Not Your Daddy's Lunch Pail: Reviewing Virginia Tech's 17-10 Win Over North Carolina

Winning the line of scrimmage, a new face, and innovative utilization of personnel drive a dominant defensive performance. A 17-play, 3,600 word film breakdown of the Hokies' winning effort.

[Virginia Tech Athletics]

Hand me a plate of crow. I thought that even with an effective offensive performance, the Hokies wouldn't have the depth and athleticism to stifle a bruising North Carolina offensive line. Instead, in front of a raucous crowd at Lane Stadium Justin Hamilton's defense checked all the boxes. Veterans like defensive tackles Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks took a big step forward. New faces like Nasir Peoples provided a stabilizing influence. And Hamilton moved his personnel around to masterfully mitigate the Hokies' potential defensive liabilities. The much-ballyhooed Tar Heels were fortunate to stay within striking distance, as some missed opportunities prevented Virginia Tech from taking a three-score lead into halftime. While there were moments that felt like the Hokies were hanging on by their fingernails, the reality was that even with the blemishes, the game wasn't as close as the score. Hopefully, the failure to blow the game wide open has the benefit of the defense learning how to maintain their intensity, as defensive letdowns have plagued the Hokies the last few seasons.

Defensive Adjustments

There were plenty of storylines for the defensive performance. While lots of individual players deserve kudos (and will get them later in this column), Hamilton wheeled out some creative tactics to take North Carolina out of favorable matchups.

I discussed in my preview how North Carolina would line up receiver Josh Downs in the slot and attack Chamarri Conner on vertical routes. The Hokies played a lot of cover one, with man coverage outside and the boundary and free safety taking turns as the single high or the extra defender in the box. As I predicted, UNC offensive coordinator Phil Longo tested Conner in man coverage early.

From the field-side slot Downs (No. 11) feigns a slant and then bends back into an outside release fade. The Hokies run a cover 1 look. Field safety Keonta Jenkins (No. 33) sinks into the box, while boundary safety Nasir Peoples (No. 31) drifts from the boundary hash to the middle of the field. This puts Conner in a tough spot. Dorian Strong (No. 44) has man-to-man out wide to the field, and gets pulled up on the hitch route. Peoples has a long distance to cover to help Conner deep. This makes the Hokies vulnerable deep between the field hash and sideline. Conner was on an island, and did a great job of getting turned and running with Downs, preventing a devastating early home run play.

After this attempt, it didn't seem like North Carolina took another shot with Downs on the fade. Part of that was the outstanding pass rush from Tech's defensive line. However, what little headway the Tar Heels made in the passing game came primarily on shorter passes against Conner. This prompted an adjustment.

Instead of sticking with Conner at the nickel, in clear passing situations, Hamilton moved Conner into Dax Hollifield's mike linebacker spot, played Strong and Armani Chatman at corner, and then matched Jermaine Waller on Downs in the slot. Waller is a markedly better man coverage defender than Conner, while Conner adds speed and the ability to get more depth into underneath zones than Hollifield.

This 3rd-and-13 was the first play I noticed the change.

Sam Howell, who is under a lot of fire after Friday night, makes the right decision. Ty Chandler's (No. 19) motion and swing route gets Peoples (No. 31) to bite forward, leaving Emery Simmons' (No. 0) in cut from the boundary as the open route. Chatman (No. 27) does a tremendous job of bursting out of his outside leverage backpedal to punch through Simmons' back shoulder to break up the pass. Simmons didn't do Howell any favors with a very sloppy route to tip Chatman.

The Hokies' defensive tackles created tremendous pressure through the A-gaps early, which prompted Hamilton to showcase another adjustment. Instead of sending Tech's best pass rusher, Amare Barno, off the edge, Hamilton deployed a three down linemen alignment. Defensive tackle Norell Pollard slid out to d-end, while Barno moved around at different spots. On this particular play, Mario Kendricks showed an explosiveness that was completely absent from his game last year.

Kendricks (No. 22) beats center Quiron Johnson (No. 69) cleanly with a wipe and rip move. Pollard, as a defensive tackle, uses his smarts to bring additional pressure. Pollard (No. 3) fakes an inside rush, then crosses over right tackle Jordan Tucker (No. 74) and finishes the edge rush with a rip move. The Hokies' defensive line were all in track stances, firing off trying to get Howell to break contain. Waiting for Howell was Barno, ready to catch Howell outside.

It was a brilliant strategy, as Barno's length and speed disrupted Howell's vision when he tried to see the field while running. On this 3rd-and-6, Howell breaks contain, only to find Barno in his face.

Kendricks once again got a great push up the middle to make Howell wiggle out of the pocket. Tech didn't blitz often, and it seemed to be a staple of Hamilton's game plan for pressure to come right in Howell's grill and force him to move laterally. While North Carolina found some openings on RPOs and screens, the Hokies won most of the battles in obvious passing situations because North Carolina didn't have a clear advantage to exploit thanks to Hamilton's defensive adjustments.

Nasir Peoples and Tyjuan Garbutt Make a Difference

Another key point from my preview was the importance of run support from the Virginia Tech safeties. In last season's loss, when the Hokies blew open a big hole for Khalil Herbert, North Carolina's safeties made tackles to mitigate the damage. Meanwhile, when North Carolina opened a huge hole, the football ended up in the endzone.

Enter Nasir Peoples. Peoples, a surprise starter at boundary safety, delivered such a sound performance that, when Hamilton moved his secondary pieces around situationally late in the game, he stayed on the field despite little experience. Despite not making any highlight reel plays, Pro Football Focus gave Peoples the third highest grade of all the Hokies defenders.

Peoples' performance wasn't flashy, but at the moments when North Carolina won the battle up front, he was the mistake-eraser the Hokies didn't have in 2020. On this inside zone to the right, left tackle Josh Ezeudu (No. 75) buries defensive end Jaylen Griffin (No. 41). Tight end Garrett Walston (No. 84) seals Hollifield to the inside. This leaves a gigantic cutback lane for Chandler.

Last season, when holes like this formed, Tyler Matheny and J.R. Walker were often late filling into the gap, leading to countless huge runs for UNC's running backs. Here, Peoples assertively fills the hole and makes a solid tackle on Chandler. North Carolina got the first down, but Peoples prevented a big play, which resulted in the Hokies forcing a North Carolina punt later on in the drive.

Fast forward to the second half, Peoples again prevented another big play on a short yardage situation.

Ezeudu (No. 75) scoops Kendricks (No. 22), while left guard Ed Montilus (No. 63) pins boundary linebacker Alan Tisdale (No. 34) to the inside. Once again, Peoples makes a solid tackle as the third-line of defense. He spent the entire night around the football and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

While Peoples, who was poised to make noise at nickel in 2019 before injuries derailed his career, solidified Tech's secondary, Tyjuan Garbutt (No. 45) experienced his own renaissance up front. A highly rated recruit, Garbutt was starting to find legs as a starter in 2019. Following a lengthy absence due to a personal issue, he returned to the Hokies in 2020 and struggled.

Against North Carolina, a much stronger Garbutt delivered one hell of a comeback performance. His drive-killing fourth quarter sack kept the Hokies' lead at a touchdown.

Garbutt squeezes tight off the edge instead of running wide; the Hokies did the latter too often against RPOs last season. Meanwhile, the coverage was a perfect call for a slant RPO.

