Slept On It: Hokies Bounce Back in Durham With 31-14 Win Over Duke

Reflecting on a solid team victory by the Hokies after a good night's rest.

[Virginia Tech Athletics \ Dave Knachel]

It was still September and the Hokies were already faced with their gut-check moment of the season. A week earlier, in a matter of hours, a young Virginia Tech team had gone from a revelation to a national laughing stock. Their starting quarterback was lost to a broken leg. Their stud defensive end was dismissed from the team. Staring them in the face was a road trip to face a ranked and dangerous Duke squad that received an unnecessary pregame shot in the arm with the surprising return of QB Daniel Jones.

After last week's debacle, it was virtually impossible to know what to expect from the Hokies. Their new starting signal caller, Ryan Willis, had ten career starts (and zero wins) under his belt at perennial doormat Kansas. An already dangerously thin defensive line was without arguably their best playmaker, leading many to wonder how Bud Foster's group would create pressure against a David Cutcliffe coached offense. And the relatively inexperienced crop of players suddenly looked like a shell of their early season selves. Which team were they? The ones that strolled into Tallahassee and knocked the doors off a talented (albeit grossly underachieving) Florida State team? Or the one that lollygagged their way through a drubbing in Norfolk seven days earlier?

Thankfully for everyone's psyche, the Hokies of old showed up Saturday night. The offense looked steady. The defense looked steady. There were highlight reel moments, but in many ways it was a throwback to regular old Virginia Tech football. They just plain got the job done.

The confidence that the team played with was noticeable. Duke took a 7-3 lead midway through the first quarter, and the Hokies immediately answered back with a 9-play, 76-yard drive punctuated by a back shoulder fade to Damon Hazelton that looked amazingly easy. The Tech defense then forced a quick three-and-out, which was shortly followed by a simple screen pass to Dalton Keene that he took to the house thanks to a team full of blockers and a series of slick moves. A 4-point deficit became a 10-point lead in less than 7 minutes, and the Hokies cruised from there.

One week removed from one of the most stomach-turning performances the fan base had ever seen from a Virginia Tech team, the win over Duke felt oddly stress-free. The Hokies looked the part of the more successful program, rather than one buckling under the weight of inexperience. A lot of that had to do with the performance of new QB1 Ryan Willis and the sure tackling of the Hokies defense. Both sides of the ball did a good job dictating the game, which was impressive for both units coming off a total breakdown at ODU.

On the heels of Trevon Hill's dismissal, Bud Foster challenged his defensive line to step up and be disruptive. Heading into their matchup with a well-coached Blue Devil team, Foster told his team, "Let's go pin our ears back and play and have some fun. Let's not worry about making a mistake, let's just go play." That approach was clearly actualized by his linemen, as they regularly mixed in three-man fronts to confuse and disrupt Daniel Jones and the Duke offense. Houshun Gaines continued his explosive play, contributing 2.5 sacks and a number of hurries. And Ricky Walker and Jarrod Hewitt helped anchor the line, stifling the Duke rushing attack.

Quite possibly the biggest difference on the defensive side of the football from a week ago was the sure tackling of the entire unit. After struggling to wrap up and contain the ODU offense, the young Tech defense did a phenomenal job of repeatedly bringing down Blue Devils in space. Rayshard Ashby logged 15 total tackles. Reggie Floyd was all over the field, finishing with 8 tackles, 2.5 TFL, a pass breakup and an interception. And Jovonn Quillen, who saw an expanded role against Duke, was solid on the outside and a standout on special teams.

Justin Fuente reflected on the defense's ability to bounce back after such a demoralizing performance:

"They did a great job. We played some drop-eight in the game and were still able to get some pressure and keep the ball in front of us. They tried to hit us deep early in the game and didn't complete it and we were staying on top of it after that. Played pretty well up front. In order to drop eight, you've got to play pretty well up front to handle that. We did a good job. Again, the defensive staff put together a plan and the kids went out and executed it and played with passion and heart and intelligence. I think it's a pretty big response."

Offensively, Tech faced a disciplined and talented Duke defense led by star linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys. Willis not only took care of the football — which was a major concern, considering his 12/17 career touchdown/interception ratio entering play — but he made some well placed throws against press-man coverage, allowing his big, athletic receivers to go up and make plays. Hazleton, Eric Kumah and Tre Turner each made impressive leaping grabs in traffic, helping move the sticks at critical junctures.

The Hokies converted a rather ordinary 6 of 16 third downs (37.5%) against the Blue Devils. Dig a little deeper and you'll find that the Hokies faced an average distance of 8.4 yards on those third downs. Despite that average distance, Willis went 7-9 for 123 yards (17.6 yards per completion).

