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.
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.
Why? Because I saw it happen and figured we all needed a laugh. It's after the jump to preserve our sanity for the week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.