Film Study

What Won't Change During the Bye Week

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

5:42–5:50

Duke, and the Road to Death Valley

I apologize this is late this week. Stay in school, because day jobs are not as fun as history lectures. -- French

The homecoming game against Duke came at a critical time during Frank Beamer's tenure. While the talent deficiencies in key areas make it most likely that the Hokies are not a great bet to run the table, a loss to Duke would have shaken the aura of invincibility that Virginia Tech has over the weaker programs in the ACC. That aura often has weaker teams beaten before they step off the bus, and it has given the Hokies several wins over the last 8 years that have kept them relevant as a regional power. Now we come to the three measuring stick games for 2012, starting perhaps with the toughest matchup, the Clemson Tigers.

UNC Film Review: A Tragic Realization

This is a hit piece. I can't run from the fact that on Saturday, the Hokies were so poor in their fundamental execution of their basic responsibilities that I find myself doubting that they can turn this ship around this season. After the end of the debacle in Chapel Hill, I tried desperately to find some kind of building block to give me hope for the immediate future. I expected to turn on the film of the game, and see tremendous effort sabotaged by singular errors in execution that we should come to expect with a young team that is struggling to gel. Instead, I saw breakdown after breakdown of the most basic fundamentals in football.

Cincinnati Offensive Film Review: Close Only Counts

I stated my emotional reaction to the Cincinnati game in Joe's epic "All I Have To Say" column on Saturday night. The offensive identity issue has presented itself as a long term issue, and, barring a complete cultural change in the program, it is an issue that will continue to self-correct in sputters and gaps. While I may not be a fan of the spread/pistol system, I want to be 100% clear that I think any offensive system can succeed with outstanding execution, 100% player buy-in, and a play caller who understands how to use the system. And, regardless of the system, be it from the shotgun or lining up in the straight T, any offense is better when the offensive line kicks ass.

I tried to go into the film review with an open mind. Watching the film, I came up with the following conclusions. Some may surprise you, others may not.

Defensive Aggression: Bowling Green Film Review II

While watching the film, the first thing that jumped out at me was the play of the Hokie front four. Rather than slanting and stunting heavily, as discussed in the French on the Bench Defense 101 series, the d-line played a more traditional style of getting upfield and attempting to make plays. Perhaps it was a function of the Bowling Green scheme, or Bud Foster realized that teams were using his slant tendencies against the defense (as discussed last week in my Pitt film review). I thought James Gayle and Tyrel Wilson played magnificent games, but both Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins didn't create much disruption in the middle, and J.R. Collins sometimes became over aggressive and lost contain on cut back runs.

A great example comes on the second Bowling Green offensive play.

1:06–1:13

BeamerBall lists Vandyke as Starting Whip; More BG Film Review

I beat the sun up this morning and re-watched film of the defense against Bowling Green. After cds7c mentioned yesterday that Ronny Vandyke was listed on HokieSports (9/24 update) as co-starter at Whip, I wanted to watch him more closely. Now, BeamerBall (via Bitter) has Vandyke listed as the starter, G-W as the backup.

Frank Beamer's personal website has Ronny Vandyke as the first-team whip linebacker and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow on the second team. It said it was updated Tuesday. "The only way he's going to get better is we've got to get him on the field more in game situations," Foster said about Vandyke on Monday. According to Beamer's website, Vandyke had 24 plays against Bowling Green, with two tackles, one assist, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. Gouveia-Winslow had nine plays and one quarterback hurry.

Given RVD's upside, I think we've all waited a long time to hear that from the coaches.

The Pistol and Live Ammo: Bowling Green Film Review

That sound you heard coming from Blacksburg Saturday was a collective sigh of relief as the Hokies notched a 37-0 shutout and finally exhibited some explosiveness in the running game. There were many positives to point out, including dynamic rushing by the much-maligned running back corps and a bounce-back performance by the secondary, especially veteran Antone Exum. At the same time, my film review will raise many of the concerns we have seen throughout this young season, which leaves doubt in my mind about how the Hokies address these problems when they reach the meat of the ACC schedule.

