Beamer Ball is Back

Everything else might have been horrible, but on special teams Hughes was a boss, Kyle Fuller was a boss, and Skip was a boss. We won a three overtime game y'all!

There will be better analysis on Monday. It's now Georgia Tech (hate) week. Let's hug here.

Game Preview: Marshall

By French (hates cheese), Mason (doesn't have a cell phone capable of text messaging), Joe (is helpless without spell check), and joelestra (number cruncher)

Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) against Marshall Thundering Herd (2-1)

Time: Noon (12:01)
Date: Saturday, September 21, 2013
Place: Blacksburg, Virginia
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,632)
TV: ESPNU
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech -9
Tickets: Virginia Tech Football Tickets (Sponsored)
Weather: 72 F, 80% Chance of Rain

The Skinny

The Hokies host 2-1 Marshall and are tasked with defending one of the top passing attacks in the country. The Thundering Herd is coming off of a brutal loss to Ohio, where they had three fumbles, an interception, and a multitude of offsides penalties, despite racking up 482 yards. The Hokies are seeking their 700th win in program history, they would be the 15th school in NCAA I-A history to reach that milestone.

A Step Backwards but an Opportunity for Growth

One of the bright spots this young season has been the excellent performance by the offensive line. I was thrilled with their execution and noticeably improved fundamentals. My one reservation was the matchups. Alabama has an elite, very athletic front, but their system requires their defensive line to engage blockers, allowing their linebackers to make plays. Western Carolina was completely out manned. Both teams used a relatively static concept up front designed to occupy blockers.

East Carolina presented a very different challenge. Could the Hokies offensive line be effective against a quick defensive front that is focused more on attacking the gaps and stunting than maintaining gap fits? The Pirates used a 3-man defensive front that they flexed over to the strong side of the offensive line. To the weak side, the "jack" linebacker aligned as a stand-up defensive end. The inside linebackers aligned well off the line of scrimmage. The added distance gave the linebackers a distinct quickness advantage over the offensive linemen trying to get to the second level. To the strong side, the Pirates completed the 3-4 look with an outside linebacker who usually aligned well off the line of scrimmage, almost in a nickel alignment.

"Foe"Rensics: Marshall

Hello. Welcome to this week's installment of "Foe"Rensics where we give you an in depth look at this week's opponent with information sourced mostly from Wikipedia and my imagination. This week we venture into the cheery, sunny climes of a tiny town nestled deep in the mountains of West Virginia; Huntington, the home of Marshall University.

(I'm only going if Radha Mitchell will be there, you guys.)

1. So hey, we didn't lose to East Carolina!

A. We sure gave it our best effort, though, falling just short in the end. But my GOD, our defense...I always thought those James Gayle in a Bane mask posts by Joe were funny but now...I'm not sure it was a joke. Who's our scout team quarterback this year? Can you imagine being him and waking up EVERY DAY knowing Gayle was going to try to de-arm and de-head you?

Weekly Rewind: Week 3

THE FAB FIVE

(My five favorite storylines from last week)

THIS SEASON'S GAME OF THE MILLENNIUM (so far): Man, this thing was fun. Two things were obvious from the opening kick: Johnny Football is better than he was last season, and there was no chance in this world that Alabama was losing that game. Manziel was in ultimate JFF mode, doing whatever he wanted all the while giving Gary Danielson an aneurism. Bama, on the other hand, made the Aggie defense look like they hadn't played together this season. It was such an exciting game with so many storylines that I've decided to write an ending to the inevitable movie script written about this game:

ACT 5 SCENE 2

[After the game, Johnny and A.J. walk through the crowd of players when they spot each other across the field]

A.J.: [whips off his aviator sunglasses to look Johnny in the eyes] {slowly and emotionally} Manziel. You're still dangerous. {smiles} But you can be my wingman anytime.

Passing From The Spread, Triangles, and Adjustments

The Hokies threw the ball all over the field on Saturday, often lining up in a four or even five wide formation to do it. Loeffler was branded as a run-first pro-style play caller, but on a day when his offensive line failed to get much push against a smaller, quicker defensive front, Loeffler resorted to spreading his opponent out to move the ball. It appeared as though Loeffler came into the game wanting to rush the ball early and often, but when the zone rushing scheme failed to fully blossom, Loeffler didn't hesitate to pull a 180. By the time the dust had settled in North Carolina, the Hokies had passed the ball 43 times out of a possible 77 plays, their pass-to-rush ratio being almost identical to ECU's.

