Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Eight

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

Duke, and the Road to Death Valley

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.

Six Pick: Week Eight

It's week eight of the regular season, and that means we are at the halfway point. The optimism surrounding the Hokies season opener feels like a thousand beers ago. It's been a pretty crazy season, lots of carnage leaving few undefeated teams left. My gut says there will not be any undefeated teams to end the season, making the scramble for the top 2 BCS spots even madder than usual. Could two more undefeated teams go down this weekend?

It's time for the weekly ESPN Gameday watch update, and you guessed it, they are going back to the SEC. The World Wide Leader might soon run out of SEC ass kissing material at this rate. Most of these interviews are fluffer material, however I can't wait until ESPN try to soften angry Will Muschamp this week. He's an intense, hot headed dick and that's what I like about him. Coach Boom is all that is right in college football, and it would be a shame to white wash his natural personality. I don't want him to be human, he's a laser eyed cyborg ready to terminate refs. I beg of you Gameday, don't sanitize him.

(h/t to friend of the program @governorofdixie for the image)

Clemson Football Primer, Photo Edition

Hey y'all. How bout that game last week? 41 POINTS. That was pretty fancy. Then again, it was Duke (LUV YOU BLUE DEVILZ and #goacc). This week's challenge: Clemson. The Tigers are currently sitting at 5-1, with expectations of domination; there's a lot of excitement brewing for this one. 8-Ball even said that ESPN Gameday will be there!

There was a lot of offseason re-shuffling for a Clemson team that made it's first BCS game. Dabo was able to lure Oklahoma Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables away from the Sooners because HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THE ORANGE BOWL I THINK THE COUSINS JUST SCORED ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN.

Q&A with Shakin The Southland

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?

Let's talk about Clemson

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.

Gut Reactions: Duke

This team is not dead. In fact, after spotting Duke 20 points, they were reborn. This is what we expected to see on the field heading into the 2012 campaign. The defensive line was dominate. They played angry and answered the challenge put forth by the coaches during an intense week of practice. They created chaos and it led to turnovers, sacks, and busted plays. J.C. Coleman had over 180 yards on the ground and reinvigorated a stagnant running game. Marcus Davis showed off his athleticism and made big-plays.

People might say, "It's Duke," and to that I say, "Bullshit." That was a 5-1 team we just throttled. Duke threw haymakers to start the game and we answered the bell. That was the first time all season we played team football, and if we give that effort down the stretch, we'll have a chance in every game.

The coaches sounded like they were going to get away from the Nickel, but they used it a bunch (if I had to guess 75% of the game). Both Michael Cole and Detrick Bonner struggled, albeit less this week, in man-coverage. However, both had an interception and Bonner made a great play on the ball in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Although, I'd still prefer to see a base look. Towards the end of the game Tech was in base and Ronny Vandyke had nice coverage with Jarrett helping over the top and they forced an incompletion like clockwork.

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Seven

This week on Adventures on Whiskey Lane, Brian and Kevin try to figure out what's been going wrong for the Hokies recently. It includes a lot of head scratching and thoughts of better years.

However, much like the team, Brian and Kevin turn their attention to a 5-1 Duke team (really) that's off to its best start in nearly 20 years.

What do the Hokies have to do to snap the skid? Find out that and more on this week's Adventure on Whiskey Lane!

MP3 Download link: http://thekeyplay.podomatic.com/enclosure/2012-10-11T19_55_47-07_00.mp3

Six Pick: Week Seven

We are approaching the halfway mark in what has been a disappointing season for Hokies, but a solid one for the sport. I'm here to tell you to forget about VT's difficulties and think about the positives at the moment:

  • uva has gone back to the algroh level of welp
  • FSU is not back
  • Someone forgot to tell the midwesterners, that ugly football is not part of the ACC/B1G Ten challenge
  • Lane Kiffin is still an ass ... and still without a ring
  • Tennessee is stuck in perpetual mediocrity
  • The NCAA is about to blast Miami 40 years back in time
  • Think of all that extra money you will have for Christmas without a Bowl trip expenditure

Q&A with Ben Swain

As we approach the most dreaded Duke game in the history of Duke games, I sat down with Ben Swain of ACC Sports Journal. We trade witty remarks over 1,000 magical words about two teams trending in opposite directions, the faulty two quarterback system, the Blue Devil kicking game and what it's like to be even less than a little brother at your school.

