Virginia Tech's 39-36 Win Over Pitt a Battle of Adjustments

Dissecting the X's and O's of the Hokies' win over the Panthers.


Prior to the Hokies' 39-36 victory, Virginia Tech never won at Heinz Field. To compound matters, Pitt came into Thursday's critical Coastal Division matchup with a dangerous offensive unit and a defensive front that lead the ACC in rushing defense. In order to beat Pat Narduzzi's Panthers, the Hokies had to win two critical matchups. First, Tech had to restrict explosive plays from Pitt's variety of jet sweep packages. Second, Jerod Evans needed to capitalize on a weak Panthers secondary and get the ball into the hands of Tech's vaunted receiving corps. Like a heavyweight fight, each team made adjustments to counter the nuances of the opposition's scheme. Ultimately, Brad Cornelsen was able to exploit one-on-one coverage for numerous chunk completions. Meanwhile, Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Canada didn't give the unstoppable James Conner touches at critical moments when it seemed like Tech's defense couldn't stop him.

"Why Run Up the Middle?" Running Fade Routes within the Offensive Scheme

During the game I received a plethora of questions asking why Cornelsen continued to run plays into the teeth of Pitt's defense when it was abundantly clear the Panthers' corners couldn't defend Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, and Bucky Hodges outside. To answer that question properly, let's look at how Pitt was defending the Hokies' offense.

On this last second quarter play, the Hokies align with twin receivers to the boundary and a lone receiver to the wide side of the field. Cornelsen calls an inside zone read from the pistol. Sam Rogers crosses the formation to "wham" the defensive end (or perhaps head out to the flat for a pass on an RPO). Pitt is playing a modified eight-man front, with four defensive linemen, three linebackers, and the field safety all defending the run inside the box. This leaves Ford (top of the screen), Phillips (slot to the boundary), and Hodges (wide to the boundary) all individually covered.

To the play side, the Pitt defensive line attacks the zone blocks and extends their arms to shed and read. The two field-side linebackers and the field safety all come in to fill. There are six Pitt defenders against five Virginia Tech offensive linemen. Eric Gallo and Jonathan McLaughlin attempt to block the two Pitt defensive tackles one-on-one while Wyatt Teller and Augie Conte release to the linebackers. Conte and Teller get to the second level. Unfortunately, the Pitt defensive tackles both beat Gallo and McLaughlin and tackle Travon McMillian for no gain.

Outside, Pitt accounts for Sam Rogers on any leak out pass to the flat and Jerod Evans on the keeper. Pitt kept the boundary outside linebacker shadowing the quarterback because earlier in the game the Hokies ran the exact same blocking scheme with Evans keeping and running for a nice gain. Note the Hokies are in the same formation (twins to the boundary, Ford to the field).

On this play, OLB Mike Caprara (No. 30) and DL Rori Blair (No. 92) crashes inside on the dive from the boundary. Rogers loops around the edge and Evans scoots to the outside for 15 yards.

The Pitt defenders have now seen the inside zone with wham and the quarterback keeper from the pistol formation. The Panthers have adjusted to the keeper by aligning the boundary outside linebacker as a spy on the quarterback. As result, Cornelsen identifies the outside linebacker may be vulnerable to play-action. He calls a play pass with the same run action and a subtle formation change. Twins are now to the field, and Chris Cunningham is "hidden" as an extra blocker in place of the boundary receiver.

Caprara and Dane Jackson (No. 11) have their eyes completely fixated on Evans. Cunningham leaks behind them on a corner route and is wide open for the touchdown. Once again, Fuente has set up the defense and Evans successfully executes the play for an easy score.

What about all those fade routes though? Well, most of the deep throws by Evans came off some form of play-action. I particularly noticed how the Hokies were able to play-action off of their one consistent running play: the jet sweep.

Cam Phillips led the Hokies in rushing (5 carries, 43 yards), in large part because the Hokies' skill players were able to seal the Panthers' edge players inside. On this jet sweep late in the fourth quarter, Pitt blitzes Caprara into the jet sweep motion.

