One More 3.5-Hour Stomach Ache: Film Review of Virginia Tech's White Knuckle Win over Pitt

9-play, 3,100-word analysis of the Hokies' 20-14 win.

[Mark Umansky]

As Jester Weah rumbled down the sideline, the lede of this column was already written in my head. "When the margins of error are this close, there's always some fluke play that snatches a victory away from a defense which played well enough to win." The Pitt offense features one of the ACC's best running backs (Darrin Hall) and offensive lines, and the banged up Lunch Pail Defense delivered an effort which justified a victory. For stretches, the Virginia Tech offense was as productive as it had been since early against Boston College. However, the Hokies simply could not piece together enough drives to score enough points to create a workable margin for error against a bad Panthers' defense. As it inevitably does, Pitt happened.

Reggie Floyd's terrific hustle to bring Weah down just short of the end zone only seemed to delay the inevitable. As Pitt lined up for first-and-goal, the Hokies rolled out a unit that featured backups at free safety (Khalil Ladler), whip (Deon Newsome), and defensive end (Houshun Gaines). The odds seemed long. Then, Gaines spilled inside to keep Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds clean for a first down tackle at the line of scrimmage. On second down, Gaines ate up a double team at the point of attack. Ladler came up with a heavy shoulder and turned Darrin Hall back into a pile of bodies for a stop. Instead of spiking the ball, Pitt attempted a quick fade to an uncovered Weah. Floyd signaled Greg Stroman to get outside, and Stroman was able to knock the ball away at the last moment. And, on an epic fourth down, Trevon Hill wiggled inside on a stunt to slow up Hall. Newsome collapsed the edge to prevent Hall from bouncing outside while Ladler, Floyd, and Motuapuaka wrangled Hall to the ground four yards short of the goal line. The previous three hours of frustration gave way to a senior-led celebration.

Tech's offensive line did an excellent job of run blocking. Jalen Holston and Deshawn McClease ran through and around the unblocked Pitt free hitter enough times that the receivers had extra space. The Hokies' wide receivers were consistently open. The play calling began to look more patterned and incorporated Josh Jackson effectively in the quarterback run game. Phillip Patterson emerged to provide the Hokies another receiving threat.

The Peak Upside for this Rushing Attack

For me, the most exciting offensive development on Saturday was the improvement in the running game. The offensive line turned in their most dominant performance of the season and Holston and McClease demonstrated the ability to win one-on-one matchups against the free hitters that the offensive line couldn't account for. Tech netted 157 yards on the ground.

The Hokies established the running game early. On this split zone, Dalton Keene comes across the formation to isolate and seal linebacker Elijah Zeise (No. 25). Wide receiver Eric Kumah cracks inside on safety Dennis Briggs (No. 20), which leaves corner Avonte Maddox (No. 14) as the unblocked free hitter.

Let's break down every element that is needed to create a chunk run without a defensive bust. Pitt stunts their defensive tackles outside through the B-gaps, with the intent of sending Zeise and linebacker Saleem Brightwell (No. 39) through the A-gaps. Wyatt Teller and Eric Gallo are responsible for combination blocking on defensive tackle Shane Roy (No. 93). Once Teller gets his head inside, Gallo identifies Brightwell and peels off beautifully to seal him to the inside. Keene gets his head on the outside of Zeise and turns him inside. Teller drives Roy off the ball and Holston slips into the bubble between Teller and Keene.

With the line of scrimmage secure, for Holston to break out he needs to get a good block at the second level. Eric Kumah slants inside to crack on Briggs. It does not look like Maddox is signalling the crack back to Briggs, and as result Kumah should have a kill shot. Kumah delivers enough of a blow to cut off Briggs initial pursuit angle. (Although, ideally Kumah should stay engaged with Briggs, then he would not be able to get back into the play.)

The final element is Holston winning against an unblocked defender. Holston spins Maddox out of his shoes. Unfortunately, Briggs makes the tackle, otherwise Holston would have been off to the races.

If you take away any one of those elements, a well-blocked play becomes a modest gain. For example, the Hokies catch Pitt blitzing their mike (Elias Reynolds, No. 44) and field linebacker (Oluwaseun Idowu, No. 23). Pfaff gets just enough of Idowu to seal him outside. Parker Osterloh seals Reynolds inside.

