Virginia Tech can't keep up with Clemson, falls to 10-15 (2-10) on the year.
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.
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.
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.
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: http://thekeyplay.podomatic.com/enclosure/2012-10-18T16_10_10-07_00.mp3
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.
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?
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.
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.