If it had been the blowout win that we were all (well most of us, anyway) expecting; the one that was shaping up in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter and the Tar Heels were driving into Hokie Territory. Yep, that game. This wouldn't be such a difficult article to write up. I would just go over the flow of the plays, note the mild and enjoyable surprise at the tied score in the 3rd quarter. I'd relay the emotions of how the defense was fired up and attacking anyone with a football. I'd have waxed philosophically and maybe even metaphorically over how North Carolina was just too much team, and we just couldn't play more than three quarters without our gassed defense and hard pressed mistake prone offense being pushed off the field. It would have been easy.
I could have written all of that, pasted up the end game stats that never seem to have the punt totals and called it an article. That isn't what this article is though because this game was painful. This loss hurt more than any of the shots that we have taken this season. The Duke game, which was almost as draining but not quite, was a 4OT mess. At least I could do the game recap and feel like I said something that the readers would appreciate; and then call it an evening (or early morning - like 2am for the last game).
This game, however, has just topped my anger meter, pressed my disgust button so hard that I am changing up the format of the recap for just this one article. My ill feelings are not directed at Frank Beamer. For all of the gas that has been blown at him over the last few seasons, (I am one of the last of the converted to his need to retire, my son will attest to that.) Coach Beamer is one of the finest men that will ever grace the sideline of a College or even professional football venue. My recognition of the need for him to retire is borne only from the knowledge that what would follow that announcement was all of the praise, adulation, respect, and recognition that this man, THE Head Hokie, deserves. He cannot be replaced. Someone will coach the Hokies after this season; but following in Frank Beamer's shadow is going to be a daunting task No, my heart soars for Frank and all of the wonderful things that people are doing in recognition of his service to Virginia Tech.
I am not miffed at Coach Bud Foster. This man does more with less than any coach in the game of football. He takes a team with a very good but undersized defensive line, virtually no linebackers, a mass of defensive backs, converted athletes, and small outside line backers and with few exceptions keeps his football team in every game that he coaches. He hasn't performed this miracle just this year. It's happened many years out of the last 20 or so. I have no anger directed at the defense. Not an ounce. With the exception of a couple of mistakes and a boneheaded (over emotional - though I have my secret admiration glances reserved) penalties that cost us 3 points, this was the defense's game. When one guy was struggling two more picked him up. When gashes happened, suddenly they were picked up and stopped. The Hokie Defense lived up to its fearsome reputation today, and held the high powered high scoring Tar Heel offense to 24 points in regulation play, and that's after some offensive mistakes that could have made that score far worse on short field possessions for the Heels.
I cannot beef at Michael Brewer. Yes, he tried to throw two passes that got picked, but they were mistakes of desperation and effort to make up for what would be the bane of the offense for the game. He distinguished himself throughout the game, and especially in the last six minutes.
Sam Rodgers might have had an unfortunate fumble because he was pushing for extra yards and had the ball ripped out by a bigger player. Young Mr. Rogers deserves a look from the people at the next level, but if they don't I bet Sam Rogers is successful at whatever he puts his effort into. There was Bucky, Isaiah and Cam. We didn't see nearly enough of Ryan Malleck, and Travon McMillian left everything on the field this game. These players cannot be ignored, because it was their effort along with the stressed pushed and hammered offensive line that finally turned several game changing turnovers by the defense into two critical touchdowns. Almost all of it was done in the last few minutes to tie the game. That was a 21 point shift in the score. And between the defense and the offense the Hokies were in a position to pull off one of the biggest upsets this year (ok, Sparty just beat Brutus so they'd still have stolen our thunder - but we'd have been the biggest for a couple of hours.)
I bear no grudge with the Hokie fans. I wish I had the opportunity to go to Blacksburg for Frank's last game at home for no other reason than to honor him; but to have a chance to be screaming your lungs out in celebration at the end of a critical drive in the 4th quarter would be priceless. The Hokie 12th man was all of that and more today. Even on the TV you could hear that Lane Stadium was rocking and rolling.
What I am angry and disappointed in is the almost pathetic level of play calling. Why you take all of the wonderful talents and effort that I just mentioned, and wad it up like paper to toss in a can at the side of a table I will never know or understand. Yes, the coaches will say coach things about effort and execution. Sure the players will make defenses of decisions from the booth, and on and on and on. There is just no two-ways about it. The offensive game plan and play calling for yesterday's game was just atrocious. How do you walk into a situation of a known defensive method and consistency - against a coach that you know and have worked with; and call such a disorganized mess?
I am not going to name names. We all know and frankly I don't really care who throws spitballs at me, but when you are presented with two red zone turnover opportunities and one very short field and come away with three stalled three and out confused and ineffective efforts, the problem isn't the players' fault. The problem is with the tools given to the players and when they were given. This team has not been a power running team since the middle 2000's, and even then it was a dicey proposition. It most assuredly is not now, and to call power running plays again and again, expecting some different result is poor. When it is obvious that the opponent's defense is covering your receivers so tightly that your quarterback has no options except run or get sacked (because he's not outside the tackles and can't get there to throw the ball away) to repeatedly call straight drop back passes with patterns that take precious seconds to develop - more seconds than your quarterback has to check them down- then it might be wise to find other plays and formations that allow him to see the field and make completions.
Why do you throw the ball long when there are huge empty zones within 10 to 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, in seams and under the zone coverage? Why do you call obvious running plays instead of taking advantage and executing some play action fakes with quick hitting passes under the zone? Why do you run a standard sweep to the one side for 4 yards, and then follow it up with the same exact play to the other side? Thus wasting two plays in a critical area of the field when a field goal is likely to lose you the football game and you really must score a touchdown? Why with 34 seconds left on the clock, and a timeout in your pocket at the end of regulation do you take a knee at your 35 instead of trying to get three plays in that could possibly get you in field goal range for the win in regulation? Why not try? Why do you do bold innovative things between the 20 yard lines; but when inside the 20 run play after play AT the line of scrimmage, seemingly without any thought to getting downfield to score touchdowns?
I have so many questions. I know they are rhetorical because for one, no one official will answer, and two, no one will care in January. It'll all be moot.
So, Frank my absolute last request of you. When the buses leave for Hooville, next Saturday, at 8:00 AM, please tell certain people that the team is leaving at 9:00. Brewer is going to be a really good coach one day. Let him call his own plays on the field, I bet you a burger and rings at Mike's that he'd be way better at it. And that's all I have to say about that.
Next week all the Hoos up in Hooville will be crying Boo Hoo Hoo...
*h/t to Joe Piscapo