I wanted to watch the game again before I posted my thoughts. Naturally, people let their emotions get the best of them after a tough loss, and I think the various threads where people are spouting nonsense is evidence of that. After watching the game, one of the sayings that popped into my head is: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!”
Anyhow, here are some of my thoughts from the game last night:
One Game Does Not Make A Season
Yes, this loss hurts us in the standings. Yes, we should have won it. Yes, we’re in the hole. That said, did anyone think we were going undefeated this season? Was this game not one of the popular choices for a loss before the season began? We’ve got 11 games left to play, and if our defense can play with the same effort and effectiveness for the rest of the season, we have the chance to win EVERY game on our schedule. This is the first game, and our feet are not under us yet…that’s why coaches schedule powder puffs to begin their schedules. We played a VERY GOOD team with a future top 10 pick at QB, on the road, and in one of the toughest stadiums to play in college football. Have some perspective.
Depth Does Not Equal Quality
So we’ve heard it all off-season. This is the most depth we’ve had on our offensive line since CPJ has been here. Yet, last night I saw a lot of whiffs, and inability to cut the DL and LBs down at the line of scrimmage. Even Uzzi, widely regarded as one of the best OGs in the nation, was uneven last night. Nothing against Kidney, there’s something to be said about a walk-on who earns a scholly, but the guy should not be playing ahead of guys CPJ hand picked out of high school. When that happens, I’m skeptical of the “depth” argument.
For an offense based on out flanking the opponent, we’ve got to make sure the perimeter blockers are doing their jobs. Unfortunately, it seemed like the defense was the one doing the out-flanking last night. Can’t tell you how many times the ball went outside the tackle, but there were more defenders in the face of the ball carrier than there were blockers. People keep saying Tevin was missing a lot of reads (not that you would know without knowledge of the playcall anyhow), but go back and look at the tape. How many times did he look up on an option read and see VT defenders surrounding him and his trailer?
More Pop than Bang
We don’t have any “explosive” players on this team right now. Let’s just go ahead and accept that. Our WRs are big and tall, but they are not explosive like Stephen Hill and BeyBey. They don’t have the ability to stretch the field against a defense of VT’s caliber. We had some really good plays, but none of the 30+ yard variety that we’ve seen the past few seasons. It was evident in the plays that did “pop”. Lots of short and intermediate stuff we didn’t see much of the past few seasons. I think the staff knows that, that’s why we saw them working on the short and medium reads underneath to the ABs during the spring. The few times we took a shot down field, our WRs could not get the separation we saw the last four years from Hill and BeyBey.
Third Times the Charm
Statistically, CAG’s defenses have made their biggest improvements in the third year. If last night was any indication, we may have a pretty decent defense this year. One of the things that killed us last year against VT was the TEs and WRs down the middle. Outside of the blown coverage from Jamal Golden on VT’s first TD (more on that later), we never got hit on big plays down the middle like we did last season. Our rushing defense is MUCH improved from last season. VT had a few decent runs, but they didn’t gash us like they did last season, and they pretty much contained Logan Thomas on the ground. Our DL actually played well against the run, and they were neither positive or negative against the pass. Remember, our DL needs to maintain their blocks so the LBs can do their job and bring the pressure from wherever they’re coming from. They did that for the most part. We were able to get Thomas cause him to hurry his throws…and I believe we had about 3-4 sacks on him. You know how many players played on defense last night? About 15 guys. We had no depth on defense last night. VT’s last drive left a lot to be desired from our defense, but that may have been a bit of bad coaching and terrible tackling. Not sure why Groh brought soft pressure and played off so much to let VT get in field goal range. Don’t let that last drive overshadow what the defense did for 95% of the game.
The Good Teams
You know why good teams are good teams? It’s because they take advantage of mistakes by the opposing team and punish them. It happened to us twice. The first was Golden looking into the backfield when he should have been manned up on the tight end. He wasn’t. VT touchdown. The second was Sweeting watching the backfield even though the receiver was 20 yards down the field streaking by him. VT touchdown. That’s what good teams do, and if we play sound defense on those two plays, I’m not sure VT would have been in position to come back.