For the most part, Loeffler had success with this strategy. Despite throwing the ball so much, the Hokies held onto the ball almost 13 minutes longer than the Pirates did. They also gained 258 yards through the air, and Logan completed 58% of his passes. Thomas still struggled with accuracy at times, but he was sharp on many 3rd-and-long throws. It's been said before, but there is a lot of potential for this passing attack and it's because of the guy under center. He was much better at finding his underneath receivers and not pushing the ball down the field when it wasn't necessary. If the offensive line is able to keep the pressure off of Logan, as Logan gets more comfortable making his reads, Loeffler will find ways to keep the passing attack one step ahead of the opposing defense.

Defensive Film Review: Trust in Youth

The Hokie defense faced a new challenge this week, combating an East Carolina offense that featured quarterback Shane Carden, almost an 80% passer with 7 touchdowns and no interceptions in two wins against Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic. To combat this foe, Bud Foster used a mix of defensive pressure with a variety of coverage looks, but almost always featuring a press alignment on slot receivers and corners aligned 7-10 yards off the ball.

Perhaps most stunning was Foster's trust of his true freshman defensive backs in one-on-one coverage situations. In 2011's matchup against East Carolina, with an experienced secondary (Hosley, Kyle Fuller, Cris Hill, Antone Exum, and Eddie Whitley), Foster played almost exclusively with two deep safeties and the mike and backer dropping into underneath zones. On Saturday, against a potent offense, Foster placed Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson on islands with limited or no safety help deep, or linebacker help against crossing routes. The results, thanks to the tremendous football acumen of the secondary coupled with a defensive front-seven that engulfed Pirate quarterback Shane Carden, proved to be too much for the Air Raid to defeat.

Let's Hug Here

I'm not sure how we won this game, but we did. There will be better analysis than this during the week. Until then, let's praise Bud. 2-1, have a safe weekend y'all.

Game Preview: East Carolina

By French (he doesn't even own a bench), Mason (burrito manager), Joe (direct your grammar complaints here), and joelestra (stat man)

Virginia Tech Hokies (1-1) against East Carolina Pirates (2-0)

Time: Noon (12:05)
Date: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Place: Greenville, North Carolina
Stadium: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000)
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech -7.5
Tickets: Virginia Tech Football Tickets (Sponsored)
Weather: 60-75 F

The Skinny

The Hokies travel to Greenville for their first nooner of the season. The Pirates are 2-0 with wins over two 0-2 squads. The Hokies have won the last 3 meetings in this series since a stunning 22-27 loss in 2008. This game will be a good test for both the Virginia Tech offense and defense. ECU averages 396.5 yards per game, while Tech is holding opponents to a buck-eighty-four.

Back to Basics: Solid Execution in the Running Game

In Chris Brown's The Essential Smart Football a chapter is devoted to the guru of the zone blocking scheme, former Broncos and Falcons offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. Beyond the fundamentals of running the inside zone and the zone stretch, Gibbs stressed that the offensive line and the running backs were symbiotic. If the running back did not read the correct cutback, it'd look like the offensive line missed a block. If the offensive line missed an assignment, the running back gets stuffed. Accordingly, in Denver, Gibbs coached the team on the play, not just the offensive lineman. Everyone knew what everyone else was doing. Cohesion and timing are required for the zone scheme to be successful.

Weekly Rewind: Week 2

Welcome to the weekly rewind. In this absurdly long weekly column, I cover the most important things that happened each weekend, from awesome performances to the absurdities that occur in the world of college football.

THE FAB FIVE

(My five favorite storylines from last week)

Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon go HAM against Notre Dame:These two Wolverines will haunt the Irish's dreams more than a British Nick Saban. Four touchdowns for Gardner, eight catches, 184 yards and three scores for Gallon...the two had a great night. Not only that, but Gardner pulled off the uniform of the year, eviscerating Notre Dame while wearing number 98. I loved the move.

"Foe"Rensics: East Carolina

Hello. Welcome to the third installment of "Foe"Rensics. It seems there was a decided preference for incorporating some actual real facts into this, so I'm going to stick with it and see how it goes. As always, there may be places where I've stretched the truth a bit. This week, we're traveling to the pirate infested waters of Greenville1, NC, home of East Carolina.

Where the Passing Attack Is At

Frank Beamer is fond of reminding reporters after his team's first game that the most improvement in a season happens between the first and second games. It's a coaching adage that is common because it is usually pretty true. The first week a coach prepares his game plan based on who he thinks his team is. It's not unusual for a squad to perform like something entirely unimagined. In that case, the changes made from week one to week two will increase productivity as scheme, practice focus, and game plan better match personnel and their pros and cons.

