Virginia Tech is coming off one of their worst losses under head coach Justin Fuente. The schellacking at the hands of Georgia Tech last Thursday night moved the Hokies to 4-3 (3-1) on the season. Virginia Tech still has not beaten an FBS squad at home this season. It's November 2.
Now the Hokies will turn their attention to...
A ranked Boston College team? Alright, let's get weird.
The Eagles landed at No. 22 in the initial CFP rankings, and travel to Blacksburg at 6-2 (3-1).
First Down: The First Step To Recovery Is Admitting You Have A Problem
Last Thursday night didn't go too well. Even with the Hokies' ACC record sitting at 3-1, the narrative for the 2018 campaign has shifted dramatically from where it was after the Tech victory over Duke at the end of September.
"How will Fuente get this team back on track?"
"Will the bowl streak end this year?"
"Is UVA going to snap the streak?"
The last two remain fuzzy. However, Fuente provided some insight into how Virginia Tech plans to bounce back after an embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech.
"I've certainly been a part of teams that were very very good, and part of teams that won all their games, and been part of teams that have struggled," explained Fuente. "This team is unique as they all are. Certainly, you can draw from the experiences of when you have been a part of squads that haven't been as productive as you want them to be. Or maybe are being as productive as they can be. What the ceiling is for any individual team is really hard to figure out. But, it's up to us as coaches to continue to get the guys in positions to have success. And encourage them to continue to move forward. And that's happening. And I feel good about that. I guess, in short, Andy, you can always draw back on past experiences. Each team is fairly unique. Handling the ups and downs and when you do struggle with a young group, you try to get them propped back up. And ready to go the next week. There's still a lot of football to be played. We've got some tremendous challenges in front of us."
Maybe the word "insight" was used too liberally. That's a lot of coach-speak. However, good ole coach-speak is all that fans are going to get right now. The Tech faithful can't walk into the team meeting room and change the program's approach. As much as they might want to. The tagline of "In Fuente We Trust" might be at peak usability for the next few weeks.
In terms of finding something useful on the Georgia Tech tape to study going forward, Fuente shot that idea down pretty quickly.
"Not much," said Fuente. "I mean, you can watch technique and effort and execution and those sorts of things. But I mean, to kind of put it in perspective, I don't know if any offense in the league, when they're playing other ACC teams, breaks down the Georgia Tech film because it's just so different. The defenses line up so much different, there's little or no correlation between what you see, carrying over. It's a little bit of the same for your defense. It's a one time game, that you got to get lined up and go play in a different manner. And then, get back to playing a different style of ball this week."
Bud Foster provided some thoughts from his perspective as well. Wait until the end of the quote if you want to hear how the words "double blast iso" and "folding the slots" can be used appropriately in a sentence to the media.
"Not really," joked Foster. "[Georgia] Tech did some different things than what they've done against everybody else. Everybody copies what we've done. That's the compliment to us, over the years defensively. That little bit extra time,they changed everything up. They just had one more blocker, a hat on a hat, and the next guy to the safety was the quarterback. You noticed, any time they ran a true option play, they didn't have success. The ball was on the ground, everything they did was keep the ball in the quarterback's hand. They weren't going to get it on the ground. Everything they did was quarterback follows. Which was basically a double iso blast, where they folded the slots and had the fullback leading up on all your linebackers. And then the quarterback was basically just a quarterback sweep and getting everybody over and blocking the alley. And get it to the safety. They did some unique things blockin wise that they had not shown. In my opinion, usually our strength has been our adjustments and we didn't do a good job, I didn't go a very good job in the adjustments during the course of the game."
Saying that there's not much to take from the Georgia Tech film in terms of actual game film makes sense in the big picture. It's a janky, antiquated, boring offense few in the 21st century would run.
Yet, the lack of adjustment by Tech's playcallers was alarming. Foster owned up to that. Hokie Nation can only hope that having it happen once means it won't happen again.