A huge hole opens up on the left side. However, Holston just keeps driving into the back of Wyatt Teller. This is a missed opportunity.

This third-and-five is another example. Josh Jackson keeps on a very well blocked quarterback power on a critical red zone third down. Former Hokies' target Chase Pine (No. 36) blitzes right into the hole. Wyatt Teller absolutely destroys Pine.

A bubble forms in between Teller and Keene's kick out blocks and Kyle Chung's down block. The bubble is to Jackson's right. The free hitter is Idowu, who is running from the left hash. Jackson has two choices. The inside lane is the most direct route, yet he doesn't see Idowu closing. The outside lane is wide open. Jackson chooses the inside, and then doesn't have the power to run through Idowu for the first down. The quarterback power call felt like Fuente would go for it on fourth down. After teasing a fourth down attempt, Brian Johnson made a field goal to give the Hokies a lead.

Without an explosive running back, the margins are going to be this slim. Fortunately, offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen incorporated quarterback runs back into the offense, and that added threat opened up some additional space. Jackson ran with authority on both split zone read options, the inverted veer, and even a speed option.

On this 2nd-and-10 speed option, the Hokies leave defensive end James Folston (No. 40) unblocked. The Hokies have Savoy and Cunningham out in front to block for the pitch man while Hezekiah Grimsley cracked inside. The key block is the reach block by Pfaff on defensive tackle Keyshon Camp (No. 10). Camp is aligned as a three-technique. Pfaff beats him off the snap, gives a little bit of ground, and works his head across Camp's chest. When he feels Camp getting away, Pfaff drops a beautiful legal cut block on Camp. Jackson sees the bubble and turns inside for a nice chunk gain.

The Inability to Sustain Drives

Despite the improvement of the ground attack and by the receivers to get open, two issues derailed the Hokies' ability to sustain drives. The lesser of the two issues was pass protection. Parker Osterloh had a couple of "yikes" moments, yet the bigger concern was Holston and McClease struggled to pick up blitzing linebackers. On this third-and-long, Pitt's best pass rusher, linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu (No. 23), blitzes between Braxton Pfaff and Kyle Chung. McClease gets overwhelmed by Idowu.

Holston struggled in similar situations, in large part due to a habit where he tends to throw a shoulder instead of attacking with his hands. Next week, Virginia has an excellent speed rusher in Chris Peace. The young Hokies running backs will have their hands full.

Jackson's inconsistency passing was clearly the biggest obstacle to scoring points on Saturday. At moments, he delivered brilliant throws, including a beautiful sideline throw from a moving pocket to Cam Phillips to get the Hokies out of the shadow of their own end zone. Unfortunately, Jackson could not throw his receiver open on several critical third down conversion attempts where he had an open receiver. At other moments, Cornelsen schemed receivers open for big plays and Jackson did not deliver an accurate ball.

Jackson's first bad bust ended up not hurting the Hokies. On Tech's opening drive, Jackson missed Savoy running wide open to the post on an RPO concept. Later, Cornelsen dialed up a post-wheel play pass off a quick pitch action. Pitt is in quarters coverage, which leaves Coleman Fox wide open in the left flat.

Jackson never looks at Fox because Phil Campbell (No. 24) overran the pitch fake, much like Terrell Edmunds did against Georgia Tech, and Phil Patterson exploded past him. Jackson simply overthrows Patterson.

Without game breakers on offense, those opportunities for huge plays are incredibly critical because the offense struggles to sustain drives. Jackson had multiple opportunities on third down to hit open receivers to keep drives alive, and he could not make an accurate throw. Jackson's lack of consistency from a moving pocket (which is a way of mitigating the pass protection struggles of the offensive line) was particularly frustrating.

On this fourth down situation close to the red zone, Cornelsen dials up a play action-waggle concept. Jackson fakes a handoff to McClease. McClease then leaks to the right flat as Jackson rolls right. Pitt's defenders sneak up, leaving Phillips crossing the middle of the field from the back-side of the play.

Briggs trails Phillips across on his back hip. There is not a defender that can step in to Phillips path from the right quarter. If Jackson can lead Phillips, this should be an easy completion for a huge first down and a possible touchdown. Instead, Jackson throws it to the only place where the defender can make a play on the ball — behind Phillips. Phillips has to stop and try to come back to the football, and Briggs is able to knock it away. The Hokies get stopped on a drive where the coaches dialed up a good play, the receiver is open, and the blocking is good. I keep reminding myself Jackson is a freshman, and this is the type of inconsistency that comes with a freshman. However, with the margins for error being so small at this point, the Hokies cannot afford missing these opportunities when they finally do sustain a drive.

