Slept On It: More Like Old Domin-yawn, Amiright?

Looking back at the first third of the regular season after a good night's rest.

[Mark Umansky]

For more than a week it has felt like Hokie Nation has been focused on Clemson and College GameDay. Nothing more. "Old Dominion? That's cute and all, but that series is solely about maintaining a presence in the 757. There has been a heightened level of confidence amongst Virginia Tech fans that hasn't been seen in years. Confidence in the veteran defensive talent. Confidence in the emerging offense weaponry. And, after years of uneven and boorish offensive play calling, solid confidence in the coaching staff.

Any talk of a potential letdown game against the Monarchs was quickly brushed aside. The Hokies would effortlessly lay waste to their in-state foe, getting some additional reps under the belts of their younger players ahead of the conference slate. And lay waste they did.

Bud Foster dialed up the pressure early and often against 17-year old starting quarterback Steven Williams, forcing him out of the pocket and into uncomfortable throws downfield. The secondary was smothering, and by game's end all ODU had to show for the effort were 85 yards passing and 149 yards of total offense.

Steven Peoples had the best game of his career, and the Hokies offense moved the ball without much resistance. Peoples accounted for 116 total yards and 3 touchdowns, including a SportsCenter Top 10-worthy catch off Cam Phillips' chest.

Games against teams like Old Dominion are challenging to digest. On one hand, when lofty expectations are not met it's easy for fans to freak out, vent, and second guess. On the other, easy victories are almost dismissed as having any semblance of meaning for the season at-large. Sometimes the best way to take stock of these types of games is to put them into context with the preceding contests. What do we know about this team through the first third of the season?

Offensively, we know that Josh Jackson is an emerging talent who makes good decisions but is still reliant on those around him. We know that the running game will be stronger than it was a year ago; the offensive line is a major strength and the skill position blocking is much improved from last season. We know that Cam Phillips is going to carry the passing attack, but his cast of characters is still developing and is sorely lacking a jump ball threat.

Defensively, we know that the defensive line depth could be a major factor against up-tempo offenses that run 75-plus plays per game. We know that when the front-seven fulfills their assignments, they are as tough as any unit in the country. We know that the secondary is incredibly talented, but still trying to figure out what personnel packages work best against certain play calls and situation.

We know that Oscar Bradburn is going to win one or two more games with his consistent leg. We know that Joey Slye isn't quite the rock we hoped he would be in his final season. And we know that the return game is going to be respected by opponents.

But for the fourth consecutive week, the Tech offense was unable to kick it into gear until the second quarter. As Virginia Tech's date with Clemson — the defending national champions — draws near, the Hokies' inability to get into an early rhythm terrifies me.

Statistically, the Hokies have looked good in 2017. They have outscored opponents 160-41 on the year and 129-17 since the opener against West Virginia. But those numbers mask the slow starts that have typified the Tech offense thus far. 140 of the Hokies' 160 points (87.5%) have come after the first quarter and 93 points (58%) have come after halftime. On Sunday, Bruce Feldman noted how gaudy Josh Jackson's second half stats have been, which is well deserved praise from a national college football writer.

This is all well and good, but Feldman's tweet is short on context. Outside of the WVU game and the first few minutes of the third quarter in Greenville, those second half stats are largely in moderate-to-low pressure situations. At the same time, the tweet omits just how uneven the Hokies' first halfs have been. Against a Clemson defense that is Top 12 in each of the big four categories (scoring, passing, rushing, and total defense), it will be tough sledding for the Hokies from start to finish on Saturday night. A fifth consecutive slow start could prove perilous.

Clemson's offense under first year starter Kelly Bryant is considerably different than it was under Deshaun Watson. But Bryant's dual-threat ability is precisely what has given Foster's defenses fits over the years. Tailbacks Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne are dynamic runners, and the Tigers' passing attack is always dangerous.

Will this Clemson offense blow the doors off the Hokies? Probably not. But they certainly have the ability to when you factor in their defense's ability to comprehensively shut down the opposition.

I understand that play calling is a chess match to Brad Cornelsen. He makes the most of early opportunities to poke and prod defensive tendencies and is content to take what he's given. But what happens when you're given nothing? What happens when the poking and prodding puts you consistently too far behind the sticks?

