It's Sunday morning here in Abingdon, and after a night of grinding teeth and muttering curse words in my sleep, I awoke to find the film of the Duke game sitting in my inbox. The loss was not just critical in the current chase for the Coastal Division title, but is perhaps even more damaging to program perception. Even though Duke is a vastly improved football team, nationally they are regarded as a traditionally weak program. The Hokies giftwrapped the game on a silver platter even though Duke gave them every opportunity to, not only win the football game, but win in a comfortable, albeit not pretty fashion, similar to wins over Georgia Tech, Pitt, and UNC. It was a perfect cauldron of injuries, bye week rust, distractions, suspensions, bad decisions, bounces, fundamental breakdowns, and an opponent that fought like hell.
Watching the film, I was overwhelmed by numerous breakdowns by players who have produced critical plays all season, and at the same time I was left scratching my head at some of the game planning and decisions. Throughout the bye week, we heard that the running game would be cleaned up, and that players on both sides of the ball had an opportunity to heal for the stretch run. Instead, the offensive playcalling often seemed to play right into the strength of the Duke defense, and some defense senior leaders delivered quiet performances. Even when the Hokies dialed up the perfect call, things seemed to go Duke's way. Accordingly, this week's film review will require two parts. The next installment will feature the offensive game plan and coaching, and I want the extra time to really take a good look at the read option game and understand the diminishing returns. As for today, I want to focus on the breakdowns by some of those experienced players. I pride myself on trying not being overly critical of players, and instead trying to focus on technique and the application to the success and failure of the plays. I want every player in the Virginia Tech uniform to succeed, and nobody is happier than me when one of the players who I have been critical of comes back to make a huge play. I will gladly eat that humble pie.