Fuente reflected on Willis' performance after the win, noting:

"Off the cuff without grading it and evaluating it, I felt comfortable with him in there. He was really having fun out there. It certainly wasn't too big for him. In turn, all that said, he made plays for us. He gave our guys some opportunities to make plays. We knew we were going to see a bunch of man coverage, tight coverage. The guys on the outside made enough plays and Ryan did a good job. We didn't have operational issues or things like that. I was pleased with his performance and his ability to step up in the moment."

If there was one area that needs some clarity, it's Willis' role in the run game. It appeared that many of the read option plays were straight handoffs designed to keep the defense honest, simplify Willis' assignments and keep him healthy. There were some moments that looked to be poor reads by Willis (the near decapitation of Sean Savoy on a jet sweep comes to mind) and sloppy fundamentals (the poor exchange with Steven Peoples on Tech's own doorstep). You'd have to believe that the offensive staff will be working to integrate more true read options or designed keepers moving forward, as the Duke defense stopped respecting the QB running threat early on. But even with a relatively limited run game, the Tech offense was solid throughout against a good Duke defense.

I'll refrain from making blanket statements about what Willis' performance could mean for the remainder of the season or how it could spell trouble for Josh Jackson's starting spot. It's too early in Willis' tenure under center, and it's certainly not fair to anyone involved. But I will say this: If he can consistently put the ball in a position for his big receivers to go up and get it (like he did against the Blue Devils), the offense will have a dangerous dimension.

Moving forward, the big question is how do Willis and the offense perform once opponents have film to study? While Willis had a handful of starts to his name heading into the game, the only solid film Duke had to study was from his cameo against ODU. Now that the element of surprise is somewhat gone, can Willis come close to repeating his opening performance against a talented Fighting Irish defense?

Reflecting on the win, I'm reminded of Virginia Tech's 2015 season. Backup quarterback Brenden Motley stepped in (unsuccessfully) for an injured Michael Brewer in the opener against Ohio State, only to absolutely torch hapless Furman and a plucky Purdue team in successive weeks. In his first two starts, Motley accounted for 6 total touchdowns and 515 total yards in blowout wins. In his third start against East Carolina in what can only be described as a monsoon, cracks in the armor began to show in a frustrating loss.

As the Hokies entered the meat of their schedule and the degree of difficulty ratcheted up, Motley found it harder and harder to rediscover his early success. One week after the loss in Greenville, the bottom dropped out for Motley at home against Pitt. He went 9-20 for 91 yards, tossing three picks while finding absolutely no room to run. The circumstances surrounding both Motley and Willis' ascension are quite different, as are their skill sets and the systems within which they play. Yet it's difficult to ignore some of the parallels.

Willis' 332 passing yards were the second highest total in his career and only the third time he's thrown for more than 215 yards. His 3 passing touchdowns against the Blue Devils is a new career high, and his 202.9 Passer Rating is his highest against an FBS opponent. WIllis is in an incredibly different — and more beneficial — system than his days at Kansas, but let's continue to be mindful of just how exceptional his performance was.

Notre Dame's defense isn't exactly the '85 Bears. They enter Saturday's game ranked #72 in total defense, allowing 340.6 yards per game. So while the Irish are talented, they've been a relatively average unit thus far. Willis and the Hokies passed their first post-ODU test against Duke, putting the hearts and minds of Hokie Nation at ease. The season is not entirely lost, yet. Now it's time for the pressure and the spotlight to crank up in intensity. Fans learned a lot about this team Saturday night. They'll learn even more under the lights, when the Fighting Irish enter the Terror Dome.

Comments

Great read. One correction: ODU is in Norfolk, not Newport News. Correction made. Please disregard.

Cannot understate how good it feels knowing that our QB has an accurate long ball and receivers who can win one on one against corners. Opposing safeties had better respect that threat since RW looks like a gunslinger who is willing to make that throw. Hope that translates into more running room for McClease and company with less defenders in the box.

VTCC '86 Delta Company, Hokie in Peru, TKPC#490, One of us!

Concur -after reading the article, I was forced to tear out all my arm hair (it wouldn't stop standing on end, with the anticipation of 8pm Saturday night)

"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

Such pleasure to read after last week. Actually looking forward to this weekend now (several extended family members are Notre Dame alumni) because I think we will at least be competitive if not possibly pull the upset.

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

Normally I'd agree, but just this one time, y'know, for the sake of all that is just, right and good, can we not just be competitive and actually pull that upset?

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

This. We've had our WTF loss. It's time for a WTF win.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

You mean a WTFFTW?

Led by R(potentiallyMF)W

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

Don't necessarily agree with the Motley comparisons. They've got massively different skill sets and are completely different players.