Strong (No. 44) shows press coverage against receiver Khafre Brown (No. 1). At the snap, Strong gives Brown a free release to the inside. There, the Hokies two safeties were stacked right in Howell's line of sight, with Peoples in the short middle and field safety Tae Daley deep. Garbutt, unblocked off the edge, collapses the RPO. Howell doesn't have enough time to check down to his secondary receivers. This was the perfect scheme against the initial read, and Garbutt's explosive rush off the edge dropped Howell before he could progress to the one-on- one options to the field-side.

Watch this RPO β€” a counter trey combined with a quick in to Antoine Green (No. 3).

Instead of collapsing the edge and then squaring up to jam up left guard Asim Richards' (No. 72) kick out block, Garbutt attacked the block and ripped underneath Richards. Garbutt, who gives up about 70 pounds to Richards, can't win a shoving match. Instead, he attacks the blocker, something that has been sorely lacking from Tech's defensive front-seven play for a long time. Garbutt, Peoples, Pollard, Kendricks, Barno, and the corners took a big step forward. Against Middle Tennessee State, I want to see the linebacker group, second defensive line, and some of those other safeties to take a similar step forward.

Featuring Raheem Blackshear

There's less postgame buzz over Tech's offensive performance, primarily because the Hokies struggled while trying to execute a much more conservative gameplan in the second half. I think Brad Cornelsen's play calling, particularly with a big lead, will be a storyline to watch this season and will likely spark lively discussion this week. Ultimately though, Virginia Tech's offense performed reasonably well and controlled the line of scrimmage.

The most positive revelation was Cornelsen's outstanding utilization of Raheem Blackshear. He schemed up a variety of ways to feature Blackshear's pass catching ability, and Blackshear looked much more explosive running the ball than he showed last year. Early in the game, Cornelsen used Blackshear on a zone read with a designed cutback to great effect. There was a little twist to help give Blackshear a bigger cutback lane.

The o-line zones to the left. Watch tight end Nick Gallo (No. 86) and right tackle Silas Dzansi (No. 60). Instead of scooping the backside gaps, they aim for the outside shoulder of Jeremiah Gemmel (No. 44) and four-technique Jahvaree Ritzie (No. 5), respectively.

Essentially, this was using a scheme to block playside on a power, selling the zone to get the defense to flow to the left and then pinning them inside. However, instead of the left guard or tackle pulling to kick out the wide defenders, wingback James Mitchell (No. 82) released to the right flat. Outside linebacker Tomon Fox (No. 12) can't squeeze the cutback because he has to account for Mitchell. The bubble between Fox and Gemmel widens out, creating a really nice hole for Blackshear, who looked much quicker, to cut into.

Cornelsen set this up perfectly, but didn't run this package as often as I would have liked in the second half. However, its effectiveness resonated when the Hokies needed a first down at the end of the game.

Mitchell's devastating conversion featured the exact same run action. This time though, outside linebacker Tyrone Hopper (No. 42) bit inside to squeeze the cutback which provided Mitchell a chance to showcase his run after the catch ability.

Cornelsen also did a good job finding ways to get Blackshear involved in the passing game. Just like the designed cutback zone paired with Mitchell's flat release, the Blackshear swing pass also set up other plays.

With man coverage across the secondary, Kaleb Smith (No. 80) and Mitchell run inside hitch routes to draw the defenders inside. Smith in particular does an excellent job of feigning the outside release and then pulling Tony Grimes (No. 20) inside with him. Grimes follows Smith and the pair form a legal pick on inside linebacker Eugene Asante (No. 7). Blackshear catches the ball in stride and shows off a flash of the excellence in the passing game he showcased at Rutgers.

The next time he saw the wheel route from the tailback, Asante didn't hesitate.

Asante vacates the middle. Gemmel (No. 44) has to run with Mitchell, leaving four defenders to account for five blockers and Braxton Burmeister. When Mitchell clears Gemmel, Burmeister picks the hole off of Brock Hoffman and converts the third down.

This play also shows an opportunity to add even more variety to the offense. The Hokies have Mitchell, their All ACC tight end with great speed for the position, running a crossing route away from a middle linebacker, Gemmel. While I am glad Burmeister converted, I would love to see him lead Mitchell and watch him run away from Gemmel. It didn't matter on this play because Mitchell didn't even have his head turned until Burmeister had taken off for the run, but at some point (Pitt and Miami come to mind) Burmeister will have to complete those types of throws when defensive coordinators send exotic blitzes on third down.

Room for Improvement

I was happy with the physicality of the offense. I was happy to see the wide receiver group and Mitchell mostly deliver when they were given an opportunity to make a play. I would have liked to have seen Burmeister take a couple of shots on verticals against press man on first down in the second half. I noted several times in the third quarter where Tayvion Robinson had one-on-one coverage against Kyler McMichael and Burmeister didn't take a shot. And Turner ran free once without Burmeister looking at him. Perhaps some of those first down runs would have produced better results had Cornelsen loosened up the defense.

While most will say Tech's offense was too conservative, I was more concerned about three other aspects of the offense. I thought Cornelsen got away from some of the zone reads that worked well early. Instead, he devoted a lot of calls to straight down hill runs from the ace and pistol formations, with very little success. For the first time I can recall in the Fuente era, the Hokies used a lead frontside guard pulling, "G" blocking scheme for multiple runs, and North Carolina routinely stuffed it.

Meanwhile, there was very little of the outside and inside zone read, only one of the throwbacks (a throwback to Blackshear) off the zone run action, and, for the first time I can recall in the Fuente era, there was not a single quarterback keeper on the inverted veer/jet sweep series. Also, it seemed like Burmeister was pretty hesitant to keep the ball on read options.

Inside, Lecitus Smith (No. 54), Hoffman, and Kaden Moore (No. 68) all get solid movement. Safety Giovanni Biggers (No. 27) was the option defender on the edge. Biggers bites hard inside on Jalen Holston's dive, leaving miles of room to the left side for Burmeister to roam. Burmeister is the fastest player on the team. I know Tech wants to protect him, but this is the kind of read where he needs to keep and go. I appreciate trying to minimize the number of hits on Burmeister, but with the jet sweep again proving to be effective and the zone read being the most consistent running play against UNC, Burmeister has to keep when the defense collapses to keep free hitters from overloading on the other runners.

As expected, the new right side of Tech's o-line struggled at times in drop back passing situations. This was a pretty straight forward pressure from North Carolina.

End Kaimon Rucker (No. 25) slants all the way into the A-gap between Hoffman and Moore, and outside linebacker Tomon Fox (No. 12) comes off the edge. Moore doesn't get his hands up to punch Rucker's right shoulder as Rucker tries to cross his face. Hoffman may have missed the call by calling the protection to the left, but if that is the call and you know you don't have your center's help, the guard has to post any outside defender coming to the A-gap. He will learn though. I am more concerned that the experienced pair, Dzansi and Holston, both blew the protection. Dzansi got sucked inside by Rucker's movement and wasn't in position to help Holston. Holston had Dzansi to the inside, so in a protection rolling left, he needs to attack Fox's outside shoulder and try to run him into Dzansi. Chipping Fox inside also would have also broken contain, giving Burmeister an escape route around the right side.

Also, Cornelsen's passing route structure flummoxed me. There was some creativity, like running off deep shell coverage to create space for Blackshear underneath, as happened on this third down conversion.

