In the last article, we talked about the Offense and the current record. After the bunk that I have heard about the Miami game for the last three days it's time to visit with the defense. At the 3/4 mark, the Hokie Defense remains one of the best in college football. I looked at our predictions, and Bud Foster's crew performed well for the Miami game. Outside of the two single scoring long burst runs, The first was a clean miss by Ricky Walker who had no one in the middle on the 2nd level to back him up - everyone bailed. The second was the deflated tentative coverage that happened when Reggie Floyd was unjustly called for a personal foul for daring to tackle a running QB, hard and cleanly when ball had been handed off and there wasn't enough time to "miss". If Floyd hadn't been penalized for daring to be a Hokie, that drive was stopped. The free 15 and automatic first down took the air out of the defense on that series. It was a horrible, unjust, and game effecting call that the Conference needs to address. So, short of those two long runs the Hokie run defense was not only competent but fundamentally sound.
Of course you pay for those break downs, but in looking at what I expected Miami to score, I only missed by 5 points. A bruising offense like Miami's is going to get its chances at crossing the goal line. The defense kept the game within reach of a normal offensive effort. Other impressions are just that, impressions based on the emotion of losing a pivotal game to a rival. There are some things that need to be cleaned up, but the #LPD is still good at stopping the run, especially at the level of competition that we are about to encounter for the next three games.
The pass defense was good (no, not perfect, but 3 picks is nothing to sneeze at). Yes, sure, Miami's Malik Rosier got the ball to Berrios (who needed tighter coverage close to the line, Alexander was giving him too big a buffer to close) in a couple of critical situations. But one of Miami's scoring drives was aided 30 yards and critical first downs of penalties called on Adonis Alexander. One of those flags... well yes, but it was more of holding than Pass Interference, and given the two way hand fighting is one of those situations where the official should have put the flag away; especially because both balls were completely unreachable by the receiver. The second of those flags was pure nonsense and seemed more vindictive than corrective. Those penalties didn't win the game for Miami, but they sure took the wind out of some critical defensive stands. The one thing that no one is allowed to argue with, in my book, is the three interceptions grabbed by Adonis Alexander, Greg Stroman, and Reggie Floyd. They were wasted opportunities that cannot be held against the defense.
There will be some whining about the pass rush, but that's unmerited. There was no pass rush "per se" because it looked very much like Foster was using the defensive line to contain Rosier as best as they could. Instead of committing to high risk sacks the defensive line looked like they were rushing in lanes and maintaining them through the play. Both Settle and Walker feed off each other, and their pressure cause Rosier no amount of grief. The gold was when the pressure and containment caused the Miami quarterback to take poor decisions with the ball, or throw it away.
Before everyone who has a beef with the D gets all huffy and telling me that I am full of it, please spend 30 minutes looking at the “Box Score” from Hokie Sports. I had to look at it twice, because what it told me is exactly the opposite of what people have been whining about. The defense played its heart out, and the 28th point was a garbage time touchdown that the offense almost covered but just couldn’t turn the corner on. We actually held the ball a touch longer than Miami, 32:57-27:03, and had one more first down. It was the flash one play anomalies that killed us.
What we struggled with, again, was containing Rosier on broken plays, option runs, and QB keepers. With no key of the quarterback, Rosier was nearly always free to read the crash on the running back, pull the ball, and take off. His primary read that killed us the most was the Linebacker bail to the outside. He waited until Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds split East and West to go into coverage or chase the fake. That allowed Rosier to pick a crease in the front edge of the pocket and get the ball to the 2nd level. That happened too many times, and the adjustment was just never made. Rosier is not that good a passer, and the standard play and formation should have been...
Man up on Berrios, tight - hit him hard of the line, disrupt his route timing from the snap. Rotate between Alexander and Floyd on that job. The Rover should have been a Whip all evening to help Uncle Drew with run and short pass coverage, and Tremaine Edmunds needed to reach out and touch Malik Rosier on every single play. If Tremaine needed a break then the adjustment should have been to get Floyd to key Rosier and pull Terrell Edmunds up to hit and cover Braxton Berrios. No receivers should have been given much cushion at all. As it was Berrios was excellent and I didn't expect to keep him under wraps for the entire game.
There were some missed opportunities and some painfully blown coverage, but for the amount of time that the Hokie Defense had to stay on the field, they were manful and kept the game within reach. The complaints need to stop; the Defense didn't lose the football game. They were gassed by the middle of the 3rd quarter, though. The fourth quarter was difficult because Miami kept hammering at the offense, and that kept the D on the field throughout the entire game.
There is nothing, at all, for the Defense to be hanging their heads about. They left it all on the field in Miami Gardens, and their next challenge is going to be the hurting and angry Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd in Atlanta. Georgia Tech hasn't been passing very well this season, at all so that Paul Johnson ambush seam pass is going to bear its ugly teeth. The Defense is going to be challenged to penetrate, stop the dive, and stretch the sweep and pitch to the sideline, close to the line of scrimmage. They can't turn corners.
Of course, the Offense is going to have to actually score points this week. Playing the option is often trading a field goal for a touchdown. Tech's defense needs to think about actual stops this time.