I think the parallels are with regard to situation - relief of QB1 in a loss, followed by win in first start. We'll see how things play out for RW as we get into the teeth of the ACC schedule.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

I understand the attempt, but physical ability plays some role in this. It just seems similar to the many posts about how JJ would 'take a huge step this year because Bryan Randal got better.' Comparisons like this are worth noting, I suppose, but largely unfounded or unrelated when it comes to reality.

The intent was never to compare Motley and Willis as quarterbacks, simply the situations and the need to temper expectations after one start. As I wrote above, "The circumstances surrounding both Motley and Willis' ascension are quite different, as are their skill sets and the systems within which they play." Currently, there is a limited sample size. I hope, as fans, people resist the urge to draw too many conclusions from the performance and project how the season plays out. One step at a time.

Agreed, Motley was probably more athletic and a better runner and the defenses he faced against Furman and Purdue were probably not as good as Duke. That ECU game turned into a nightmare. ECU played a running QB whom our defense refused to tackle. After that, well, I kind of think Motley had to deal with some head games. We had some good receivers but if the NFL is any guage, they weren't the cream of the crop. As a group, I think these guys we have now are better and Willis who hopefully will not have to run for his life like his time at Kansas will benefit if he can grow from his inevitable mistakes.

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. " Rocky B.

I was extremely impressed by Willis' poise in the pocket. He stepped up and made big throws and put the ball exactly where his receivers needed it. I do worry about some of the play-calling still. For example, I don't quite understand bringing in Hendon Hooker for read-option, QB keeper plays. It's one thing to put him in and give him the chance to make throws since he has a cannon for an arm. It's another thing to put him in just to run, even given his big run against W&M. Maybe Cornelson is cooking up something that will be shown later on in the season. My other concern is the insistence to throw these long, high fades. Our receivers made some huge catches but I just don't feel like that can be sustainable. Maybe it's just the effect it has on me as I watch with baited breath as the ball sails through the air, praying that it's not picked off. All told, I'm incredibly happy with how the team bounced back and the defense's remarkable performance. I think we matchup really well against Notre Dame and have a great chance to pull off a massive win Saturday.

"That's Houdini!"

- Jon Laaser 9/24/2016

I agree, the play calling is questionable at best. Last year we did this with AJ Bush and everytime he got in the game defense loaded the box and just keyed on the run. What was shocking was the refusal to expose the opposing defense by calling a quick play action when in the game.

You hit the nail on the head regarding play calling when Hooker entered the game. Here's a QB, he can throw the ball!

We need to take advantage of when their D leads the box. Maybe in the ND game we will spring this type of play.

(Auto-correct doesn't like this comment, it keeps changing the text on me!)

He may be listed as a QB, but we've only used him as a Wild Turkey back. And by that I mean we've loudly proclaimed to the defense that each play he's in is a run.

I certainly hope that's just the coaching staff playing the long game, and that we'll see him throw the ball sometime against ND for great success.

Maybe it's just the effect it has on me as I watch with baited breath as the ball sails through the air, praying that it's not picked off.

I get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach, but really that play is taking advantage of the fact that the defense is going to get called on interference for many of the things that they'd have to do to react to a ball that is thrown in the right position. If Willis can continue to do what he did against Duke, you're rarely going to see an INT without a flag.

If.

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

I get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach...

I think that feeling comes to all DBU fans. When our defense is on the field, every time the opposing QB throws a ball like that, I immediately say, "that's a pick!" So I guess it's only natural to react the same way when our offense is on the field.

"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

For me, recent history has made me think "oh $hit" every time a team throws that fade....Shane Carden, the dude from ODU....just VERY hard to defend if the receiver is tall and aggressive.

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

That's the power of confirmation bias. Once I convinced myself "every throw against VT is a potential pick," I stopped noticing any other outcome. Of course, I still think it's Brandon Flowers back there...

"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

That's the 50/50 ball. Fuente has said we gotta get those balls. We've got some relatively tall receivers. It does make you nervous...but Willis put the ball where the defender would have to push the reciever out of the way to get it. Hope Willis can keep doing that.

JP

I agree. Also (and i'm probably the worst to point this out since i'm horrible with offensive terminology), those balls were thrown against man coverage (kinda reminded me of Pitt a few years ago, just with better corners). If we play against zone coverage, Willis won't throw that many fades to our WRs. We'd probably go the slant route or try more wheel routes with Wheatley, IMHO.

Fuente preaches time and time again, he will play what the defense gives him and that's what Duke gave us on Saturday. Also helps our WRs are tall and will fight for those balls.

The slant routes have been working great as long as Willis accounts for any DB in the middle.

I'd take Kumah all day on slants, thus opening the box for run plays.

I think Fuente addressed this in his post-game press conference. Basically sounds like they just wanted to get the butterflys out for HH with some real snaps, and give RW a chance to talk mid-drive with the coaches on the sideline. I got the impression they weren't really trying to use HH to his full potential yet.