A Preview of the Goal Line Stand

BilldozerVT did an amazing job of highlighting the epic four-play goal line stand that saved the game for Virginia Tech. During the stand, rarely mentioned depth players like Houshun Gaines, Khalil Ladler, and Deon Newsome made critical efforts to keep Pitt out of the end zone. The groundwork for stopping Darrin Hall and company was laid early in the game as the defense beautifully executed their gap fit strategy. Minus a handful of plays, the Hokies were gap sound despite using a ton of movement. The Hokies also benefitted from terrific defensive tackle play to keep Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds free from blockers.

Let's examine two plays. On this second-and-five, Pitt runs an outside zone to the field-side. Standout offensive tackle Brian O'Neil (No. 70) is beat off the football by Trevon Hill. Hill wants to spill the ball outside without getting reached, so he pushes O'Neil back into the path of the ball carrier. Deon Newsome is playing as an edge defender, and he uses a force technique against H-Back Chris Clark (No. 87). By keeping outside leverage and holding his ground against the block, Newsome will turn the ball carrier back inside to the free hitter, Mook Reynolds.

Normally, Reynolds would likely make this stop for a four- or five-yard gain. Left guard Alex Officer (No. 63) and center Jimmy Morrissey (No. 67) have the assignment of combination blocking Ricky Walker with one then climbing to block Andrew Motuapuaka. Walker does a fantastic job of ripping through Officer's attempt to reach him. Morrissey does not even make contact with Walker. When Morrissey realizes he cannot help Officer, he attempts to climb to Motuapuaka. Motuapuaka has already diagnosed that Hill and Walker have the inside gaps occupied, and he fills into the bubble between Walker and Newsome. Motuapuaka then beautifully wraps up Hall for a loss. This is exactly what Foster looks for from his linebackers when they do not have a force or spill assignment. He wants them to key the running backs and fit into the first bubble they identify play-side. This is the type of instinctive play that Motuapuaka struggled to make as an underclassman. He delivered a resounding performance in his final game at Lane Stadium.

In order to create that space, the defensive tackles have to keep those linebackers clean. Recent Hokie defenses have featured twitchy defensive tackles. However, those exciting players rarely could fit their gap in the face of a strong double team and hold their ground long enough to prevent the second lineman from releasing to the linebacker.

Ricky Walker and Tim Settle completely change the dynamic inside. On Saturday, I could not find a single defensive snap where at least one of the 4-8 pairing was not on the field. When the Hokies were in their base 40 front, Walker and Settle took every snap. Their dominance against Pitt's double teams gave Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds the opportunity to shine.

This critical third down stop set up a missed field goal by the Panthers. Once again, Hill spills the ball outside. Reynolds, Newsome, and Motuapuaka take on blocks with outside leverage, leaving a bubble in between Hill and Newsome.

Once again, Walker is critical. Officer and Morrissey try to combo on Walker, with Morrissey releasing to the back-side linebacker, Tremaine Edmunds. Officer and Morrissey do not get any movement on Walker. That split second delay allows Edmunds to scrape across and fill the bubble. For Pitt, a relatively well blocked play at the point of attack ends up in loss yardage. Walker will not get any kind of statistical recognition for this play. However, his strength and mobility at the point of attack allowed Edmunds to use his range and speed to fill a gap all the way across the formation. This is outstanding football by both players.

The final four plays echo these two examples.

All game long, Virginia Tech's front was so mobile and physical in their gap fits that their free hitters consistently stayed clean. And, unlike some past games, this was probably the best tackling game the Hokies had this season up until the 74-yard Weah catch-and-run.

