Moving Forward to an Uncertain Future

A public service announcement for Frank Beamer and Jim Weaver: The moment you placed the empty national championship trophy case in your facility, the stakes were raised. No longer was the status quo, as unlikely as it is for a program in the heart of rural Virginia with no history of being nationally relevant, acceptable. A conference championship like 1995, a season remembered by older Hokie fans like me as a magical season, now means a guffaw and "I don't want to fly to Miami." The bar is higher, and you moved it with that trophy case. Unfortunately, this program is trending in the wrong direction. Virginia Tech used to win with a dominant defense, great special teams, and a ball control offense that played like a bully and limited mistakes. Offenses are catching up to the defense. Special teams have been in shambles for several seasons. The offense lacks any identity, other than being the team that struggling defenses circle on their schedule to get back on track.

Florida State Football Primer, Photo Edition

FLORIDA STATE. THURSDAY NIGHT. LANE STADIUM. WHO'S EXCITED?

The Seminoles march into Blacksburg ranked #10 in the nation, boasting the number three scoring offense, defense, and best total defense in the nation. STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS BEFORE.

The 'Noles only blemish this season was a loss at NC State, where their potent offense was shut out the entire second half.

Dating back to the Hokies first season in the ACC (2004), Tech has scored 12 touchdowns against the Seminoles, approximately all by Danny Coale.

Rationalizing our Mediocrity

Over different points of the season, we've suggested reasons on this site for Tech's struggles. A few in no particular order are: injuries to an already inexperienced secondary, offensive coaches struggling to grasp a foreign scheme seemingly over their heads, said scheme putting players in a position to fail, a randomly generated tailback rotation, and loafing among others. But what do any of us here really know.

The coaches are trying to figure out this mystery too, and some of them sound as baffled as we are.

Coaches have mentioned failed execution as being the biggest reason for the offense's -- and really the team's -- struggles this season. But they're having a tough time putting their finger on why that's the case. "You can't," O'Cain said. "If you did, you'd get it corrected right now and it'd be over. Sometimes the ball bounces right and sometimes it doesn't. And if you start saying, well it's this or this or this or this, then it sounds like you're making excuses."

Gut Reactions: Miami

I was going to write something last night, but I decided to go to bed after reading the following stats.

  • Tech out gained Miami by 74 yards (421-347), and ran 24 more plays.
  • Tech held the ball almost ten minutes more than Miami (34:21-25:49).
  • Miami converted only 1 of 12 attempts on third down.
  • Tech lost by 18 points.

Statistically dominating everywhere but the scoreboard has become and unwelcome trend. In order to get a better understanding of why we lost, I re-watched the game this morning. (The beatings will continue until morale improves, right?)

I thought the defense followed up their spectacular effort at Clemson with another terrific performance. Two special teams miscues left them to defend a short field in the first quarter, and they couldn't keep Miami out of the end zone. However, they forced 6 three-and-outs that the offense couldn't take advantage of. They dominated the second-half allowing just 10 points, 3 of which came in garbage time. It wasn't vintage Virginia Tech defense, but it was more than enough for a win.

I thought the d-line controlled the line of scrimmage. Even though they were unable to sack Morris they kept rather consistent pressure on him. Exum was targeted all night, and outside of being turned around in the end zone because of a terrific throw by Morris, and later biting on a double move, he really held his own.

It was an extremely sloppy game.

It's All About The U

Update: Use this as the open thread for the game tonight. See you guys on the flip side. Go Hokies! --Joe

Tonight's game against Miami will likely decide the ACC Coastal. In the ACC era, Tech's been a terrific road team. Coming into the season the Hokies held the record for consecutive true road games won (juking the stats a bit, but still impressive). However, this season they haven't won a game away from Lane.

I traveled to Pitt and Cincinnati. Both stadiums were missing something. People for sure, but also that familiar but indescribable ambience swirling around a college football game. Something like a cocktail of noise, sweat, and excitement splashed on your face as soon as you look down at the field from your seat. Either way, good teams are able to focus solely on taking care of business. Tech couldn't at the beginning of the year, can they do so tonight in another poorly attended college game shoehorned into a pro stadium?

Miami Football Primer, Photo Edition

It has been quite an eventful two weeks, has it not? First and foremost, my thoughts go out to everyone in the Northeast dealing with Sandy. This one's for you.

Appropriately, Hokies-Canes falls the day after Halloween; this season has been scary for both teams, who each sit at 4-4. Bet I know what Kellen Winslow will be this year...

Not only is Halloween this week, but we are also reaching the climax of election season for the Presidential race. Interestingly, POTUS spoke at the University of Miami earlier this month.

Six Pick: Week Ten

Welcome to the start of November football. So much for this weekend being the best weekend of the season, too much chaos and unpredictability this year. That's not to say there are bad games, far from it. Regardless, college football has officially entered put up or shut up time, where dreams are achieved or crushed. It's more than just who has the biggest package in the SEC West, or which program really is the class of the Pac 12. Who wants to win the ACC Coastal, the Big Ten Losers division, or play spoiler to the Irish? The season hasn't shaken out as expected, who's to say more surprises aren't coming?