Behind the blitz, the Panthers actually rotate their boundary safety over the top to give the corner coverage help on Bucky Hodges (unlike the narrative that Jesse Palmer repeatedly reinforced about Pitt playing press man to man on every snap). Rogers seals Caprara inside. McMillian leads Phillips to the outside while LB Matt Galambos (No. 47) scrapes across. McMillian kicks Galambos to the outside and drives him into the corner, effectively taking out two defenders. Safety Jordan Whitehead (No. 9) is eaten up by Hodges option-stalk block. Phillips gains almost 20 yards before Blair drags him down from behind.

Pitt's safeties and linebackers overreacted to the jet sweep motion after a couple of Tech gains. This contributed to the Hokies one-on-one matchups outside. On this play, Evans looks against the grain for a throwback back-shoulder fade to Hodges.

Watch safety Terrish Webb (No. 2) drift inside as his eyes follow Phillips on the jet sweep motion. This takes away any chance for corner Ryan Lewis (No. 38) to get safety help. Evans intentionally under throws the ball to Hodges back shoulder. Lewis can't get his head around to find the football and Hodges makes a great catch. Fuente and Cornelsen continue to establish every element of their offense as a credible threat, and by doing so they are conditioning defenses to overreact and then they take advantage for big plays. That is the reason why the Hokies continue to run plays that appear to have little chance of success; to set up other plays later in the game.

Stopping the Jet Sweep and Pitt's Adjustment

In my preview of the Panthers' offense, I discussed how Matt Canada featured jet sweeps to compliment Pitt's power running game.

The Panthers run this series from a variety of offensive sets, and they mix up whether the jet sweep goes to the strong side and the weak side of the formation. Regardless of the formation, there seem to be three consistent elements to the series.

  1. The slot receiver will start motioning back and forth behind the quarterback before the ball is hiked.
  2. At the snap, the offensive line will zone block away from jet sweep movement of the slot receiver. The Pitt tailback will run the inside zone in the same direction that the offensive line blocks.
  3. The slot receiver crosses behind the quarterback before the quarterback meshes with the tailback. If the slot receiver gets the football, on most plays he turns up almost immediately after exiting the tackle box.

On the above inside zone/jet sweep combination, Tremaine Edmunds filled inside to take away Conner's cutback lane. Vinny Mihota widened out to spill the football. Brandon Facyson saw the tight end widening out so he attacked him with his inside shoulder to force the ball back inside. Terrell Edmunds filled the alley in between Mihota and Facyson to make the tackle.

Away from the jet sweep, Tech accounted for the inside zone by slanting the defensive line in same direction as the offensive line's zone step. Andrew Motuapuaka filled play-side.

To the field-side, there is also a receiver away from the jet sweep motion split out wide. Greg Stroman had man coverage responsibility, so Chuck Clark served as the alley defender to that side on a potential zone run. Once Clark confirmed that Conner didn't have the football, he scraped out to the jet sweep.

With this scheme and aforementioned assignments, Virginia Tech's defense shut down Pitt's offense through most of the first half. However, Pitt successfully responded with a counter run from similar backfield action that wreaked havoc on the Hokies' defensive keys. On the counter, instead of zoning away from the jet sweep, Pitt's offensive line zoned the same direction as the jet sweep. Additionally, the H-Back would come back across the formation wham block away from the jet sweep.

The adjustment had a profound impact on the game. Tech's d-line slanted in the same direction as the zone blocks of Pitt's o-line, but now against the counter they moved away from Conner's running lane. This left the Hokies outnumbered away from the jet sweep motion. To make matters worse, the Hokies defenders started to make fundamental errors in spill/force technique that created tons of space for Conner to rumble through.

Conner's first touchdown featured all these elements. The jet sweep fake goes to the right, and the offensive line zones in the same direction. To the boundary, Trevon Hill crashes to the inside, and H-Back George Aston (No. 35) pulls across and kicks him out. A huge seam opens up between Hill and Woody Baron, and Conner walks into the end zone.

Hill also busted his edge assignment. Based on Adonis Alexander's alley positioning and Terrell Edmunds outside leverage on the tight end, it appears Hill should have crashed flatter down the line to spill Conner out to Alexander. Hill got kicked out, leaving Alexander defending air.

On the opening drive of the second quarter, Conner again broke a huge run on the same blocking concept. This time Ken Ekanem is the spill defender.