Second Down: AJ Dillon Is The Monster Under Virginia Tech's Bed
AJ Dillon is averaging 6 yards per rush this season. Since a "bad" performance in the season opener (98 yards on 20 carries) against UMass, Dillon has rushed for at least 149 yards in each of Boston College's wins. In the two ACC games he's played in, he's rushed for 185 yards against Wake Forest and 149 yards against Miami.
"He reminds a lot of the kid [Andre Williams] they had a couple years ago," noted Foster. "The kid that was a first team All-American guy. Big, physical. I felt going into our game last year that we might see that type of offense. You saw Dillon playing a little bit more, having a bigger role in their offense leading up to our game. And then obviously, afterwards, he went on a roll."
Foster wasn't kidding, Dillon exploded after the Virginia Tech game last year. He ran for 1,256 yards and 12 touchdowns. On just 211 attempts. That's good for 6 yards per carry. Does that number sound familiar?
I digress. Back to Foster scaring everyone about what to expect on Saturday afternoon.
"He's just a big, physical guy that has great vision, great balance, breaks tackles," explained Foster. "Sets up his blocks extremely well. Deceptive speed. I just think he's a really, really talented football player. Very dangerous guy, obviously, with the ball in his hands. Just a really really good football player."
Foster's defensive squad is 78th in the nation for rush defense, allowing 178 yards per game. That number is relatively low because the LPD only allowed 128 yards combined in their first two games. Florida State (not a good team this year) and William and Mary (an FCS team). Tech will need to step up their run defense immediately after giving up 465 yards on the ground if they're going to have a shot at beating Boston College.
I mean, this is just terrifying.
Third Down: Defensive Depth Chart Discussions
Courtesy of the Georgia Tech blocking strategy of "sweep the leg", the Hokies defense has a couple glaring question marks on the depth chart as they prepare for Boston College.
DL Jarrod Hewitt went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury on Thursday night. LB Dylan Rivers also suffered an ankle injury against the Yellow Jackets? Coincidence? How dare somebody suggest it. But when asked about those two players' status, the head man didn't reveal much on Monday afternoon.
"I think it'll all be day-by-day with those two guys," explained Fuente. "I don't have any real update. We'll have a meeting today at 5 o'clock where we'll kind of get the latest of those guys. But, if I was filling out a report, I would say it's day-to-day right now. Trying to get them back."
Foster agreed with that assessment on Tuesday, throwing in some additions about who might fill in if Rivers and Hewitt don't take the field Saturday afternoon.
"Hewitt is obviously a big part factor for us," explained Foster. "Being a guy inside that is a most experience guy after Ricky as far as playing inside. I know Vinny has played some inside but not as much as Jarrod. Dylan, obviously, has improved as he's played. We're maybe not as thin at the linebacker spot maybe as we are at the defensive tackle spot. I feel good about Dax Hollifield in Dylan's spot. We'll see where Dylan is. As we move forward I'm anxious to see what he looks like today [Tuesday]. If he can't go, then Jaylen Griffin is a guy that has gotten reps. He's worked with us all fall camp, and stepped in and played a little bit at the very end of the Georgia Tech game. If Dylan can't go, I feel good about Dax, and where he's been. He's gotten a lot of reps under his belt. We'll need him to play very physical and I think that's kind of one of his assets right now. Obviously, his inexperience is a liability at times. But at the same times, he's a guy that's eager and hungry and he'll do a good job.
DB Khalil Ladler will also be on the bench, albeit for just the first half, following his ejection for targeting on Thursday night. NCAA rules state that if a player is ejected in the second half of the game for targeting, that player must also miss the first half of the following game. That's the boat that Ladler is in. So who might replace Ladler for the first 30 minutes?
"You know, we haven't decided actually yet," said Foster. "We've got a couple options that we're looking at. We looked at it a little bit Sunday. We practiced a little bit more on Sunday than we have in the past. We got a couple guys that we're going to look at and see what best fits for us. That's kind of where we are with it right now."
Fourth Down: Eagles FAQ
What has Boston College done so far this season?
Purdue took Boston College to task 30-13, but as evidenced by a whooping of Ohio State, Purdue isn't a terrible team.