A couple weeks back I mentioned how I enjoyed the increased college football coverage Fox has. However, it would be nice if the networks didn't have the top 3 teams playing in games at the same time. Poor K-State is going to get crushed in the ratings going head up against Oregon/USC and Bama/LSU. The Wildcats would have drawn more viewers at the 3:30 ABC time slot and enjoyed the benefits of being the best game on at that time. I'll quit my bitching now and make sure the remote is close by. Tracking this week's ESPN Gameday location has them returning to the SEC and heading to Baton Rouge. It's deserved and I can't think of a place I'd rather be on Saturday. I can almost smell the smoked pork and corn dogs.

Thursday, 11/1/2012

An ACC Halloween

Ryan and I started talking about Halloween, candy, and the ACC at midnight. Bad things happened and they follow.

Once in a while, Tom O'Brien enjoys a caramel cube. The bland taste reminds him of American values. And there's just enough sugar to necessitate the need for an evening jog (running is showing off), but not enough to consider him "high" on anything. He hands out dental floss.

Wake Forest gets a ten-dollar bill, because, "Take it, get the hell off my porch, and I don't ever wanna see you around here again."

Much like FSU, pumpkin flavor is back in September–October. Everybody raves how it's in everything they're eating and drinking, but by November no one gives a shit and they just want it out of their life.

Randy Edsall seems like the kind of asshole who turns his porch light off and doesn't give out candy, so Maryland gets egged. They try to return fire, but don't have a quarterback to do so.

Virginia Tech is best represented by a Krackel Bar. Each season it looks promising on the outside, but once you bite in, there's no substance.

Beamer forces O'Cain and Stinespring try to trick-or-treat in a two-man horse costume, but they can't get out of the door. He encourages them, "You're just a couple of steps away".

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Nine

This week Brian goes solo due to Hurricane Sandy. He interviews Tech Assistant Director of Broadcasting Andrew Allegretta, where they talk heavily about the state of the ACC and what the additions of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame will do for the conference.

Brian then does a quick breakdown of the upcoming Miami game.

All that and more, on this episode of Adventures on Whiskey Lane.

MP3 Download link: http://thekeyplay.podomatic.com/enclosure/2012-10-30T12_10_06-07_00.mp3

Q&A with State of the U

This week I exchanged questions with the Miami blog State of the U. They talk about the misnomer of "the U's culture", Al Golden's rebuilding process, and the general inconsistencies that come with playing such a young lineup.

TKP: Okay, before I get into specifics I want to ask about all of the stuff that happened last summer. Miami is pretty much the poster child of the dreaded report "Charles Robinson sighted on campus". Ironically, the reported infractions didn't really surprised that many people (including myself), because it seemed to fit in with "The U"'s culture. Has there a been a noticeable change in the way this team acts and performs on and off the field under Al Golden?

Here Comes the Screen (Analysis)

It's the most feared word in the Virginia Tech offensive playbook: SCREEN! As tensions mount from O'Cainspring's tactics and the team's struggles, I took it upon myself to do research screen plays and their success rates.

So with Hurricane Sandy hammering the East Coast, I decided to increase the bleakness and watch the game film provided on the site and account for every screen run this year and analyze the stats by player, quarter, down, distance, formation, and yards gained. Then everything was analyzed again for only ACC games.

The entire chart is available below to peruse, but I came up with 39 deliberate screen plays. These are defined as a play where either a running back or wide receiver have blockers set up and is the primary target of the pass. Dump-offs and outlet passes that are thrown behind the line of scrimmage do not count.

Hurricane A' Coming: Winds of Change for the Hokies Defense

On the eve of a critical Thursday night matchup with the Miami Hurricanes, questions about the Hokie offense abound. While any changes to the offensive coaching staff, and a corresponding change in philosophy, will not take place until the offseason, we have seen a radical change in Bud Foster's defensive approach that has resulted in a significantly improved pass rush and run defense over the past two weeks. That continued success will be critical to any hopes of victory against a depleted, yet talented Hurricanes offense.

A quick comparison of film from the Pitt and UNC games versus the Duke and Clemson games demonstrates two significant changes in Bud Foster's philosophy.

A New Spin on an Old Trick: 4-4 and Stopping the Run

The first was a return to the old 90's 4-4 alignment, but adjusted to fit three and four wide receiver sets. It was utilized to shore up a previously porous run defense.

Statistics on Predictability, Part 2

As a follow-up to last week's post on predictability of our offense, a couple of commenters mentioned that a better comparison might be to the best teams in the country rather than all teams (since we aspire to be one of the best and most years are). In this post we'll compare the behavior seen by VT with that of the top twenty offenses in the country as ranked at http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ncaaoff.

