Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Virginia Tech
Watching this game again wasn’t fun. Special teams was the only group that played well. The defense did not play well -- but still kept us in the game. The offense was frustrating. Virginia Tech is a good team. They deserved to win. We were only going to beat them with our best effort. This wasn’t it.
This game raised many questions about our offensive line. Are they overrated? I still don’t think so. This was not their usual dominating performance. They didn’t get much push against the smaller Virginia Tech line. But they held their own and they did not miss their assignments. The only sacks came from Miller missing someone and Porter holding the ball too long. Our running game was rarely effective, but that was more from the safeties and linebackers crashing in to clog the holes. The five starters did their job…a B- effort for them, but enough to win.
The receivers also get a pass. Blackmon and Challenger both had touchdowns on their fingertips, but neither pass was well thrown. I am really disappointed with the play of Chris Miller. I thought he would be a step up from Kashetta, but he hasn’t had a complete game since September. If he is catching the ball well -- like this game -- his blocking suffers. Lester did another one of his one-handed stabs at the ball. Why is no one correcting this? Blackmon's TD was nice. No one else really did much of note. How did we go a whole game without getting the ball to Gonzalez? Unbelievable.
The running backs played well…I guess. There was very little for them to do. Most of the runs were stuffed at the line. L.V. had one of the best plays of the night on a screen pass in the first half. We tried throwing to both in the flats -- nothing came of it.
Porter was really bad. When I rewatch these games the second time around I keep a small log in the corner for the quarterback throws. There are four categories. One is for good passes. One is for bad and I also keep a running total of drops and what I call saves. Saves are passes where the receiver bailed Quinton out of a bad throw. This game was unique from Quinton’s regular pattern. He normally has a lot of “saves” and a lot of “drops.” In this game he had just three saves and one drop. So with the majority of his throws on Thursday he was either crisp or really bad. And this inconsistency is killing us. He was really locked in on his safety valves. And Virginia Tech scouted this well. They really crowded the line and made an extra effort to disrupt our slot receivers and tight ends. When these guys couldn’t get off the jams, Porter was stuck. The wide guys were open on these sorts of plays, but they were rarely looked at. As the night wore on Porter really started to press. On our field goal drive, he took off running on third down well before the play developed. He narrowly got the first, but it wasn’t a heads up play. It was a play a sophomore would make -- not a senior.
I am a broken record on who should be starting, but the pass to Marten on third down should’ve sealed it for the coaches. He had Challenger open on the play but he waited and was flushed from the pocket and then inexplicably threw it to one of his lineman! At this point we were still only down two scores and we had 17 minutes left in the game. It really went down hill for him after that. On the next series he waited and waited and was sacked for the first time. He had a so so pass to Sele. And then he dumped to Miller on 3rd and 19 when he had Lester open on the left. Has he lost faith in Lester? Maybe. But if he has, he needs to tell the coaches. Because never looking Lester's way on 3rd and forever is not helping the team or Quinton.
Next series after the missed kick (and we still had a chance at this point) he took a bad sack, threw a bad pass to Lester and then was sacked again when Miller missed his man. Where is Ryan?
The next series was the bad INT. The game was officially out of reach at that point. Ryan finally came in but it was too little, too late.
Now I’ve been somewhat of Bible apologist this year. This game was his worst of the season. We did some things that worked and then never went back to them. Throwing to the flat didn’t work. Screens did. Yet we only ran one screen and threw to the flats repeatedly. The deep go routes led to a touchdown. Why didn’t we try it more? The power sweep and traps had some success. But we kept running draws. It was really confusing and disappointing. Play calling is a mix of what you do well, what you've scouted and what is working during the game. I don’t think we scouted them particularly well and then didn’t go back to the things that worked. When they were jamming our short routes we should have gone away from it. Terrible game from Bible.
I’ll give Spaz a little more credit than I gave Bible. Just a little. Our defense held them to 23 points. Partly by scheme, partly by hustle, and partly by dumb luck. People were frustrated by our lose, bend but don’t break scheme. We have often used this approach under Spaz. We challenged Vick to stay in the pocket and pick us apart. He did. My frustration came when we didn’t adapt. At what point do they realize -- “Wow. He is a much better passer than his brother.”
Ironically, Vick’s most errant passes came when he was flushed out of the pocket. We sort of realized this and started blitzing more, but their line did a great job picking it up. We also used a good bit of zone blitz. This was really ineffective. We had real breakdowns in coverage. Virginia Tech was going max protect throughout and we had six or more guys in coverage, yet they kept finding the holes.
Virginia Tech gave Kiwi tons of respect. Instead of doubling him, they ran away from him for the whole game. Despite not being 100% he played well. He was covering a lot of ground. He has the size and speed, but his motor might be his biggest asset. The rest of the line did not play well. We depend on them to create pressure. They didn’t. They were more effective stopping the run. Washington and Raji were non factors for long streches.
The starting linebackers played well. Brown was all over the place. Henderson had one of his better games. Toal was a little erratic (he made up for it on special teams). The second team guys were not as effective. They couldn’t stop the run or apply pressure. The coaches must have seen this too, because the second team unit only got spot work instead of their normal long stretches.
The DBs? Eh. They did what they were told. Play lose. And tackle. This was frustrating. Tribble missed a few tackles, but is really coming along with his coverage. When we saw that he could stay with Clowney and the others, why didn’t we adjust and use more tight, man coverage? Williams, Silva and Glasper all had good games tackling. But I still wonder how we have so many holes in our zones.
Special teams: B
This was the surprise of the game. Ayers was great. Our coverage on punts and kickoffs was disciplined and solid. We made our one field goal. Yet this good performance still frustrated me. Why can’t we execute like this every week? I am sure it was a point of emphasis heading into Virginia Tech. Why is it an afterthought the rest of the season? One other point about Special Teams -- Blackmon seems back. He was more aggressive this week than he has been all year. He only broke a few, but I am glad he is making the effort again.
No moral victories for me. We could have stolen this game. Virginia Tech is good, but I don’t think they will win the national championship. Very disappointing. Will we every break through?