Ekanem does a wonderful job of spilling Conner outside, where Brandon Facyson is unblocked in the alley. Instead of charging up on the outside like he should on a spill call, Facyson takes a step to the inside. This gives Conner an angle. Conner beats Facyson to the outside and rumbles down inside the five.

Conner's power runs opened up the play-action and misdirection passing game, and Virginia Tech's defense appeared to be on its heels. Fortunately, Canada stubbornly refused to give Conner touches on early down and distance situations. After Joey Slye's field goal that closed the score to a 21-19 Pitt advantage, the Panthers had two straight three and outs that featured only one Conner touch. Those series bracketed Brenden Motley's first appearance at quarterback. It was a critical juncture of the game where Pitt had momentum, and Canada let the Hokies' defense off the hook. As result, the Hokies control their destiny in the Coastal Division and await the well-coached Duke Blue Devils for their fourth road game in a brutal five week stretch.


This is BudFu every time against our foes. Chuckmate!

Let's Go


Dude, in that big Cam Phillips run on the jet sweep clip, Travon got a...what do you call that, a transitive pancake? A shortstack? He blocked 47 into pancaking a second defender with 47's butt. We should do that more.

Reminds me of another time one of our guys blocked two Pitt defenders at the same time

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

Holy crap, you are on to something. A short stack! When you pancake a defender so hard that you block another as well. And then the tall stack, when you manage to block more than two blockers.

A doublestack?

Great read!!

thanks French. This makes me feel good because I told a buddy of mine that we do some things offensively that don't look like they're very good play calls but they set up plays later in the game so they are important plays to run even if it doesn't look that way at the time.

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

Great analysus,I have to watch the videos multiple times to see watch you write about! Impressive.

On another note, i s there really an NCAA RULE about altering (removing thigh and knee pads) as the Pitt defensive player did? ESPN talking heads stated there was and 'where was the NCAA on this one? '.

According to ESPN, the pant's aren't cutoff, just rolled up and the Knee Pads are still in the pants. The rule just says that knee pads has to be worn but it is only strongly recommended that they cover the knees.

Pay Narduzzi's in game adjustments:

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

As result, the Hokies control their destiny in the Coastal Division and await the well-coached Duke Blue Devils for their fourth road game in a brutal five week stretch.

You underestimate the powers of the Hokie Nation. Got a feeling this is road game by location only this weekend. VT has bought up an unreal number of tickets to Wallace Wade.

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

I was thinking the same way thing!

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

I just picked up 8 at lunch today. Duke ticket office is still running a promotion where donating 3 cans of food gets you a ticket for $15. I believe they're running it all the way through gameday.

How do you know we've bought up a lot of tickets other then speculation? I'm thinking about going!

Well, first of all, there's always a boatload of Hokies at the Duke game. Over the weekend, about 100 people bought into the Alumni Tailgate at the last minute, and I'm seeing the numbers of tickets available on places like Stubhub dwindle from where they were. And living in this area, believe me, with the season they're having, its not because a bunch of Duke fans are buying them up.....

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

My cousin came up with a simpler explanation that my wham block mind could understand: just run where the people aren't. French shows how complicated that simple maxim can become.

I understand the point of set up plays but I think they have a time and a place. If it's 1st down on the opp 40, by all means run up the gut to set up the outside run or play action later. But for goodness sakes when you're in the red zone and looking to start the game with statement touchdowns just do what you do best and get in the dang endzone.

I told my wife over and over all the crap up the middle was there to set up plays later. Sure enough there were several big plays built off of the ineffective crap early on. But 3 or 4 trips in the redzone and ending up with 9 points is asinine. Just throw the fade routes and wheel routes and run outside like we've done all season. Make the other team pay for their turnovers and then get cute. Put the dang points on the board when the opportunity arises and then set up plays later.

We knew Pitt was going to stack the box. We knew we had the size and skill advantage outside. We knew we didn't have a good OL at power runs and we knew we haven't gotten tough yardage all season. Knowing all that we stubbornly ran or shovel passed up the gut anyways. This was maddening Stiney type stuff. Run your scripted plays situationally, not when you have the chance to score 28 points in the 1st quarter.

Agree completely here. Can't you set up plays while still gaining yards or at least not putting yourself in 3rd-and-long situations? The opposition has scholarship players too and are going to make plays, but sometimes it feels like the offense will run plays expecting to not gain any yards like the play is sacrificial for setting the defense up later. I get setting up plays by running up the middle but it seems a little counter productive when you stall drives, much less while in the red zone. Also, being up 28-0 in the first quarter would likely make things easier on the defense too. It just seems like this game should not have been a nail biter.