Edit: Can you delete a post? Didn't see the same thing had been said as a response to a different comment below

You can't delete a post. And someday, when the moment is just right, I will come back to this post and use it against you to bury your soul in shame.

Leonard. Duh.

I was skeptical of Willis going into the game. I felt the spring game was overhyped and he showed very little against W&M in garbage time to get excited about. At least not enough to doubt the coaches' decision. But man, if he can keep up these kinds of performances I think we'll be in a good place.

Keene just looks like a mismatch on basically any defender out there... I'd love to see him get more looks.

Bud so far is doing a great job not letting the ODU game/discipline issues derail his unit. They've got a big test on Saturday.

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

Hooker's appearance was a little bizarre during the game. I kept waiting for him to pull up and throw a long bomb or a pop pass but it didnt happen. I suspect that it will soon.

I also noticed how little respect they were paying the QB run all game. I anticipate thats something else we will exploit in the future if given the opportunity.

The game was never in doubt once we went up so i suppose there wasnt a need to show too much.

I think the thought on Hooker's plays were not as much to give him snaps, but to pull Willis for the coaches to talk to him without taking a timeout. I believe most of HHs plays were all on 1st down.

Man I still don't understand the intentional grounding rule. IF that's a legitimate rule, that the "out of the pocket, past the LOS" guidelines only apply to a QB, then would we get the same flag if Savoy took the snap and flipped it to Willis and he threw it out of bounds? Or is the "QB" defined as the player who receives a snap?

Seems like a silly rule regardless.

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

The NCAA defines it as the player who controls the snap. QB isnt mentioned in the rule.

In addition the NCAA has some odd rules about intentional grounding that never get called. If you are in the last minute of a game and you roll out of the tackle box and throw pass LOS but no reciever then its grounding. That is legal earlier in the game but because it happens to save clock it's a penalty and has a 10 second runoff.

There are some rules you never see with throwing it throw the back of the endzone you never see either.

Interesting. Thanks.

Still think it's odd that that particular distinction exists. Also still glad Savoy threw that away, nothing good was going to happen there.

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

It's there because without it any running back/receiver on a jet sweep or outside run that is going for a loss could just toss the ball forward out of bounds to avoid the loss of yards on the play.

all maroon everything

But if the line is run blocking they would be down-field, which is also a penalty. I don't see a problem with allowing a RB or WR on a jet sweep that may or may not be a designed pass throwing it away. I think they should have that option. If the O-line isn't downfield, it should be legal. If the O-line is downfield, it's already illegal. Obviously our opinion isn't going change any rules however, so this is probably pretty moot.

Vols Fans are more delusional than LOLUVA

Hokie in Tennessee

But if the line is run blocking they would be down-field, which is also a penalty.

Keep in mind you're expecting ACC refs to see this and call it.

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

Good point, but I think the general consensus among defensive coaches is they see it and just don't care. Hence, all the RPO discussion.

Vols Fans are more delusional than LOLUVA

Hokie in Tennessee

It's called so inconsistently. It likely cost Syracuse the game against Clemson, they completed a 4th down play for a chunk gain in the 4th quarter only to have a it called back for ineligible man downfield. Meanwhile, some teams commit this penalty 10-20 times a game without getting it called at all or maybe once.

WIllis is in an incredibly different — and more beneficial — system than his days at Kansas, but let's continue to be mindful of just how exceptional his performance was.

Sobbering. We're yet to see how he handles adversity. How well he handles making a big mistake and not letting it impact him. So much of being a QB's is going 1-0 on every play regardless of the last. Holding my breath.

One thing I paid careful attention to was his passion on the field. Was he a leader? Did the team respect him? Were receivers working a smidge harder on routes? I think the answer is "yes" and that's important. I just didn't see it before.

Also, all good VT teams have had a few play makers. Last year it was really only Cam and this year I'm still trying to figure out who it is. With Willis it looks like it might be our big receivers. Regardless of the unknowns in his game it appears he's the only one on the team that can really take advantage of this.

sol-a-rex

I saw Willis giving McClease a "C'mon man" look after he ran that screen (or flat, I forget) directly out of bounds for no gain.

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

I mostly agree, but you have to admit (as I was absolutely shaking to start the game) that we were collectively tight -as fans, as this game cranked up. so you just KNOW that the team thought could easily have been to tighten up as the Dookies took that first lead.

I think their was calm and poise -and the QB tends to create that extension to the team. No, we haven't met the next Aaron Rodgers... no wait; I'm fine if we have BUT the dude played like an animal champion Saturday night. Yes, it's Duke. But QB1 put up 300+ yards, 3 TDs and no picks in his first start since he played in a dumpster fire in Lawrence more than 2 years ago.