Commonwealth Cup Looming

The Hokies are beat up and have a short week before they roll into Charlottesville to battle for the Commonwealth Cup against Bronco Mendenhall and his Toasty Hoos. Virginia presents some challenges offensively. In last season's route, Virginia did a lousy job of getting the ball into the hands of their top playmaker, Olamide Zaccheaus (No. 4). Zaccheaus is a terrific wide receiver who also is dangerous on jet sweeps, much like Quadree Henderson of Pitt. Zaccheaus is a superior route runner to Henderson (who the Hokies mitigated extremely well) and has a quarterback in Kurt Benkert who is much less gunshy about throwing into tight spaces. Opposite of Zaccheaus, WR Andre Levrone (No. 14) jumps out on film. He is a big-bodied vertical threat built like receivers that the Hokies have struggled with from time-to-time in recent years. Defensively, Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding have been very good players for a long time on some very bad teams. Of all the names on defense, OLB Chris Peace (No. 13) gives me some nightmares. He is an athletic speed rusher who gave Yosh Nijman fits last season until he left the game with a leg injury. If Nijman cannot play, the Hokies will have to help Osterloh in protection. Otherwise, the ball will come out much quicker than the ideal for Tech's system.

While Virginia has had moments where they have looked very dangerous, they've been as mercurial as almost any team in college football. Benkert is still prone to fits of inaccuracy and turnovers. Virginia's run game is essentially limited to inside zones with Jordan Ellis (No. 1) and Zaccheaus on jet sweeps. If the Hokies can make the Cavaliers one-dimensional, they can generate some pressure on Benkert. Newsome's ability to cover Zaccheaus in the slot will be a key matchup to watch.

Offensively, the Hokies set the tone against Virginia last season by coming out and dominating the line of scrimmage. Virginia loves to blitz and has good speed rushers. To give Jackson time and build his confidence, establishing the run and then finding easy play-action throws off the run-action are critical. If the Hokies get into the red zone, they have to be more efficient. Virginia has enough playmakers offensively that scoring 20 won't be enough for the Hokies to win.


Brewing beer and reading French's analysis on Tuesday morning.
At the same time.


What's brewing?

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


If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous! With treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid...

I'm brewing a scotch Ale called Squatch.
My guys are bottling the last batch of the same beer and kegging a blood orange IPA

Squatch is the best beer coming out of that brewery that I've managed to get my hands on. I have only gotten to sample the stuff being sold in stores, though. I'm hoping to make the trip up there at some point to try some of the other parts of the line up.

I have a beer fermenting right now that took 2 days to brew. Started about noon last Wednesday and finished about 8pm Thursday.

It tested out today at 15.75% ABV headed towards 18.7% ABV called Theory of Chaos.

The Shoot the Rooster coffee stout is really good right now. On tap only.

Introduce yourself if you get in. Ask for the brewer. I'm frequently there til late on weekdays and during the afternoons on weekends.

Where is your brewery located?

Didn't really mean to sidetrack this.
Chaos Mountain Brewing in Callaway, VA which is next to Boones Mill, just south of Roanoke.

Understood, it's my fault too.

Drinking beer and reading...then re-reading French's analysis (necessary for even half understanding and comprehending and even a slim chance of retaining) on Tuesday afternoon.

Also, nice!

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Newsome scared me with his tackling last Saturday.

He had a bad missed tackle on several of their bigger first half plays. Got into position to make the tackle, but could not finish. REALLY need him to clean that up fast.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

French, I felt like Bush wanted to do too much when he came in for the series. I felt like the defense was keying on him to run, and the read should have been to give the ball twice when he ran for little to no yards. Am I seeing it correctly, or just second guessing the read based on the results?

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

I imagine that when Bush was in the game, both linebackers were so keyed on the run that they just each took one of the potential ball-carriers and left someone open in the passing game. Bush hasn't shown the ability (by his own or coaches decision) to pass at all, so they just play both ends of the read when he is in the game. Its impressive that he is able to make any yards at all in that situation.

Get Angry, Bud!

Unless it was QB run all the way, it was the wrong read by Bush. Pitt keyed on him to run. When he handed off to McClease, McClease had a ton of green in front of him

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Fuente is setting up LOLUVA. Bush, jump pass for TD 3rd quarter. Mark it down!

Bud Foster is made of hokie stone!

Motuapuaka then beautifully wraps up Hall for a loss. This is exactly what Foster looks for from his linebackers when they do not have a force or spill assignment. He wants them to key the running backs and fit into the first bubble they identify play-side. This is the type of instinctive play that Motuapuaka struggled to make as an underclassman. He delivered a resounding performance in his final game at Lane Stadium.

Eat Crow, Jack.