Statistics on Offensive Predictability

Editor's Note: Bumped to the front because this is really, really well done. --Joe

Based on data available from cfbstats.com, I took a statistical look at how predictable VT’s offensive play calling has been thus far this season (note that I believe the last game is missing). The site provides basic information on every play in every game, but does not give information on specifics like formation, whether a pass was completed or not, etc. So this analysis (based on logistic regression if you’re a geek) simply looks at the most basic aspect of predictability – whether or not we rush or pass.

What Won't Change During the Bye Week

We are 5 days removed from the disaster in Death Valley, and I still find myself completely at a loss for what to write. The reality is, I see lots of good things. I really do. I think about 70% of the pieces are there for this to be a great football team. No, I am not kidding. The defensive line has been turned loose two games in a row, and without having the robotic responsibility of slanting to a gap and holding the space rather than pursuing, they have looked like the dominat unit we expected in preseason; a unit that can demolish without parlor tricks. Against both Duke and Clemson, the offense moved the football when it followed a coordinated, sensible plan of attack coupled with reasonable execution. I saw terrific effort, passion, and nastiness from critical players. We have evidence this can work.

5:42–5:50

Six Pick: Week Nine

I can't hide my disappointment resulting from the Hokies season, and I'm sure you can't either. That doesn't mean I love the Hokies or the game any less. As long as they keep playing, I'll keep watching. As you know, because of a bye week and back-to-back Thursday night games, Tech won't play on Saturday until mid November. So, it's on the rest of the nation to entertain us. I'm energized and ready to sit on my ass the next two weekends and watch the wheat be separated from the chaff. Buckle up and let's enjoy some quality football.

Seventy-three-year-old Bill Snyder is a BAWSE. This is the second time he has made K-State into a top 10 power. I have much respect for his ability to turn JUCOs, and two- and three-star nobodies into good football players. Collin Klein was a little thought of QB recruit turned WR by RonP, now he's the Heisman frontrunner. That's a pretty remarkable turn of events as he likely rides the pine for 90% of the other FBS schools. It probably took Snyder 10 minutes to figure out Klein's potential. Bill Snyder in this whiz-bang high scoring football world still knows ball control offense and sacking up on defense can still win a lot of games. If "Everything Old is New Again" is accurate, there is hope for VT to rebound.

Friday, 10/26/2012

Hokies Wrestling 2012-2013 Preview

The Hokies wrestling team enters the 2012-2013 season as the #10 ranked team in the country. This year looks very promising for the Hokies if they can stay healthy. Nine out of the team's ten projected starters have started in the past and are ranked in the top 25.

The biggest news so far this year is that Devin Carter, last year's 133 pound wrestler, who was ranked #1 in the country for a few weeks, will take a redshirt. He will use this year grow into his new 141 pound weight class and work on improving as an all around wrestler.

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r-Sr. - #7 Jarrod Garnett

Hokies to Narrow Down Carries, Who's Out?

Virginia Tech ranks 72nd nationally with 157 yards per game. The Hokies have lacked a reliable and consistent rush attack all season. Beamer Co.'s newest solution, distribute the carries among less players.

"I think four backs is too many," Beamer said Monday during his weekly teleconference.

Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) ranks fifth in the 12-team conference in rushing yards per game at 157. It's per carry average of 4.3 yards is also fifth in the league.

"I still think consistency in running the football, I think that's our No. 1 priority right now," Beamer said. "If we could get that squared away, I think that would affect other things. We have our moments at times but I think to consistently be able to do that is a key objective for us."

And to get better execution, Beamer said the coaching staff is discussing cutting down the number of tailbacks they're preparing each week. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, true freshman J.C. Coleman, junior Tony Gregory and senior Martin Scales had been splitting reps in practice and carries in games. Beamer didn't offer any specifics yet on how the rotation would change.

Gut Reactions: Clemson

That's a tough loss to swallow. Like the rest of you probably feel, I felt like we left a lot of points on the field. Tech really played as good as, or better than, Clemson in the first half, yet trailed going into the locker room. Foster's defense held Clemson to 66 plays, 295 yards, and 31 points (yes, the final score was 38-17, but I'm not counting the pick six against the defense, and another 7 of the 31 came after the game was out of reach). That was a tremendous defensive effort; better than I dreamed they could do. Bud routinely answers the bell, so I shouldn't be surprised. Ultimately the offense couldn't pace Clemson in the second half, special teams blunders, and some shoddy officiating stopped the Hokies from winning. However, officiating is part of the game, and teams that execute efficiently overcome bad calls.

The offense looked like a hot mess in the second half. I don't have the benefit of the film, so I apologize if I'm not 100% accurate here. From the live viewing, I noticed a lot more zone read than the veer from the pistol (which was so successful last week) and the tailbacks didn't make their mark inside. There were a lot of questionable play calls in the second half.

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

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