ZOMBIE TURKEYS

Ten win seasons have become both an accomplishment and a crutch. No other program during the BCS-era has been more consistently great than Virginia Tech. As fans, myself included, we've been spoiled by winning. To the contrary, each season we watch excellence slip through Tech's grasp, whether it's a letdown game, busted coverage, or couple of missed blocks. It's maddening when August hopes are blown away by a September breeze before the October chill even hits. It's more frustrating when we're essentially told by Beamer Co. we should be happy with what we have, even though there's an empty trophy case in its offices.

Realistically, this wasn't the season the Hokies would contend for a national championship. Most preseason polls had Tech ranked outside the top 15, the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC was Florida State. Lack of depth in the secondary, a talented, but unproven receiving corps, and the proper distribution of carries among a medley of fresh-faced tailbacks were just some of the roster challenges Tech faced in August. Injuries to two returning starters, D.J. Coles and Tariq Edwards, complicated matters.

North Carolina Football Primer, Photo Edition

So. About last week. That Cinicinnati outcome was...disappointing. Fortunately for us fans, a new week and a new opponents awaits. Nothing eases the sting of losing quite like the possibility of victory. Back to conference opponents! Back to work! #goacc

This week, the Hokies hit the road and head south to Chapel Hill to face the Tar Heels. Like Tech fans, the Carolina Faithful have had to deal with adversity, albeit those distractions being off-the-field. Recently the announcement that Chancellor Holden Thorp will resign this coming June, in repsonse to allegations of academic dishonesty involving a number of student athletes and the African Studies academic program.

Q&A with Michael Felder

This week I spoke with UNC alum and former defensive back Michael Felder. He's the national college football lead writer at Bleacher Report, and of In The Bleachers podcast fame. I think I may have found someone who is just cynical about their team as I am. We discussed the new Fedora spread, Carolina blowing out bad teams, Bryn Renner and how the Hokies will attack this defense.

TKP: So it seems as if this game may just be between two middle of the pack ACC teams. Both have come off at least one (in UNC's case, 2) crushing losses. What is your general opinion of the first five games of the Larry Fedora regime thus far? How has the team transitioned to the spread?

Felder: I think things have gone about the way that anyone with an ounce of brain in their head would have expected. Blow out bad teams, tough game against middling teams and lose to good teams. They lost the tough game against a middling team but it could have gone either way. For the people who thought UNC was somehow going to be undefeated going into this game they didn't realize the myriad of issues this team has.

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Six

Kevin and Brian lament over the Cincinnati loss. Brian speaks with longtime Daily Press columnist David Teel, about the current mindset of the team, and what the future holds. (Via the miracle of technology, Teel goes robot voice for a bit.) The boys talk a little about UNC.

All that and more on this weeks episode of Adventures on Whiskey Lane!

MP3 Download link: http://thekeyplay.podomatic.com/enclosure/2012-10-03T19_39_15-07_00.mp3

Six Pick: Week Six

Back again for another go at it, hopefully the results are better for the home team. I love college football, even when the schedule looks bad like last week, the games produce. This week there are no such issues. Now that it's October, the non-conference portion of the schedule has faded away into league play. These tilts always mean the most*, but not every week is like this one, as I'm sure the "Separation Saturday" tag will be generously applied. Many favorites for conference championships will have emerged by late Saturday night. Led by the SEC, who have 4 of their 5 top 10 teams squaring off. Make time to sloth on the sofa folks, you aren't going anywhere. Gameday watch for week 6 shows that the World Wide Leader will be in Columbia, South Carolina. In order to be the man, you gotta beat the man ... that's the only way to keep ESPN out of the Southeast.

Cincinnati Offensive Film Review: Close Only Counts

I stated my emotional reaction to the Cincinnati game in Joe's epic "All I Have To Say" column on Saturday night. The offensive identity issue has presented itself as a long term issue, and, barring a complete cultural change in the program, it is an issue that will continue to self-correct in sputters and gaps. While I may not be a fan of the spread/pistol system, I want to be 100% clear that I think any offensive system can succeed with outstanding execution, 100% player buy-in, and a play caller who understands how to use the system. And, regardless of the system, be it from the shotgun or lining up in the straight T, any offense is better when the offensive line kicks ass.

I tried to go into the film review with an open mind. Watching the film, I came up with the following conclusions. Some may surprise you, others may not.

An Open Letter

Sunday, September 30, 2012, 12:42 AM

Dear students of Virginia Tech,

I'm sitting on a futon that isn't mine, somewhere in Arlington (though I'm still not quite sure where), staring at a blinking cursor for 10 minutes, trying to figure out what to say. After driving for four hours through an abysmal rain, I attended a thoroughly overpriced game at FedEx Field, only to watch my Hokies...no, our Hokies blow another game.

Earlier tonight, Joe did a very wonderful job summing up how mediocre this team actually is. Make no mistake...it's not a good team (and for any of you completely blinded by homerism/freshmanism please watch 'Bama or Oregon, then get back to me). But do you know what? I'm glad.

