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.

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