Whew!!! I am tired. I think that I managed about four and a half hours of sleep this morning, before heading off to work in the real world. I sort of didn’t want to head to the real world; just bask in the glow of something special that happened last evening. It’ll be a game for the Hokie record books, that’s for sure.
When Joshua and I were reviewing the game, just before he started his Facebook Live session, I told him that in my 59 years on this planet (54 of them being a football fan) I have never seen a better defensive performance. Now, there might have been, remember, I have never seen a better effort. Joshua brought up the first OSU game, and I will grant that in the world of Hokie Nation, that performance was amazing; but this one was different. That team was loaded with experienced talent, and even though it would find itself struggling later in the season, that evening was very special. What was so different about September 3, 2018 for the Hokies was that Bud Foster fielded and coached a near perfect defense of mostly academic sophomores in the defensive backfield, and quite a few true freshmen to go with them. I didn’t see any prognosticators who got the call right. The Virginia Tech Defense, our beloved #LPD lugging, blue collar, inexperienced squad completely throttled the Gulf Coast Offense of Willie Taggart.
They did it through a combination of attention to detail, understanding the opponent’s methods, and above all execution.
On the Line, Ricky Walker and Jerrod Hewitt were routinely blowing up plays 2 to 3 yards into the backfield. If it wasn’t one, it was the other, and often both. Emmanuel Belmar showed up big, like we thought that he would in the spring. Houshun Gaines nabbed 4 tackles and a fumble. Trevon Hill looks like he started the game in the coaches’ penalty box, but totally redeemed himself by dominating the edge, disrupting the offense’s rhythm – that was 4 tackles 3 for losses 2 of which were sacks. He also broke up a pass.
Sophomore Mike Linebacker Rayshard Ashby was all over the place, flying to the ball, and nabbing 7 tackles which included 2 of the 14 tackles for loss for the team. He got credit for a forced fumble. His co-mayhem maker in the mid field, Dylan Rivers was doing the same thing also grabbing 7 tackles.
The men of the real #DBU were nothing short of amazing. Reggie Floyd didn’t get any picks. But he more than made up for it with 9 solo tackles 2 of which were for losses. Kahlil Ladler grabbed 2 tackles (1 TFL) and a pass breakup. Then there were the corners, and something special happened with them. Bryce Watts grabbed 6 solo tackles, the biggest of which was running down the FSU breakaway 85 yard oops, and cleaning it up before it got to the end zone. Someone might actually notice that one at some time in the future. Finally there was a really special something in the air for Caleb Farley. Caleb spent most of his time in coverage; he nabbed two tackles, one of which was a sack. What was even more important though was that he grabbed two critical interceptions. The first came over the top on a deep seam as he put on a burst of speed to cut off the receiver and pick off the ball. The second, he took advantage of a sort of inversion that allowed him to ball hawk as he grabbed the deep pass before it even got within the receiver’s grasp.
To paraphrase a line from Monty Python; There will be much griping. GOAN… Frankly, I wasn’t expecting a ton from the offense, and in my next analytical I’ll go over what I am seeing, but one game is not a good sample to measure. I want to see the lower pressure W&M, ECU, and ODU series to see if the tendencies that I saw last evening were just butterflies and newness.
The first drive was a total stroke of genius. Get off the mark, drive the ball down the field with a balance of runs and passes, and then get the ball into the end zone for a full 6 plus a PAT. It looked smooth, well-paced, and was highlighted by a terrific running series by Deshawn McClease. Then the offense went into “weird” mode. The failure to score a Touchdown on the extreme short field after the first FSU fumble was annoying. I call those -4’s for a reason. You are inexcusably leaving four points on the field because the offense is out of whack from play calling to execution.
This isn’t a diatribe to moan on about Josh Jackson or the like, but it is an article that deserves attention when we get better evidence. Suffice it to say that the offense was good enough to get the job done. We saw some really nice things, and a surprise. Christian Darrisaw started and played most of the game at Left Tackle. The interior of the line actually blocked pretty well. Braxton Pfaff had a few issues here and there but nothing much negative happened.
The play calling was, again, sort of inscrutable, intractable, unimaginative, or all of the above. I like trusting the defense with going for the touchdown on 4th and a yard. I don’t like it when the play called is inappropriate for the formation, and completely ignores the wide side of the field, and misdirection.
Standouts for the offense include Eric Kumah, who has now proven that if he thinks that he’s a tank, he is one. His 12 total points were critical in the game. Unsung and underappreciated tight ends Chris Cunningham and Dalton Keene were delivering critical blocks, and Cunningham nabbed a really nifty 1st down short pass with impressive yards after the catch. It’s impossible to forget that Deshawn McClease put up some serious quality yardage for the Hokies last evening. We had a run game that could balance things out, for a change. The line was much better than in past seasons but still needs some work. The snap errors went from not horrible to almost disaster. But nothing caused panic, especially in the most important offensive players to have calm and in control. Josh Jackson was solid. He made no mistakes, and made no poor decisions. Damon Hazelton and Eric Kumah (again) are going to be awesome primary receivers, but they aren’t the only guys catching. Sean Savoy, and Tre Turner made good appearances, and we saw what can happen when your wide outs are fast AND 6’2”.
The Special Teams
We do want to mention Beamer Ball. You see, the new coaching staff decided that instead of casting away old things, they’d just polish them up and make them new again. Special Teams absolutely shined on September 3. First was the decisive blocked punt for a touchdown that was engineered by Chris Cunningham and Eric Kumah. That touchdown actually got Coach Fuente running down the sideline and celebrating.
Finally, we do have to mention a Special Teams player who has become a primary defensive weapon. Oscar Bradburn is one of a complement of Australian Rules Football Players who have made the trek half way around the Earth, and north of the equator to try their “feet” at American Football. Folks, we have an amazing talent on our hands. Oscar Bradburn consistently kept FSU inside their 25 yard line, and often inside their 10. Oscar managed 9 punts, for a solid inch or so short of 40 yards. Some people would look at that and not be impressed. How about the fact that out of those 9 attempts there were 8 total fair catches and one Aussie Football Mark where a Hokie caught the ball in the air to down it inside the 10? That’s amazing. Every time the Hokies needed to push the ‘Noles back into poor field position, Oscar obliged. That’s a capability that will pay off in the future, and he’s teaching Jordan Stout to do the same thing. Beamerball is about excellence on Special Teams that can make a difference in a football game. The Seminoles got a double dose of it on September 3, 2018.
There were some dominant performances, but it seems like most of the roster got on the field and did something solid. There where many standouts, almost too many to mention. This was a team win and we are so proud of them.
So, there is much to go over and ponder, but no Hokie will complain, today. Tomorrow we start getting ready for the Tribe to visit Lane Stadium. We’ll have something new in our coverage to share.