All of the old Hokies being visited by the curse of Donovan McNabb are still searching for whatever was in their hands about 20 seconds after Syracuse drove the field chopping away with QB runs and passes underneath the zone, converting 4th downs, and ignoring their punter. That stuff in old Gobbler hands had sailed into the night in frustration and disappointment because we all knew that this COULD happen, and because it COULD it would.
Yes lots of us read up on the stats, the wise guys’ spreads, and the dreams of challenging Clemson for the ACC Championship. Dreams are just thoughts, sometimes they are happy lovely imaginings, and sometimes they are frightening nightmares, but more often than not they are confusing weird subconscious mulling over “stuff” that happens. I guess we were having those happy lovely dreams, instead of recognizing the jumbled flashes for what they were.
There isn’t a tremendously big reason to dope out the play by play of the game. It would just invite more tooth gnashing frustration with the entirety of the game. From the opening kickoff, to the Orange quick decisive score, and our tepid three and out answer, everyone who really digs into the story of a football team could see the writing on the wall. One more deep TD gadget play and Dino Babers had Bud Foster’s main fear, and proceeded to get Bud to beat himself to death with it.
We never succeeded in consistently covering the quick developing routes under the zone for 5-10 yards. We never really put much useful pressure on Eric Dungey, and he even killed us with a knee brace on because he was operating on a bad wheel for more than half the game. Bud has never figured out to do with a quick developing mostly pass, running QB offense, and all of our opponents from here on out will take serious note.
There are lots of theories as to why we lost and each of them has a place at the table so let’s see what they are and how they relate to this brutally disappointing team loss:
Team: There was no energy, at all. All three squads seemed like they were running through knee deep water. Reaction was slow, and everything looked like it took far more effort than it should have.
Team: No real emotion was registered. There was no adrenaline pumping much of anywhere that it was channeled into useful directions. Evans managed a few bad overthrows, and a poor choice for his 2nd interception perhaps due to some nervousness and the tunnel vision that anxiety causes, but that about rolled out the entire carpet of the team’s emotions.
Offense: The execution was just not there. Snaps were routinely high, audibles and reads took too long and often were the wrong choices.
Offense: We tried to run the wrong plays with the wrong personnel from the wrong formations. We all love us some Sam Rogers, but Sam is really an H-Back and an impressive presence on the field when he can do H-Back things like wheel routes out of the back field, seam splitting 10 yard strikes for first downs, great lead blocking for the tailbacks. Sam is not an every down halfback, and he certainly isn’t a back for getting more than 2 or 3 yards on a dive play. Opening an offensive series with a “tanked” dive play is either a really bad audible that needs to be corrected, or it’s just a horrid call from a bad game plan.
Offense: Offensive line was bad, Saturday. There is just nothing more that can really be said. They couldn’t drive block for the plays called against a supposedly inexperienced and mediocre defensive line. They weren’t effective at getting that extra second or two so Evans could make quality throws, and they really just looked completely gassed by the middle of the 3rd Quarter. After we scored the tying touchdown, the entire squad just seemed to fall into a defensive crouch position as the Syracuse defense pounded on them.
Defense: The defensive line got no real natural pressure on Eric Dungey and when it did he broke contain and made plays downfield by either running the ball or finding an open receiver when it seemed everyone on the defense had suddenly stopped playing.
Defense: No coverage under the zone. We know both Edmunds and Motuapuaka can cover passes, and they are quite good at disrupting things, even getting some pick-offs, but they were playing so far back and so late getting to the hot read because they were out of position, that there was no chance to put a dent in the Syracuse short passing game. The drive that slammed the lid shut, followed by the nailed down lid on their fourth TDs were prime examples. We had no answer for that offense… none.
Defense: Where were the defensive backs? The Syracuse long passes just stymied the entire defensive scheme. The Hokies just could never work up the nerve to pull enough pass stopping talent down closer to the ten yard area under the zone, that the Orange were able to chop off 5 to 8 yards at a time through the air.
Coaching: There are no real excuses for this game. The team was not prepared to play it, whether it was the dome environment, the lack of any moral support (not a Hokie to be seen – couldn’t we even get a Pep band and a few frats to show up?), or the reality of the Dino Babers offense. The coaches weren’t prepared, themselves, and the players certainly weren’t ready. If there were adjustments made in the halftime period, nothing showed up on the field.
Coaching: The play calling was terrible, from the game plan right down to the individual plays called. It seemed that we planned for Team A, and Team B showed up. When adjustments don’t work, and even make things worse, it’s obvious that the game plan was also wrong from the start.
Like I said, earlier, this was a full team loss. Everyone is wearing stink this Sunday morning. The ranking will be gone by Sunday afternoon, and maybe then we can get down to the reality that we are a team that cannot coast with what we think are easy opponents; and we certainly cannot come to the table with inappropriate game plans.
This was a Decisive Game. Win it and we owned our own destiny. Lose it and we go back to mediocre looking to save a season for a dopey exhibition booger bowl. Well, I was just a little bit wrong on that score, because we still have our destiny in our own hands. Miami dropped their game to UNC and that makes Thursday Night the make or break for the Costal Division. Beat Miami and we have a
Coastal Division Championship in our grasp (not guaranteed; just possible). Lose, and well, we look to get some measure of health and achievement felt by working to get over .500 for the regular season.
Folks, we were beaten on Saturday. Syracuse did everything to win, and we did nearly everything to lose. The facts are that we beat ourselves. Don’t blame the Officials, because they were horrible all the way around, and I know that someone probably has the number of bad calls/no calls in some spreadsheet somewhere and it shows we got jobbed more and in more critical times than they did, but that all is a nothingburger. We lost, that’s it.
It’s on to the next game! BEAT MIAMI!!!!
One Game. One Team. Right Now.