I hope y'all enjoy our banter as much as the game on Saturday.

TKP: So...here we are. It's October, Duke is 5-1 while Virginia Tech sits at a paltry 3-3. The Hokies are favored, but I have also seen the line as low as a pick. This seems crazier than Nick Saban's daughter. I don't really have a question, just wanted to make a statement of how depressed I am..but for kicks, let's turn it into one. What's different about this Duke team?

Duke Football Primer, Photo Edition

Dookies are coming to town this weekend! I expect everyone to scream "TEABAG PAULUS" every opportunity they have. #HokiesRespect

The Blue Devils come into Blacksburg fesh off a 42-17 drubbing of the #NewHoos. Mike London, for all his 757 recruiting efforts, has a losing record to Duke. RUT ROH.

Trying to find the beat

I listened to and read quotes from all of Tech's media sessions this week. As someone on the outside of the program looking in, it's really the only way to take the pulse of the team. In my mind, the game against Duke will ultimately make or break the season, and it may say something about program's future. Our backs are firmly against the wall Saturday, and however unlikely, an ACC Championship is still within reach. It won't be, and bowl bid won't look promising, if we lose to Duke.

These are some quotes I found interesting and telling along with my thoughts.

Bud is getting the defense back to basics this week.

The early part of Virginia Tech's practice Tuesday focused all on tackling. Defenders rotated through three stations, one manned by defensive coordinator Bud Foster, one by defensive line coach Charley Wiles, one by defensive backs coach Torrian Gray.

Each had a different tackling drill -- wrapping up (Foster), shedding blocks (Wiles) and open field (Gray) -- all in an effort to correct the missed tackles and blown leverages against North Carolina last weekend.

"Normally when we do, that next game our execution and fundamentals are a lot better," Gray said.

UNC Film Review: A Tragic Realization

This is a hit piece. I can't run from the fact that on Saturday, the Hokies were so poor in their fundamental execution of their basic responsibilities that I find myself doubting that they can turn this ship around this season. After the end of the debacle in Chapel Hill, I tried desperately to find some kind of building block to give me hope for the immediate future. I expected to turn on the film of the game, and see tremendous effort sabotaged by singular errors in execution that we should come to expect with a young team that is struggling to gel. Instead, I saw breakdown after breakdown of the most basic fundamentals in football.

Pre-Shane Recruiting and the Debacle in Chapel Hill

One of the major problems with the defense is not only the lack of veteran depth in the secondary, but also a lack of veteran depth in the linebacker corps. In previous editions of French on the Bench, I have casually mentioned how the defense has been hampered terribly by horrific recruiting classes from 2008-2010 (prior to Shane Beamer's arrival.) Here is a quick breakdown of the defensive recruiting during that period.

Gut Reactions: North Carolina

Well, there really isn't much to say. A lot of the same issues that plagued Tech all season cropped up in Carolina. The defense gave up 533 yards, 366 of which came on the ground. Tech played Nickel most of the afternoon to counter UNC's spread and it allowed Giovani Bernard and A.J. Blue to run wild. Michael Cole and Detrick Bonner struggled to come up from the secondary and make tackles. Both of those guys had rough afternoons. Again the front-four, a perceived strength leading up to the season, struggled to generate a pass rush. The Hokies couldn't run the ball, again, and Logan Thomas ended up as the leading rusher with 20 of the team's 40 yards. (That's counting minus-19 yards on a botched Andrew Miller snap.) Ultimately, UNC pulled away from a back-and-forth game because they didn't settle for field goals, were able to run the ball, and made big plays. It's evident Foster doesn't have a solution for "spread" offenses with playmakers. Tech's offense isn't built to win track meets. So, it could be a long second-half of the season.

These are my thoughts in no particular order. They're gut reactions, so take them at face value.

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.

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