Yet, when the Hokies needed a red zone conversion, Cornelsen didn't scheme up Blackshear as a safety valve. The Tar Heels dropped eight defenders all the way to the goal line in anticipation of vertical routes.

Despite this being a predictable defensive posture (most teams use deep shell zone on 3rd-and-long against the Hokies), every single route crosses through the end zone with all eight defenders. The passing game structure still isn't forcing defenses to defend the whole field. Instead of having a route settle in just in front of the end zone (or Blackshear releasing out of the backfield) to draw up defenders, Burmeister was forced to make a very dangerous throw into traffic. Mitchell makes an absurd catch, but the throw back into traffic was a greater risk than Cornelsen needs to force his quarterback to take. I want to see more levels in the passing game.

The Hokies get an extra day to heal up before a Saturday matchup with Middle Tennessee State. I would like to see the offense improve on protections and find a way to reestablish that rhythm in the running game they demonstrated early.

Publisher's Note: I'm glad you made it to the end! If you enjoyed this, then join The Key Players Club now. Why? 1) Well you enjoyed it. 2) It's the type of in-depth content that's going to be published exclusively for TKPC members over the course of the season.

Comments

My first Tech game as a Texan, is a Top-10 Win....

YESSIR, I absolutely love it here in STX!

Iron a few things on the offense and Special Teams, and this is going to be a memorable season.

LET'S GOβ€”

VT '10--US Citizen; Virginian By Birth; Texan By the Grace of God.

Rick Monday... You Made a Great Play...

Romanes Eunt Domus

HOKIES!!!

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

HOKIEEEES!!!

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

great writeup! I had not noticed the fumble forced by Garbutt on Howell in real time. That could have been a crushing turnover on the first play of the second half.

To give Corny just a slight benefit of the doubt, the 4 on 8 was third and goal. A completion to the 5 was going to be a field goal try, just a few minutes after having turned the ball over inside the 10. But yeah, someone running a comeback or crossing route under that shell would be nice on occasion

The 4 on 8 is an issue of spacing. You run 4 guys into the EZ and then there's 12 guys in a condensed space. If you do a more layered route combo you can pull defenders away creating vacated space to attack in the EZ, or if they give you too much space underneath you dump it short and give someone a chance to make someone miss and pick up 4-5 yards into the EZ.

Fantastic write-up as always. One thing I noticed and you called out just one of the plays above, several times Burmeister had a ton of space on what appeared to be a read and he didn't pull the ball.

I recall this being a regular issue over the past few years, do you think the coaches aren't really giving them the freedom to read and it's a straight zone run with read window dressing?

The defense all but ignored Burmeister and we still slammed it into the teeth of the defense.

I thought this too. When I rewatched though, some of those keeper opportunities were not as open as they first looked. Some involved optioning the DT instead of the DE, and the DT stayed with the QB. The outside looked open, but the running lane was supposed to be in the middle.

The Turner play (found it later- 3rd Q, bunch formation left) was a big miss. Turner was wide open. I think they needed to take a couple of less predictable shots on verticals, especially to Robinson. By the opening series of the third quarter, UNC was manning up with three defenders, and then eight were collapsing into the box. Even if every OL and TE got their block, it was 6 on 8. Tough to make much hay running against that all day. Then, on third and long they were dropping eight and rushing three (see the Mitchell TD.)

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

Great write up French. I was hoping to see Mitchell up the seam against a linebacker when they had every defender in the box and flying forward. Would that be a relatively easy throw over the top against this defensive alignment? I also remember thinking during the game "Oh shit, Downs is going to burn Conner on a vertical just like French said" and then Conner was able to stick with him and rise to the occasion. Thanks for your insight it makes watching the game more enjoyable.

Tyrod’s Tailor

Well, even though UNC's safeties were coming forward, their original alignment was usually deep enough that they may have had a shot finding Mitchell on the vertical. But, Mitchell working that 5-10 yard space against linebackers should be a clear win, and he wasn't getting open (on the Burmeister run, he wasn't even looking for the pass until Burmeister had pulled the ball down.)

Adding that element makes James Mitchell a big time NFL tight end prospect. He has too much athleticism not to add that component to his game. And, it is frustrating because Alan Cross at Memphis didn't have 1/10th of Mitchell's speed and athleticism, couldn't do any of the vertical stuff Mitchell can do, but they could hit him on a 1st down stick route against a LB for an easy six yards. Those plays make life so much easier for a QB.

(For those who don't know what a stick route is, it is essentially an option route against man coverage. The tight end runs five yards or so up the field. If the linebacker is on the inside shoulder, you hitch outside. If the linebacker is on the outside shoulder, hitch in. The QB and the TE have to make a read and both be on the same page. Executed properly, it is almost impossible to defend.

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

The Turner play (found it later- 3rd Q, bunch formation left) was a big miss. Turner was wide open.

Sigh.

He's still open

(add if applicable) /s

Here are his first two reads as coached up- if you want to say he should have checked to the third before running because the rush wasn't there, ok. But, Turner's route was just window dressing to keep UNC's safety deep, and UNC's safety busted. The throw was supposed to go to Smith first, Robinson second.


Try 3- https://imgur.com/a/rysl2fC

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

I'm glad you clarified this. If I remember right, I think BB3 was also rolling to the right by the end of the play. So even if he had seen Tre at that point, it probably wouldn't have been possible to throw that far across his body.

Agreed.

This play was used to justify Cornelson's 2nd half performance but the truth is it is more of an indictment of our Passing Strategy.

The ball was never going to Turner...BB3 never even turned his head to that side of the field. As with many of our "route trees" he was simply trying to influence a DB and create space for the 1-2 actual reads on the play.

At some point, we are going to need a passing game that can't be defended with a key on 1 receiver and shell over the top.

The Defense played outstanding but they are thin and counting on this type of performance week in and week out is way overly optimistic.

We are going to need to move the ball and score point in 2nd Halfs to win games...it will probably make the difference between actually contending for something relevant or finishing middle of the ACC Coastal pack yet again. I didn't find much to make me think Cornelson has turned any sort of corner after this week.

Agree. Also, I didn't see any slants, posts, or anything else in the middle of the field besides the late release to Blackshear where BB actually pulled the trigger. He either needs to pull the trigger or the WRs need to give him a reason to trust them.

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

I agree with all this. I was just happy that the miss wasn't on BB3 since it was never even really a viable option due to the play design and rollout.

I agree it looked like they were scripted as zone runs not reads with how often it was seemingly mis-read.

I think for the longevity of Burmeister it may be the right call. We do not have a game-proven backup.

Could Coach Cornelson be playing the long game here on Burmeister not keeping it? Teams like West Virginia and Notre Dame see the game film and figure, OK, BB3 is going to hand it off almost always. Then, we surprise them when we play them and BB3 keeps for big gains.

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

It is probably more about keeping BB healthy, but you can't run an option based scheme where you don't account for a defender in the blocking scheme if that defender doesn't bite on the QB fake.

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

Thank you so much for explaining things to the simpletons like me. As the game was winding down, I was really wanting to get your take on how much of this was Tech playing really well on defense and how much was UNC playing terrible offense, especially on the offensive line. Really glad it was not just a terrible UNC performance. Hoping things keep up and I am pleasantly surprised with a season that I went into with very modest expectations.

Please, no let down in game 2. Let's keep the momentum going.

Recovering scientist working in business consulting

Please, no let down in game 2. Let's keep the momentum going.

