If you are looking for much joy in Mudville, you are looking at the wrong place. Though we are suddenly feeling a bit better because the Commonwealth Cup is back in the case at Merriman Hall, we are still teetering on the brink of an uncomfortable fan rebellion of sorts.
Let us jump over the immediate post season controversies and concentrate, just a bit, on Saturday evening’s effort by the football team. This isn’t going to be a strict grade evaluation, it’s going to be more of a review of the good and the problematic from the contest, by team, squad, and then individuals.
The Team – Won and Blew Past the Point Spread
Tech managed to generate 33 points. The offense moved the ball on the ground very effectively. It also managed a decent passing game that kept certain drives alive. In fact, starting Quarterback Braxton Burmeister ended up with PFF’s highest grade for a QB over the weekend. Khalil Herbert and Jalen Holston both had excellent efforts, and even Tre Turner got into the act with a jet sweep touchdown from the 6.
The Team was focused, excited to be there, and in control of its emotions as the UVA players began to get chippy and upped the ‘extra-curricular’ activities beyond the normal good sportsman rivalry level. There were some serious opportunities for the loss of control, and the Hokies managed to keep it between the whistles.
Once again there were some mistakes made that generated penalties which either extended opposition drives, or killed our own. There was a good in there, in that those mistakes were more quickly corrected, and further issues avoided. All in all, the discipline penalty level was down significantly.
Defense Stepped Up in a Very Big Way
The defensive play calling was mostly very good. The Wahoo offense was kept off balance. Brennan Armstrong wasn’t effective running the ball, and had difficulty with his passing attack on most situations. The secondary allowed no truly deep breaking explosive plays, and on the scoring drives had the long-term patience enough to not allow UVA to burn the clock when the Tech offense was reasonably effective and capable of scoring points in response.
The Defense’s performance is actually pretty remarkable considering the names and positions of the players who did not make the game day roster. Most of the bigger names were critical defensive backs. Justin Hamilton mixed up the coverages, and maximized his spread of talent by effectively mixing new players with experienced personnel. There was no fear of blitzing and Hamilton dialed up some interesting pressures that seemed to trouble Armstrong. In addition to that the Defensive line managed to keep the Quarterback runs and scrambles contained within a zone behind the line of scrimmage.
There were several Defensive career games produced. Jerrod Hewitt, Amare Barno, Divine Deablo (all over the place with timely tackles and pass coverage – 1 pick), Chamarri Conner (looked like assigned to make Billy Kemp miserable, and did so all game), and Dax Hollifield had good games. There was no dominant tackler or defender, though. It was a total team effort and the success in limiting a high-powered offense to 2 touchdowns and a red zone stop failed field goal attempt is not trivial.
The Offense Scored Far Fewer Points Than was Possible
The offensive play calling was extremely limited and relatively easy to diagnose. The high quality of the offensive line and running back situation (all three players involved were threats) obviated some of the negative aspects of the stilted offensive package. However, the reality remains that the passing offense has no realistic 5-to-12-yard pass pattern conceptualization. Too often passing routes are too deep to be a high enough percentage to depend on, or too short of the line to gain to be effective. In addition, the ‘fade’ style pass is a low percentage gamble. There still was too much dependence on slow developing plays, especially as the team approached the red zone. As the field compresses, it is necessary to isolate and attack down field routes aggressively. The effects of a lack of intermediate route concepts are directly related to repeated red zone stalls and the resulting loss of points per score. At least some of the four field goals could have been pushed into the end zone with better play selection and field use.
The stars of this limited approach are still worth noting. The offensive line did a superior job, and by the 2nd half of the game was tearing gaping holes in the Wahoo defense. The running totals for both Herbert and Holston are significant, but even Braxton Burmeister was gaining significant yardage when needed. In addition to that, there were exactly ZERO sacks registered against Tech by the Wahoos. No one is going to complain about that level of Offensive line production.
Burmeister performed well. He made his presence known, and managed enough of a school yard response to get some significant plays off, including that beautiful touchdown catch and run to Tayvion Robinson that basically broke open the game.
Tayvion, who led in receptions with 5 for 98 yards and a TD, James Mitchell who nabbed an incredible 1 hander down the sidelines that resulted in points, and Tre Turner who also managed a TD on the ground, were all serious contributors in the air. It was the running effort that truly dominated the for the Hokie O. Khalil Herbert roared past 160 yards with only four yards lost; he netted 162. Jalen Holston made some significant contributions and ended the game with a 4.1-yard average and a net of 58 yards. Overall, the offensive effort transcended the pedestrian game plan and play calling.
Special Teams was Almost Perfect… Almost
We won’t hammer James Mitchell too hard, he’s not a punt returner by long term training, and the muffed punt ended up with a stalled effort and missed field goal by the Wahoos; but it’s pretty plain that Mitchell was angry with himself and embarrassed. The punt was a poor one, and moving back up field – James would have been better off just leaving the ball to back up on its own. Other than that, Brian Johnson was absolutely perfect. Freshman Peter Moore put up 3 punts with one going inside the 20, and no significant returns. Johnson hit 4 field goals. One was for 30, but the remainder were basically 47 yarders (okay one was 46 yards) but Johnson’s 16 points were significant when Tech’s offensive play calling bogged down promising drives.
John Parker-Romo and Brian Johnson split kickoff duties with 4 each, JPR had an oops and kicked one out of bounds for a penalty that resulted in a shorter field for the Hoos to negotiate. Parker-Romo dealt 3 Touchbacks though, and Brian Johnson dished 2. Special Teams didn’t rack up any penalties of big note, and was basically responsible for a methodical steady winning margin. The final score of 33-15 nets out to be a significant part of the winning margin at 16 points. The fact remains that the Hoos were still obliged to leave the Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg as they left on Sunday morning.
We’ll be covering more things as more things become available to cover. The bowl invitations are soon to be out, and so will other news that we’ll defer, at the moment.