The inevitable happened this year. No rivalry is worth its reputation if the other side doesn’t win, occasionally. Well, The Wahoos hit that occasion and yeah it’s a sore spot but that spot was going to show up at some point in time. We’ll just have to deal with it, and get the Commonwealth Cup back next season. There are some really important things that we need to take away from the game, though. Trust me, not all are bad, and some of it you might not want to hear. So let’s get started.
The first thing to get out of this is that Virginia is now going to be fed to the Tiger, and not us. Yes, the Coastal Championship would have been nice in many ways, but frankly this Virginia Tech Hokie team is just not completely ready to face Top 10 opposition and come away with a win. The Hoos are currently 29 point underdogs and no matter how miraculous their offense can be, Bryce Perkins versus Clemson’s Defense is not a winning combination. So by Sunday, Virginia will in all probability be one more loss down going into a potential Orange Bowl Bid situation where they could be stacked up against Alabama or Auburn. That would probably be another loss on the books for them. Sometimes circumstances promote a team into a position that they are ill equipped to handle. We aren’t going to be put in that position.
The Big Painful
The second take away is the most obvious and it is also the most difficult to explain without a whiteboard and some graphics. Currently it also has has no obvious answer. Virginia Tech’s offense is stocked with young talent and hopelessly stove-piped. There is a stunning lack of risk taking and it’s happening consistently. We saw it on Saturday when the team needed to drive and score a touchdown, and were successful in challenging the Wahoo secondary. Tech had no answers in the intermediate speed passing game the patterns were too few and developed too slowly. They were also very predictable and too deep to be efficiently executed. I found myself yelling at the TV for Hendon Hooker to get rid of the ball but there were no intermediate routes to go to, and no way for him to get outside of the tackles to dump the ball. Everything seems to be conceptualized too narrowly.
A ‘stovepipe’ is the way that describes the offense’s play distribution and concept. Imagine a clock with an origination point being the 12 o’clock position directly in front of the Center/Quarterback and then ticking off hours; from 1 to 4(behind the line) on the right; and 11 to 8 on the left. The Tech offense seems to be completely blind to the 1:30 to 4:30 and 9:30 to 10:30 passing zones within 20 yards. We do see the occasional deep ball in those zones but almost nothing between 5 and 20 yards. We also rarely see passes under the zone (4-10 yards) between the same arc set. Add to those really puzzling play and pattern distributions, there is the serious problem with the quarterback being isolated in an immobile pocket. There is little effort to get the play out away from obvious blitz zones by rolling the quarterback out and giving him better reads and options.
There is another blind spot set but this time for the running plays. They are almost always aimed at the 11:30-1:30 arc. There are the jet sweeps that are run between 3 and 9 but they often sag to the 4 o’clock or 8 o’clock exchange level.
The two dimensional nature of the offense negates any real aggressiveness that can be sustained during games. The current scheme does not win critical football games. It’s repeated all or nothing gambles on 3rd down and too long. The short lesson is that Virginia Tech’s offense is not taking full advantage of the talent that it has and is not bold enough to win big games.
There is a Win Here
The third takeaway is that we are likely to get a decent final bowl game (for those people who think exhibition bowls are worth playing) that we have a reasonable chance to win. The rumors are still rife for the last Belk Bowl in Charlotte, or the Music City Bowl in Nashville. There are a couple of others being bandied about, but we are the legitimate 3 in the ACC and that means it’s going to depend on that bid for UVA. If they get thoroughly trounced by Clemson, the Orange Bowl bid might get shifted to someone else on some technicality. That would drop the Hoos to the Belk Bowl.. and us somewhere else. That will all be settled by this Sunday. In any event we should have an opponent that more closely matches our capabilities.
Program Changes are in the Offing, Guaranteed
The fourth thing to pocket as we start the closing cycle of the season is that this team has some serious soul searching to be done and coaching decisions to be taken. The program is not generating the revenue necessary to maintaining high level recruits. We keep hearing rumors of Fuente being interviewed for the Arkansas job. There hasn’t been any word on the Defensive Coordinator position except hopeful rumor, and there really needs to be a revamping and upgrading of the Offensive approach, completely.
We were beaten out by Virginia in recruiting this year (face it most of that was because we had exactly 5 players graduating and not a lot of scholarships to offer for 2020) and they exceed our revenues as well. Their chronic bragging about national championships is becoming annoying which we all figured they’d be hooting their tooters about after last basketball season. As I said with our annoying bragging about the Commonwealth Cup, “eventually incessant boasting will be rewarded by having you eat your braggadocio”. The ancient Greeks had the goddess Nemesis who constantly rewarded man’s hubris. We are going to eat crow for a while.
The Game was Close and Not much to Brag About
The fifth and final takeaway is the set of realities that as crippled as it was conceptually and in execution, the offense did score 30 points, and the final 6 for UVA only came because of that sack fumble in the end zone. It was really a three point game. That sort of evens the last 3 point win a bit. We can play all the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” sorts of games, but it’s a waste of space. What happened has happened. Tech has one more game to play and has the opportunity to boost their record by one win. Anyone who said we’d still be going to a bowl and looking at a 9 win season on the 1st of October would have been laughed at heartily.
Meanwhile, UVA can enjoy their win because it’ll probably be the last of the year, and next year their team will be very different, and ours won’t. We still scored 30 against them and had a chance to win right up until the end.