Here’s the truth. We won eleven football games this season, another ACC Championship and extended the ten-plus-wins a season streak to seven. Standing on its own 2010 was an impressive campaign, especially after our disastrous start, as part of the whole, over the last seven years, it helps comprise a top ten resume. However, is that being elite? No, it’s being consistent. Consistently the best team in the ACC, but not good enough to beat a quality opponent. What’s frustrating is I honestly don’t know what’s keeping us from taking that next step.
However, the old fashioned Stanford put on us last night definitely highlighted a bunch of what has held us back over the years. The offensive line play was absolutely atrocious. I am still in Miami and without means to watch a replay so I can’t be as exact as I’d like to be, but I’ll say this--whenever I focused on watching the line I saw Andrew Lanier getting absolutely worked. Over the season I don’t know what was worse, the fact Lanier constantly got beat by average pass rushers or that Nick Becton couldn’t get over his turf toe and push him for more playing time. That’s not to say Lanier was the lone disappointment of an otherwise excellent offensive line. These statistics sum up just how badly we got beat up front: 66 total rushing yards, 44 not including Tyrod’s 22 (second leading rusher) who was sacked EIGHT times. We just aren’t nasty enough for my liking, considering we’re a “physical” football team. If you want to see a nasty, tough, brutal offensive line then look no farther than Stanford. Those boys are a succinct unit, flawless in their execution and devastating to defenders.
Stinepring. I thought the play calling last night was predictable, unimaginative and stale. We went three-and-out five times and punted eight. Going into the game we knew we’d have to play keep up and we couldn’t. We should have been able to score on Stanford. During their season their defense was serviceable, but not suffocating. Instead of making any adjustments at the half I’d imagine the speech was something like, “Let’s just keep doing what we’re doin’ [clap, clap, clap].” I think we made a mistake by trying to ram Evans into a wall all night, especially in the second half. Stanford wasn’t going to wilt along the line, yet we continued to hand the ball off. If we’re going to be predictable I’d rather put the ball in the hands of the best player in our league and let him try to work some magic. Stanford did make an effort to sell out against the run, and we should have tried to take advantage of the soft spots 10 yards over the middle with our bigger more physical receivers: Andre Smith or Marcus Davis. But we didn’t do that much over the season, so expecting anything different last night would’ve been foolish. On the other hand, football is a team game and Bill Walsh couldn’t call plays with an offensive line that porous. Yet the fact remains, we got shutout in the second half of the Orange Bowl with what should have been our most talented offense since 2003 and that’s inexcusable.
Defensively the big play bit us in the ass, again. Unlike the Boise State, or even JMU, Wake Forest, or ECU games we can’t use the excuse of being inexperienced to sweep the mistakes under the rug. We got enough pressure on Luck (who was phenomenal, again, by the way) to make him uncomfortable, but not ineffective. It seemed like every time we forced him out of the pocket there was no one in contain to make a big play. And it just seemed like Stanford always converted the big third down after being stymied on first and second. Whatever the case may be a Foster-fense gave up 534 yards and 40 points.
When I look back on the 2010 season I’ll remember a good, but not great team that continued a tradition of being excellent, but not elite. That’s a brutally honest statement, but it’s the truth. I’ll remember Tyrod Taylor gutting it out in the 4th quarter of the Orange Bowl when everyone else around him looked defeated, and that will always make me sad. I’ll remember the incredible 11 game winning streak highlighted with back flips, pick-sixes, comebacks and touchdown strikes while falling off the sideline, when it looked like we wouldn’t make a bowl on September 11th.
It’s the end of the Tyrod Taylor era and if it isn’t apparent enough from what I’ve written about him this season, I’m beyond grateful for every snap he’s taken over his four years at Tech. Going forward, as a program, there are going to be tough decisions to make. Do we want to be consistently excellent and comfortable or do we want to fill the trophy case? Because it can no longer be argued that we’re just a quarterback away like during the Randall, Marcus Vick or Glennon years, because we just had the privilege of having one of the best for four years. Whatever the case may be I’ll be there next season living and dying with every snap of Virginia Tech football.