Saturday was difficult to witness on many levels. The Hokies lost an A.C.C. game for the first time this season. The Hokies appeared to be flat, and uninspired. Chalking this one up as a learning experience, here are my biggest five concerns following the loss.
#1 The defense could not get off the field when it mattered.
The Bud Foster led defense found itself in way too many 3rd and shorts. It didn’t help that Syracuse was 4/5 on 4th downs either. It seemed that the Orange were in favorable down and distance during every series in the second half. One of the biggest misses I saw was the lack of press coverage when Syracuse went 5 wide. When you give receivers a 6 yard cushion on 3rd and 3, bad things are bound to happen. Syracuse put together a back breaking 16 play drive in the fourth quarter that ultimately sealed the game.
#2 Evans never looked comfortable in the pocket.
Syracuse only had 1 sack, but the back side pressure seemed to rattle Evans. Evans never looked poised in the pocket. For the first time all year, it seemed he never had his feet squarely underneath him. There were far too many back foot throws, highlighted by the missed deep ball to Isaiah Ford in the third quarter. Some of it was play calling, some of it was poor line play. Evans only seemed comfortable on the first drive of the second half. The Hokies’ running game looked its best, and Evans had some great play action completions.
#3 Our punting is sub-par, and should be an immediate concern.
Mitchell Ludwig had a tough day in the Carrier Dome. This has been a theme all year. His stat line isn’t awful, 5 punts for a 41.6 average. When the Hokies needed a boomer, however, his short punt offered Syracuse a very good return. To give you a comparison, Syracuse’s Sterling Hofrichter averaged 48.7 yards per boot. The conditions don’t get more optimal than the Carrier Dome. The conditions won’t get easier for Ludwig, with late season games in South Bend, and the home games at Lane.
#4 Our secondary may not be as good as advertised.
The stats don’t lie. #DBU was not looking to sharp on Saturday. Mook Reynolds got beat deep early, and it seemed we were tentative for the rest of the game. Syracuse threw for a mind boggling 405 yards against the Hokies, who before the game were ranked top 20 against the pass in the nation. The Hokies had no answer for the 5 wide sets they faced all days. The Hokies were vulnerable on the quick hitch, and the seam route. Hopefully the “blueprint” on how to beat the Hokies gets solved this week.
#5 Sam Rogers is not our best running back.
The Hokies struggled to get anything going in the rushing game. Jerod Evans was the leading rusher with 61 yards on 11 carries. Travon McMillian only had 9 carries. The identity was lost in this game. The Hokies only managed 161 yards on the ground, and give credit to Syracuse for making the Hokies one dimensional. Outside of the first drive of the second half, the Hokies looked anemic in the ground game. For the Fuente offense to be truly successful, the running game must be sound. The dive play to Sam Rogers clearly doesn’t work. Why we insist on running it 5 times per game is beyond me.