These are the things that worry me. Not only against Clemson, but also against consistently talented defenses that synthesize weeks of game film into suffocating game plans. That is what lies ahead of the Hokies.

Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen have proven through eighteen games that they are jedi masters when it comes to maximizing talent and creating chances. Given the offense's present shortcomings, their ability to make in-game adjustments and dial up the perfect play call may be this offense's most valuable asset.

Comments

Awesome write up. Thanks

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

Anyone know what to expect with visiting fans Saturday? There are tons of Section 19 tickets avaliable and I'm thinking Clemson returned a lot of their allocation and that's why VT released a bunch of tickets a couple weeks ago. Trying to determine if I'm going to be surrounded by Clemson fans.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

They changed the visiting team section also, only upper 19 is visiting team now, the lower section is zero minimum donation season tickets.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Upper 19 meaning Section 39 or like above the portal?

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

The color graph they put out doesn't do a good job showing where it changes. But visitors now get upper 19, 39 and part of top of South End zone.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Got a link to that graph? I haven't been able to find one up to date other than the standard one on hokietickets and the nifty 3D one.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

Not online I can't. Only noticed it when I was picking my seats this year.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

That's alright I found some in Row W so I should be safe haha

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

ODU was my first game this season, have we moved visiting team bands up to the tippy top?

Those poor tuba players lugging that thing up all those steps in the sun...

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

Yeah I freaking hate that change. Such a UNC/UVA thing to do to the other team's band.

VT Class of '12 (MSE), MVBone, Go Hokies!

I noticed that during the broadcast as well. They also had all those local high school band kids up that high too against Delaware. They had to start their trek down for halftime with 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

It also annoyed me last year when we sat them right in front of where our kickoff team runs to hype up the crowd after a touchback. Looked a little too much like we were taunting the away band/fans in that section. Otherwise I love the whole hype-up-the-crowd part.

If you're reading the above post and thinking, "is this guy serious?!?," you can safely assume I'm not.

It is possible that ODU elected to take those seats as a cheaper option. I can't say that for certain, but the visiting band still has to pay for each seat and ODU isn't exactly made of money.

We wont win the race until a trophy is in the case!

Where are you seeing these tickets at? I'm looking for 1 or 2.

Stubhub, vividseats, etc. Vividseats will send you a $20 off coupon if you create an account.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

offensive line is a major strength

We're now living in an alternate timeline.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

I think we'll all be pleasantly surprised if we can still say as much after Clemson.

I don't think their D will make our Oline look completely inept... but Venables and those recruiting wins they've had are a killer combo and will get their wins both schematically and athletically.

All I know for sure, is that I really won't know anything about our Oline performance until French tells me what to think.

"Hey Bud, you wont have to hold the opponent to 17 points anymore."

Does anyone else think that our offense seems to be designed around wearing out the opposing team? It certainly seems like we stretch the field in the first half with constant rotation of the RB's and WR's, then keep it in top gear the rest of the way and start scoring in bundles after the half.

If you're reading the above post and thinking, "is this guy serious?!?," you can safely assume I'm not.

I call that "Hilgarting."

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

Hilgart after ya.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

I think that's a fair assessment, although it appears that we left many points on the ground early in the first few games that would have had the opposing D worn out midway 2nd quarter if we'd executed better. I don't think the strategy is "we don't care about 1st half points, we'll get 'em in the 2nd" (not that you are saying that... I'm sure you don't think that either).

I mean, yeah, it's probably axiomatic that wearing out the opposing D is pretty much every O'cord's goal. Just some are better at it than others for putting that goal down into a workable strategy.

you know what's a great way to wear out the opposing team? Scoring early and often.

Actually, I'm not sure how accurate that statement is, but I'd rather see some 1st quarter leads than the stress inducing, lackluster starts we've seen for almost every game in the CornFu era (excepting Bristol, but nobody wants that kind of crapshow either).

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

It's a great way to wear out your defense too if they aren't getting stops quickly.

Always choose joy.

But what happens when you're given nothing? What happens when the poking and prodding puts you consistently too far behind the sticks?

We lose.

