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Why does VT take so long to get started in games?

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Some thoughts on Virginia Tech's track record of slow starts.

Michael Shroyer

I was among those who was very crestfallen on Saturday as VT returned to the category of falling flat in big game situations. I think we all can agree that we cannot simply put this only on a young offense. No this was a total team meltdown. But why did this happen? Why at home? Why after a big game? These are questions your average VT fans ask all the time, because this happens all the time. It seems like every year we see VT come out and look sluggish in games they should easily win. So what's the deal?

I can honestly say that every year I come into the season with a careful optimism when it comes to the Hokies. I have to be considering I've been let down so many times this past decade. But the thing that seems to get me the most is slow starts. Why does it take VT getting down a couple of scores to get motivated? Every year we come into a game and we'll see Tech get scored on a couple of times, while the offense looks timid and still trying to find their way. I ask myself, "why can't they come into a game with motivation and start fast?" Much like the Ohio State game where VT scored 14 points in the first quarter. Why can't that happen every game?

Very rarely will you see VT come into a game and IMPOSE their will upon opposing defenses. It especially makes me sick when I watch the Offensive line play and look dead. Saturday ECU's DL came in and pretty much sheered the VT OL like sheep. I wonder when does pride kick in and they finally just take the game back? They let one man (Terry Williams) basically destroy their game plan, when does Tech finally double him and put him on his back a few times? Williams is a good Defensive Lineman, but he's at ECU for a reason. This is almost like the Boise State game of 2010 when the VT OL got outplayed by smaller, less talented players and it took VT falling behind to motivate them. Or better yet, the two games against Clemson in 2011 when Blake DeChristopher was constantly beat by one Clemson defensive end over and over again and Beamer did nothing to either help him or bench him. Where's the fire and the passion that pushes you to be great? Why does it take you falling behind to get motivated?

Now as I said this was a team loss, and the defense was less than impressive as well, OK that's an understatement, they were bad. But you know that this is not the first time this has happened. VT's "D" has also been out motivated in first halves as well. Boise State jumps to mind once again as well as the Kansas game of 2008. It took being down 17-0 for VT to finally make adjustments. Where's the IMPOSING will of Bud Foster's defense? The same thing happened in 2009 against Georgia Tech, why wasn't Foster's team prepared for GT, as they got manhandled for most of the game. Had VT won that game, they would have repeated as ACC champions and they were clearly the best team in the conference that year as Georgia Tech's option game was stuffed by Iowa in the Orange Bowl.

It kills me that the whole week that VT talked about putting Ohio State behind them, staying motivated, and yet VT fell flat. To me it ultimately falls on coaching. Coach Beamer and his staff had seen ECU before and were simply unprepared to match them scheme wise. I don't get it. One thing I don't understand was keeping Faycson on bigger receivers like Cam Worthy. Why didn't Foster put Donovan Riley in the game earlier to match Worthy's size? After they adjusted to this ECU was hard pressed to go back to Worthy for any play for most of the game. Why the slow adjustment? Why didn't VT play more 3-3-5 or 3-2-6 for most of the game to offset the receivers? ECU clearly wanted to throw and throw, and their only run game was Carden, whom you could have put a spy on, so why didn't VT adjust? I would have rather had ECU run against me than pass. It would have frustrated Carden and forced him to take contact on runs. Where was it?

Slow starts kill teams, but VT suffers from it more than anyone else, and this solely falls upon the coaching staff. Very rarely do you see Alabama, LSU, USC, Georiga, Oklahoma, or Florida State start out slow and stoic. Those teams come in with a desire to win. Remember the Sun Bowl from last year? I sure do, Jim Mora jumping and getting his UCLA Bruins ready to go, shoot his whole staff was  getting them pumped for a game. VT just trotted out, looking like the pillars of the War Memorial chapel.

Saturday I thought we'd seen the end of stoic slow starts, but I was wrong. That lack of motivation to start games falls upon a staff who seems to lack fire at times themselves. If you're not ready to play by the time kickoff happens, then why do you take to field, or to quote Herm Edwards, "Why do you play? YOU  PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!" I know VT is better than this, we all do, we've seen what they can do when they come into a game motivated.

The coaches need to do a better job of getting their players adjusted and motivated for games on a consistent basis. If they're being exploited in a match up, they need to adjust quicker, if a group of players is getting beat, motivate them or bench them. You can't be stoic and stubborn in college football, not if you're trying to compete on a national basis. For VT to take the step back into the national spotlight more consistently they must "coach" better.