Hurricane A' Coming: Winds of Change for the Hokies Defense

On the eve of a critical Thursday night matchup with the Miami Hurricanes, questions about the Hokie offense abound. While any changes to the offensive coaching staff, and a corresponding change in philosophy, will not take place until the offseason, we have seen a radical change in Bud Foster's defensive approach that has resulted in a significantly improved pass rush and run defense over the past two weeks. That continued success will be critical to any hopes of victory against a depleted, yet talented Hurricanes offense.

A quick comparison of film from the Pitt and UNC games versus the Duke and Clemson games demonstrates two significant changes in Bud Foster's philosophy.

A New Spin on an Old Trick: 4-4 and Stopping the Run

The first was a return to the old 90's 4-4 alignment, but adjusted to fit three and four wide receiver sets. It was utilized to shore up a previously porous run defense.

What Won't Change During the Bye Week

We are 5 days removed from the disaster in Death Valley, and I still find myself completely at a loss for what to write. The reality is, I see lots of good things. I really do. I think about 70% of the pieces are there for this to be a great football team. No, I am not kidding. The defensive line has been turned loose two games in a row, and without having the robotic responsibility of slanting to a gap and holding the space rather than pursuing, they have looked like the dominat unit we expected in preseason; a unit that can demolish without parlor tricks. Against both Duke and Clemson, the offense moved the football when it followed a coordinated, sensible plan of attack coupled with reasonable execution. I saw terrific effort, passion, and nastiness from critical players. We have evidence this can work.


Gut Reactions: Clemson

That's a tough loss to swallow. Like the rest of you probably feel, I felt like we left a lot of points on the field. Tech really played as good as, or better than, Clemson in the first half, yet trailed going into the locker room. Foster's defense held Clemson to 66 plays, 295 yards, and 31 points (yes, the final score was 38-17, but I'm not counting the pick six against the defense, and another 7 of the 31 came after the game was out of reach). That was a tremendous defensive effort; better than I dreamed they could do. Bud routinely answers the bell, so I shouldn't be surprised. Ultimately the offense couldn't pace Clemson in the second half, special teams blunders, and some shoddy officiating stopped the Hokies from winning. However, officiating is part of the game, and teams that execute efficiently overcome bad calls.

The offense looked like a hot mess in the second half. I don't have the benefit of the film, so I apologize if I'm not 100% accurate here. From the live viewing, I noticed a lot more zone read than the veer from the pistol (which was so successful last week) and the tailbacks didn't make their mark inside. There were a lot of questionable play calls in the second half.

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Eight

This week Kevin talks to French and Joe about the Duke comeback and the upcoming battle with Clemson. Brian, who was previously suspended for threatening company policy via Twitter (known around the office as "The Benny's Threat") makes a cameo to talk about Duke and make his weekend prediction (as well as his annual Tajh Boyd is fat joke).

All that and more, on this week's episode of The Adventures On Whiskey Lane.

MP3 Download link:

Duke, and the Road to Death Valley

I apologize this is late this week. Stay in school, because day jobs are not as fun as history lectures. -- French

The homecoming game against Duke came at a critical time during Frank Beamer's tenure. While the talent deficiencies in key areas make it most likely that the Hokies are not a great bet to run the table, a loss to Duke would have shaken the aura of invincibility that Virginia Tech has over the weaker programs in the ACC. That aura often has weaker teams beaten before they step off the bus, and it has given the Hokies several wins over the last 8 years that have kept them relevant as a regional power. Now we come to the three measuring stick games for 2012, starting perhaps with the toughest matchup, the Clemson Tigers.

Q&A with Shakin The Southland

This week, I exchanged messages with Eric Downing of the Clemson blog Shakin the Southland. We discussed the ceiling for this Tigers team, Tajh Boyd, DeAndre Hopkins vs. Sammy Watkins and the Hokies' chances as they go down to Death Valley this weekend.

TKP: Okay, let's just get this out of the way. We both know that Clemson beat the hell out of the Hokies last year, but that was before WVU hung 70 in the Orange Bowl (sorry, had to bring it up). What I want to know is this: how is this team different than last year's team? Is it essentially the same, or are there some noticeable differences?

Let's talk about Clemson

If I said I wasn't looking forward to Clemson, I'd be lying. I don't look at Clemson how I look at other teams.James Gayle

Gayle is right of course. Clemson spanked us at night in Lane, in Charlotte when it mattered most, and stripped us of our championship crown. The Tigers took more away from us than any team in a season in quite some time. I think we all circled this game when the schedule came out, and it means more now than we probably thought it would in August. A win keeps us in a strong position to win the Coastal and would boost our perception nationally. A loss leaves us 0-3 in a little over a year against a team we'll continue to recruit against for top regional talent, and the Coastal race becomes tighter.