I doubt any of the inside zone reads or the shovel pass were called with the expectation of gaining no yards. I believe those plays, particularly the inside zone reads, are run to identify how the defense will respond to those keys. Like slanting your d-line toward the zone blocking first step. If the defense does not respond to that key, then that inside zone read is likely to go for positive yards. And the reason you run it multiple times is that you don't necessarily know that the defense will react the same way each time. Once you know that, then you smack em with the play action or the counter action. The Pitt offense did exactly the same thing to us. How many jet sweeps did we shut down before they started running the counter action.

So I think its wrong to say those plays were designed not to gain yards just to set up future plays. You have to figure out what the defense is giving you, sometimes by figuring out what it's not giving you.

"Don't go to, go through"

No Pitt didn't do that. Pitt started with their bread and butter success plays until we shut that down. Them forcing us to respect what they're good at opened up the counter. We tried to run things we weren't good at to open up things we are good at. That's Stiney logic there. Make them prove they can handle your best then hit them with the unexpected.

PItt did just that. We shut their jet sweep down. HARD. BUUUUTTT we had to respect the whole game that they could still return to the sweep if we adjusted to the counter. We had the right calls to cover both in place but lacked execution. Still covering the sweep and having the counter defended takes a lot of discipline and leaves a guy one-on-one. Facyson, Hill, and Ekanem where that guy on several big plays but missed.

Pitt adjusted to take an advantage. When we started playing our game we took control. I want us to play our game and see another team sell out to stop it, then we adjust. Look at SU. We tried to be a power running team that game. It was maddening. When we spread the ball we played better. When we ran into a stuffed box we looked foolish.

Play your game first then adjust.

Perhaps your play calling philosophy would be a better approach. But if we had not made those runs into the "stuffed box" you don't know what else might work and you allow those safeties to forget about supporting the run. While we have not necessarily had a ton of long gains out of the inside zone read this season, it has been quite effective at times. This offense flows through it, so you will continue to see it even when teams load the box with 8. Hopefully with more individual wins up front, it looks a little better that it did on Thursday night. That's probably one of the better D-lines we will face this year.

"Don't go to, go through"

I guess we all know the adage that you have to run to open up the pass. But can't you pass to open up the run? Or at least against a normal coach. Narduzzi refused to stop the pass and kept the lid on the run.

The coach can call whatever he wants, but we also have to set up the mentality of the players as well. If we hit big passes right off the bat, that makes the safeties more liable to edge towards defending the pass than the run, whether the Howler is calling for safety help or not.

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You guys can always send your Offensive Coordinator resume here.

Your criticism would hold at least a little water if Fuente himself hadn't validated the opinion you are criticizing.

Fuente said discussing things with the staff, they would have approached some of those drives differently.
"We probably should've – knowing what we know now – taken a couple more shots down there," Fuente said. "So, I think it was a little bit of everything in terms of our execution, in terms of them doing a good job, in terms of us a couple times we did take a couple shots down there not completing them. In retrospect, I wish we'd taken a couple more and given our guys a chance down there a couple more times."

I think his comment does hold some water. In the second half, when the game was on the line, they did take more shots, and Evans and Ford made a phenomenal play.

Fuente said "in retrospect". We can't expect them to get it right 100% of the time. We won the game, he admitted they should've done a few things in the red zone differently, and I think we can all agree that Fuente and Corn are batting above average (not necessarily in red-zone, but just in general play calling) and well above what anyone expecting going into their first season. So while those play calls may warrant some slight frustration, they definitely don't warrant outrage. At the end of the day, the team got the job done, and Fuente has shown a mindset of getting better every week and improving and making corrections. As fans, that is really all we can ask for. The criticism would be much more validated if Fuente had not made this admission, and if he showed just a fraction of the stubbornness and selfishness of Narduzzi.

As a VT fan right now, I couldn't be happier with the way this team is playing and the way they are bouncing back after the UT and SU let downs.

