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Virginia Tech Hokies at the End of Three Quarters of the 2018 Season

This is it, folks. Crunch time. We need to go 2-0 to nab a booger. Before we start into the run up to the last two games, where the heck are we? What happened? Why are we in this shape? This season has been one for the record books, that’s for sure.

Tech’s new linebacker warms up before the BC Game
John Schneider - SB Nation

Wednesday’s are usually our “wrap” days for the prior game’s effort. The Veteran’s Day Holiday and the results of the last game sure put a damper on all of that. Well, traveling, work, and errands took away some time, too, but realistically we hashed a whole bunch out of the last game with the Facebook Live.

There are basic requirements, however. We also have an entire promising basketball season starting for both the Men’s and Women’s programs. Football does have to wrap up, and that’s going to be the issue for the next two weeks. It’s hard to believe that we only have two games left in the season that feels like it just started a scant few weeks ago.

We don’t want to risk pounding on equine carcasses but there are a few things that we need to review, quickly before addressing the final push for anything good to happen. There are three factors that we must account for before we actually look at the prospects of the final two contests (and the glowing hope of a third). Tech’s personnel situation went from thin, to precarious, and then straight into the dumper very quickly. The coaching staff seemed overwhelmed and nonplussed by repeated challenges to performance and scheduling malfunctions. The injuries have drained the energy and life out of a team with few upper class leaders resulting in on-field structural and discipline problems.

First, as we have said repeatedly, this team has dropped into the rock bottom of the program “##it Happens” event stream. It’s been one blow after another starting with the announcement of critical underclassmen heading for the NFL draft, and ending with the loss of a critical coach over an issue with which many of the players have little emotional connection. The new coaching situation was not ideal on the defensive side of the ball, though Tyrone Nix looks like he’s going to add good things to the program. It’s just difficult to get over the shock of having to find him and fit him into the staff. The need just created one of those ripples in a seriously weakened defensive personnel structure. I suspect that the 2018-1019 off-season will see some coach shuffling and maybe a new face or two. The rock bottom personnel situation, especially on the defensive side of the ball will be a priority.

Second, that event stream seemed to fuel a negative feedback loop when it came to coaching innovation and adjustment. What we saw was often retreat and retrenchment instead of aggressiveness and urgency as the situation began to degrade after the hurricane cancellation of the ECU game. Yes, in my humble opinion, this entire season hinged on that game cancellation. That game was a necessary next step up that was both a confidence and consistency builder. It set the stage for the mistakes in handling the ODU trip, and we all know that the “Fiasco in Norfolk” was the hard push that shoved the team off the ledge. After that, the coaching staff never seemed to get a rhythm and flow together. The hardest hit was the loss of Josh Jackson. It completely destroyed the long term strategic game planning on offense, and it also wrecked the offensive coaching staff’s confidence in the offense in general. That’s the coaching “failure” that many impatient fans are hollering about. (This is my opinion, again.)

The offensive coaching staff, and to some degree Fuente, himself, just never seemed to have trust in the offense. Flashes of excellence were often followed by nearly timid play calling. The offense could drive the ball 95 yards in 6 minutes to win the UNC game. At other times after promising opening efforts it was totally throttled back to near idle in what looked to be a lack of confidence (aka the Notre Dame game). This repeated itself for every game this season. It was almost like the coaches were suddenly noticing that they were halfway out on a narrow bridge over a canyon, and shutting down in a panic to creep nervously back to the starting point, on all fours.

The cure for a shaky defense is to run as high a powered offense as you can, not shutting down that offense with pointless low yield plays and punting to put the shaky defense back on the field. That’s where the negative feedback loop just consumed the team’s leadership. And yes it finally ended up with press conferences where the questions never really pushed the coaching staff to make sounds beyond Charlie Brown’s teacher. Is that what has shaken the Hokie Nation confidence in Coach Fuente’s leadership? Instead of urgency and energy, we hear coach talk, and blame shifting to execution deficiencies. No one has asked the pointed question regarding the execution of what. Since, more often than not, the plays called were nearly unexplainable. Personally, I wouldn’t expect a straight answer, either, so it would be a waste of breath.

Third and finally, the personnel losses have been really painful, but the injuries have been disastrous. As earnest and as effectively has he has played, Ryan Willis was the 2nd string QB at the beginning of the season, for a reason. I am not privy to why, because objectively Willis is a much better quarterback than Josh Jackson. (My opinion, again) However, the coaching staff seemed to have more of a belief that Jackson was the better choice to lead the team. The broken leg was unfortunate and obviously very painful. It was also painful to the offensive scheme. Cornelsen has really never adjusted to Willis’s style and capabilities. That has been the most unfortunate and frankly frustrating part of this season. JJ’s playbook needed to be filed in the burn bag. There should have been some serious midnight oil burned to come up with a season long approach to maximize the offensive capabilities given the realities on the ground.

The defense just never recovered from the post season losses, and it certainly wasn’t helped by the chronic behavioral issues that plagued it. Right now, with the exception of four players, the entire defense that will take the field for the final two games will be freshmen and sophomores. We can only hope that Vinny Mihota continues to get his feet up underneath him, and that Ricky can stay up on his. The defensive line and linebackers have both been hammered by injuries. Jerrod Hewitt may or may not play. Will Emmanuel Belmar, Rayshard Ashby, and Dylan Rivers play? No amount of miracle coaching is going to make up for this sort of attrition, it just isn’t.

So, that’s where the Hokies stand as the final two games loom. There are rumors that the athletic department is still looking to sign a mid-major FBS program to play on the first weekend in December. There have been floaters about Southern Mississippi, and also Liberty (I would tend to think that the Flames might be more amenable with them only be two hours up the road and covered by the same TV market). I hope that something is being arranged, because this team might split the next two, but its chances of winning both are pretty diminished. That’s if the coaching staff and the athletic department are really, truly concerned about the two streaks at stake. Most year’s I would be positive that the staff and team would be champing at the bit to get another game in, and a chance to improve the record to bowl eligibility and maybe end the regular season above .500. This season, I am not so sure.

Time for you to check in with that.


Should the Athletic Department try to Schedule a team like Liberty to try for a bowl?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    No, it’s over. Just take whatever the last two games give us, if we win both then good, if not let’s go home for the holidays and get ready for next season.
    (34 votes)
  • 16%
    No, it would be a total waste of time and effort if we can’t win the final 2 for a bowl we don’t deserve one.
    (37 votes)
  • 40%
    Yes! The bowl streak must live! That’s at least something to play for. Some redemption after the disaster.
    (93 votes)
  • 27%
    I don’t care. All that I care about is beating the danged Wahoos. That’s our level of redemption for this disastrous season.
    (63 votes)
227 votes total Vote Now

Ramp up to the must win Miami game coming.