Welcome to this edition of my ramblings and other nonsense. I am not going to have the bandwidth to do a deep drill down on the play by play of the game, however I wanted to share some high level observations of the game. First off, it was great to see the Hokie offense deliver a fantastic performance in the most adverse of conditions, however, given the euphoria of the dramatic nature of the win , I have a feeling some of these may rub some folks the wrong way. I want to be positive, but while I was thrilled with the win, there are some things that deeply concern me coming out of the game.
First off though, lets have a little sweet with the sour.
1) Logan Thomas: LT3 proved that he has all the physical tools to be the best pocket passing QB at Virginia Tech since Jim Drukenmiller. He has the arm, he has the athleticism to have the footwork that is required to be an accurate passer, and he has the intelligence to call audibles at the line. He was much more accurate this week, and SIGNIFICANTLY quicker getting the ball out of his hands. He hit receivers in stride, and he had good pocket presence. Hopefully he can continue to develop that talent.
2) Offensive Identity: Last week, my column focused on the lack of offensive identity. This week, we saw Mike O'Cain gravitate towards the shotgun/zone read scheme that is the most similar to the system that LT3 ran in high school. It allows the Hokies to get their full compliment of receivers on the field, and it creates seams for David Wilson through spacing. Everyone apppeared to be comfortable, and when the Hokies chose to get back under center, it served as a change up rather than a guiding principle for the entire series.
3) Logan Thomas in the running game: LT3 still has some work to do on the zone read, but he is getting better, and on the biggest play of the season, he made the right choice.
4) Mixing up the zone/read series: The Hokies had exhibited limited counters to their standard zone/read option series to date, but Saturday they effectively utilized a zone/read with counter action, a sweep (which was effective against Clemson), and most excitingly, A SPEED OPTION TO THE TAILBACK SIDE! That speed option is critical to the success of the series, as both Miami and Clemson started to shift to the strong side (away from the tailback) because other than swing pass to the TB side, the entire Hokie offense moved east to west away from the tailback alignment. The speed option play back to the tailback side, as well as the delay weakside counter, makes the defense stay honest, which opens more space for the regular read play. Also, O'Cain effectively used play action off the zone read, which is incredibley tough for a defense to defend unless they can stop the run only using their front four.
5) Offensive Line: The OL had an excellent game. Chris Drager, Blake DeChristopher, and Greg Nosal were other-worldly, especially in the zone/read scheme.
6) Mike Branthover: We need to see more, but even the 32 yard punt showed better leg than 90 % of Delmers kicks this year. Props to Frank Beamer for showing confidence in a freshman in a tough spot.
7) Derrick Hopkins. Watching the game and what I could of the video in round 2, Derrick Hopkins played an outstanding game against an excellent Miami line, but he got worn down. More on this later.
8) Bruce Taylor. Also outstanding. I wish they utilized Taylor more in the blitz. Unfortunately, Taylor was limited in the second half because the entire left side of the Hokie defensive line was in his lap the whole game.
9) Kyle Fuller: Outstanding open field tackling.
10) Wide Receiver Core: No drops. Jarrett Boykin actually tried to block people. DJ Coles continues to blossom, and Danny Coale was Danny Coale. To me, those three guys along with Drager and Wilson should be the Hokies base offense from here on out. Some folks commented that Davis had a good game, but to me, he is a step behind the other three guys right now.
1) DEFENSIVE LINE DEPTH: You know what? Corey Marshall played his ass off Saturday. Litterally. Simple physics took over and when good 300 collides with good 260, good 300 eventually wins. The lack of effective defensive line play again exposes the poor defensive recruiting in the front seven prior to 2010, especially at defensive tackle. The Hokie defense can only work if both defensive tackles can either effectively stunt to draw blocking or hold their gap. By the end of the game, Marshall, Prince, and Hamlette were being driven 3-4 yards off the ball every play, which didn't allow the linebackers to escape. Maddy was even worse (yes, I know he was dinged up.) I kept thinking to myself that if they put Nick Acree into that spot with the instructions "DON'T GO BACKWARDS" being his only assignment, Miami doesn't run for half the yardage in the second half. Tyrell Wilson also ran his tail off the entire game, but in the second half he was a complete liability against the run. It is no coincidence that the Hokies got a stop when Duan Perez-Means was in for Wilson, and then Wilson came back in after the Collins penality. If the Hokies have ANY hope of beating any of the power running teams left on the schedule, the Hokies must get Perez-Means or McCray to play starter snaps at stud end, and they must find a way to control the AHopkins gap at defensive tackle. People will laugh, but with so much offensive line depth, Nick Acree is playing defense the rest of this season. You can't teach his size and strength.
2) Miami was REALLY bad defensively: Watching the game, I had no clue what Miami was doing on defense. Their defensive backs seemed like they were watching the plays develop before reacting. The blitzes came from odd angles and were slow developing. The defensive line had horrendous leverage and gap control. It almost seemed like Al Golden watched the Clemson film and then decided to do the opposite of everything Clemson did to take Logan Thomas out of his comfort zone. On some of the zone reads, the Miami D would have 3 and 4 unblocked players close to the ball, yet none seemed to have that extra zip to make a tackle. I want to believe that the Hokies were just that dominant offensively, but it looked like Miami helped them out.
3) Logan Thomas ball security- Two series, Logan was WAY too lackadasical withhis ball handling, resulting in an almost-fumble and a risky throw away to avoid the sack. That series, coupled with the Thomas fumbled snap, kept Miami in the game. Again, he is a work in progress.
4) Enter Sandman: Yes, the scene was incredible. Yes, people were jumping up and down. Yes, ESPN was thrilled with the dramtatic scene. Nevertheless, I thought that pumping Enter Sandman into the stadium during the last Miami timeout was 100% bush league. Given the Hokie TD drive and the dramtatic nature of the game, the stadium should have been rocking anyway. Pumping in the music to try to create more noise was something that UVA, West Virginia, and the NBA would do. It just seemed low rent.
5) Antone Exum: For a guy who will be our starting free safety for the next two and a half years, he has to be better at locating the ball. In every game this season, we have seen him in coverage with his back to the QB. The Hokies safeties have always been guys who could get picks. Antone needs to develop this part of his game, or they need to develop a new free safety and move him back to rover.
6) Whip Backer: I know Tweedy made some plays on the blitz and from the backside, but he just doesn't win battles at the point of attack. If the Hokies are going to be this limited opposite of DHop at DT, they have to get run supporters from the linebackers and safety that can win battles at the point of attack. I suggested that Telvion Clark and Chase Williams get a look at that spot, or perhaps that Bud Foster adjust his 50 defense look (three DTs, whip, mike, backer, nickle, and DBs) with Tweedy-Taylor-Edwards-Clark at the linebacker spots. Also, we KNOW Jack Tyler and Barquell Rivers can play. Can Edwards move outside and get one of them to help the run?
Now, on to play a tough Wake Forrest team. No let down in Winston Salem.