Chem PhD '16

just playing devil's advocate, but Jack Crow would always rag on "No. 54" so TECHNICALLY speaking, it wasn't no. 54 who had a great game against Pitt. /s

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)..

You gotta be a special kind of stupid to disagree with French on this sort of thing, but I wouldn't call what happened at the end of that play "beautiful." Maybe it's confirmation bias from last year, but when I was watching Andrew on Saturday, it looked like he was consistently in the right place at the right time, and stopped the runner's progress (or at least slowed it down) until someone else could make the tackle. When I compare the end of clip9 to the end of clip10, I see the difference between a pretty good college linebacker and a grown man with seriously bad intentions. I wish every Hokie linebacker ended every play the way Tremaine Edmunds ended clip10.

Now that I've got my stupid out of the way, though, let me say I almost shed a tear watching Andrew celebrate the win. The man is carved from Hokie Stone, there's no doubt about that. And after all he's given to the program, his final play in Lane Stadium was a defensive stand to win a game that looked like it was all but lost. If you gave that script to a Hollywood producer, they would say "too improbable."

"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

All I can ask is that a player deliver close to the max of his ability. In those two clips, I think we saw that for both players. From there on, physics takes over. Edmunds wins at physics.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Good to see the line opening up those holes after a disastrous two weeks before. Just not need to develop the backs to see those holes or recruit a guy who can!

Ricky and Tim have made The Lb job much easier. They have kept those guys clean most of the year. Will VT continue to look for more traditional DT going forward or revert to the tweeners. I think the tweeners were oit of necessity not choice.

I don't think of Walker and Settle as "traditional" DTs. They are twitchy guys just like what Bud looks for. The unique factor is that Bud identified guys who are much bigger and stronger at the point of attack, are still twitchy, and landed them this time.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Agree both strong. Explosive and athletic.

Here's to them both being high draft picks and paving the way for this level of DL recruiting to continue.

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

Hope so. One thing is for sure. Settle has answered questions about his conditioning. He has had some gassed moments where his technique broke down, but I would venture a guess that he played 90% of the defensive snaps vs Pitt. He was in more than Walker in those dime situations.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

To have as solid a frame as he has, JJ sure seems timid about contact. In clip 4, he starts slowing up about three yards before reaching the defender. I'm not sure if he thought he could make a move there or what, but he's never gonna have much wiggle as a runner. He's no LT, but he's got the girth to lower the boom and get two extra yards after contact.

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

In clip 11 he has time to slow down and set himself better, but doing so would mean getting hit after the pass.

I just think he's rattled right now and it impacts his whole game. He's expecting blocks to be missed, not made, and every look-out block just reinforces it.

Fuente on the other hand is learning a lot about Josh. Does he have the mental toughness to right the ship? If he does, that is a hugely valuable commodity. If not, perhaps the open competition next year becomes a little more open.

There was a stretch where he looked mentally gone. Fortunately Phillips bailed him out. The opening guy was on the boundary. Phil Patterson beat his man like a drum and Pitt didn't have safety help on that side.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

On the play where JJ came out because his facemask was smashed, I really thought he had a concussion. He was slow to get up and seemed to have no urge to hurry to the line and/or huddle. I was pretty surprised when he came back in.

I feel that, but man we don't need him getting hurt either.

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

French, why are the Hbacks/tight ends not utilized more in the passing game? Cunningham and Keene are big targets that have delivered when passes go their way. Just seems like it would put a lot of pressure on the linebackers when play action or RPO is called.

I can't explain it. They have tried on bootlegs and defenses are jumping the Y release to the flat. That leaves the backside drag/crossing route open and Jackson can't seem to hit it.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

For decades, I have heard "we're gonna use our tight ends more this year" from our coaches. Decades. Seriously. Decades.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

They have...

As quarterbacks.

Watching live, I felt the running backs were selecting the wrong seam several times. It makes me wonder if their brains are getting in the way of their instincts. If they find those seams there will be substantial yardage to be had, which will begin opening up other facets of the offense.

JJ just needs to trust his arm and relax and the big chunks will come in the passing game. I am expecting a big bounce back game for him.