Now let's see him duplicate that in Lane this weekend...

"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

So far Hazelton has made some impressive plays. I think we have a ton of play makers; Grimsly, Kumah, Keene, Turner, Savoy, Phil all have made some great plays.

If any QB can learn to let those guys do what they can do then we will be pretty good. The play Keene housed didnt require a hard throw, just get the ball to him and he made it happen.

Cunningham is another big play possibility

Outside its night time, but inside its LeDay

That's a great point about the receiver effort. You gotta wonder if they saw a certain coverage with JJ and maybe let up a bit in their routes knowing JJ would never risk throwing it. With Willis, are they willing to give max effort every play knowing that the ball could come to them even in tighter coverage

I had a feeling Willis was going to open up the passing game. I got to be honest, even though its only 1 game, I am more confident with him going again ND than I would with JJ because of that added passing game improvement

Bleeding burnt orange and chicago maroon

Agree 100%

great win! ryan looked relaxed in the pocket all night. line did an excellent job of keeping him on his feet. Jackson seemed to get happy feet and feel pressure before it was there. that's my biggest concern going into ND. if they can create pressure how will RW respond. I cant tell you how much it excites me though to see us just get the ball out and let our guys make plays. worked against FSU, worked against DUKE, hopefully coaches understand this is the strength of our WRs and allows them to keep doing it.

#Bapn ain't EZ

Wanna win put boobie in! Let boobie spin coach!

Willis reminds me a lot of Jerod Evans. Willing to thread the needle to move the ball, big enough to keep the defense honest on the RPO, and leans heavily on the teardrop pass deep, allowing the WR to adjust to the ball. I didn't see anything with his game against Duke that has me questioning his ability to start. In fact, given how decisive he was with his play, I think he might be the better option going forward.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

The way Willis was throwing the ball reminded me a lot of Jerod Evans. Jerod had his flaws as QB, particularly with making multiple reads but he had a great feel for putting the right amount of touch and location on downfield passes to give his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball on the outside. We saw that many times from Willis on Saturday night. Obviously, we didn't really showcase Willis' legs last night, but that could help us a lot for Notre Dame if they are expecting him to rarely keep the ball. A few keepers could pop for big plays this coming weekend if they overpursue the backs.

Also shoutout to the stable of WR's that were making those tough catches in traffic/being interfered with. Kumah, Hazelton, Patterson, and Tre Turner all flashed that ability. I have a feeling the sky is the limit for Tre Turner, and hopefully we see more of him as he gets more time in the offense during the season.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

I know... I saw it as soon as I posted.

I'm just glad I wasn't the only one who came away thinking that. I'm not going to lie, I am struggling to see how he wasn't given more of an opportunity to play here right from the start.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

I am struggling to see how he wasn't given more of an opportunity to play here right from the start.

Give it another game or two and I'll be right there with you. Supposedly he turned the ball over a lot in practice. Sometimes players just turn it on when their number gets called, but it also wouldn't shock me if Duke was the exception and we get a multiple INT game out of him this weekend. He sure did look the part though! MUCH more decisive with the ball than JJ has been.

I bet his run game mechanics are holding him back

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I feel like this is a wishful memory. Jerod could throw a decent fade for the big receiver, but I remember him overthrowing guys downfield a bunch. Especially on deep routes.

I'm not suggesting he didn't overthrew guys on go routes, I'm suggesting he had good touch on these back shoulder fades and knew how to underthrow and position the ball for receivers to make a play. We sorely missed that last season, and it seems like Willis, albeit in a small sample size, has flashed that confidence and touch/location to give our exciting receivers a chance to make some plays even when coverage is tight.

I'm in the minority on Hooker getting in being a bad thing - I thought it was great. It may have broken the rhythm a bit, but the guy is one play away from starting. He needs to get real experience. We know he has talent. I thought they eased him in. Sure you could argue to wait until the game is in control, but I'd argue get him the real experience without asking him to do much. Just my 2.

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

elsewhere on here, it was suggested that perhaps it was a way for coaches to discuss things with RW without having to burn a timeout. some on-the-fly coaching for a minute or two here and there.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Nah we fake injuries to do that.

/s

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

Slow it down there, buddy. No need to let the momentum leave you gasping for air and unable to substitute.

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

I actually didn't have any problems with getting Hooker some snaps. What I think most are complaining about was the way he was used. Duke knew it was going to be a running play. Even the Duke fans behind me were yelling "wildcat" as soon as they realized the QB skin color was different.

If he goes in, we need to create the threat that he might throw the ball in order to slow down the defense. That pop pass where he takes a step forward like he's going to run and then stops and lofts it over the line to a RB or TE in stride would be perfect. We may very well see that this weekend.