Fuente spoke about this on his interview with Packer & Durham. He knows this has been a problem and the had an open conversation with the team about it.

Here is the interview https://www.thekeyplay.com/content/2021/september/6/fuente-packer-durham-sept-6th-2021

But I agree and hope we don't get let down this week. They sure know how to get the fans invested again real quick haha

I think that VT's defense merits recognition. I watched Howell closely. With the exception of the final interception, Howell was making the correct throw every time. His receivers and OL gave him zero help. And now, commentators are being critical of him instead of lauding the VT coverage.

Longo should be flogged. UNC completely abandoned the power stuff and split zone that worked so well last year. Instead, they tried to run stretch and counter, which played into VT's speed advantage. It was completely illogical. He also should have max protected and play passed another shot or two to Downs downfield on first down when he was covered by Conner, instead of trying to RPO every time.

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

It's nice knowing that we aren't the only team with an at times illogical offensive coordinator.

Tyrod’s Tailor

Comment of the day here. I am extremely apprehensive about our ability to stop a big, powerful team that come at you over and over with the run (see Pitt).
Unc was stupid to play the finesse game. I think they may have freaked out after we went up. ( and maybe that is clutch for us this year - get up early so teams drop back more)
We're going to find out, but this game didn't show it.
So far the D has surpassed virtually every one of my preconceptions- frankly amazing. The passes that were perfectly thrown were defended at a pro level. The one handed interception was a pro play. I'm speechless frankly. Now can we stop the big a and powerful that decide to ram it. That's a big question.

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

OL and WR struggled for UNC. Their defense looked pretty dang good. VT worked for what they got. I would challenge film reviewers to find another play where a receiver was breaking open outside of the Turner play. The shots were verticals against man outside with no safety help outside. There were a few chances and they didn't take them.

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

I am not a film reviewer nor do I even know if this was a good play call and bad execution or just bad all around, but Mitchell looked open on the BB interception. If BB gets the ball out in front, Mitchell gets a big gain or a PI (looked like the LB was already tugging at his jersey as Mitchell was running by him).

https://imgur.com/zeNrpRl

Wasn't Burmeister hit on that play? I thoughtbit was the DL that caused the INT becuase of the hit on Burmeister and the ball flutters out of his hand.

He was. It was a play where he needed to eat the sack and live to the next down

French's write ups are a big reason I joined TKPC. Excellent analysis. I read these and it helps me appreciate the game of football even more.

It was not totally lost on me during the game that Blackshear was targeted often however I didn't really appreciate just how valuable he was on Friday until this review. He is turning into a true weapon out of the backfield and a nice pressure relief when needed.

To be the man you gotta beat the man!

Great write up French! I too will gladly eat crow after that defensive performance. Hamilton and his staff did a fantastic job. That was the most impressive outing I have seen from the VT defense in a long time. I had doubts that Hamilton could get things turned around, but the team looked fast, physical, and played schematically sound. Long way to go and we need to stay consistent, but I'm incredibly excited about the potential of this defense. That felt like a vintage LPD performance.

Overall I was pleased with the offense and the gameplan coming in, but as you point out, there is definitely room for improvement and progression. We have to start attacking more in the downfield passing game at some point. Teams will scheme away the easy throws and we will need to take more shots eventually. I was really pleased with how we utilized Blackshear. We absolutely have to find a way to get Mitchell more involved in the passing game. He's a top NFL prospect and he is a nightmare mismatch with his size and speed.

Overall this was far more than I expected week one, and with leaving some points on the field, this really wasn't as close as the final indicates as you mention. Will be great to watch how the team progresses this week against MTSU as we march toward a big test in Morgantown and a major opportunity against ND in a month.

We absolutely have to find a way to get Mitchell more involved in the passing game. He's a top NFL prospect and he is a nightmare mismatch with his size and speed.

Is it me or does Mitchell look even larger this year? He looks like he's gained like 30-40 pounds at least. I just remember when he looked like a stick his freshman year.

Mitchell is one hell of a player. But, he has to add that element to his game. You can't always go up and take the ball away from defenders. At some point, he needs to learn how to get separation. When I see linebackers staying with him in man coverage, that doesn't sit well with me, His three catches that I remember were two misdirection plays designed to get him open (bootleg to the flat off run action) and then just outleaping a defender for the TD. He is too athletic and fast to not be able to get open on his own.

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

I got a lot out of this. Especially interesting was the defensive rotation on passing downs.

Also, OL played pretty well. It wasn't perfect. The left side was consistent. Right side, there were some moments but Moore looked like a solid player, and there wasn't any drop off when they went to Smith and Jordan on that side.

Pass pro against good pass rush teams (Pitt, Miami) will be worrisome.

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

On the guard pull, the goal is that Moore (I think?) comes around and drives that defender outside, opening the bubble behind him? Looked like he got stonewalled and the defender got inside him all in one move, is that just a matter of attacking and keeping his feet moving to avoid something like that happening? Is the issue just a young dude not used to pulling like that? Or was there some other schematic thing that lead to it getting stuffed repeatedly?

Only got to see the last two meaningful plays of the game, what should I watch for later today when I get to sit down and watch it?

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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There was good stuff spread throughout. First drive of the 3rd Q is the big red flag for the offense, as there were some things available but they ran right into the teeth of an eight man box.

I wish I had broken down the screen to Downs for the TD. That was so tough to defend. VT sent a blitz, plus the Heels packaged that tunnel screen look with the swing pass to the tailback. The screen threat is why a couple of the swing passes popped later. Very cool design from Longo, but didn't go to it early enough.

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

On the Kendricks sack was UNC trying to run a screen and the DL just got to Howell to fast or is their Oline not as good as advertised?

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

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Their OL struggled to pass protect in their spring game, and Howell took a lot of hits. On the Kendricks sack, I don't see any kind of screen... at most it was a verts with a late leak by the tailback. None of the OL release. The center just got completely wrong-footed by Kendricks. While Garbutt ended up with the numbers, the most consistent pressure came through Pollard and Kendricks working the center-guard gaps.

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

It appeared to me that both of them got skinny and beat double teams several times.

Life is good.

I was very impressed by Blackshear in this game. I think we finally got to see the athlete the coaches were raving about last offseason. On his third and long conversion, he slips through three tackles to convert the third and thirteen. As French pointed out, it was a good scheme to create space for him and Blackshear taking full advantage.

I really wish BB hadn't overthrown him on the third down in the fourth quarter. I'm excited to see his chemistry with BB continue to develop and for the offense to hopefully improve over the course of the season.

I still remember the write up French did after the 2018 win against Florida State. We, as casual fans, were all riding high given how FSU only scored three points and we "forced" five turnovers. French noted several instances that might be a problem for the defense later in the season, and, boy, he was right.

It seems like this defense is much more disciplined and knows where to be (e.g. Nasir Peoples). There are also players who can flat-out make plays (e.g. Amare Barno, Mario Kendricks, and any of the trio of DBs). A defense that is disciplined but also disruptive can be a nightmare for any opponent. I hope Coach Hamilton keeps finding ways to evolve as teams get film on the defense. Friday was a very impressive game for him against a talented offense and proven offensive coordinator in Phil Longo.