The Alabama game taught the Hokies coaching staff a lot about the current squad. Bud Foster and the defensive coaches saw their defense hold up very well versus one of the best pro-formation offenses in the country. The d-line looked stout against the run and the slanting scheme worked well to take away a powerful zone-rushing offense. Coach Torrian Gray's youngest pupils (Kendall Fuller, Brandon Facyson, and Donovan Riley) all looked more than capable in pass coverage, and his eldest statesman (Kyle Fuller) appeared to have taken the next step in single man coverage against one of the nation's premiere wide receivers. The defense looked to be pretty special after the first game, and simply needed to see that success continue against the spread-style offense that Western Carolina brought to town.

Bud Foster Gives Me Nightmares

One of the fascinating things about watching college football in real time is the number of misconceptions that turn into conclusions. With the benefit of hindsight from the film review every Sunday, I gain a certain degree of insight about how the Hokie offense and defense performed that I otherwise would not have.

Most fascinating, perhaps, is analyzing Bud Foster's defensive concepts each week. While the basic tenants remain the same, he seems to constantly adjust alignments and concepts to fit the ability of his personnel, especially in the secondary. I expected his game plan to be very vanilla against Western Carolina, which would serve as an opportunity to evaluate personnel and give young players an opportunity to face spread concepts in a live game setting. Foster delivered a vanilla game plan from the standpoint of blitzes, however, his plan to stop the spread incorporated using nickel personnel in 7- and 8-man fronts via the base 4-4 and the 46 alignments. From these alignments, two facts presented themselves. First, Bud Foster has an incredible amount of trust in Kyle Fuller. Fuller played on the boundary in single coverage without any deep safety help on his half of the field for long stretches during the game. Second, and perhaps most importantly, every offensive coordinator has film of four of the top five Hokie defensive backs (Kyle, Kendall, Jarrett, and Bonner) lined up as a nickel slot defender, a cover corner, a deep safety, and as a blitzing outside linebacker.

Gut Reactions: Western Carolina

That was an early afternoon filled with empty calories, beer, bourbon, and blowouts. I walked out of the Georgia Dome last week disappointed, but not upset. "What if we..." The Hokies played the Tide tough, effort wasn't a question, but they were far from polished.

The Hokies showed progress against Western Carolina. The only major snafu on special teams was the normally sure handed Kyshoen Jarrett mishandling a punt (one in which he didn't get bailed out by the officials). Credit Frank Beamer for tightening up Pride and Joy by playing starters like James Gayle, Kyle Fuller, Brandon Facyson, and Dadi Nicolas.

The passing game looked sharper than last week. Yes, there were drops and bad decisions, but eventually Thomas settled into a groove, Josh Stanford and Willie Byrn each made a nice catch, and freshman Kalvin Cline distinguished himself as something other than a fashion icon. Thomas and Knowles tried to connect on the deep ball a couple of times, which given their skill sets is something they should combine to do very well, but didn't hit on. Perhaps it will happen when they really need the points.

"Foe"Rensics: Western Carolina

Editor's Note: Bumped to the front because I couldn't stop laughing. --Joe

Hello. Welcome to the second installment of "Foe"Rensics. Acceding to the demands of my legions of fans (and to the fact that last week we played one of the most famous teams in college football that we've spent the last eight months talking about and this week we're playing a college no one has ever heard of that used to be a high school) I've decided to deepen my research past Wikipedia (and my imagination) in an attempt to include "facts". Please note, there may be places where I've stretched the truth a bit. This week, our journey of discovery takes us to Cullowhee, home of Western Carolina University.

Offensive Potential and Foster's Genius

Alabama's won the last two national championships and are favorites to win again this year. Alabama has a Heisman candidate at quarterback, an NFL-ready running back, and a rock solid defense. Hokie fans knew that the competition on August 31st was going to be stiff, but what we didn't know was how capable our players would look on national television. Coach Frank Beamer and his staff learned a lot about what this football team is about Saturday night, and so did we.

Offensive Lessons

The offensive line is already improving on last season's debacle. As French wrote on Monday, Jeff Grimes' unit more than held their own against a front-7 that will likely be in the discussion as "best in the nation" by the end of the season. The push off the ball the o-line was able to get while run blocking exceeded my expectations. Pass protection wasn't as good, but it showed promise and is normally the part of offensive line play that needs the most work during the beginning of the season anyway. As the season progresses, expect our offensive line to continue to improve and gel together. It appears that the hire of Jeff Grimes is starting to pay dividends already. I'm excited to see what he will accomplish once the kids that he recruits are brought into the program.

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