I've said this privately to an assortment of people close to me; the student section sucks. It's not even a secret anymore. It's been apparent to people going to games for over a year that the students are the worst fans in the building.

0-10

Bumped to the front. Leaving the stadium I mumbled I was done with neutral site games, but I know I'll be at the next BCS game, and in Atlanta next year. I think Vince sums up how a lot of HokieNation feels in his piece. --Joe

Over the last 13 years I have travelled with the Hokies to 10 neutral site games: 5 bowl games and 5 regular season games. All ten times the Hokies came away with loss. That's 3 Sugar Bowls (Florida State, Auburn, Michigan), 1 Orange Bowl (Kansas), and 1 Chick-fil-A Bowl (Georgia). That's also 3 trips to FedEx Field (Southern Cal, Boise State, Cincinnati), 1 trip to Charlotte (East Carolina), and 1 trip to Atlanta (Alabama).

Do the Harley Mash

Kris Harley's interception, off a tipped ball popped up by Bruce Taylor, that set up Tech's first touchdown Saturday was a terrific play. It was a blend of effort and athleticism by both Bruce and Kris. Taylor covered the short zone perfectly, Harley didn't give up on the play after leaping to bat the ball down at the line of scrimmage. The turnover jump-started the offense, and Harley's reaction fired up the crowd.

I got excited when it happened, and I made the gif because I needed a pick me up this evening. If we're going to overcome adversity, and be competitive during conference play, passion plays like that one will need to supplement talent and depth.

All I have to say

In middle school I had a gym teacher named Mr. Young. Mr. Young was lanky tall, white as chalk, and almost made it in the NBA. The rumor among students was he played against Larry Bird. When it got too cold for class to be outside, we moved inside and played basketball. Every year we'd get a 60 second crash course in hoops. We'd be seated on the bleachers and Mr. Young would stretch his arms out, ball between his hands, and say, "Boys, this is a basketball." Looking back, I'm sure he thought he was hot shit. He'd continue, "You dribble the ball," then he'd dribble, "You shoot the ball," then he'd shoot. He probably spotted up 15-or-so shots, nailed 'em all, ... and you get the idea.

Virginia Tech is 3-2, 0-2 against Big East teams. Reminder, we play in the ACC, but much like the basketball, you are what you are. This is not a good football team. Personally, I overestimated how good we'd be. My optimism got the best of me in spring and the preseason; I glossed over the loss of a lot of talent. It's evident after five games last year's reserves and some fresh-faced freshman weren't ready to step up. I also thought the coaches would be able to successfully modernize the offense. The two big changes this offseason: 1) pistol, 2) pre-snap motion. We use the pistol to throw the ball more than we do to facilitate quick-hitting rushes. The movement before the snap has looked nothing but sloppy, and has lost more in penalty yards than its gained in matchup advantages.

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Five

This week Brian and Kevin talk about the Bowling Green game, Bud Foster's spread defense, RONNY VANDYKE, Tony Gregory...?, and Kevin's one week suspension for the violation of company rules. They preview Cincinnati, express concern and hesitation about their speed, and how interesting this weekend's game will be.

All that and more on this weeks episode of Adventures on Whiskey Lane!

MP3 Download link: http://thekeyplay.podomatic.com/enclosure/2012-09-27T15_28_29-07_00.mp3

D.J. Reid commits to Virginia Tech

According to JC Shurburtt, running back/athlete Daniel Reid committed to Virginia Tech this evening. Reid held offers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and USF (his finalist along with Tech) among others.

Here's a good feature on Reid from the Chesterfield Observer.

"It's like he's gliding – big, long strides and great hips," Tucker described.

Combing speed, toughness and elusiveness, he rambled for 215 yards vs. Matoaca, 190 vs. Colonial Heights and 187 vs. Meadowbrook in Dale's district-clinching victory.

"I think of myself as a slasher," said Reid. "The big thing, though, is vision – seeing the field … vision is the difference between a 15- yard gain and getting into the end zone."

Thomas Dale coach Kevin Tucker compared him favorably to Ken Oxendine.

Q&A with Down The Drive

This week I talked with Matt from the Cincinnati blog Down The Drive. I learner a lot of things, including that thier team is scary (even though their quarterback's name is Munchie), and...arguably more terrifying...not afraid of the Hokies one bit.

Thanks to Matt for his time, and hopefully I'll see all y'all in DC!

TKP: Well it's been a little while, hasn't it? The last time the Hokies and Bearcats met was in the Orange Bowl, Tony Pike and Brian Kelly lead a Bearcat team to their first BCS bowl. How has Butch Jones handled taking over for Kelly post undefeated regular season, and do you see more BCS bids in the near future?

Six Pick: Week Five

#GoodJobGoodEffort this week, college football. I thought week two would draw the least interest, not even close. I couldn't even get out of the month of September without being completely wrong. That's not to say the games should be ignored, there will be close games and likely upsets, which always seems to happen in lesser weeks likes this. Forgive me for this brief Six Pick, I am using this week to recharge the batteries and save my best effort for October and November. OK, I'm being lazy.