"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

They're doing very well but I'm seeing a maddening trend. Early this season we played what we were good at first. Now we're trying to establish lesser skills at inopportune times. Score points while you can. Then develop. Against SU and Pitt we tried to stubbornly run the ball. Yes we were effective against UM but that was different. One game's success does not make something a strength especially against young LBs.

I don't love scripted plays. Never have. To a point you have to start somewhere but spread your script across a ballgame and ride what's working until it doesn't. It doesn't have to be the exact same play over and over but if you have an outside matchup that's winning, feed it one way or the other. We didn't open up in the second half and that actually reinforces my opinion. When we played our game we won.

All plays are scripted if they weren't it would make it hard to have a playbook

Semper Fi

I thought "scripted plays" meant three or four plays in a row were predetermined, not that each play is written down.

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

Well, b, there's right and there's right, and never the twain shall meet.

This isn't a healthy comment. Its one thing to disagree and explain why, its a whole other thing to completely dismiss the post as a whole, and instead going after the person who posted it.

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Nobody's post was dismissed and nobody disagreed. It was merely a recommendation to utilize their offensive knowledge to the best of its ability. Career coaching, I'd call it.

Ha I use to do my fair share of emailing when I was young and stupid. Stiney got a ton of emails from me and he occasionally replied. Ronyell Whitaker never did though...

I wasn't defending the lack of success in the red zone. Merely saying that some plays which looked pointless early were setting things up down the road.

The shovel passes had a good theory. VT runs a ton of speed option, especially in 3rd and short situations. The shovel pass had the same backfield movement as a speed option, except Rogers aligned opposite the option path so Evans could slow up and pitch it when the linebackers cleared. The DL won on both plays. It happens. The QB power lead where both Williams and Rogers lead up in the hole was there. Pitt blitzed two guys off the edge and one tripped up Evans from behind. Otherwise the blocking was good enough at the point of attack to score.

It is a delicate balance. Every play call is awesome when it goes well. At the same time, sometimes when it is 3rd and 1 and you have a 240lb QB, you wish they'd get up under center and sneak the damn thing. I get it. I just hoped to offer some context as to why, in this offense, you have to demonstrate that every available option on every backfield action is a credible threat. If you don't, the offense becomes much easier to defend (see third and long struggles this season.)

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

No doubt and I always temper my expectations early in the game. That said work the tricks later and do what you do best when you can. Strike while the iron is hot and setup later. If I'm Coach Fu I'm sending Bucky to a corner, cam crossing, rolling my QB and trying to sneak out a TE, RB, or FB inside the 10 especially. Run off DBs and LBs and give Evans the option to pull it down. Until other teams prove they can stop that consistently keep running it. Use what you're good at to open up other things rather than vice versa.

I think the whole point is that what we do well works because it's been set up. It's hard to say we've had a single bread and butter play all year, more that we've attacked the defense in different ways and then adjusted as the game wears on so that when we have that later success all the fans smack their heads and wonder why we don't do it all the time.

I understand and I'm not one of those fans. I understand why things work later in games and why our defense tends to give up things late in games. The average casual fan does not understand adjustments unless they see bleeding stop or vice versa. It's one of the reasons shutouts are so impressive.

That said our success and identity this season has been the intermediate passing game. When you're on the goal line you're limited by depth but there are still intermediate passing concepts that work. With the rollout / read option you give yourself the most opportunities to score while requiring a defense to do the most work to stop you from scoring. Pitch to the RB, pop pass to a TE, QB scramble, etc. I understand that was in effect what we tried against Pitt with the Shovel passes and maybe that was an incorrect read by Evans. That said giving the team the option to go up the gut when there are bright flashing warning signs saying to not run up the gut is a mistake.

I'm not saying avoid the inside all game. At times we're not horrible at it but it has certainly not been a strength this season. Just like the Pitt sweeps opened up the cut back, a VT sweep can open up a reverse or a comeback. Point is we didn't play to our strengths early on and it almost cost us. Put 14 to 21 points on the ground and then establish whatever the heck you want.

Pitt was keeping the game close and that's why Nard-dog didn't adjust his coverages. If we were up 21 he'd have likely had to stop the bleeding and opened up the inside a bit. Get them on the ropes and then do as you wish.

I've said this in a prior post and I'll say it again...