Something that hasn't been talked about much due to the offense having other issues is the quiet emergence of some of the younger receivers. UVA is going to have to respect them a little more which hopefully will open up tight end/ hback passes and rb pass out of the backfield.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

Is this the appropriate thread to discuss the turnout for this game? I, for one, was quite disappointed how on such a beautiful fall day in Bburg, against a pretty well-disliked team, much of HokieNation was a no-show. Now, I am not bagging on the crowd that was there, I thought the energy was incredible for a crowd of ~56k but I'm just sad to see the stadium look like that on senior day with so many beloved players playing their last few downs in Lane. I understand that the larger goals for the season were out of reach, but that's not what mattered on Saturday, what mattered was getting a last home win for the good guys and sending them off with as much love as possible. We're 8-3.... I shudder to imagine what those stands will look like if/when we have a losing season. And before you ask, yes I was there, yes I donate to the HC. (sorry if this post is misplaced, suggest another thread and I'll move it).

Bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips

The fact that Thanksgiving break started never helps. We really need a big game match up for that weekend to draw the crowd.

If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous! With treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid...

ehhh, wish I could give you a half leg for this lol. I can appreciate the break having an effect, but almost 10k? I feel like there is just a lot of somewhat nearby Hokie fans who need to need to stop complaining about our program's inability to take the next step if they aren't putting their ass in a seat.

Bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips

I am totally with you and we have drawn a big crowd for the weekend going into the break. This year though with the break, lackluster previous two weeks, and a noon game against an exceptionally bad Pitt---just isn't going to generate the attendance.

If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous! With treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid...

A lot of the students were heading out for break. Families of those students were missing too. Couple that with many ticket holders preparing to be out of town for the holiday and this is what you get left with.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

Everyone my daughter goes with to the games (she's a student) were gone Saturday.

Same here, so my daughter sat with us. Most of the student sections were sparsely filled and, other than the Highty-Tighty's, the entire Corps was missing.

The forecast early in the week called for rain during the game, so I think that chased off a good number of fans as well.

The two reasons for the poor turnout was that the students are on Thanksgiving break (I am the type of fan that would have stayed to watch, but I know i am in the very small minority) and that the energy around the team deflated after back to back disheartening losses. I was there and cheering my lungs off because ya know #EATSHITPITT, but a game against a 4-6 Pitt team just didn't move the needle for some. They also were calling for rain earlier in the week which I think might have switched the plans of a few folks as well.

I thought that given the circumstances it was pretty well attended. I've seen worse in the last 4ish years for this same time of the year

Long time listener...first time poster

Good observation, but I guess that's kinda my point. Some fans need to play their role in getting the program over the hump. Turnouts on senior day like that really impact recruiting.

Bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips

I mean, its probably not gonna change much without a top tier game that makes people want to stay around town/drive in. The weekend before Thanksgiving people aren't gonna travel to see a game as they are either traveling for Thanksgiving week or trying to stay home because they are driving on Wednesday to see family. Students are gone, and Blacksburg is too small to fill the stadium from a population perspective. Regardless of how hardcore of a fan you are, its a hard choice between Mom and Hokie football.

Get Angry, Bud!

Ha, agree with everything you said except the last sentence... my mom is a WVU fan, and she KNOWS where I'm gonna be on any Saturday in the 'burg lol

Bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips

And my comment was answered thoroughly before i posted

Fair enough folks, thanks for your input. My expectations are clearly too high, legs for you all.

Edit: well, legs for those who offered actual input.

Bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips &
bacon strips

Your expectations were not too high, your disappointment is somewhat justified, but maybe unrealistic considering the timing of the game, and the opponent. Like you, I've had trouble before with the empty seats, in football and also in basketball, but Blacksburg and Roanoke fans aren't able to fill the stadium on their own, especially with the students on break. We need the out of towners to show up in their usual droves to fill it all up. Some games just aren't able to make that draw.
That said, we here at the Fish house were also disappointed in the empty seats.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

I thought about going with my son (college student in philly) but early in the week it looked like it was going to be a bad weather weekend. That may have scared some people away. It turned out to be beautiful.

French, you mentioned the receivers had extra space on this game. I was keying in on ther WRs a lot this game. Pitt played a lot of man, as Narduzzi always does. It seemed like our guys still struggled to beat man an awful lot. Kumah and Patterson appear to thave the body type to go win balls, but neither has demonstrated that skill yet.
It can be hard to tell the intent for the split WRs on some of these plays, though. On most plays, JJ isn't even close to looking at any receiver outside the has marks. Do you think this is by design, or is he just comfortable with routes crossing in front of him and not the outside throws? I still maintain JJ is not healthy - whether it be an injury, or fatigue, his power and accuracy just doesn't feel the same as earlier in the season.