I'm not necessarily as worried about the offense as a lot of people are. It was apparent from the very first possession that the strategy was to play keep away, ball control oriented offense, and that's exactly what we did for four quarters. This is a good strategy against a team like UNC who has a likely first round quarterback, several playmakers at skill positions, and an experienced offensive line. Sure, when UNC figured things out, it was less effective. Every first down was an additional two minutes off the clock, though. It's not like we didn't take shots either.

Tayvion Robinson was inches away from having a touchdown in the fourth. This misfortune was followed by a John Parker Romo missed field goal (watch his form on this kick. There was an obvious hitch that I hope doesn't became a normal thing). Also, on our lone interception, Mitchell catches that ball for a big play if Burmeister doesn't get drilled as he throws. If either of those plays go our way, I think the narrative of us not going for the throat is less prevalent.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

I didn't see those red flags Friday night like I did post FSU (which stll may be the worst talented team I have ever seen on film.) They were sound mostly.

The room for improvement will come at linebacker, where Tisdale overran his gap a couple of times and missed a couple of tackles. Dax was the better of the pair and played a pretty solid game, but he also got significantly fewer snaps than Tisdale because of Hamilton's nickel and dime personnel groups. Also, Tye Chandler wasn't nearly as physical runner as Leddie Brown for WVU or Kyren Williams at Notre Dame. Their tackling looked much better, but they will be challenged by those two guys.

Notre Dame looked much better offensively than I expected. They will be a tougher out than I anticipated, even though their defensive front is suspect.

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

I got a good look at Leddie Brown on Saturday. He is far and away WVU's best player. They didn't really use him as much as they should have, though, especially in the second half, and they weren't even losing till the fourth quarter.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

He can ball, and his center is real damn good (and a scary good kickoff returner.) But they are not good in the secondary (or Maryland has multiple big time WRs) and the OL does not pass protect well (especially the right tackle.)

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

Dax was the better of the pair and played a pretty solid game, but he also got significantly fewer snaps than Tisdale because of Hamilton's nickel and dime personnel groups.

I've always been under the impression that Dax has never really been the best linebacker, but he is an outstanding Hokie. So I'm really glad to see him progress and that you thought he played a solid game.

I found TKP after two rails from TOTS then walking back to my apartment and re-watching the 2012 Sugar Bowl. I woke up the next day with this username.

We left at least 10 points on the field, possibly even 17. This is where we need to get the killer instinct and close out games.

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

34-10 looks a lot more like how we played than 17-10. Offense needs to clean some stuff up and we need to do a better job of taking advantage of what the defense is giving us. I'm really, really impressed with the defense as a whole - the players all looked to play with fight and fire and they played hard through the last whistle which is all you can really ask from them.

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

20-10 would have felt much nicer than 17-10. I was still stressed at the end.

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

This was close to being an overtime game that we play not to lose and give the game away at the end. I can think of several such games over the last few years. The difference is that the defense rose to the occasion this time.

Tyrod’s Tailor

Those games happen. I would rather it occur in a win than a loss. Seems like most of the time, it's a loss with this team. I just hope it doesn't become a trend.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

I wasn't concerned at the time, cause we controlled the game.

But in games against BC and Pitt, where we will be giving up points to their offenses, we can't leave points on the field. BC downright scares me. Pitt is such an inconsistent game every year. Let's see where this offense goes the next few weeks.

TKPhi Damn Proud
BSME 2009

Boston College does scare me. Hafley is doing something good there. Pitt, not so much. Since they joined the ACC, we are 3-1 against them at Lane Stadium. Pitt not at Heinz Field is much more manageable for us for some reason.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

agree. Any team that can run inside and not make mistakes, scares me. Our defense is not huge. We need mistakes and the ability to stop the run to win.

It would be nice of them to turn it over five times again.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

Great win for coach Fu. Hamilton did a great job. I was surprised that Jordan Williams didn't play that many snaps? Hopefully that's a good thing depth wise. Also surprised that none of the young WRs got any snaps either. It's good to get a coastal win, against a ranked team and basically not substituting much in some key spots. Big win for Fu. I think UNC is going to get a lot better this year.

I'm glad we got them on the first game. I think they will get better.

That said, I think VT will get better, too.

Williams made the play to force the interception at the end of the game, but he looked a little stiff when he was in. After dropping the Clemson weight, I thought he would look a little quicker. In general, the drop off between the first and second DL group was more significant than I hoped to see. After doing full rotations, Hamilton and his DL coaches seemed to pair starters with Adams and Griffin to offset some of the drop off late in the game. I haven't looked at the participation report, but I didn't see Nelson out there. Also, in the media scrum yesterday, I believe Fuente confirmed that CJ McCray is at end now, so I imagine they will start to sprinkle him in when he gets comfortable.

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believe Fuente confirmed that CJ McCray is at end now, so I imagine they will start to sprinkle him in when he gets comfortable.

Fuente confirmed McCray is at DE now. Put on good weight after getting into Tech's S&C program and will have the size to put his hand in the dirt. Hopefully, we can get him on the field sooner rather than later as it would help shore up depth. Better for McCray's future too from an income potential standpoint if he makes it to the next level.

Credit to Hilgart & staff and credit to the kid for working his ass off.

I was surprised that Jordan Williams didn't play that many snaps?

He played the fewest snaps of the four rotating DT's but the snaps played range was only 7 between the most played DT and the least played (Williams). It's too soon to tell if that was something of a nod to not just handing the new guy a primary starting role, and making him earn his stripes over the season, or if the plan is simply to rotate the four them roughly evenly throughout the whole season.

Thank you! In person it seemed like Pollard played a ton more than Williams. Thanks for the clarification.

I didn't get a snap count, but I did note that UNC moved the ball a little better when the Fuga Williams combo were in. That said, DE play may have been a bigger reason than DT. It is a story I will keep my eye on. There were just so many things to cover with this game that I had to leave some on the cutting room floor to keep it under 5000 words and salvage a bit of my weekend.

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I'm going to guess that the production of pollard and kendricks played the most significant role in him earning less snaps. Kendricks was repeatedly getting pressure and push against the center in those 3 down lineman looks. Those dudes were impressive.

Tyrod’s Tailor

How does this game compare this to the 2018 FSU win? In both cases we saw a highly ranked team full of highly recruited players lose 'unexpectedly' to the Hokies on opening weekend. I remember the FSU offense failed to install anything other than a base package, thus making it pretty easy for Foster to stop. Did you see a (somewhat) similar level of ineptitude from UNC, or Mack Brown & Team attempt to make adjustments?

Are there any early signs that this win was "fools' gold," or should I be (reasonably) optimistic?

Twitter me

I think UNC is a much better coached team that FSU was. I think this is more like the Ohio State win... VT challenged UNC to beat them outside, and UNC couldn't do it. This wasn't as risky a defensive posture, as inverting the cover 1 created a little mystery for Howell (the safety climbing into the box undercuts the quick slant if the timing is right) and gave VT a deep safety net. But, the story of the game was that UNC couldn't beat the VT secondary outside, and VT beat the UNC secondary JUST ENOUGH to get the one score they needed to win the game.

I think UNC is still likely a 10 win team if they can get those young WRs to play more assertively. I think Longo outsmarted himself by running so much inside zone and outside zone read for his RPOs instead of the power and split zone stuff that worked so well last year. And, they barely ran it early. If I was Longo, I would have come out and ran power and split zone every play for the first two series, and then if they stopped it, go look at something else. They never established those two plays that had to produce at least 250 yards in the 2020 game.