This is a great weekend to get chores done while keeping an eye on your phone or TV. However, it's even better to travel to a game. Say one outside your Nation's capital where tickets cost less than two beers at a bar. Hey College Gameday, I see you, I wonder how it feels for them to finally leave the South? I'm sure they'd rather be in Athens, Ga and I can't blame them. Enjoy the atmosphere East Lansing, because it looks like Columbus and Ann Arbor will be ESPN's B1G destinations the next few seasons. Tech fans fully understand what it's like not being a sexy location for the worldwide leader, so hopefully something memorable, like a Corso F-bomb, happens.

Saturday, 9/29/2012

Baylor at West Virginia -12.5 12:00 pm FX

Defensive Aggression: Bowling Green Film Review II

While watching the film, the first thing that jumped out at me was the play of the Hokie front four. Rather than slanting and stunting heavily, as discussed in the French on the Bench Defense 101 series, the d-line played a more traditional style of getting upfield and attempting to make plays. Perhaps it was a function of the Bowling Green scheme, or Bud Foster realized that teams were using his slant tendencies against the defense (as discussed last week in my Pitt film review). I thought James Gayle and Tyrel Wilson played magnificent games, but both Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins didn't create much disruption in the middle, and J.R. Collins sometimes became over aggressive and lost contain on cut back runs.

A great example comes on the second Bowling Green offensive play.

1:06–1:13

Cincinnati Football Primer, Photo Edition

Weeks that follow Hokie victories always seem to be more upbeat. There were signs of encouragement in Tech's shutout victory over Bowling Green, but the season marches on. This week's opponent is familair to Hokie fans: the Cincinnati Bearcats. In 2006, Tech beat UC 29-13 behind a 170-yard effort by Brandon Ore at Lane Stadium. More notably, the two schools met in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

The Bearcats were able to build on the success of that 2008 season the following year, reeling off twelve straight victories, winning the Big East, and climbing to a #5 ranking. A second consecutive BCS berth was claimed, although the results were similar: Cincinnati lost 51-24 to Florida.

BeamerBall lists Vandyke as Starting Whip; More BG Film Review

I beat the sun up this morning and re-watched film of the defense against Bowling Green. After cds7c mentioned yesterday that Ronny Vandyke was listed on HokieSports (9/24 update) as co-starter at Whip, I wanted to watch him more closely. Now, BeamerBall (via Bitter) has Vandyke listed as the starter, G-W as the backup.

Frank Beamer's personal website has Ronny Vandyke as the first-team whip linebacker and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow on the second team. It said it was updated Tuesday. "The only way he's going to get better is we've got to get him on the field more in game situations," Foster said about Vandyke on Monday. According to Beamer's website, Vandyke had 24 plays against Bowling Green, with two tackles, one assist, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. Gouveia-Winslow had nine plays and one quarterback hurry.

Given RVD's upside, I think we've all waited a long time to hear that from the coaches.

The Pistol and Live Ammo: Bowling Green Film Review

That sound you heard coming from Blacksburg Saturday was a collective sigh of relief as the Hokies notched a 37-0 shutout and finally exhibited some explosiveness in the running game. There were many positives to point out, including dynamic rushing by the much-maligned running back corps and a bounce-back performance by the secondary, especially veteran Antone Exum. At the same time, my film review will raise many of the concerns we have seen throughout this young season, which leaves doubt in my mind about how the Hokies address these problems when they reach the meat of the ACC schedule.

I will start with the offensive identity and Logan Thomas, and I won't sugar coat it. The entire week, we heard the offense was focused on getting the running game on track. The easiest way to get it going would be to turn the dogs loose on the offensive line by playing up to their size, strength and athleticism. Instead, we saw more of the same early in the game, slow developing runs focused on counter action and trickery rather than physical dominance.

Reading up on Cincinnati

On to the next one, and this week it's a challenge. Cincinnati was near flawless against Pitt, sloppy against Delaware State, but they had both contests locked up early. Over the weekend I did some reading on the Bearcats, here's what I learned.

Wham is a play we should see Cincy run a bunch Saturday. A couple of weeks ago I mistakenly identified as the zone read. The concept is straightforward, and it blends well with their inside and outside zone plays. Down the Drive did a fantastic breakdown. Read their entire post, because only a summary follows here.

Logan Thomas is Metal

After pushing the pile for a one-yard touchdown run near the end of the second quarter, Logan Thomas went to the sideline favoring his right hand.

(Little bit of, "ewwwwww," after the jump. But there are gifs of Logan hamming too.)

That appears to be Logan's fingernail peeled back off of his thumb. He, we, all got lucky it wasn't anything worse. A lot can go wrong, even for someone 6-6, 260, trying to ram through 2,500-plus pounds of flesh. LT3 plays a physical game, and the offense is infinitely better for it. We saw Saturday how Logan grinding between the tackles (then just the threat of it) softened the outside. It's just risky business having the quarterback do the dirty work, but at this point it is necessary because it's outside the skill sets of the tailbacks.

Forgetting what I just wrote, and for good measure, here are gifs of LT3 punishing defenders.

Boom!

Trucked.

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