This isn't a shortcoming or soft underbelly specific to this team and this staff. Unless you simply outman your opponent, every football team in the world is going to have to find something to exploit in the opponent's defense. And I feel like we might have the best offensive staff in the nation at finding that something to exploit.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

I think so much hinges on JJ's reponse to the heat that will undoubtedly come on Saturday. The fine line between "going for it" and "playing it safe" will be very important. He showed early this year the ability to get rid of the ball and avoid the sack. I hope he will continue to do that rather than try and be a hero - at least early in the game. Fatigue will play a big part in the game, so we MUST stay close for sustained adrenaline. Again, we need to survive their initial Blitzkrieg.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

I'm much more worried about our receivers' performances than JJ's. JJ hasn't really forced (m)any throws this season, and I don't think he'll start Saturday. What we can't afford is dropped passes and missed opportunities.

Twitter me

Good write up, thank you. I commented yesterday on how the slow starts also terrified me, but also, Jackson's slow(ish) release. I hope we have an offensive game plan for Clemson designed for him to get rid of the ball quickly. Really need guys other than Phillips and Savoy to step up and get open.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

Agreed. I'm sure the offensive game plan will include a lot misdirection or screens to counter an aggressive Clemson defense. Quick throws are good, but JJ has had a habit of leaning on Cam and starring down the throw. Clemson is not going to play (I'm guessing) the same soft coverage we've seen so far. Those long outs that JJ hit consistently against ECU likely won't be there against Clemson and if they are the ball has to been roped out there or a Clemson DB is going to house one.

Yep. I'm hoping to see some quick slants in addition to some screens. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see press coverage quite a bit, so physicality and sound route running are going to be imperative.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

Venables used press coverage against us all night long both times we played them in 2011. I don't remember a lot of it last year though.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

FWIW, Venables was the DC at Oklahoma in 2011 and didn't arrive in Clemson until the following year. Kevin Steele and Charlie Harbison were responsible for the defense in 2011.

Weren't we pretty slow on offense in the first quarter last year too? Seemed like we were always playing catch-up until the 3rd quarter of a lot of games

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Yep. My hypothesis is this has a lot to do with personnel; specifically two different first-year QB's in Fuente's offense. Both of them are also low-turnover guys who don't take a lot of risks (partly by design, both low turnover QB's especially early in each season).
Last year, even though we had a lot of weapons on offense, I really feel like (and I think tape shows) that wasn't Fuente's "prototypical offense" of his choosing. Had a lot to do with players already here and making it work.

This year, we have a r-FR QB who clearly does NOT get the same RPO responsibilities as Jerod did. You see a lot more of JJ's plays looking like RPO's but actually being pre-determined on the sideline. I think losing Caleb Farley was a big deal, but in general Jackson is definitely risk-averse until he gets into a rhythm. Without a run-game for most of the year it makes sense, but I'm seeing progress week-to-week and think he gets more comfortable each week.

On a side note, that ODU QB could make you miss the tackle in a telephone booth. If he can get the pass on a run a little better (and that will come with experience) he is going to be good next time we face him.

that ODU QB could make you miss the tackle in a telephone booth

All the kids are now asking, "in a what?"

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

Tell them the phone box that Harry uses to enter the Ministry of Magic. (Go kids!)

Kids: "Oh, like a Tardis?"

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

Sigh, I knew somebody was going to say that...

It's bigger on the inside...

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

That's what she said?

"Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our heart with tolerance."
-Stan Lee

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

A view from a little different vantage point. So far, we've played one team we played last year, ECU. We now start playing teams that we've played before. I think that now CornFu has seen some of the defensive schemes that teams will use against us, that may actually help in how we gameplan for them. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't, but I'd lean toward helping.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

I know this is nitpicky, but our offense has struggled to get into gear in 3/4 games this year, not 4 games straight. We cruised to a TD in our first drive against ECU, punted the next one, and then scored on every drive until the JJ was pulled from the game.

Also, as a multi-year lurker (for the most part), these have consistently been my favorite write-ups that this site produces. Thanks for your perspective every week.

"I thought the kid right there you're talking to right there played his nuts off."

Yeah, but getting into a 17-7 hole to ECU felt like a flat start. Especially when we didn't get a comfortable lead until the second half.

Slow start for the D, but the offense did their job. They had 3 pos in 1Q, scoring on 2 (the TD came in 2nd Q). No 3 and outs. First drive was 4-5 minutes and a ton of plays. I think our expectations to score every poss is unrealistic.