I'm not going to judge Fu and Corn on playcalling until we consistently see some seriously questionable calls game after game after game. These coaches are in their first year here, with players they inherited and it could very well be that the players blow an assignment and a play that could have resulted in a touchdown goes for no gain. It's my understanding that at least some of the calls in this offense are meant to set up future plays. If they want to run something that looks questionable to the fans but is the right call to the coaches, we should let the playcallers have a long leash till proven otherwise. Afterall, our offensive production this season is miles and miles ahead of where we have been the past five years. The coaches adjusted in the second half against Pitt, we won a game we wouldn't have the past five years, and most importantly, the defense didn't have to win the game for us.

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

Your analysis is brilliant French and that is definitely not the issue. The offense should take what the defense offers and Narduzzi schematically didn't change his intentions to deny the run except for one time when he gave safety help. Yes, but the thing is we knew going into the Pitt game that VT was ranked 107th in red zone rushing TD's but an astounding 2nd best in the NCAA FBS red zone passing TD's! We also knew going into the Pitt game that it is hard to run on them and that they were beaten by two teams that didn't get many yards rushing on them(Oklahoma State 32 yards and North Carolina 22 yards). I am not against establishing a running game and actually enjoy it, but you have to like our odds with the red zone passing despite the jersey grabbing (Which VT coaching and players expected). VT wanted to establish the run game just for the sake of it according to the quote from Fuente. The red-zone was not the time to threaten the run game if Pitt was always in their base defense. I would throw the jump balls to the tall receivers (Blame it on Cornelson?). Review the play by play of the field goals and you will see more runs than passes during the first half field goals. I appreciate the field goals because without them we would have lost. Convert only half of those to touchdowns and we have 12 more points and win easier by 15. Taking advantage of scoring drives to get more out of them and being more efficient takes less of a toll on the team, especially with Pitt's physicality. Even Wyatt Teller took some beating from Pitt's number 6 Tyrique Jarrett. I heard Wyatt had been seen around campus with an arm-sling on. I don't know of anyone every doing this to Wyatt:

Nonetheless, I love this team and Fuente and his staff. I love TKP, also so don't take offense to anything I have said. We have learned from Loeffler to not get too cute because it can bite you in the butt. (French you are fantastic and thanks for all you do.)

I've done some of my best work with smoke, mirrors, and a muleta!

Redzone rushing solution for 2017: Chris Durkin


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


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

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

It's nice to win games by superior coaching.


Because all of the wins in the past with solid, but not outstanding, recruits just sort of happened in spite of inferior coaching?

I think he means not all the games, and not even all the seasons. I expect he means the coaching in the past 5-10 years of Beamer's tenure, where we were clearly the better team in many losses.

There were many games where we simply were outcoached. Many big games we should have won, especially bowl games including at least 2 BCS bowls, and the problem was definitely in the coaching.

It sucks to watch Hill's poor spill and Facyson's bad positioning in the alley, but these are great examples of having a good defensive play call, but execution isn't always perfect. I think sometimes fans get upset at the coordinators/players when plays aren't working but discount for the fact that a young man can make a one or two step mistake at game speed, or that a player on the other team could have just disrupted our plan with a powerful/athletic play.

And as I understand it, one of the keys to the Bud Foster defense is that all 11 guys have to be in the right place every time. If 10 guys play perfectly and one guy is one step out of position, you might stop a mediocre RB but you're not going to stop James Conner.

Everyone loves a shutout, but sometimes you gotta win 39-36.

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

Yep, and this is also true for most defenses. If an offensive player wins a one on one opportunity, there's always (and usually is) a chance for a big play. I agree, sometimes the dice just don't fall your way, and I was happy to have an offense that could pick up the slack when the defense has a less than stellar showing.

Or 17-10.

A midseason hype video, a GIFtory, AND a french X's & O's article on the same morning?!?!

TKP trick-or-treating is AWESOME!!!

Click here to destroy wall.

Good job French .
I have a question, but I said it on the game day when we were in the red zone when we did 2 shovel passes on critical downs . I assumed they saw something on film to make that play call . Did you see anything to see why they did so ?