I will start with the offensive identity and Logan Thomas, and I won't sugar coat it. The entire week, we heard the offense was focused on getting the running game on track. The easiest way to get it going would be to turn the dogs loose on the offensive line by playing up to their size, strength and athleticism. Instead, we saw more of the same early in the game, slow developing runs focused on counter action and trickery rather than physical dominance.

Pitt Film Review: Unravelling What Went Wrong

If you're not getting better, then you are getting worse.

The Hokies were not able to use the Austin Peay game to build depth and rest some beat up players, and I think that three football games in 13 days really caught up to the Tech, especially the rough nature of the Georgia Tech game.

At the same time, this was a beat down of the worst kind. Clemson, Stanford, LSU, and Alabama had terrific football teams. I can't recall feeling this frustrated over a loss since Boston College on Thursday night a few years ago. Every concern raised here over the past two weeks was exposed in a drastic fashion. We knew the offense was not explosive. In order to be successful their execution had to be outstanding to sustain long drives. Yet on every critical play, one mistake—either blocking, reading a block, flub on a route, or horrid decision making/mechanics by the quarterback—derailed the play. Defensively, we knew that the secondary was one bruised shoulder away from being a disaster, and we saw that scenario play out in macabre fashion.

Film Study: Pitt-Cincinnati

Last week I asked Dozer if he could chop up the Pitt–Cincinnati tape since they're two of Tech's upcoming opponents. Of course, he obliged. The film is below (because of technical difficulties, it's missing the tail end of the 4th quarter). After watching it, my thoughts follow, please leave your's in the comments.

Pitt struggled to pound the ball between the tackles. They didn't generate a huge surge upfront, and Cincinnati's d-line did an excellent job beating blocks and penetrating. However, Pitt had success running wide. Their o-line is athletic, both starting tackles have experience playing guard, so they can move. Left tackle Cory King (#78) started five games at guard last season, right tackle Matt Rotheram (#74) started one and was 3-star recruit. Needless to say, they pull their linemen a lot and the running backs run well behind them. The Tech linebackers, especially the Whip, and other free hitters will have to wrap up in space if the Hokies are to stop Pitt's rush attack.

AP Film Review: Hokies win Scrimmage

Well, I am sure there are some frustrated Hokies out there who are stopping by looking for answers as to why Virginia Tech looked so pedestrian against a bad, but game, Austin Peay team on Saturday. I think before we dive deep into analysis of the performance, we must understand what this game meant to the Hokie coaching staff.

A long review of the film told me that the coaching staff treated this game like a scrimmage. The Hokies ran a very vanilla offensive set with limited offensive line movement, counter-motion, and almost no read option plays. The defense played long stretches of man to man coverage, with very basic slants and linebacker fills up front. If I were a betting man, the staff goals were:

GT Film Review: Hokies Unveil their New Offense

Editor's Note: We're going to try to bring you the very best reviews of the games this season found anywhere online. The embedded YouTube video is the complete game, condensed with all commercials removed courtesy of Dozer. It has been coded to start and stop at the times being referenced. If that doesn't work, the time referenced in the play is listed below. --Joe

Welcome to our first film review of the 2012 season. The Hokies came into their opener against Georgia Tech preaching a new attitude on offense after prominently featuring the no huddle, spread, and pistol in preseason scrimmages. Georgia Tech, with Al Groh's 3-4 defense missing several key cogs and lacking depth, seemed like the perfect opponent for a breakout offensive performance after years of struggling in nationally televised openers. By the third quarter, it seemed as if those lofty aspirations had gone up in smoke as the Hokie offense repeatedly stalled against the Yellow Jacket defense.

This is the Pistol

Since its debut this spring, most of us have been intrigued by the Pistol formation. Personally, I'm still haunted by JMU using it as a vessel for their option and power run game during their last trip to Blacksburg. As demonstrated by the Dukes in 2010, it's an extremely effective "modern" formation for many tried and true offensive plays and philosophies.