It's only Tuesday afternoon and I'm antsy for Saturday. I'm sure a lot of you are too. So, let's talk about Clemson.

BREAKING: 70 Days Until Kickoff

Tech plays two non-conference BCS opponents outside of Lane Stadium, and draws the two best teams from the Atlantic Division (or maybe the entire ACC). Other than a break at the end of October —which will be spent preparing for back-to-back Thursday night games— the team doesn't have many opportunities to step back for a breath of air. Duke? They always play the Hokies tough (or Tech doesn't take them seriously, either way it's close). Austin Peay? Beating any team on five days rest is a challenge. It's an unforgiving, but manageable schedule. As I look it over, I believe getting out of Death Valley with a "W" will be the toughest challenge. The Tigers are talented, have schemes on both sides of the ball that give Tech fits, and they hold a two-love mental advantage.

Seventy will forever be linked to Clemson. Remember the '12 Orange Bowl. I hate acknowledging West Virginia being successful (y'all know where the Black Diamond Trophy's at), but they showed the Tigers were anything unlike the world-beaters we made the out to be last year. Georgia Tech, NC State, and South Carolina all agree.

And Exhale

That was a back and forth game for 35 minutes. Then Zo and Erick Green hit back-to-back threes that spurred a 9 point run which broke a 52-all tie. The Hokies were up 61-52 with 2:21 left. I thought it was over. Jarell Eddie did too.

I see you, I see you at 2x zoom.

But it wasn't. Of course not, that's not this season or team. Close games are their thing. They either figure a way to scrap and fight out of a deficit to the finish, or implode.

Clemson did the only thing they could and pressured. They forced turnovers. They raised my blood pressure, made my chocolate milk less enjoyable. The Hokies gave them a hand and fouled. Seth's reaction to Doe-Doe's foul while trying to rebound a missed free-throw said it all, "This shit's happening again?"

With how the season had gone, I laughed too.

Now it seemed the pooch being screwed was merely a formality.

I'm glad I was wrong. The Hokies banged home five of their final six free-throws to seal the victory. We usually don't do that. Wins in a one and done situation build confidence.

Three more Ws for an improbable tournament berth. Duke tomorrow, let's go!

Clemson Live Blog

The only way we get into The Dance is to win it all in Atlanta. That's cause for a live blog.

ACC Championship Game Roll Call

I felt like I traveled back in time on Saturday night. Not to just the first Clemson game this season, but to the Orange Bowl last year, October 17, 2009, September 8, 2007, September 30, 2006, November 5, 2005, etc.

All moments when a highly ranked Virginia Tech team folded in a big game.

Another night when nothing worked.

I can imagine how UVA felt two weeks ago -- probably very similar to how Tech felt on Saturday night.

It was a major disappointment. It was disappointing because you know every pundit who knocked Tech down the stretch smiled when they saw the score. While LSU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State all did what they had to do on Saturday, Virginia Tech could not get it done again.

This team, players and coaches, need to remember the more wins they rack up, the higher they climb in the rankings, the bigger the target on their back gets. Teams seem to show up and play Tech like its their Super Bowl, and when those teams have some semblance of talent and good coaching, Tech looks overwhelmed.

I've tried to keep my analysis as positive as possible this season, but I had a pretty tough time this week. If I don't have a lot of nice things to say, I'm just going to keep it short. There's really no sense in piling on.

1. Antone Exum - I almost vomited when he didn't fall on that Watkins fumble. But he opened the game aggressive and I thought he looked sharp much of the night.

Ride or Die.

Right now I'm sitting here pissed listening to El Camino. (For what it's worth, it's a great album.) I'm arguing with other Hokies that are pissed. I'm drunk, I'm sad, I'm depressed and I imagine some of you are sad, drunk or depressed. I wanted to win that game. I want to win every game. I bet you did too. I thought we were going to win that game, but I think we are going to win every game. I thought we were going to win that game going away. I wanted our 4th ACC Championship in the last 5 years, I wanted to brag, I wanted to fly to Miami to watch us play West Virginia. However, my dad used to say, "You can want in one hand and shit in the other, see what fills up faster."

