. It was a particularly terrible omission as the officials penalized Bruce Taylor for a late hit that wasn't one earlier in the game. They were 0-of-2 in that department. The officials were almost as bad as the Hokies on the day. Almost...
So for a quick recap of what we saw on film: The offensive line has been absolutely terrible, the play-calling has been absolutely terrible, our secondary was absolutely terrible and Logan Thomas was close to absolutely terrible against the Panthers. It's hard to blame the defense as a whole though when the offense turned the ball over four times and lost the possession battle by 17 minutes. It doesn't matter how good your defense is if you ask them to be out there for 17 minutes more than your offense in a game, especially when you're handing them the ball on your doorstep (something Tech has done when turning the ball over this year).

As for my predictions, I was only about 50/50. Tony Gregory and James Gayle were almost non-factors in this one, and Bruce Taylor wasn't his usual self (although he is playing out of position). I definitely hit on saying the Hokies' rushing total would be big, as well as their sacks. Tech was deficient in both totals. Pitt also scored on all of their red zone opportunities as I recall.

It's obvious the Hokies have a lot of work to do to get back in the win column, so stay tuned. We'll have your complete coverage here on Gobbler Country.