The Obvious Frustration Clouds the Will
No one is kidding anyone, here. The opening of the Pry Era just looked like a rolling disaster from the coin toss that we lost, again for the billionth time. This game was not what it seemed, and everything that just went nuts all at one time. When things would go right, they’d go wrong soon. When things got corrected, something else melted down. In the end the single most descriptive word that one could possibly consider describing the game on Friday evening was SLOPPY.
When things get that fouled up, the frustration levels build on so many people things are bound to happen. We’ll talk about that later in the Ugly section. HOWEVER! There were some good things that did happen and some folks who really need to be patted on the back for super performances and surprise work.
First, Because We Really Need Something to Smile About: THE GOOD
The Defense was surprisingly good.
No, that’s not kind hyperbole, the Defense was so near to shut down that they almost pulled it off absent the offense. It’s just that they finally spent too much time on the field and ended up exhausted in the humidity and heat, and more prone to making minor mental errors that turn into major ones. That’s not what was good and who was good, though.
Dax Hollifield was Really Good. He netted 10 tackles, 3 solo and 7 assists. Nasir Peoples was right there with him in the Really Good world with 10 tackles (5/5). The interior of the Defensive line was solid. They put constant pressure on the quarterback and nearly completely shut down the Monarchs’ running game. The entire defensive line of Fuga, Pollard, Griffin, Keller, and Pene proved that they are going to be something to contend with for every game. Even without any registered sacks, there were a total of 7 tackles for loss in the game.
The Offense had some Bright Spots
The injuries piled up, Jaylen Holston wasn’t 100% so Keyshawn King started, and Chance Black mostly backed him up. King racked up some serious yardage (112) on 19 attempts for 5.8 yards a carry, and the wild thing was that King’s longest (the stat that usually distorts the real average) was only 12 yards, so Keyshawn King was running like a champ. Grant Wells surprised with a few tricks of his own on his feet including the opening touchdown.
The Offensive line shined at blocking, and there was a major very pleasant surprise when we were treated to drive blocking, pulling guards and tackles, and the old Counter Trey came out of the bag. Joe Rudolph is making a difference and it looks like Tyler Bowen is going to do a few things differently this season.
There is some real promise in both squads, but there is that cloud up there.
Looking at the Bad
You have to go there, and there are the five turnovers. That’s nearly impossible to overcome even when the defense is as good and stingy as it was on Friday. Grant Wells threw four interceptions, and at the end of the game stood up and took the responsibility like a man. The truth is a bit muddier than blaming Wells for all of the picks. The first was a failed route to Kaleb Smith who we would later find out was injured and that might account for his disappearance from a route that they hit twice in the Spring Game for Touchdowns. Wells threw the ball on that timing route and with no receiver there, it was an easy pick off. The second can be put mostly on Wells for even throwing the ball because Lofton ran the route without much definition and the ball was placed behind him instead of downfield over his head. When you do that, the picks happen regularly. The third pick was a pure drop by Holston. Yes, there was traffic, and it was relatively heavy, and no that wouldn’t have been a 1st down but you have to either catch that ball or knock it into the turf. It bounced out and the short field and aborted momentum gave ODU a 3:00 chance to score a winning TD.
The Defense was really good, but there were flaws. We won’t point out the bigger mistakes but in both cases those mistakes were the exact same error on deep route defense that allowed poor passes to either be caught or be bait for a PI flag. The Virginia Tech defenders made the critical error of not turning around to spot the ball. On the 4th and long PI call that sustained the ODU drive, turning around to spot the ball would have revealed that the ball was uncatchable, and the receiver wasn’t a threat. On the long pass, turning around would have netted either a bat down or an interception because the ball was so badly underthrown that the receiver actually had to run back for it. The defensive backs coaching staff needs to work on that because, frankly, the pros won’t sign you to a roster until you do learn to do that, and if you don’t you don’t make a pro roster.
The other bad thing was the perpetuated audibles from the sideline style of offensive play calling. That has to stop, or we are likely to see Corn II with more passing and drive blocking. Along with the dreary and leaden boundary side bias theory, the next theory is the run to the line of scrimmage and try to fool the defense by freezing the action and calling an audible from the sideline. This has to be the dumbest way to execute an offense since, well, since forever. Bowen needs to pitch that immediately and go to a more effective multi-play concept package where the play is run in from the sideline on a personnel change or lined up on a wrist coach for the quarterback to call on the field. Signs are misinterpreted. They are eventually decoded by the opposition, and more often than not the defense just reajusts to the audible and it was all dangerous delay for nothing.
Which Brings Up the Ugly
If you aren’t going to win giving the ball away five times, you certainly aren’t going to win with 15 penalties for more than a football field (105 yards). It’s not all about cleaning things up, either. Some of those penalties were the usual return stuff of blocks in the back and holding. Some of them seemed to be flags without cause - the offensive PI was pretty ridiculously ticky-tack given where the ball was and how compressed the field was. But mostly the penalties were procedural and turned 3rd and short into third and long. Stuffed drives and showed that as good as the Offense was playing it was struggling at clean execution. Penalties can be cleaned up and the coaches will have to put serious effort into establishing a better rhythm and self-check routine between and before plays are executed.
The post-game ruckus with Connor Blumrick was also pretty unfortunate. Even if it wasn’t as bad as it looked, and even if there was a fair amount of chippiness coming from both sides, there was no excuse for losing control and blasting a fan running onto the field even if he was running into you. That’s an oops!... pick the kid up and dust him off... sort of thing that should never have turned out the way that it did. Blumrick’s probably going to pay for that in some way - how remains to be seen. And that’s a shame. It’s like getting tossed out of a baseball game arguing balls and strikes when you are the clutch hitter that your team needs.
You already saw Bryan’s article on the thefts from the Tech locker room. That’s an ugly on them. Some of the post-game chipping from Ricky Rahne might strain a friendship, too. The Monarchs show up in Blacksburg next year, and it’s football. Vengeance is coming back to the playing field with a better team and a huge Hokie victory at home.
It’s time to fix the errors and prepare for Boston College to roll into Lane for a night home opener and the first time that Brent Pry and staff have ever come down the northwest tunnel, at night, to an earthquake. BC lost to Rutgers in their first game, so the entire world is set back to dead even. Tech can still win next Saturday, and we’ll be there to see it.