If we can keep putting Hooker being a runner on tape it'll make the Hooker play action pass that much more effective when we really need it.

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

I thought you wanted to avoid having your Hookers on tape.

Side thought: when will we stop using the term "tape"?

Probably once the Save icon is changed to something other than a floppy disk...

If you're not sure if my comment warrants a "/s", it probably does.

Too late, kids these days know what that logo means even though they have no idea what it represents.

Could be worse....could be a fortran punch card.

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

I have some bad memories of those. Don't remember what building I had to go to to feed those stacks, getting too old.

Watching the game and Willis throws a nice "leading Loft' pass. He puts enough air under the ball for WR's to track it and adjust but also strong enough to put it on a place where the WR can dictate the catching battle with the DB.

It seems less of a reactive throwing decision on his part. Willis seems to have more confidence with himself and is more daring. I like what I have seen after the first game. We shall see.

"Welcome to the Terror Dome." -- Corey Moore

On the flip side he can throw an absolute bullet. I don't even remember the play it was 10 yard in route or slant and that ball we delivered at what looked like 60mph

That's the thing, I am used to seeing our QB's with bullet passes for the last few guys but having touch on the long ball has been missing. Launching it deep usually means rocket ropes with WR's diving for the ball with little time to adjust to the ball. It just makes the game more beautiful so see a heavenly arch to a ball flying through the air.

"Welcome to the Terror Dome." -- Corey Moore

Man, and even with the passes that Willis didn't complete, he put it in a spot where he probably should have completed it. A few drops on catchable deep passes that could have really blown the game wide open there in the second half. We start coming up with those catches, and this offense has the ability to take another step forward.

Then again, we dodged a few huge cannon blasts from Duke as well, so call it even in that category.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

The passes Willis threw to get the receivers to win battles? They reminded me a LOT of how ODU (and other teams in the past) schemed against us. Think Cornelsen got some inspiration?

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

I never saw that so it never happened in my world sooooo I don't know what your talking about

"Welcome to the Terror Dome." -- Corey Moore

Coach Corn called similar plays vs Pitt, 2 yrs ago. Feels like a function of having a QB who can execute those passes (Evans did a pretty good job on those passes) and having WR's that you trust to fight for the ball (we didn't exactly have that, last year, outside of Cam).

ODU got cancelled by Florence. You mean last year's game?

I'm rewatching the game now, man we missed a lot of initial tackles.

"Welcome to the Terror Dome." -- Corey Moore

Yupp a lot of first contact in the backfield that ended up going for a positive play. I yelled that at the TV and then settled down as we got a little better towards the end of the game.

We only had three sacks, but I feel like there must've been seven other times when our defenders had their hands on the quarterback in the backfield but didn't bring him down .

"The Cup is going nowhere MIkey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Yes. Part of that is Jones though, the guy has incredible awareness. There was one in particular where the left end got to him and with his eyes still down field managed an effective stiff arm before rolling out of the pocket. I imagine most of your DL is thinking at that point they've got him and don't expect that.

Good comparison to the 2015 season. That Pitt team had a great defense, but boy, we were bad that day. Motley also had success against bad Purdue and Furman teams. Duke is good and Willis played well.

However, the Bret Favre Gunslinger QB Scale starts with Mayfield and Mahomes before getting to the Brewer and Benkert end. I'm still seeing Willis being a lot more Brewer/Benkert than Mayfield/Mahomes.

Ryan Willis will never be the new RMFW, but he could be RmfW

From what I can see on ESPN.com, Duke is tied for 22nd in points allowed, while Notre Dame is tied for 27th.

One could argue that ND has played some better offenses, like Stanford and Michigan, but then again they also played Vandy, Wake, and Ball State(MAC).

Hokie in West Africa...sadly, I can't jump up and down hard enough for it to be felt in Lane

Transitively:

Michigan > Northwestern by 3 points at home
Michigan < Notre Dame by 7 points at home

Duke > Northwestern by 14 points at home
Duke < Virginia Tech by 17 points at home

So Duke is > Michigan by 11 points so Duke > Notre Dame by 4 points
and VT is > Duke by 17 points so > Notre Dame by 21 points.

Check my work.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

Yup. It checks out.

It's science.

I found this interesting so I looked up the offensive rankings on the NCAA website and found the following. Based on this they have faced similar levels of offensive prowess thus far.

Also, we are currently 27th. I would not have guessed that.

Notre Dame Opponents Rank
Michigan 66
Ball State 32
Vanderbilt 63
Wake Forest 23
Stanford 113
Average 59.4

Duke Opponents Rank
Army 59
Northwestern 98
Baylor 22
Virginia Tech 27
Average 51.5

Is Stanford a typo? 113th and was in the top 10? Seems out of whack.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

I have double checked and they are rated 113th in YPG.