The only other stumble for the Eagles came at the hands of a good N.C. State team. The 28-23 defeat against the Wolfpack had a major absence. Dillon didn't travel with the Eagles, nursing an ankle injury. Dillon also didn't play the following week in BC's game against Louisville, but as was established in this column last week, Louisville is a bad football team. The Eagles cruised to a 38-20 victory against the Cardinals, even without Dillon.
Boston College will make the trip to Blacksburg riding high from a comfortable victory against Miami. The Eagles held the Hurricanes scoreless in the second half en route to a 27-14 win. BC amassed 433 yards against Miami's ACC's-best defensive unit. And now that BC offense is heading into Lane Stadium. To play against a defense that is definitely not best in the ACC.
Who's a player not named AJ Dillon that Virginia Tech fans should keep an eye on?
Boston College's starting quarterback Anthony Brown. The redshirt sophomore has thrown for 1,390 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Brown has thrown five interceptions, but four of those came in the Purdue game. The young QB is efficient throwing the ball, completing almost 57.9% of his attempts.
"I really think this an extremely talented football team," noted Foster. "They've been building this for a while now. You've got the Brown kid, he reminds me a lot of Josh Jackson in a lot of ways. He's got a good arm, he's accurate, he's going to take care of the football, he makes good decisions, he's coached very well. I know Scot Loeffler is one of the, in my time, has been one of the outstanding quarterback coaches. I mean, just teaching fundamentals and those type of things. Besides being a coordinator. I think he's done an outstanding job. ... Up front, that's been their strength over the year and their biggest asset. I think that is their strength without a doubt, their starting five up front, and counting their tight end, they're big and physical. They're knocking people off the ball, they're playing as an unit. That gives Brown enough confidence that he can sit in the pocket and make some throws. They're able to run the ball and that takes stress of that quarterback a little bit. They're able to do some play action pass. He's putting the ball in good spots."
Oh boy, there's a non-zero chance that Scot Loeffler beats a Foster-led defense, isn't there?
Uh... yeah. Don't let the memes just be dreams, right?
ducks to avoid the lunch pail
Foster had some high praise for the former Hokie offensive coordinator on Tuesday afternoon.
"Yeah, I mean, obviously he's done somethings that he did here. Particularly with the multiple tight end stuff. That's where they are right now. It looks like, to me, they've expanded the package a little bit more. And you know, him and Steve Addazio, they have a history together. You still see Lefty had Steve's concepts when he was at Florida because they worked together at Florida. Obviously they worked together prior to that at different times. It's Steve's offense, but you also see Lefty's wrinkles and things of that nature. I think, together there, they're a good combination. They're a well coached, disciplined, tough, hard nosed football team. And Lefty is doing a great job. I think he's making some really great calls and being wide open. I think he has the speed at the skill positions that maybe BC hasn't had before. That allows them to maybe take some shots downfield, maybe where they weren't in the past. And that's concerning for me a little bit. They're going to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and then mix it up and take some shots. Or do some double moves. And those are things that we worked against him over the years and going against one another. I have a lot of respect for him and his coaching ability. I know he'll have them ready to play. The bottom line is we have to be ready to go play and go play a physical football game. And a fundamentally sound football game all the way around."
And so I'll leave you with that. Thinking about Loeffler's wrinkles and "things of that nature".
Who wins and why?
Honestly, at this point, flip a coin.
- Fuente-led Virginia Tech teams have responded well after losing. Directly after a defeat, the Hokies' record stands at 7-2 with Fuente at the helm. That gives me confidence to pick Virginia Tech.
- Virginia Tech has allowed 13 rushing touchdowns in their three losses this season. Additionally, in those losses the Hokies are giving up an average of 256 rushing yards in those defeats. That lends credibility to picking BC and their potent rushing attack.
- Ryan Willis already has two 300+ passing yard games. The school record is 4. Gives some hope for the Hokies' offense leading them to victory.
- Boston College starts more seniors on defense than Virginia Tech has on their entire roster. Experience wins out in close games, right? So again, back to picking the Eagles.
So I asked Siri to flip a coin.
Boston College wins on Saturday.