In Saturday's scrimmage Michael Holmes broke a little counter run out of it for a 60+ yard score. Let's break it down.

LT3 is lined up between center Andrew Miller and Michael Holmes. Dyrell is going to start moving across the formation before the ball is snapped.

Holmes takes a little counter step. At this point, it's extremely hard for the majority of defenders to key where the ball is going. This is more a benefit of the play than the formation. Logan could give the ball to Roberts on the sweep, hand it off to Holmes, or keep it himself.

The threat of Dyrell getting the ball on the sweep is going to hold the backside end (Tyrel Wilson) for an extra second, and prevent him from crashing down the line and making the play.

In the previous frame you can see Nick Becton pull around play side. He smothers Derek DiNardo, the edge is sealed tight.

Film Study: Michigan Preview

Thanks to kind Internet souls like mgodisney I was able to efficiently watch five Michigan games yesterday (Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and Notre Dame). The Wolverines improved each week during the season. That's coach speak, but it's true. In their final two games against Nebraska and Ohio State, Michigan was a complete team with a lot of confidence capable of moving the ball and playing good enough defense.

I know we're playing Michigan, but let's talk about Iowa real quick, more specifically Iowa-Michigan. Watch this, or as much as you can tolerate, or for as long as it takes you to realize there's a high probability '08 Stinepring is calling the plays for the Hawkeyes.

5-1

After the Clemson loss, French wrote that we didn't have an identity on offense. At the time it was hard to disagree. And to keep things is perspective Miami was just one, albeit beautifully called and executed, game. However, going into the season that's how I expected the offense to look each week. Our talented receivers spread out Miami's defense. Logan found the open guys on high percentage throws. We ran a heavy dose of zone read to take advantage of Logan's size and Wilson's which loosened up the box. At that point it's pick your poison. The offensive line won't dominate the line of scrimmage every time, or even every other time, like we'd like them to in more pro-style / "I-formation" attack, but in a spread scheme they don't have to. They're quite good at blocking in space, occupying a man long enough for David Wilson to find the crease and spring a play, and they're damn good at pass blocking.

The final four play calls were pretty brilliant, although during the game I went ballistic after the three consecutive runs starting from 1st and 10 at the Miami 28. Let's take a closer look.

1st and 10 Miami 28

Film Study: Miami

Before today the only Miami game I had watched was their Labor Day opener against Maryland. Although it was a 24-32 loss I was impressed with how competitive they were considering they had 9 players, most of which were either starters or on the two-deep, suspended (8 by the NCAA and wide receiver Aldarius Johnson was suspended indefinitely by Al Golden). The 'Canes that played on Labor Day are not the team that will travel to Blacksburg on Saturday, on paper they are much, much better. Aside from defensive end Olivier Vernon, all of their suspended players are eligible; 5 have been playing since the Maryland game.

I wanted to get a better idea of how the Hurricanes looked with a more complete roster so I watched the first half of Miami–Bethune-Cookman and the second half of Miami–Kansas State.

Miami was sloppy in the first half against I-AA Bethune-Cookman. They gave up a lot of big plays, and committed 6 penalties for 41 yards, their only penalties of the game. If the Wildcats don't fumble on the two-yard-line and miss a field goal, they take a 17-14 lead into the half, instead of being down 7-14. Miami would eventually blowout the Wildcats, 45-14.

Film Study: BBQ-Scented Potpourri

After re-watching the ECU game, I feel a lot better now about the team going forward than I did Saturday afternoon. Watching the game live wasn't easy on my eyes. The penalties, turnovers, special teams gaffs and little mistakes added up and overshadowed what was otherwise a clinic in power football supported by a tremendous defensive performance. We controlled the clock for 37:22, rushed for 241 yards, held ECU to 112 total yards and only won by seven points. We spotted ECU 92 yards on penalties, turned the ball over twice, only threw for 91 yards, got lucky ECU dropped some balls, missed a gimme field goal, shanked some punts and won by seven points. There's a very thin line separating wins and losses, and I'm happy as hell we're on the right side of it.