I didn't see anything that made it a good call. Pitt's nose (#6 Jarrett) was so sound at maintaining a gap fit and getting extension that there really wasn't anything opening up inside. McLaughlin wasn't able to scoop Price on the first one either. Perhaps they saw Price aligning wide on that particular down and distance on film and thought they could slip one underneath his pass rush angle. Instead, Pitt had him crashing inside and his alignment didn't tip the offense. I don't have a real good feel on how much rope Evans is given to change plays at the line of scrimmage, so it could have just been a circumstance where it was a good call versus Pitt's normal defensive calls, and it just happened that Pitt had a crash call at the perfect time. It happens.

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

I hope that they shelve that play/option until we play a team our O-line can man-handle. The thing that irked me most about executing that play twice was how quickly it was done. It seemed that a big enough hole didn't not even have a chance to open before the ball was pitched, thus why Sam muffed the catch once and was stuffed on the other. Last night the Bears executed the same play (albeit not designed that way) and it worked because the pocket had already expanded, leaving the hole for the receiver to run downfield. Against Pitt's massive O-line I think our success rate would be pretty poor, even if Pitt never keyed on it each time.

We won the game and hit some big passing plays which has to help confidence. To me in order to be a championship team we have to be able to get tough rushing yards. Any reason why we don't pound TM or MW right up Teller's backside on a quick hitter (no delay-shallow handoff) to try and grind for a 2-4 yd gain? The coaches have to know what they have in the O line by now and would design a formation to compliment it. Curious as to the thought process.

They popped a handful of inside hitters, be it Williams (had 2-3 nice runs and the TD) or Motley on the QB powers when EVERYONE in the stadium knew what was coming. The reality is, you can't run a quick hitter off Teller's backside if Gallo or Nijman can't at least neutralize their assignment. That isn't a knock on anyone. The reality is, Price, Garrett, and Rori Blair (#92) are all outstanding players. Pitt's entire scheme was dictated on those guys winning battles to allow the small linebacker group to be aggressive. VT didn't set the world on fire running the ball, but they found ways to run for 50 more yards than Pitt was averaging. They ran enough to keep those safeties in the box, which made for easy reads for Evans on the fades. They ran enough to get a field goal on the Motley drive and run the clock out. Remember, the other team has scholarship players too.

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

I appreciate the stats and understand the performance measurement. I guess in my feeble mind the scoring efficiency inside the 10 will be directly related to what you described. I know it always goes back to the Jimmys and the Joes before the X's and O's. Thank you for your perspective and analysis!

One of my favorite saying is "performance is measured by results".

So I'm going to have to support the coaches on this one. While I wasn't thrilled with three field goals (instead of TDs) early in the game, their game plan ultimately worked.

Enjoy seeing the chess match that these games are.
The TD to Cunningham was particularly nice.

Every time I read French's game analysis this is how I feel


You feel like a little game of air cigar with Bill Clinton?

Not my first reaction, but, whatever floats your boat.

The man does have charisma

To make matters worse, the Hokies defenders started to make fundamental errors in spill/force technique that created tons of space for Conner to rumble through.

This. Very much this. Also, fuck Pat Narduzzi.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Great analysis!

Looks to me Trevon Hill could've used a rip move to try to avoid getting kicked out on that TD run. Really looking forward to seeing him develop.

Flatter angle on his crash would have helped too. Hill is going to be a hell of a player. He is a young kid, and didn't have a great night. Given that his grandmother passed recently and he is in his first season in the midst of 3 games in a very short period of time, it isn't shocking that he had some busts. It happens, and he will continue to improve.

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

Fortunately, Canada stubbornly refused to give Conner touches on early down and distance situations. After Joey Slye's field goal that closed the score to a 21-19 Pitt advantage, the Panthers had two straight three and outs that featured only one Conner touch. Those series bracketed Brenden Motley's first appearance at quarterback. It was a critical juncture of the game where Pitt had momentum, and Canada let the Hokies' defense off the hook.

Couldn't agree more. As soon as the third quarter started and Conner had the big run, I posted asking "if I'm Pitt, why would I ever run play other than what's been gashing us for three straight drives?"

I'm pretty sure it was 2012 where I can only remember them gassing us with the counter over and over and it was agonizing.

Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Jeff Jagodzinski, Paul Johnson, Pat Narduzzi.

You know what goes great with Halloween and TKP articles aplenty? Joining the Key Players Club so we can get more of them next year.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Hey! Hey!!! I just did that!! #319!!

