Quick gut reactions to the roller coaster ride tonight in Blacksburg.
Terrific performance up front by the Hokie defensive line. Derrick Hopkins, Luther Maddy (prior to getting banged up) and all four defensive ends were outstanding. That is as well as a Hokie d-Line has played the run against a GT team. Foster had much more confidence in stopping the whole attack, with the DT's shutting down the dive and the outside guys rocking the QB.
The only weakness was pass rush, and at the end of the game you expect Gayle, Collins, and Marshall to get some pressure. At the same time, a position that we thought was deep now has some worries. Maddy was banged up and looked like a one legged man in an asskicking contest on some of those QB draws late in the game. Antoine Hopkins doesn't have much stamina and was basically immobile late. Kris Harley got some snaps, but didn't get low to take on the cut blocks, and Zach McCray got one snap and went a gap over, leaving a huge hole for the dive.
Linebackers played really well against the front, and not so good against the pass. All three linebackers that started tonight are liabilities in coverage, but when GT went pistol, one had to cover and Jack Tyler got the assignment. It is unfair to be critical, but on some of those late crossing routes, you expect your whip, as a hybird OLB/DB to be covering man rather than your warrior but slow mike linebacker. This defense is going to have a ton of trouble against short crossing routes until either Edwards gets back or Van Dyke gets some snaps on passing downs. I would consider removing Tyler, moving Bruce back to mike, and playing JGW at backer in passing situations.
Kyle Fuller was outstanding all night. With one bust in coverage aside, Kyshone Jarrett was nasty in run support. The Hokies used the safeties much more in run support than I expected, and Jarrett really was sharp. Bonner didn't seem to be around the ball much, but that may have been by design.
Antone Exum was absent in run support all night. Repeatedly on quick pitches to the boundary, Exum turned his pads towards the blocker and then absorbed the block. He seemed content eating the blocks, and he got turned out again, and again, and again, and again. When he locked down the go route late in the game, then waved his hand Olajuwon-style, I threw my shirt at the damn TV. That is what you are supposed to do, now make a tackle. Totally out of character, as the strength of his play at safety was run support. Torrian Gray should be so deep in his ass on film study that Exum's breath should smell like a whistle.
So, I think we can all agree that the offense was inept for most of the game. I think, more than issues with players performance, that the lack of identity really reared it's head tonight, as did long stretches of horrendous playcalling.
Until Logan Thomas turned it on late, he really struggled. He didn't look good in the last scrimmage, and tonight it seemed like there was so much motion and so many different formations that his footwork and mechanics went to shit. Even worse from my point of view was his repeated failure to call audibles when GT showed blitz to the play-side. The speed option in the first half really stood out, and once I get the film, we will document and show video clips of the plays.
At the same time, the coaching staff did Logan NO FAVORS. Georgia Tech runs a 3-4 and kept their linebackers wide all night. They repeatedly blitzed outside the tackles. And, in zone coverage almost every defensive back was within 7 yards of the line of scrimmage. Yet, for reasons only Rich Kotite and Matt Millen may understand, Mike O'Cain repeatedly called short timing routes and slow developing sweeping runs. When Logan ran play action in the 1st half, the dive fake often had holes 6 yards wide. Quick hitting inside stuff was there all night, and when they ran it, both Holmes and Coleman looked excellent. Then, the vertical route to Knowles completely wrecked the Groh scheme.
Offensive line gets mixed reviews. Pass blocking was good, although Wang and Becton had a first half bust and Painter-Via combined for a bust in the second half. Run blocking was good when the play was quick hitting up the middle or some misdirection, but the sweeps just had no chance. Andrew Miller, David Wang, and Nick Becton all had rough nights at different points, especially Miller.
How bad were the "starting receivers?" At different points, Eric Martin and Joey Phillips were getting looks. Dyrell Roberts has to stretch the defense. Marcus Davis has to stop quitting on routes (4 different half-assed efforts in the first half.) The most important factor in GT's defensive success was the unmitigated failure of the starting receivers to stretch the defense. Thank goodness Knowles got to take a shot, and Logan made the throw when it counted. Then, Corey Fuller steps up. Honestly, how many of you would have said that Corey Fuller and Demetri Knowles would be the go-to guys in winning time?
In the first half, I got frustrated with Holmes lack of explosiveness, but boy was he assertive when he got to carry the load in OT. And, Coleman showed the ability to be the gamebreaking counter. While I still think Edmunds would be my guy of the 3, Holmes and Coleman have to get more carries. The pistol is a RUNNING offense, and the play action doesn't mean anything when you throw all the time.