The Second and Third QB is Always the Most Popular
Outside of “the throw”, Tevin had a pretty good game. We have absolutely no threat outside at the WRs spots, our ABs are new and the one that’s suppose to be our biggest playmaker (Orwin Smith) was hurt half the game. The BBs didn’t really add any value this game. You know what our biggest play from scrimmage was? Tevin’s 22 yard run. He was 10-15 passing (67%), and until “the throw”, he was efficient and made great reads in the passing game. What do you think Vad or Synjyn would have done differently in that situation? Inexperienced, terrible blocking all night, and each one of them have huge negatives to their QB game…you think it would have been pretty in a tight game at a hostile environment for them? If the defense did their jobs for 44 more seconds, the narrative on Tevin is different today. Don’t get me wrong, this is a bottom line business and he should not have made that throw, but if you think things would have been different with either Synjyn or Vad in the game last night you’re either delusional or need someone to blame (or both). Here are some names: Jaybo Shaw, David Sims, Synjyn Days. What do they all have in common? All of them were QBs the GT fanbase all called for to replace the starting QB at one point. We all know why they never did. If a kid is good enough to play, he’d be playing.
…Then Came the Pistol!
There’s a lot of complaints about bringing out the Pistol late in the game. Tevin was doing just fine under center. Had we used the Pistol any sooner, do you really think it would have been any more effective later in the game when we caught VT off guard with it? Defenses adjust. Last I checked, Bud Foster is still one of the best defensive minds in the game…you don’t think he would have adjusted his defense? VT runs the Pistol, so it’s not like it’s something their defense doesn’t see.
The New Guys
We saw a lot of new faces in the starting lineup last night:
Jabari Hunt-Days: Stud. Now we see what all the fuss was about this spring and when he signed. He was subbed out a lot on 3rd downs so Groh might see him as a liability on passing downs, but when he was on the field he was a difference maker.
The ABs: They were great in the passing game, but man did they have a night to forget blocking. Deon Hill will be a good player for us. A few nice runs from Bostic. Godhigh had a nice run on the TD.
The DL: Like I said above, good against the run, neutral against the pass. TJ Barnes held up well, but definitely not the TJ we saw against Clemson. Cross was fantastic. I don’t remember hearing any other names from the DL. They did a fantastic job in OT to keep VT out of the endzone.
Jamal Golden: He is not a safety. Out of position a few times, and didn’t stay with his man on VT’s first TD against us. Was caught looking in the backfield when he should have stayed with the TE. That said, he’s a CB, and was pressed into the safety spot because Holton and Young were out. He’s got better days ahead of him.
Laskey: The one thing that separates Laskey from Perkins is that Laskey plays positive through the first line. Whereas Perkins braces for contact at the LOS, which kills momentum, Laskey looks for contact to explode through at the LOS. We saw it last night, and that’s a big reason he would have been the starter had it not been for strep-throat. Like Golden, better days are ahead for him.
The new coaches: If VT is an indication of our special teams this year, I’ll take it. MUCH better than the past, though we’re still lacking in leg strength from our
kickers. Nothing Walkosky can do about that. Hopefully the stud kicker we have committed will fix that. The work the guys have done with Sisk definitely showed up last night. Our DL didn’t looked too gassed, and they weren’t getting knocked backwards like they have been in the past. Our LBs were everywhere. Definitely good additions to our staff.
Look guys, last night hurt. Big time. But let’s not be irrational about it and blowup the team just because we lost to one of the best teams in the conference and in the nation on the road in our first game. How good is VT? Who knows, let’s watch the season play out. How good are we? Same thing…we still have 11 games to play. There’s A LOT to play for, and VT has a much harder conference schedule than we do. If this is how things are in games 4-6, then yes. Let’s put in guys like Vad and Synjyn and get ready for 2013. By then, we’ll have played a good amount of our conference schedule and we’ll know where we stand. To do it right now would be to give up.