This is the first of several commentaries and film reviews associated with the Sun Bowl and the resulting state of the Hokie football program. I had a pretty solid vision for what I would be writing about after the game, until Mark May and Lou Holtz decided to shoot off their mouth about the state of the program. For those of you who may have missed it, or have not read Joe's response, here is the ESPN segment again.
I don't have many thoughts on the Sun Bowl. Tech trailed 10-14 at the start of the fourth quarter in a game where Logan Thomas got knocked out early in the second quarter. Keeping it close for that long was a mini miracle in itself. Then the wheels fell off.
Although you had to almost expect the game to get out of hand once Thomas exited. (The irrational fan voice in my head screaming, "We'll pull this out!," is never silenced though). And that's not an indictment of Leal's play or potential either. Scot Loeffler designed Tech's offense around Logan's unique skill set. Meanwhile, Leal took backup reps all season. It's unreasonable to expect Leal, or any other backup quarterback, to step into that situation against a good team and keep it competitive.
"Animal Champion" is the highest compliment I can give any football player. Logan's earned it with every hit he's taken and delivered over the last 3 years.
His status for the second half is up in the air.
Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4, 5-3) at UCLA Bruins (9-3, 6-3)
Time: 2:15 PM ET / Noon:15 MT
Date: Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Place: El Paso, Texas
Stadium: Sun Bowl Stadium (51,500)
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech +7.5
Weather: 57 F, Sunny
In an effort not to repeat what's previously been posted, this preview will be a summary, and will be brief.
The UCLA Bruins had an excellent 2013 season, but if a weakness stood out to me when I watched film of their games, it was offensive line play. Due to attrition and injuries, the Bruins were often featuring three true freshmen on the offensive line (Caleb Benenoch, Scott Quessenberry and Alex Redmond). Each played well enough for true freshmen, but with inexperience comes breakdowns in pass protection and short yardage running situations. The Bruins were plagued with those breakdowns early and often this season. Also, with their spread offensive sets and the use of an H-Back, the Bruins lacked a true tight end to utilize as a blocker in short yardage, and UCLA's top two running backs are both scat back types that check in at less than 200 pounds.
As those struggles mounted, Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone turned to their young, talented defense for a solution to challenges in short yardage situations. Mazzone developed a series of running packages featuring talented freshmen Myles Jack and Eddie Vanderdoes at tailback; senior defensive end Cassius Marsh and sophomore defensive end Brandon Willis at tight end; and defensive end Keenan Graham and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt both aligned as offset fullbacks. Mazzone debuted this Power I formation in short yardage situations against the Arizona Wildcats, and it became a staple of UCLA's offense over the last four regular season games.
Hello. Today, on a very special "Bowl"rensics, we take a deep look inside our opponents in the previously covered Sun Bowl in lovely, previously covered El Paso, Texas. The last opponent forced to deal with two Fullers at one time (at least for the foreseeable future) are the Bruins from UCLA.
Virginia Tech men's basketball coach James Johnson released a statement on HokieSports.com.
Virginia Tech head basketball coach James Johnson has announced that Marquis Rankin has elected to leave the Virginia Tech men's basketball team, effective immediately.
"I completely support Marquis on his decision, " Johnson said. "He is an outstanding young man who had to make a difficult choice and I know that he took the time to make sure it was the correct decision. While we will miss not having him on the team, I am very happy that he has decided to stay at Virginia Tech and work towards his ultimate goal of a degree from our University."
Reminder: It's a game week.
UCLA's version of the spread uses many of the core concepts that Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, ECU, and Marshall exhibited against the Hokies this season. The running game features a big dose of read option and quarterback draw. On the outside, the Bruins use fairly standard post-wheel routes, four verticals, and curl route concepts. Their skill position talent is mundane, and their offensive line is dreadful. So, what makes the Bruins so dangerous for the Hokies in their New Year's Eve matchup? Unlike those other opponents, UCLA has a legitimate NFL talent in Brett Hundley who is as dangerous when running the football as he is throwing it. Of all the players the Hokies defense has faced this season, no player other than maybe Andre Williams is more important to the success of the offense than UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.
night Eve before Christmas New Year's, and for UCLA
Not a Bruin was scoring, not even Hundley.
The Hokies were collapsing his pocket with care,
Knowing that ManBearPig soon would be there.
Hokie fans nestled all snug in the stands,
With bourbon and turkey legs grasped in their hands.
With Logan behind the tip of the spear,
And Sam Rogers destroying anyone near.
Moments ago Baltimore, Maryland (Gilman School) defensive end/linebacker prospect Melvin Keihn announced his commitment to Virginia Tech. Melvin is rated as a 4-star prospect by Rivals.com and a 3-star recruit by 247Sports. Keihn, who was recruited by Aaron Moorehead, selected the Hokies over Maryland and Virginia.
Hello. Welcome to a special edition of BowlRensics. Last week we took an in depth look at the full lineup of college bowls which will allow us to be the most well rounded, knowledgeable college football fans in the universe. This week, we'll take a closer look at the Sun Bowl, its host city of El Paso and the surrounding environs. Before we get too far into it, I cannot recommend highly enough that you go read A Guide to El Paso by EPHokie which, if you actually are going to El Paso, PLEASE read that instead of this.
