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The Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Furman: A tale of Two Halves and a Path Forward

It's time for a game wrap-up. What happened, how'd we do besides get a much welcomed W? Breaking down the Hokie victory in Lane Stadium. We do the six on six drill. Six good things challenged by Six things that need work. Winning is a good thing, but we must get better.

Hannon goes nowhere... Courtesy of the Hokie D.
Hannon goes nowhere... Courtesy of the Hokie D.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who says that they had complete confidence that the Hokies would put up a 42 to 3 win over the Furman Paladins is either really young, or just such a believer that they've bought several bridges over Strubles Creek for "good" money.   All of us predicted a win, but no one saw a relative blow out.

Game Statistics*


Furman

VT

First Downs

16

30

Total Yards

254

583

Turnovers

3

0

First Downs

16

30

Passes for First

7

11

Rushes for First

8

18

Penalties for First

1

1

Third Down Efficiency

3-15

5-13

Fourth Down Efficiency

2-3

2-2

Total Yards

254

583

Total Plays

67

72

Avg Gain Per Play

3.8

8.1

Net Yards Rushing

136

299

Rushes

41

41

Yards Per Rush

3.3

7.3

Net Yards Passing

118

284

Comp-Att

9-26

19-31

Yards Per Pass

4.5

9.2

Times Sacked

0

0

Yards Lost To Sacks

0

0

Interceptions

2

0

Punts

7

4

Punt Average

0.0

0.0

Penalties

6

11

Penalty Yards

50

115

Fumbles

2

0

Fumbles Lost

1

0

*Final Statistics from Yahoo Sports

The Game Highlights

The Hokies opened the first quarter by winning the toss and electing to defer.  Normally, I find this sort of passive aggressive maneuver an over rationalized decision that lacks real football aggression.  However, in this case, with Brewer out and the Tech offense looking at some serious challenges, it was probably a smart decision.

Furman immediately opened up with Fullback dive play followed by two very heavily pressured incomplete passes, and with a three ‘n out was forced to punt the ball.  Tech's response as every Hokie stopped breathing for a few minutes was to have Brenden Motley run a fairly aggressive pass play.  The right flat and most out patterns flummoxed Motley early in the game, so the first attempt at a 10-15 yard slant out to didn't connect.  Motley ran on second on a read option for 17 but eventually the drive stalled.   Lawson came in for a one play handoff to JC Coleman (after Motley lost his helmet).  And that seemed to be the story of the Offense for almost all of the first half.  The Hokies just struggled to get anything going with any consistency.

And then came the Defense; Andrew Motuapuaka grabs an interception deep in Paladin territory, and ran it in for a touchdown.  The score remained 7-0 as both offenses struggled.  Tech would finally score on Offense after a nicely executed relatively mistake free drive at the end of the first quarter with the touchdown coming from a 4 yard run by Motley.  The remainder of the 2nd quarter was a field position match where neither the Hokies nor the Paladins seem to gain much traction.   Joey Slye did have some accuracy issues at long range, and missed a field goal from 45 with 9 and a half left in the 2nd quarter.

The Defense basically shut down the Paladin offense by the time it reached anywhere close to the red zone.  There was constant pressure on the quarterback, and frankly there was just a huge mismatch and it was obvious.

The second half opened, and so did the Hokie offensive play book.  Instead of the fairly cautious approach seen throughout the 1st half, the opening drive of the 3rd quarter Trevon McMillian gashed the Paladin Defense for a huge 63 yard gain.  The offense ended the drive and the game (in reality) with 4 short plays where Motley ran for 10, and completed a 1 yard pass to Isiah Ford in the end zone for 6.

Tech would go on to score 3 more touchdowns, one in garbage time at the end of the game by Dwayne Lawson.  Both Lawson and Durkin saw some significant snaps in the 4th quarter and both spent most of the time running.  Lawson threw several passes, and showed some arm strength, but his accuracy was a touch off, and his release was still in need of work.  It was good to get him some field time if he's going to be an eligible player this season.  Both he and Durkin (if he stays at QB) will probably see playing time again, and that time might be under more extreme circumstances this season.