Clemson 2.0 Preview

Who: #5/3/5 Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1, 7-1 ACC) vs #21/21/20 Clemson Tigers (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

Time: 8:02 PM

TV Coverage: ESPN (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)

Venue: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (73,778 – Grass)

Series History: Clemson leads 18-12-1

  • Last Meeting (2011): Clemson 23, Virginia Tech 3
  • Clemson gave Virginia Tech its only loss of the season earlier this year in Blacksburg.
  • Virginia Tech is making its fifth ACC Championship Game appearance. For Clemson it's their second trip to the Championship Game.
  • The two teams have split four games played at neutral locations, including the 2001 Gator Bowl won by Tech 41-20.
  • When ranked higher, the Hokies are 3-2 against the Tigers.

Injury Report

  • OL David Wang – Out (Foot)

The Opponent: We all know what happened back on October 1. It was the nadir of Virginia Tech’s season, while Clemson appeared to reach its apex in the 23-3 victory at Lane Stadium. When the two teams meet Saturday, it will be a completely different matchup than it was the first time around. For a look at the preview going into that game, click here.

Clemson Roll Call

This space has been reserved for talking about individual performances on the field, and I will get to that. But I would be doing myself a disservice by not addressing what seem to be persistent issues with this team.

The play calling on Saturday night was a travesty. We were once again witness to a complete schooling on offense.

I'm fully aware that Logan left much to be desired, but the staff isn't getting him in positions to succeed -- which Clemson seems to do well. Sure, Logan was off on the slant to Boykin that resulted in a pick (albeit a non disastrous one), but that's no reason to shy away from it for the next 30 minutes. There's no intermediate passing game. They're sending three guys out there, two of them are running routes 20 yards down the field. Clemson could have stood still and they would have been covered. What is he supposed to do with the football?

And where are the designed runs for Logan? Early in the game, we had Clemson in a 2nd and 18, and the play call was a designed draw for Boyd, who took it 14 yards, setting up a third and short. While we probably would not have converted a 3rd and 4, we would have at least had a chance. And if it's 3rd and 1, Logan should be going for the dive 100 out of 100 times. I don't even want a fake dive pass. Dives every time. There's your Cam Newton comparison.


The chilled air, rain and wind whipping around Lane Stadium made Saturday's slap across the face sting that much more. It was a sobering wake up call. It was the same as it ever was. That game should have been remembered for the tremendous defensive performance orchestrated by Bud Foster. Freshman sensation Sammy Watkins was a non-factor, Tajh Boyd didn't distinguish himself. In their previous four games Clemson gobbled up yards with ease, Saturday night they had to claw for everything they got. Clemson wanted to run 80 plays, they had to settle for 67. Instead, I'll continue to try to answer the "what ifs" floating around my head.

What if David Wilson hadn't fumbled? What if Nosal hadn't jumped on 3rd and goal? What if Logan's shoulder was one hundred percent, would he have ran more, would we have called more running plays for him, would he have been more accurate? What if Eddie didn't blow his coverage, would it have taken some of the pressure off of the offense? What if Demler could've pinned Clemson deep? What if the offensive line played their last 30 minutes as well as their first 30? What if the offense's game plan was as airtight as the defense's?

Clemson Preview

Who: #11/10 Virginia Tech Hokies (4-0, 0-0 ACC) @ #13/15 Clemson Tigers (4-0, 1-0 ACC)

Time: 6:05 PM

TV Coverage: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Ed Cunningham, Quint Kessenich)

Venue: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA (66,233 – Grass)

Series History: Clemson leads 17-12-1

  • Last Meeting (2007): Virginia Tech 41, Clemson 23
  • Virginia Tech has won five straight games over Clemson dating back to 1998
  • During those five games, the Hokies have won by an average score of 35-12
  • Clemson has not won in Blacksburg since 1989
  • When ranked higher, the Hokies are a perfect 3-0 against the Tigers

Injury Report

Their Last Dance: Clemson

For college football teams last impressions are the ones that matter most. These are notes, observations and food for thought on our opponents' last game.

Clemson headed into an ACC Atlantic Division showdown with Florida State last weekend. The Tigers beat the Noles handily in Death Valley 35-30, a game they only trailed one time, 0-3. It wasn't my intention to, but I paid much more attention to the Clemson offense and its personnel. It was a fun offense to watch, although if it gets humming on Saturday, it will be better described by me as aggravating.

-- Only a few plays had quarterback Tajh Boyd lined up underneath the center, the rest were out of the shotgun or pistol. There were a lot of moving parts, motion before the snap and play fakes afterwards. To keep a fast tempo, and to meet their goal of 80+ snaps a game, Clemson called plays at the line of scrimmage.

A modern wing look, we'll see that formation a lot on Saturday night.