For what its worth they are also 85th in Total Defense. So yeah being a top 10 team seems out of whack and is probably why they got exposed.

Also, they have faced a much more difficult schedule to this point in the year than just about anybody else, so that probably factors into it as well.

They are #31 overall in S&P+, with the #58 offense and #28 defense, which adjusts for opponent quality.

YPG can be a misleading stat if the defense gives the offense short field to work with. I haven't seen much more than a few quarters of Stanford this year, but their QB got quite a bit of praise on Gameday this past weekend, seeing them so low is surprising.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

Can't seem to upload screenshot, but yes based on avg yds/game they currently sit at 113th.
Based strictly on yards, Stanford's offense has been pedestrian at best

FYI ND held them to 229

Haven't checked stats in a long time, but we are currently at 32nd scoring offense and 37th scoring defense.

I feel personally attacked that Wake Forest has a better rated offense than us...

Vanderbilt is a dumpster fire this year. Mrs. Lwyr (Now for real!) went to vandy and after watching ND struggle with Vandy (Vandy missed a field goal and then later was driving towards the end to potentially win the game) and then watching Vandy struggle with Tennessee State this weekend, my saturday sound track was a constant stream of 'how the fuck is fucking ND still ranked 8?!?!?!' from wifey

Old sigline: I've been cutting back on the drinking.

New Sigline: lol it's football season.

I haven't seen it pointed out yet, but its worth mentioning how terrible our running game was even after completing all those deep passes.

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson
@HaydenDubya

I think once you see French's review, you won't feel so bad. Duke's defense is good, especially against the run, and doubly so for LB play.

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

Perusing the site today I don't think Philthy Phil is getting enough love for his ridiculous 4th quarter one handed TD catch with the DB mauling him.

Proud author of one plaid comment.

He did get his own gif in the GIFTORY:

I just realized the CB's headband gets pulled over his eyes when Patterson knocks his helmet off. Hard to break up a pass when you can't see!

One thing that may go unnoticed is the ability of Willis to hit runners on screen passes and flares. If you look back at the Keene screen, for example, the ball is perfectly placed on his left shoulder such that no adjustment was needed to catch the ball and more importantly, it dictated his next step up field. He also hit at least two runners on quick flares. Those 1-2 extra seconds on those passes can be the difference between 1-3 yards and 10+ yards. That's so vital to Fuente's offense.

🦃 🦃 🦃

There was one in the second half, but I can't remember exactly when. On the TV screen we were driving from left to right and he hit the RB (Peoples?) absolutely perfectly around the line of scrimmage as he was running away from the camera (can't think of a better way to describe it). It was freaking beautiful. Zero pause or reset by the RB, perfectly in stride. We haven't seen that much over the past few years.

The only time I felt he looked uncomfortable and made poor throws was when he was rolling out.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

I just realized my username is relevant now. Cashing in here.

^^This^^

Almost every screen or swing pass was executed to near perfection from Willis.

Edit: Meant for reply to CMM above - my bad

Is it football season yet?

That's okay, you can tag along here. We're going plaid.

I did my part!

Not to throw cold water on a win, but there were a couple of drives particularly in the third quarter when we reverted to ugly offensive football with penalties, poor execution, and dreaded bad snaps.

All that being said scoring 31 points is not a bad day at the office!!

"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."

Throw all the cold water you want, winning is a great insulating blanket.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Absolutely and winning is contagious!

"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."

So after four games has any team we faced been hit with a holding call? Seems like our D-Line is always in the backfield but I can't think of a single time the opponent has been flagged.

I'm sure the advanced stats column will take a deep-dive into it, but Notre Dame is 5th in Defensive S&P+, they will provide a huge challenge for our offense. And with the way Book's been throwing it, we may have to put up at least 30 to get the win in Lane.

This will be a test but I don't think we're outmatched by much, if at all.

From above offensive rankings ND has played:

Notre Dame Opponents Rank
Michigan 66
Ball State 32
Vanderbilt 63
Wake Forest 23
Stanford 113
Average 59.4

VT: 27

Looking at the S&P+ offensive ranks, which try to adjust for opponents' defensive quality:

27 Michigan
108 Ball State
81 Vanderbilt
64 Wake Forest
58 Stanford

67.6 Average

30 VT

Still looking pretty decent, but even adjusting for their middling schedule their defense is ranked #5. Also, our defense is #57 going up against their #37 offense.

The advanced stats are not going to like us in this game, but if we can play like we did against FSU and Duke and don't crack under pressure we have a pretty good shot.

I'd say that if we can go into the ND game with the same fire that ODU had when facing us, we can do it. Talent is one thing. Fire and emotion added to talent is a great equalizer.