So in man to man, a defender is going to be "close" all the time. Getting separation means being able to get off the line of scrimmage so you can get into your route without the timing being messed up and cutting effectively. I thought the WRs, particularly Phil Patterson, did a get job of cutting and getting open. In those situations, the quarterback has to throw into space. Jackson was throwing back into the defender a bunch instead of "throwing his guy open." The exception was the bullet slant to Kumah.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Fortunately, offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen incorporated quarterback runs back into the offense, and that added threat opened up some additional space.

That was a pleasant surprise: after two week of reading how the opposing defense ignored the threat of a quarterback run, JJ kept the ball on a couple of good reads. I don't know if the mistakes in the Miami and GT games were Cornelson's play calls (designed hand-off rather than option) or JJ (misreading the option), but against Pitt, it was good to see JJ reading the defense and making good decisions.

Funny thing about clip4, though: watch Cunningham and Savoy block the same man, while Grimsley and Chung block each other.

"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

Josh Jackson's physical limitations are tough to overlook for me. In Fuente's offense, I'd rather have someone with great athletic ability (which he doesn't have) who you need to simplify things for vs. someone like Jackson who is vanilla and safe (and dare I say the dreaded "game manager" type).

Jackson is going to be in a dog fight in the coming years with Hooker, Patterson, etc. looming. Other than what looks like a miracle offensive performance by Jackson against WVU in hindsight, he has excelled against weak competition and has shown no progression against the meat of the ACC schedule. I know he doesn't have tons of help, but when you couple that with his limitations athletically it is tough to feel good about the offense. If Jackson wants to be good he has to be perfect with his reads, easy throws, etc. and I haven't seen that since the first 4-5 games.

I hope Jackson proves me wrong, but with the potential losses on defense next year, it looks like the offense will have to be much better in 2018 to produce similar results and QB will be a question yet again.

"Dick to Hyman? DICK TO HYMAN!" - Guy in Lane Stadium crowd when Richard Johnson hit Josh Hyman on reverse pass in 2004.

I think it's important to remember that he's a redshirt freshman. The way I look at it, if Jackson gets beat out by one of the more athletic guys it's great news because it means that more athletic guy is also ready to make throws and get through some progressions on top of his athletic ability.

They are young. We forget that even with his struggles, Jackson statistically is the best freshman in the country. That is exactly why I tell folks not to ever expect a freshman to step right in at any position, no matter how talented.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Really hoping Nijman will be back in the lineup Friday. JJ has been taking a beating the past three weeks and it looks to have really shaken his confidence.

As the week's go by, I'm more and more convinced that JJ is essentially 215lb Michael Brewer running Fuente's offense. They appear to have identical strengths and weaknesses, though Brewer was more confident IMO.

Brewer will never get the props he deserved. He was one tough SOB and he consistently found ways to compete despite his limitations.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I tend to agree with this, except I think Brewer had better wheels while that increased confidence caused more INTs.

Brewer was a rJR and rSR when he played for us though. I'd think 2 years of experience under his belt, a rJR Jackson would be plenty confident too.

Let's hope so!

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

French, two questions:

First, can you explain the call on the 2-point conversion?

Second, while most were not deep, it seemed that Pitt's receivers were wide open fairly often. Was that by design to avoid deep threats, or was the secondary not executing properly?

Thanks for imparting your knowledge to the rest of us!

1) Can you add some clarity? Do you mean the play call, or the penalty on Pfaff?
2) Pitt was a much better running team than passing team. Foster played a bunch of cover 1 and kept his safeties in the box. When teams play man, WRs will break open sometimes. But, the biggest catches were not against true cover 1- ie the slot guy leaking out after faking a jet sweep and then being abandoned on the left sideline, the post to Ffrench in the first quarter where Floyd lost him and Edmunds didn't sink deep enough in the zone to make the throw challenging. The Weah catch was actually a bracket coverage where Facyson lost his balance and Mook was a second late.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

The penalty, not the play call.

Thanks as always French. In Clip 11 is it possible Jackson over compensates for the fact that he's running to the right. If he just throws straight that ball basically hits Phillips if not leads him a tiny bit but he threw to the left and across his body.