Also, Peoples showed how much the safety play hurt VT in the last game. Nothing flashy, but he did his job the exact way the scheme needed it done.

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

um UNC being better coached that 2018 FSU is a huge understatement.

You mean Willie Swaggert wasn't a good coach? ShockedPikachuFace.jpg

Willie Taggert was such a terrible coach that he tanked the trajectory of both FSU and VT in a single game!

I found TKP after two rails from TOTS then walking back to my apartment and re-watching the 2012 Sugar Bowl. I woke up the next day with this username.

Anyone know what the new middle helmet sticker is the players are wearing?

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Join us in the Key Players Club

GRIT

No backside of helmet between. State outline and ACC.

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Gobble Till You Wobble

French, what did you think of our usage of odd fronts, playing Rell at DE opposite a stand up EDGE player (often Barno)? I was really impressed that it worked so well, and wasn't necessarily expecting to see that wrinkle heading into Friday.

I also noted how Conner was sliding into ILB on passing downs in the game thread and really loved that move. A great example of getting our best personnel onto the field for passing sub packages, and something we actually discussed over the offseason with how Alabama does this with their "MACK" LB which is their best coverage ILB, specific to their dime packages.

I really dislike our tendency in second halves to not only get a little more conservative, but to often go away from things that were working in the first half. The best way I have to describe what we often do with a lead is "down shift," and coast our way home. Counting on the defense to make 3, 4, or 5+ defensive stops in a row to close out a close game is simply not a viable strategy, especially in the modern game with so many rules catered to the offense. It worked for us on Friday, but we played a very similar game with Miami last year and eventually the defense, despite playing one of their best games of 2020, caved just enough as our offense squandered FIVE opportunities to score any points, which would have been enough to win.

Another excellent review as always, not that I've ever said any different, but I think great work should always be lauded appropriately.

I really dislike our tendency in second halves to not only get a little more conservative, but to often go away from things that were working in the first half.

Is there any chance that the coaches are trying to pre-emptively counter any half-time adjustments the defense makes by changing up the offense to try and trick the defense? It seems like a trend that we go away from what works in the first half pretty consistently which is kind of infuriating. I also get the sense that when we have a lead we "play not to lose" which is a philosophy that I fundamentally disagree with. I would rather see us continue to attack weaknesses confidently and impose our will on teams. I actually think that going super conservative offensively puts more pressure on the defense even though I believe the thought behind it is to actually protect the defense by playing ball-control. Ball control is great but going 3-out by running 3 plays into the teeth of the defense just doesn't help.

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

I think if King doesn't fumble and Romo hits the FG, it might not feel as if we down-shifted as much. Based on French's review, it does look like we went away from some run packages that were working, but its possible that Cornelson thought UNC would install some adjustment to counter our success, and pivoted to a new package that would take advantage. UNC seemingly didn't do that, and Corny played himself.

Get Angry, Bud!

I think the odd fronts were a way to give Garbutt a wind without dropping off effectiveness with the second group. Pollard is basically a DE size (and Williams was a DE before moving inside later in his career at Clemson) and with sliding Kendricks over the nose, it put him head up on the worst UNC blocker (their center was awful.)

The spy thing was basically putting Barno in a position to succeed. As I mentioned in the offseason previews, Barno isn't a real polished player with his pass rush technique, and he got most of his sacks when someone else chased the QB out of the pocket. This approach schemed Barno into maximizing that ability. The problem with the scheme is if the three down guys don't make the QB move, Barno is essentially sitting there doing nothing.

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

Yeah there's always been discussion about potentially playing Rell outside, and I know Williams also comes from a DE background in high school so it makes sense to let them play as the classic 5t DE in an odd front, I just didn't expect to see it.

Overall, it was just really nice to see Justin Hamilton finding creative ways to utilize positional versatility, and put our best possible personnel on the field to deal with situational down and distance.

Barno's closing speed on Howell was remarkable. Paired with that hugs wingspan, Sam just wasn't going to escape.

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

when Barno lined up at DE (4th clip) and froze/spied instead of rushing, it still occupied a blocker (right tackle I believe), so the 3 other linemen were facing the same blocking scheme they would normally. I would have liked to see Barno attack as soon as the QB moves to leave the pocket...I think it would be even more disruptive

Offensively, I didn't mind conservative, provided you take what the defense gives you because you still need first downs. I don't think they did that well enough. Then, when UNC turned the ball over and BB tried the screen and go to Mitchell, everybody in the damn stadium that has paid attention to football knew VT was going to take a shot there. And, of course, UNC was in two deep on first down for the first time I noticed it in the second half.

Again, you practice all week. Run your offense. I wasn't expecting BB to run 30 times or throw 30 times. Just run the offense and take what the defense gives you. That is what the offense is designed to do.

Otherwise, this was a bit of a different looking gameplan for BC- no inverted veer keepers (one jet sweep had inverted veer run action, but the others were the underhand forward pass and the final one was a QB counter away from the sweep, not IVR. One WR quick screen. Only one counter action throwback (the 2nd Q throwback to Blackshear.) Only a couple of bootlegs (two to Mitchell, didn't see any to Gallo.) Way more pistol than I am accustomed to.

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I actually don't think we planned to be conservative... but it happened more after the interception. The pick came on one of VT's best hitting, big-plays of the last two years: roll the QB out, hit the TE on the opposite boundary on a wheel route.

There isn't a great view of the route being run, but I think Mitchell has a step on his man. The problem was that UNC clearly did their homework and was prepared for that after a turnover on downs, and had pressure right on top of Burmeister's rollout. He needs to just take the sack and eat that one, not sure he had the time to throw it away given the pressure once he got outside the tackles.

And why run the fake screen when you haven't really shown the WR screen much all game? Again, if you take a shot, use some presnap motion to see if the safeties give you a presnap indicator of the coverage. Then, if you have one on one away from safety help, throw the quick 9 and see if Robinson or Turner can win down the field. They went 1/1. 2/2 is better.

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

Great writeup, French! These are always so much more fun to read after a victory!

On clip hh, featuring Garbutt, I forgot how lucky UNC was on that play. Howell fumbled but the ball popped right back up to him. There were 3 Hokies in very close proximity. Almost any other kind of bounce and we would have likely recovered that fumble!

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

They were lucky on serval other near turnovers as well.

Tyrod’s Tailor

Another takeaway from the game for me was good tackling on the part of the Hokies, with Peoples being just one example of that as you noted. Last year it seemed like we often had such poor tackling effort and technique.

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

In a couple of comments, I have been critical of Tisdale (see the Peoples section.) It is worth noting that he was one of only two players to play every snap (Conner was the other.) He looked exhausted at the end of the game, so fatigue may have been a factor.

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Is it just me or did #75 really screw up on that 2nd People's highlight. He had an opportunity to get to peoples and instead took a step back and slowed down his RB.

Kendricks had him off balance a bit and he was trying to right himself and get a better angle on Peoples. Peoples made a good play with Barno and Kendricks turned out and Tisdale driven inside.

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

Good for him. Those clips in contrast to last years safety play clips highlight how valuable that position is. It looks incredibly difficult to fly up 10+ yards, break down and then make a form tackle on an athlete in space.

Tyrod’s Tailor

Thanks French. Always appreciate the work you do. Really enjoy the intricacies of football that are hard to pick out in real time. Thanks for the outstanding content. They don't pay you enough!

I hate rude behavior in a man. Won't tolerate it.