Good points. The advance statistics, particularly on D are not going to like us at all for a few more games... Giving up 630 yards to odu being only 1 of 4 games is going to sway things poorly. We did however show we are capable of playing absolutely terrible, then again we've shown we can play pretty well too.

I'm not sure if it was ever mentioned in the game thread, but I'd like to talk about the fake punt in the first quarter. Regardless of if it was a good risk at the time, what bothers me about it is that Caleb Farley was aligned at Punter. Anyone on the opposing sideline or on the field could easily tell that #3 is not our usual Punter...kind of takes away the element of surprise. In a situation like that I would have rather seen us go for it straight up on 4th down instead of hoping they don't notice our fastest DB is in at Punter.

Yup I liked zero percent of that play. Sure Farley is explosive and stuff, line him up in the protection and snap it to him then.You're snapping it to a CB lined up at P now what 15 yards off the LOS to get 3 yards. Not a well designed fake probably want to go back to the drawing board on that one.

Especially when the team has experience in that sort of deception.

I would also like to point out, while we're next door to the subject, that we almost blocked Duke's first punt, and came reasonably close on at least two others. And punt coverage was outstanding.
Duke Punt Returning
Returns: 4. Yards: 0. Long: 1.

"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

Damnnnnnnn. How many punts have been returned against us this year?

Since you asked...

FSU: 9 punts no returns
W&M: 0 punts
ODU: 7 punts no returns

That looks weird, but that's what I see: through four games, we have 20 punts for a grand total of 0 return yards.

"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

Bradburn for president

I would nominate him for #25 again, but I already used my "vote" for Kumah.

Ut Prosim Ad Dei Gloriam

Not having seen any replays, so only going by memory of the play live, but it appeared that Farley hesitated for a long time before getting moving. Without that hesitation, there's a fair chance he makes it.

Not to mention the face mask. Obviously you can't use that as confirmation that it was a good call, but it should have been a first down.

It wasn't a hesitation but a fake handoff to someone running in front of him. I thought the same that if that part of the play wasn't there and he just took off right when he had the ball, he would have made it.

I believe Fuente mentioned that they were supposed to have someone come over in motion, and someone missed their assignment. So, it broke down by not having that execution.

PDXHokie

If the coaching staff wanted to run a fake punt, they shouldn't have advertised "OUR PUNTER IS WEARING #25 THIS WEEK" over social media.

Right, and Bradburn was wearing 25. Not sure if it is as easy for the players on the field to notice, but it was obvious from the stands. I almost yelled "we're going for it!" at the top of my lungs. Then quickly thought better and started telling the Hokies around me.

"The Cup is going nowhere MIkey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Instead of Farley, perhaps Wheatly would have been a better choice numerically. There still would have been a visual difference, though.

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

On the defensive side, Rashard Ashby put on a tackling clinic on Saturday night. I'm gonna show this to our JV squad before doing tacking drills.

Is it football season yet?

I thought Reggie Floyd had monster game as well. His energy and play is critical for us.

TL;DR

I thought Willis played great. I felt comfortable watching him throw. I don't always get that feeling with JJ. I felt that Willis has better pocket presence than JJ. Maybe I was an unrealized Willis-truther. Until he proves me wrong, but he looked good. Not sure what everyone's trepidation about him still is.

As to the running game of Willis I feel like they didn't show it too much because we didn't have to. There isn't much tape on Willis and being able to keep one more thing from the opposing teams as long as you can is good imo. Willis was doing great throwing the ball and we were doing decent with the RBs on the ground. After we went up 17-7 there really wasn't a need to introduce a new wrinkle as long as everything stayed on par with the O and D as it did.

I don't think Willis slammed balls into the receivers either like JJ has a tendency to do at times. I don't know anything about coaching football so I could be totally off base but just my 2 cents.

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

There were several times that I thought Willis should have pulled the ball on zone reads, and didn't. Perhaps he was under instruction to limit running due to the game situation, and the memory of JJ being carted off. If you have a significant drop off between QB 1B and QB2, that could be a factor in the decision. Hard to blame them for wanting to keep Willis healthy. I'd think this took priority over not giving ND film of him running.

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

"Backup quarterback Brenden Motley stepped in (unsuccessfully) for an injured Michael Brewer in the opener against Ohio State, only to absolutely torch hapless Furman and a plucky Purdue team in successive weeks. In his first two starts, Motley accounted for 6 total touchdowns and 515 total yards in blowout wins. In his third start against East Carolina in what can only be described as a monsoon, cracks in the armor began to show in a frustrating loss."

Oof, talk about a wet blanket. But I agree. Sports are so conducive to making ordinary events into incredible highs and lows. Willis looked good against Duke, but we have a long way to go before we are a competitive team in the ACC. Hopefully, Willis and the rest of the team takes each day at a time to learn.