This week's film study won't have a theme, but will be a hodgepodge of things that caught my attention.

Film Study: Maroon-White Game

I promised more detailed analysis after I watched the tape of the Maroon-White Game. I deliver thoughts in varying lengths and in no particular order.

Mike O'Cain's passing game showed its teeth. There were a lot of three-step drops paired with aggressive routes that pushed the field vertically. If LT3 can make the reads quick enough, which he did against a base defense, we can really start using our off-the-blocks speed at receiver to our advantagee. On the 55-yard Maroon scoring drive set up by Jayron Hosley's return, Maroon called 4 straight passes (Logan took off and ran up a soft middle for 6-ish yards on one) until Logan pumped and threw to Marcus Davis for six.


Four Verts: Randall Dunn makes the reception and Boykin is not pictured, but was indeed running down the field.

There were screens too. Screens, those plays we used to run a ton of, then stopped calling altogether. Hopefully we'll use them with moderation, when appropriate.

Film Study: Stanford Dominates Arizona

Arguably Stanford's most impressive win of the 2010 season was against #15 Arizona, a 42-17 pummeling of the Wildcats. The Cardinal never looked backed after jumping out to a 21-3 first half lead as Stanford maintained a comfortable 18-25 point separation throughout the second half. In 2010 Arizona held teams to an average of 343.25 yards (37th) and 21.58 points (33rd), Stanford gained 510 yards and held the ball for 37:03. Their defense surrendered yards (428), but made plays when they had to in order to keep points off the board.

Below is a breakdown of some game changing/interesting plays that caught my eye.

Stanford set the tone for the entire game with a well executed, forceful touchdown blow to Arizona's neck on their first possession by way of a play action touchdown pass to Chris Owusu.

After motioning, Stanford lines up in an offset I look. Arizona loads the box and defends with 8 men leaving their corners in one-on-one coverage with safety support over the top.

Film Study: Stanford's Lone Loss

Oregon is responsible for the only blemish on an otherwise pristine Stanford record (11-1). The Cardinal took an early, and what looked like, commanding 21-3 lead over the Ducks, but could not hold on as day turned to night in a raucous Autzen Stadium. I wouldn't say Stanford lost the game as much as Oregon won it. Sure, Stanford turned the ball over four times in the second half, including once on downs starting from 3rd and goal at the 1 (finally stopped on 4th and 1 from the 6). Additionally, Luck's two interceptions were desperate attempts to get back into a game that was slipping away. Therefore, I believe it was more a case of Oregon executing flawlessly on offense and pressuring Luck in the pocket–something that was severely missing from the first half.

After watching the replay last night, I know more than ever that this is an excellent, tough as nails, and well coached football team.

Stanford on Offense

Their physicality, tempo, varied formations and precise execution reminds me of a NFL team.


The "Diamond" formation is all the rage these days.

The Main Event

My initial thought after Thursday night's game was that we severely regressed. After re-watching the game I've come to the conclusion that my seat high up in the south end zone and a morning, afternoon and evening of tailgating clouded my judgement.

Let me be cliché for a moment–that game was a heavyweight grudge match and Georgia Tech took the opening rounds. On their first two drives the 'Reck took the ball and bullied us down the field for 138 yards and two touchdowns. I knew Georgia Tech would get their yards, but we had to make them earn them. Their first drive was methodical, but we gave up the big play, again, the second time around.

A few guys were responsible for that gaping hole, but Kyle Fuller (who played most of the day at whip) got his jock turned around by Joshua Nesbitt mashing down on the L2 button.

Down 14-0 I thought our prospects for winning were bleak. The defense was struggling, the offensive line was playing mediocre, and Al Groh was proving that he was indeed a Bill Parcells' disciple. But then we began battling back.

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