It helps me decompress post game. Thank you.

The film tells a great story. In game, I was ranting about BB missing reads on the option, but in retrospect it wasn't nearly as many as I first thought.

Make no mistake- UNC had a really good game plan. Their defense kept them in the game. If their WRs figure things out, they could easily run the table on the rest of their schedule. NC State will be tough. PItt will be a headache for them because Pitt is good in the box. Miami will be whatever Miami is. And, for some reason UVA gives UNC fits. I still can't believe UVA beat them last year.

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I don't pay for PFF, but I think on the TSL podcast Chris Coleman said that Burmeister had a grade over 90. Wasn't sure what the other negative was outside the interception, but it sounds like he did what was asked - nothing more or less.

And sometimes that's all it takes to win a game - make fewer mistakes than the opponent.

Went back and watched the third quarter play where Turner broke wide open. The bunch formation appeared to be window dressing designed to give Kaleb Smith the one on one on a hitch up to the single receiver side. BB looked their first and then tried to come back to Robinson on a stick route in the slot. Robinson was posted right underneath the linebacker and BB didn't want to take the risk, but he had a good pocket and didn't really need to bail out.

Turner had a zip code to himself, but it didn't appear that BB's head ever looked that way. Best case, it was his third read.

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

Thank you for clarifying this. I was guessing with that much space, it wasn't anything subtle he did there.

The play of Hollifield was weak. He was unable to shed blocks and seemed slow to the ball. Its going to get exploited if he doesn't play better.

He had a beautiful false key finish (showed a 9 gap blitz on the edge and then faded backwards, scraped across and made a nice tackle right in the boundary side B gap) on the play before the Waller sideline INT. I thought Dax looked pretty good. He just has to stay clean and stop guessing. Guessing where the ball is going has historically gotten him into trouble.

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

Another great writeup, French. I always like looking at the game through your eyes.

As with most Tech teams, we did it the hard way. A play here and there and we'd have put the game to bed by mid fourth quarter. I bet that I'm not the only one who thought that Howell would step up on that last drive and put a stake in our collective hearts.

I was very impressed by our scrappy play and rising to the occasion multiple times. It's very easy to get behind a team that fights for every thing that they get. I hope they continue the "never give up" mentality.

Watched the majority of games including this one but haven't been to one in person in a while. Are we letting our opponent out on the field first? Noticed UNC came out first before Enter Sandman started playing. We should be doing this going forward. Let them tremble and experience Lane fully out on the field

What we do in life, echoes in eternity

I think it's game to game and coach to coach as to when they arrive on the field based on whatever final time restriction ACC/NCAA has.

Teams get to choose. Mack wanted them out there.

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I heard or read that the visiting team has the option of coming out prior or after our entrance. Mack said that his guys voted to come out to enjoy it and get hyped by it.

that worked out well for them....I wonder what their strategy will be in 2023?

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

Last drive of the third Q, BB had some runs on passing plays. Nobody was open. They popped the throwback to Blackshear to get into field goal range. Then G play, drop back nobody open (No. 15 for UNC tackled Kaleb Smith in coverage) so BB scrambles again and No. 0 releases Blackshear to tackle BB before he can throw to Blackshear, and then opening play of the 4th Q BB throws WAY TOO LATE to Robinson on the cross and pins him against the sidelines with no room for YAC. At least they got the field goal. But, when you need 10 play drives to score, one time behind schedule (like the Hoffman holding call or the G play going for a loss) kills your drives.

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

Was it a good holding call on Hoffman by the refs? They didn't show a replay.

Just curious what is a good holding call? Hoffman was holding so Burmeister doesn't get hit?

A good holding call is either one that goes against the opponent, or is so obvious that the refs did not have to use any judgement to call it against a hokie.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

From the TV angle, i didn't like the call. Hoffman got pushed back and kind of fell down with the DT on top of him. I think the official thought Hoffman pulled the DT down on top of him, but his hands were not outside like you see on most holding calls. A different angle may change my mind, but that was one of the weaker calls.

A bigger miss was a third Q QB scramble where BB was looking for Blackshear in the right flat. Down the field, No. 15 for UNC grabbed Kaleb Smith and just threw him like a sack of potatoes on the ground. Then 15 ran over and got in Blackshear's face.

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

Holding has to be the most arbitrary penalty in the game. Sucks that it's almost always a drive killer.

Thanks for weighing in and I appreciate the breakdowns - definitely was looking forward to this one all weekend!

10 yards is a stiff penalty that refs can just decide whether or not to dole out. There is holding that can be called on every play. I get unreasonably angry when the zebras don't call holding when we're on defense and I get dejected AF when they call it when we're on offense. I think it should be a 5 yarder, personally.

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

I had the same thought about it being a 5 yard penalty. I guess maybe the counterpoint would be that holding can prevent a sack that would be a loss of 5-10 yards and a loss of a down. Maybe there should be a minor holding 5 yarder and a major holding 10 yarder - I know it's more subjectivity but they seem to do a good job with roughing/running into the punter.

I know it's more subjectivity

With how much refs already get, and how "rigged" the games are, the last thing we want is more subjectivity. Then it could also be a reviewable play and tack on another 15 minutes to the game as they try and figure out minor/major etc. It's not the best system, but I think there are a lot more bad options than good ones.

I tend to agree, but I already think it's pretty easy to rig a game with a holding call. Basically no way to take the subjectivity out of it.

How about 5 yards from the spot. Holds that prevent sacks would then be worse than the sack and running downs wouldn't kill drives. Penalty can be declined if the play results in worse or near equal result than the penalty.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

Excellent brainstorm session. I think you've nailed it.

When I was an official, the holding had to have had an effect on the play for me to flag it. A random jersey tug on the other side of the field wasn't getting a flag. It also had to be a fairly egregious holding. The act had to have cause the defender's path/movement to alter beyond what regular contact would have caused.

I may have held on to my flag a bit too much. But having played tight end, I was one of the people refs were always staring at, and most likely to get called for holding. So, my past experience probably drove me to be a little more forgiving.

All we can really hope is it gets called the same way for both teams, and the calls are consistent. Once an official has set a precedent for what should and shouldn't be called, it shouldn't change during the game.

There was a play where I belive Barno was ready to make a play and all you saw was the LT holding jersey. It was one of the most blatant holds I've seen in a while.

The most blatant holds I've seen were opponents ripping Dadi Nicholas' to shreds.

Are those two zone runs to Blackshear with the Mitchell leak out RPOs? It looks like Burmeister is staring down that linebacker as soon as he secures the snap.

Certainly could be. Or, BB is freezing the LB even though it is a hand off all the way. If they are running it correctly, it should be an RPO read every time, but, as others have mentioned, I think the offense has the action predetermined sometimes and the other movement is window dressing to influence defenders.

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

Hoffman had the one holding penalty, but while casually watching giftory today I noticed he was creating some nice holes and had a few pancakes. Thoughts on his play?

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

Played well. I thought the hold call was a little soft, but the TV angle wasn't great. I would have liked for Hoffman to notice the LB creeping up on the end of 2nd Q sack (Fox is their best pass rush guy), but that could have been an issue with Holston and Dzansi not communicating his alignment to Hoffman. All and all, while it wasn't always the dominant stuff we saw last year, the OL was pretty good. Sometimes it is just hard to run 6 on 8, especially when the defense isn't needing to account for the QB in the run scheme.

