Here's what the staff have to say about the game versus Alabama:
What I learned from the Alabama game: When all is said and done at the end of this season--preferably sometime in January--I think we'll be very happy with Jeff Grimes' first season. I know the Alabama game is an incredibly small sample size, but it certainly showed a lot of bright spots. The blocking on Edmunds' run was outstanding and the fact that Logan Thomas was only (technically) sacked once was a welcome sight against a tough Alabama defense. The thing that I liked the most, however, was that I rarely saw a lineman standing alone looking for someone to block. I can't say that's true on every play of the game, but more often than not I saw every lineman engaged in a block which is a stark contrast from the daydreaming lineman of olden days. As for the defensive line, they were a revelation. It seemed as each player had a renewed fire, the chip was back on the shoulder. I think they will be a force all season long and make up for any inexperience among the linebackers and defensive backs--which may not be all that much any way.
Chris Hatcher (Chicagomaroon)
I would venture to say the team is unhappy with how they played against Alabama, given that, if they had just played a little more sound on special teams and hadn't had some serious (though repetitious) gaffes on the offensive side of the ball, they would've made this a real game and we might even be talking about a 1-0 squad coming off the biggest win in program history right now. But that aside, I think there were some serious positives. I knew by the way that they won it, no one for Alabama was happy with the way they won it. Not the players. Not the coaches. Not the fans. And that was confirmed with everything we've heard over the past couple of days. Basically, while we're disappointed, I would say the tenor of the two teams reflects the opposite result (i.e. Bama is a pretty sultry 1-0 and the Hokies are a fairly content 0-1 all things considered).
While there are some big issues going forward, particularly special teams and wide receiver, I think the coaches have already made some corrections to ensure that's a thing of the past. Time will tell if they work or not, but it's tough to come out of that game not thinking the Hokies should be at least competitive in every game they play this year if healthy.
My reaction from this game is somewhat mixed. On the one hand, the Hokies did get beaten by 25 points. I know plenty of fans are using hypothetical scenarios to make the game appear closer, such as, "Well if we just made a tackle on a kick return" or, "Well if we didn't have players hurt on this play." The fact of the matter is that all of those things either happened or didn't happen, for good or for bad. No hypothetical is going to reverse a 25 point loss. Normally it's hard to find positives from a loss like that.
Except in this case, that is. I can definitely point out positives from this game, and I don't have to look very hard for them either. The defense was outstanding and exceeded expectations in every facet. The long touchdown pass was given up when Jarrett was out with an injury. Kyle Fuller was banged up for a brief time. And despite all of the Hokies' offensive woes, they still out-gained the Crimson Tide in terms of yardage. That's a true testament to the work done by this defense. Oh, and this is all before Exum returns to the lineup in a few weeks.
Next, I have to point out the offensive line for their great job as a group. I was expecting this group to get absolutely manhandled against the number one statistical defense from last year. What happened was almost the opposite. True freshman Johnathan McLaughlin more than held his own at left tackle and rarely got beaten hard off the line. Outside of an early reverse pancake on Andrew Miller, he was stout at right guard after moving from center. And David Wang performed admirably in his first game at center after moving inside from guard. Moreover, there was good aggression and leverage in the run game, which helped spark Trey Edmunds' 77-yard touchdown run. If this group can handle Alabama, they should be able to handle most every team on the rest of their schedule.
Lastly, I have to talk about Trey Edmunds and the job he did. Not only did he have the 77-yard touchdown that I just alluded to, but he also became just the third player in five years to rush for over 100 yards against Alabama. It's worth mentioning that he did that in the first half. He put on a heck of a show as a redshirt freshman and I expect him to only get better as the season progresses. JC Coleman coming back will give the defense another player to have to react to, and this should open up the middle for Edmunds to rumble his way through as defenders respect Coleman's ability to bounce the ball outside.
The offense and special teams obviously need to get better, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Frank Beamer said all of these problems are fixable, and he's correct. There's a lot that this team can build off of and I expect them to do just that.
Aside from what I have already said in my column after the game, I am very encouraged by what I saw from the team. Yeah, it would had been nice for a win, but give the offense and defense credit. They went into the game where everybody expected a beat down, and instead had Alabama fans paying all kind compliments about Bud Foster's defense, and assuring us fans that the offense will be fine. The most ugly aspect of the game, aside from the dropped passes, were delay of the game penalties, two committed by the punt team, if I remember right. However, most of the mistakes committed in the game are fixable, so it's not the end of the world as some of the fans are making it out to be.
It will be interesting to see how Loeffler plans to utilize running backs like J.C. Coleman and converted wide receiver Joel Caleb, especially since Loeffler has unveiled the triple-option attack. It will be interesting to see who will replace Ryan Malleck, who Beamer said was in line to be a huge part of the offense.
The defense was stout as expected, but the biggest surprise was how well the offensive line held up against a defense that returned nine starters, and given that Grimes named the starting five only a week before the game were just as impressive. I think that nobody was really surprised at Trey Edmunds, but it was enough to give us hope that we finally have a featured tailback who can be depended on for the tough yards. Seriously, how many Alabama players did it take to bring that dude down? It seem to take all eleven players.
All in all, I think we may have a fully competent offensive game plan that highlights areas of strength and masks some weakness. If the offensive line continues to jell and grow, I think they will be scary good when we hit the November slate.
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