Well, a trip out of town to deal with some family issues delayed this a bit, but when I don’t have the camera, I am obligated to make relevant observations in an article. It’s really difficult to avoid repetition from Bryan’s takeaways... I’m still trying to figure out how he kept it to five. Let’s see if I can get to the end without stepping on his points. Forgive me if I’m not completely successful.
The Good (there was a bit, trust me, but just a bit)
We are beginning to see the inklings of a few hopeful signs here and there, but this season those hopeful signs might remain ephemeral if this staff doesn’t go ahead and start using the projectors of those signs. We did see Mansoor Delane start and play the entire game. He was very good in most coverages but did get beaten a time or two. That happens, but over all his contribution was a marked improvement for the defense. We’ll talk about the scheme that melted down in the 4th quarter, later.
Alan Tisdale had a really good game, he led the team in tackles with 11, and Delane was right behind him with 10. Dax Hollifield, Nasir Peoples, and Chamarri Conner weren’t taking too far a back seat, with 7 each. The problem with that formula is that you really get your scalp itching when one of your cornerbacks is leading the tackling. It means the ball has gotten way too far down the field. Which is what happened in the 4th quarter.
On the offensive side of the ball, we finally saw some action pointed at tight end Dae’Quan Wright. He was targeted several times but managed to corral 2 for 46 critical yards. It was good to see him being put in to contribute. A couple of critical deep balls including two to Kaleb Smith were a serious break from the mundane average BLAH offense that the Hokies ran, AGAIN.
Is it good for us to say that we didn’t fumble, or lose the ball by getting it picked off? Grant Wells didn’t make any bad mistakes and hit most of his passes without knocking his receivers down. One hopes he’s developing a bit more touch but there are four games left and the improvements remain to be seen.
The Bad (Too Much, Too Little, Too Late)
In looking at the stats, even though Malachai Thomas’s loss looked like it was an offensive disaster, Thomas didn’t have a ton of much of much in the offense. He only averaged 2.3 yards per carry, and only managed to catch 2 for a grand total of 34 yards. The reality is that the offense was just flat out bad, and take away those two deep balls, and Tech might not have even come close to scoring more than one touchdown. There is just too much in the way of dud plays being wig-wagged into the game, with some ethereal expectation that “this time” the play will work. There is just too much doing the same old, same old failing thing.
The offense just doesn’t seem to understand the importance of pushing the passing routes past the sticks and throwing to more than one or two receivers in the mix. There is just too little innovation, too little urgency, and way too little timing. The only plays that worked were quickly executed with minimal fake sideline audibles, and there just didn’t seem to be any recognition that the pattern and execution was the problem. That’s bad because occasional explosive play execution does not a consistent offense make.
On defense the too little was once again the inexplicable implementation of the semi-prevent/prevent defense in the 4th quarter, like three scores were going to be enough to just sit on a lead, go into a too loose zone configuration and put no pressure on a rookie quarterback where pressure in the 1st half wrecked his capabilities. That’s on Pry. He seems to think that he’s got the talent of a Penn State roster, not a Swiss Cheese, pile of three stars with one or two under rated players.
On the too late side of things, Pry never seemed to recognize that his scheme and calls weren’t working, and he needed to reimplement what he was doing in the first half. In the end, the defense folded right beside the offense, and a rookie QB ate the Hokies up. So you had the three and out, backwards driving offense, married up with a lost special teams group, and topped off with a defense that, once again, ran out of gas and net.
Then there is the Uglies... And it’s a Sad Set at That
The first and absolutely the ugliest part of all of this season is the procedural penalties on the offense, both line and skill positions. This team is now past eight games, and the penalties are coming at the same rate or worse. There are two major reasons for this, and neither reason seems to be adequately addressed at any level. The first is player responsibility and accountability. If the players cannot discipline themselves enough to remember the snap count, focus on their jobs, and execute the play without getting distracted by movement, signals, or the other guy eating garlic before the game and breathing too heavily, then that player needs to ride the pine until he figures it out or the season ends. It’s that simple. The blame can be spread around for this one, and if those sprints are being run, there is a whole lot of company sweating it out in the Beamer Barn after practice.
Now, personal accountability and responsibility is one thing, but a coach’s primary job is to put his players in the position of winning football games. This means that the existing play calling and signaling Chip Kelly (tempo without tempo) wig-wag nonsense has to stop. When your 300+ pound linemen are planted in a stance for 12 seconds while some QB wannabe coach is yammering different audibles into some assistant’s ear, and then signaling it on to the field... to have the play be a dud anyway... then it’s time for the OC to be benched, and the method to be tossed in the office shredder with the bad game plans. Tech isn’t the only team suffering from these sorts of procedural penalties, it’s just one of the teams with less talent playing at a higher level where the pressure on the players is off their performance scale. Good coaches find a way to make things easier on the players and more effective for the team. Right now, that is not happening, and that is truly ugly. Coaches have stopped trusting their players and seem to think that they have too much at stake to risk allowing their personnel to do their jobs.
So, quit the Chip Kelly crapola and go back to huddling up, calling a play, equipping and allowing the QB to call the audibles... get to the line, snap the ball, and execute the play. This stop, start, look to the sideline, garbage has to stop, or the penalties will continue.
The final ugly is that Beamer Ball is back... and the agony is that it’s with Shane at South Carolina. Virginia Tech’s Special Teams are absolutely horrid this season. There are just no excuses. The punt formation looks like it came from the fevered mind of a high school coach looking to be different. Peter Moore is normally cannon legged when he needs to be and touch perfect when he wants to be. This season he hasn’t had the time to be either. The misjudgments on kickoff returns, fumbles, and unfielded punts are beginning to wear. Frankly, unless everyone drops into a parallel dimension, there is no reason to run a kickoff back unless there is a chance of getting the ball past the 30-yard line, and that’s nearly never. Both fumbles needed to be fair caught and brought out to the 25. PERIOD... The Hokie offense is too leaden and predictable to be stuffed inside their 10-15 yard line to start drives. Poor decision taking is becoming a disastrous habit.
There are four games left. The Final Third Review is due out by Wednesday. There is a chance, slim though it may be, that this team might reach par status and a bowl game, none of the four teams ahead of the Hokies are much better. The difference is going to be how much can be fixed, and how much this team wants to fight to the end of the season.
Simple Question: Does this team have it within itself go 4-0 to finish the season with a bowl?
This poll is closed
No - no way. They might win 2 more games. And that’s a tall wish.
Yes, they are close... So close... They just need to come out clean and play good football.
I am leaning towards a big N-O. I don’t think they win another game. Maybe the Hoos... but probably not even them.
The team will be enjoying the post-Thanksgiving stretch and exam week as students - getting ready to go home for the holidays. The decommits are coming.