This game was a learning experience, and in that spirit, let's look at what we learned good, and not so good.

First let's touch on the good.

  1. We won.  Winning is always good, especially after coming off of a deflating loss like the OSU game.  We lost our field leader, and the confidence that he brought to the field.  Today, the most important thing for Brenden Motley to do was to "not fail".  He needed to make few mistakes.  He had no picks and no fumbles, and he seemed to gain confidence and the plays called became more appropriate for his skill set.
  2. The Defense was very good.  There were several interceptions, a couple of sacks, loads of pressure on the Paladin QB - Hannon, and the inside run was shut down.  Hannon couldn't throw the ball over the zone, and he couldn't hit seams within it.  3 points isn't a shutout, but those 3 were scored at the end of the game against the 2nd and 3rd teams.
  3. Motley finally started to complete some passes.  His out routes and short throws improved over the game, and his confidence definitely improved from the 1st to the 2nd halves.
  4. Our outside running game is surprising, and with Motley and a pleasantly effective Trevon McMillian the Option Read started to work.  It might not all the time this season, but whether it's Motley, Durkin, or Lawson behind the Center, we actually have those pages of the playbook available, and they weren't with Brewer.
  5. There was some decent play calling by Lefty, as he quit being cautious and started trusting his offense.  His first quarter wasn't effective but there were enough bright spots to give him a clue as to what he could or couldn't call.
  6. We had no major injuries.  All of the dings, were just dings, and the players look like they'll be back for Purdue.

The good is nice, but the "not so good" is going to result in some serious extra exercise early Monday morning.  There'll be some late after practice drill work, passing, receiving, route running. Some of it is going to be the sort of work that comes from messing up and drawing flags that hurt the team.

  1. There were too many 15 yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Late hits, mouthing off, whatever.  Free first downs, or "deep sacks" are unacceptable.  Those self-discipline problems must cease.  They are going to hurt us over the season.
  2. There are still too many procedural mistakes being made.  Offside penalties on defense are killers.  Lining up incorrectly, false starts, and holding calls on wide receivers are drive killers.
  3. Brenden Motley has serious difficulty hitting out routes, and we ran no crossing/drag routes in the game.  These are critical for the quick passing game to the Tight Ends and can make the difference in the 2 minute drill.  Some of this is pure timing practice.  It takes repetition and extra work that he just hasn't been given - which is a coaching issue that needs to be solved.  Motley's release can be timed with a calendar, and he spent too much time throwing behind receivers or underneath them.  Most of it is fixable, but should not be an issue at this point in his Tech career.
  4. The receivers, especially Cam Phillips, need pattern read work.  Phillips is chronically under running his routes.  If he's supposed to push out 5 yards and 8 yards the sideline to pick up a 1st down, he misses the read and curls back toward the line of scrimmage and ends up short of the pin.
  5. We are not getting the tight ends into the game enough.  We have two of the best tight ends in FBS football and they are blocking, and running dummy routes.  We also didn't involve Rogers at all, and he's our best multi-purpose back.  For this particular game it wasn't so terrible, but it still wasn't a good idea given Motley's lack of exposure to the 1st team offense.
  6. The Defense was not picking up the speed option.  They didn't successfully stop it enough times to convince me that they can recognize it and adjust on the fly.  If our defense can't dope out surprise options it's going to be a long season. We still don't have linebackers big enough to handle the inside running game, and string out an option.

Overall, it was a good game.  It was more a scrimmage where everyone could buckle up and hit something.  We had a shaky start, and spent too much time making small errors early on.  The score at half time was the real score of the game.  Purdue is going to be a big step up.  To beat them we are going to have to step it up another notch, not be impressed with what looked good, and fix the stuff that needed work.

Boilermakers are next... They aren't the big dogs of the B1G but they are FBS and closer to our level of play at this time.