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

Anybody getting FSU 2018 vibes from this game? I felt great watching the game in person but when I watched it again I was really thankful their TE couldn't catch, that Beau Corrales didn't play, and that we didn't play them after week 1.

Our offense probably should've put up more points if they cleaned things up but I feel like UNC would've scored a ton more of the above things happened.

Didn't we get up early on FSU? My concern is with teams that run the ball right at us with persistence. I'm not sure we have the beef and depth to stop it.

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

I meant moreso in the way we thought it was a big win that showed we were good when the truth wasn't that.

I think UNC is going to end up with 9 or 10 wins this year. I can't say that we will win more than 7.

The biggest difference is that in 2018 we were so young at DB, and really the rest of the defense, that half time adjustments were struggles. Bud Foster talked about having issues making adjustments with a defense was so young. If you look we lost just about every game after halftime that year. This year we made a defensive adjustment at half time to counter with Barno. We aren't that young, Waller, Conner, Chatman have been playing a lot for 3 years. Dorian got a lot of reps last season, Peoples has been at VT a long time and finally healthy. Dax, Tisdale are both experienced.

Now did we just beat a super overrated team that was two TDs away from 6-6 last year (28 pt 4th qtr vs wake) and lost a ton of NFL talent? Yup. If we lose our QB game 2 like in 2018 will we be screwed? Yup. But I dont think we will have bad 2nd half defense as in 2018.

I think the difference is that Sam Howell has historically already proven to be a better QB than Deandre Francois ever was at FSU, and UNC's line is better than FSU's was then too.

I get the worries about the depth, especially on the defensive line... but I think that is more of an injury fear than anything else. Keep rotating Kendricks, Pollard, Fuga, and Williams and it should be okay. Find a way to find a third decent DE (whether it's Adams, Griffin, one of the true freshmen, Pene or even McCray) and I think we'll be fine.

Interesting to see if/when we can play some depth against MTSU and Richmond.

Thanks for the review, that was one he'll,of a game. We played with toughness, and our defense was lights out. Kudos to the staff for a great game plan.

Our offense looked strong and won TOP, with the first half looking like a coaching clinic on how to keep a top rated offense in UNC off the field.

Thanks for showing the UNC counter trey RPO, I saw it in game and couldn't t wait to see it again. Tech must install this play, as it could be one of the best out there.

I heard folks say Foster's defense was break don't bend. Too may break away runs for touchdowns though. This defense is like bend to the limit, but don't break. I hope it continues.

Hokies fan since 1998

Foster was migrating in the same direction for the pass heavy offenses but still brought out the aggressive defense on teams he didn't respect the passing game for.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

I'm a football simpleton. I like to pick a couple good players and watch them throughout the game. Who is our best defender in the secondary? Front 7?

If I had to pick two defensive players to watch all game. Barno and Waller would be most fun. Barno flies around and is just an athletic freak that's versatile. Waller probably isn't going to be thrown at too much this season but is fun to watch in coverage.

(add if applicable) /s

Corner play is tougher to eval because of the TV angles. I think if you are looking for a difference in the Bud era vs this era, it is the safety play. Deep alignments, with one safety being deep help and the other required to support close to sideline to sideline, where Bud had a designated free hitter on both sides and "uh oh" if the runner beat either one. If I had another 12 hours in my week, I would chart plays and see where the free hitter comes from (last year, Conner was mixed in with the two safeties, but honestly didn't see him come into the box much on Friday.)

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

A little weird factoid- when Tomon Fox sacked Burmeister at the end of the 2nd quarter, he broke Lawrence Taylor's UNC career sack record.

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

Go G-Men!

VT '10--US Citizen; Virginian By Birth; Texan By the Grace of God.

Rick Monday... You Made a Great Play...

Romanes Eunt Domus

An effing great review.

I thought I saw Peoples more than I expected. His name was constantly on the screen in the vicinity of the ball.

This is going to be great for the ACC.

French, this question is a little late but do you think the UNC O line ineptitude is due to lack of skill or more that they are coached by Searles, who I thought left a lot to be desired here.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

Those right side guys were dominant last year in specific schemes (especially power and split zone) and Longo seemed to have abandoned them a bit.

The center and left side besides Ezedu left a lot to be desired in terms of foot speed. I don't think their game plan did them any favors, but pass protection has been an issue and it was an issue at VT when Searels coached.

Now, removing that commonality, my only interaction with Searels resulted in him acting like a jerk. When I watched him coach during a practice before a scrimmage, he acted like a raving bully and not a teacher. I don't have a very positive opinion of him.

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

Don't know if you listened to the Sons of Saturday UNC recap podcast... but Billy Ray Mitchell and/or Pat Finn were talking about how the UNC offensive line was really getting into with the fans. Not like one-off chirps to someone in the stands, but full-blown conversations when they should have been talking to position coaches, etc.

They were surprised at how undisciplined and ill-prepared - and this was coming from someone who was recruited to VT by Searels...

Pretty sure that BRM was recruited by Jeff Grimes. It is hard to believe that Tyrell was part of that class and is still there.

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

Yo French, I've written 4β€”5 draft comments trying to convey how bad ass your reviews are and deleted them every time prior to posting. Come to think of it, I probably delete 2/3 of the comments/replies I write (do other people experience this as well?).

Either way, just want to piggy back on all the kudos, really appreciate all the time you put in going through footage and doing this analysis. I'm sure it's a lot more fun when the team wins (the number of responses and engagements points to that, on the reader side).

This is a silly question, and feel free to no answer, but have you ever received kudos/acknowledgement from somebody in the VT staff for these types of articles?

None directly from staff, but I have received good acknowledgement from players (although I have not interacted with any on the current roster. Mostly at the end of the Beamer era and the beginning of the Fuente era.

The worst part of doing this is being critical of the players. I know they work 100 times harder than I ever did as a player. I do everything I can to focus on technique and scheme and stay away from judgement without losing my objectivity. And, I think they recognize that when I do point out a player who is struggling, nobody will celebrate them more when they deliver a big time performance (see Kendricks as an example) than I will. I want them all to be the best player they can be, and if they deliver that and lose, I am still happy as a fan.

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

Come to think of it, I probably delete 2/3 of the comments/replies I write (do other people experience this as well?).

All the time. Usually I have so much to say that I can't eloquently reduce into something that is not a novel. Glad I am not the only one!

perhaps I should take up this practice....?

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

I delete a lot of half written comments before I have had my morning coffee, but almost none after my second pour of bourbon.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Oh yeah i type things out all the time and rarely actually end up saying anything, Ive been creeping on here since i was 15 (like 8 years ago) and randomly give spurts of comments

I probably delete 2/3 of the comments/replies I write (do other people experience this as well?)

I did exactly that when attempting to reply to this comment πŸ˜‚
I used to publish my thoughts up here indiscriminately. One day several years back it got me in trouble (I said something that was offensive that at the time I didn't even consider would be offensive) and I didn't like the fact that I got called out. After mulling over it for awhile (like awhile) I came to realize that what I said was out of line. Since then I've tried to consider my words carefully, and when I can't be sure, I just say screw it haha

"The Big Ten is always using excuses to cancel games with us. First Wisconsin. Then Wisconsin. After that, Wisconsin. The subsequent cancellation with Wisconsin comes to mind too. Now Penn State. What's next? Wisconsin?" -HorseOnATreadmill