Get Angry, Bud!

our offense is fun :)

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

Speaking to that last clip where Conner got the big run, I really believe Facyson is still hurt. He just doesn't have that burst and "get-off" that he did a couple of years ago, and there are times when he gets up off the field, he reminds me of an old man getting up in the morning, i.e. very to the gingerly.

Something's just off. Although, I do believe his D-Block leadership is probably a trade off that the Hokies are OK living with.

Leonard. Duh.


Waho's suck
Uva swallows

His eyes?

Leonard. Duh.

I definitely agree Leonard. Facyson is a great kid and leader but he still seems to have never gotten that closing speed back. Watching the game on Thursday I saw Stroman make some incredible breaks on the ball that looked like ones Facyson used to make but haven't seen from him since his string of injuries.

I thought Stroman was their best player on defense Thursday night. He had an amazing game.

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

I may be biased since I've been a fan of his since his freshman year when he was just returning punts but has Stro been our best DB this year? Mook was up there for sure as well early on but lately I feel like it's switched. Thoughts?

Here lies It's a Stroman Jersey I Swear, surpassed in life by no one because he intercepted it.

Best cover corner, yes. Best DB is a little more difficult because that entails both alley play and coverage. For a large part, they have kept Stroman away from much as far as alley responsibility. Recall, we saw Alexander and Facyson in the alley often during the second half. Stroman was out on the island in coverage almost exclusively.

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

That doesn't necessarily mean he's still hurt.

Waho's suck
Uva swallows

So if I remember correctly, back shoulder throws were a very important part of Memphis's offense when Paxton Lynch was there and are very difficult throws to execute for a quarterback.

This seems like the first game where we saw Evans attempt several of those kinds of throws and it seems like he executed well. Am I right in that assessment and do we see more of that going forward?

correct! against press man, I expect more of these. I think Notre Dame is a game where we will see a decent number of fades.

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

French -- I see where you've mentioned in a few places the DL success that Pitt had. How did the VT OL play? From a layman perspective, it looked like a rough night.

It wasn't great, especially early. One key was that VT tried to single block Jarrett so the other OL could get to the second level. Jarrett had a monster game as result. He is a guy who won't get a ton of pub, but I bet we see him as a nose tackle on Sunday. He had a better game than Terry Williams did a few years ago, but it didn't garner as much attention.

Part of that is simply Pitt had a stud. It wasn't like our OL was whiffing on guys for the most part (see Eberle for FSU against Clemson.) Yes, there were some occasional lookout blocks (see McLaughlin vs Price on the shovel pass), but Pitt got very little pass rush all night. Against a team that blitzed and had a rusher like Price, they did one hell of a job. Run blocking is a much bigger concern for me. Nijman had a great drive block on the Williams TD (and the reverse.) Conte had a good game getting to the second level. But, far too often I see the OL playing with high pad level and they seem to have less active feet than I would like.

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

Take these comments with a grain of salt. They won against the team that I thought would be the toughest out on the schedule. My working title for the column was "Nit-Pitting" because I felt like I was nitpicking stuff that I thought could be improved. The reality is, they dominated a damn good football team for almost a half. Then when they got counter-punched, they responded and won a huge game on the road in a place where the program has had ZERO success. There is always room for improvement.

Now they head to Duke. Duke's running game isn't what it was the last couple of years. I think the Blue Devils are going to really go after Mook Reynolds and Chuck Clark in coverage, especially with their version of Bucky Hodges (hybrid WR/TE Anthony Nash.) They run a scheme very similar to Pitt, except their corners and free safety will drop in to a cover 3 shell while their strong safety and bandit will cover the short flats when they read pass. I think the Hokies really need to get the run game going in Durham.

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

And... Duke's leading rusher is toast for the year with an ACL tear he suffered during TD celebration at GT.

Leonard. Duh.

And the really sad thing it wasn't his TD that he was celebrating...

I thought Clark looked exceptionally slow on a few of those long plays for Pitt. And Pitt's not a terribly fast team outside of Henderson.

Thursday was the first time this year that I thought Wyatt Teller had more than he could handle with Jarrett in the game.

Leonard. Duh.

So...Blame Canada?

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

Not the game to be judging/downing the line play. Pitt has NFL players on both sides of the line and to come out of it with what was basiclly a push on both sides of the line was a success.