Moments ago Washington, PA running back Shai McKenzie announced his commitment to Virginia Tech. Shai is rated as a 4-star prospect by both Rivals.com and 247Sports. The Hokies edged out Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech for his commitment.
At 6-foot, 210 pounds McKenzie has the size to be a feature tailback in Blacksburg. It's easy to tell from his highlights that he's powerful and quick. He makes decisive cuts which will suit him well in Loeffler's / Grimes' zone rushing attack.
Last week I wrote about the play of the returning players (read: non-freshman), and how their improvement has impacted the way this team has played thus far. Many of you though, for good reason, were less focused on the old guys and wanted to know more about the class of freshmen currently in the rotation. I can't blame you, everyone gets excited about the new additions to a team. New additions mean hope and promise, regardless of whether or not hope and promise is actually coming.
At the beginning of the season, I had a lot of questions about this team (19 to be exact). Now that we're ten games into the year, I think that many of those questions have been answered. Not that there aren't anymore questions, it's just that the questions have evolved. No longer am I worried about if Ben Emelogu can create his own offense, but rather the ways in which he creates it.
As Joe previously discussed, the Bruins present a formidable challenge for the Hokies. UCLA only had three losses this season, and those three losses all came Pac-12 teams that finished in the BCS top 15. After watching the film, it is very easy to quickly draw the conclusion that the Bruins are the most talented team the Hokies have faced aside from Alabama. After confounding losses to Duke, Boston College, and Maryland, it is not surprising that most of the positive energy around the program is focused on recruiting rather than the Sun Bowl.
Most of the talk has focused on quarterback Brett Hundley, who is a bigger, stronger, and faster version of Maryland's C.J. Brown. Brown gave the Hokies fits in their worst loss of the season, but perhaps the most impressive component of UCLA's team is their fantastic defensive front seven. Using a 3-4 alignment, this group features a little bit of everything. The Bruins have tremendous size and speed, experienced leaders that also are playmakers, elaborate stunts, and a wealth of young talent. Stanford thought so much of the UCLA front that they spent most of the game playing a spread offense, which forced UCLA out of their base front.
Editor's Note: I'm happy to announce that Pierson Booher is joining the writing team. Pierson has been a longtime reader/commenter (PhillyHokie007), and understands the culture of the community here. He also enjoys Virginia Tech athletics and writes well. --Joe
Growing up in western New Jersey, college football wasn't exactly an oft-discussed sport. I was a casual fan growing up, watching guys like Desmond Howard, Ron Dayne and Kerry Collins on ABC's Wide World of Sports every Saturday. But the truth was, I struggled to truly engage in the sport because I felt no connection with a team or a player. My parents both went to small colleges, one in Upstate New York the other in Vermont, places known more for their hockey teams and record snowfalls than anything resembling football. Suffice it to say, my household was generally ambivalent when it came to Saturday pigskin. On the other hand, my grandfather had Giants season tickets through his business, and being the oldest, I reaped the benefits of that connection.
Via our friend Andy Bitter, this is some interesting and unexpected news on a Monday night. 2014 quarterback Chris Durkin from Youngstown, Ohio committed to Virginia Tech.
According to Rivals.com, Durkin had committed to Michigan State on 3/28/2013. Rivals.com rates Durkin as a 3-star prospect, while 247Sports lists him as a 4-star recruit.
Hello. Welcome to a new edition of "Foe"Rensics: BOWL SEASON or, dare I say, BOWLRENSICS. We'll take some time a bit later to dig into both El Paso and UCLA, but seeing as how you are a well rounded college football fan, you'd like to stay up to speed on what's going on elsewhere. There are so many bowls, it's hard to keep track of what's what and who's who, right? But you know what everyone can remember? To eat. Or else we would die. So I thought it would be helpful to compare each bowl to the bowl of food it most closely resembles. This should be weird.
Also, before we dive in, I just want to note that Kyle Fuller is an All-American. Hell yes.
1. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Washington State vs. Colorado State
This is like a bowl of Pirate's Booty at a party where they are late serving dinner. Yes, you are starving/missing college football, which is pretty much the only reason you are eating this shit. But it ain't that good. Really, the only thing going for the snack and for the bowl game are the potential for pirate themed jokes (hi, Mike Leach!) and I think they've both been stretched too far at this point.
Before I start talking about what's happening with the men's basketball team, I believe that it is important to remember where this team was one year ago. Sitting at 8-1, with impressive wins over Oklahoma State and Iowa, people started to buy in to the Hokies. Some stupid people even thought that the team was so happy to be out from under Seth Greenberg that they would play above their talent level, simply out of sheer happiness (okay, that was me).
Little did we know, that would be the high point of the year. The very next game Tech went on to lose to Georgia Southern, which marked the beginning of an uber-depressing 5-18 run over the next three months. That run was full of desperate Erick Green jump shots and very little else.