Second viewing thoughts and grade report: ACC Championship Game
After the game a bunch of people asked “are you really going to watch that one back?” The losses suck to rewatch but I am glad I watched this one again. In person, I felt we lost in all aspects of the game. The second viewing confirmed that, only the second time around I realized some of my initial impressions were off (I felt the WRs were bad Saturday; they weren’t that bad when I watched it back) and made me realize which groups were also part of the problem (both lines).
Davis’ first half was very promising. He made good decisions and good throws and moved the ball. I didn’t log one bad throw on my charting from the first two quarters. In the second half, as our game plan shifted (I’ll get to that later), he struggled. In my charting I gave him 10 bad throws (the WRs dropped five passes). He was best throwing on rollouts and with a moving pocket. What frustrated was that he could make some really nice, sharp throws (like the big gainer that Gunnell fumbled and the TD). Yet he’d float or force other passes. The other area that hamstrung the offense was his hesitation and ineffectiveness on running plays. Because he struggled, the zone option read was neutralized. He also didn’t exploit big plays out of the more traditional option. Later in the game when VT went prevent, Davis looked better moving around and had a big gain. At the end of the day, Davis played like a freshmen on a big stage. He wasn’t very good but I don’t think you can read much into his future based on this one day. Let’s hope he builds on this day like Ryan did after the 2004 Syracuse game.
I only need to focus on Harris in the running backs reviews because he was the only running back who played. It was a heroic effort on his part. 160 total yards and on nearly everyone he took a hard hit and kept driving. The kid’s second efforts are very impressive. Harris also did a much better job of blitz pick up. He was our offensive MVP yesterday.
Coming out of the stadium, I felt the WRs let Davis down and were a big part of the problem. Watching back, I realized they had problems but weren’t as bad as I perceived. In total they dropped five balls. Gunnell also had the costly fumble. Despite the fumbled Gunnell played well. Robinson won some one on one battles and made some good runs after catches. However, Robinson failed to pull in a slant near the endzone that VT picked to finally ice the game. Jarvis made some tough catches. Larmond got involved for the first time in a while. He was effective in finding open spots. Anderson’s one handed grab was nice. Purvis spent most of the day blocking and didn’t even get thrown to.
The offensive line carried the team down the stretch. Their struggles yesterday were the root of many of BC’s problems. They weren’t able to control the line of scrimmage on run plays, forcing Davis to chuck it. Also they had some breakdowns in pass blocking as the game progressed. The guy with the most problems was Lapham. Their speed caused problems for him on the edge. Castonzo also got beat twice on moves from the VT DEs. The interior guys were a little more effective. Ramsey was very good without noticeable mistakes. Tennant got beat on one of the Davis sacks, but he was awesome on the screens. Tennant is so good moving downfield on screens that it should be one of our featured plays next year. Claiborne was good. Sheil and Richman got in for Lapham late. Sheil got beat and called for holding. Richman looked fine (but it was garbage time).
I felt Logan called a decent game. I think our staff planned for a ball-control game and then had to adjust as the Hokies unexpectedly started scoring with ease. I feel the mistake Logan made was putting too much faith in the Davis’ strong passing in the second quarter. We got the first possession of the second half down 14-7. We kept throwing with only a smattering of run to keep them honest. I think if he had stuck with the run a little longer we could have kept the Hokies off balance and put Davis in better positions. Once we got down three scores, he had to throw. My criticism then was that we kept huddling and eating time. I know a comeback at that point is a long shot and you have a raw QB, but you’ve got to go hurry up/no huddle. Overall there was a lot of smoke in mirrors (raw QB, 1 RB) and we were going up against a good D and a good Defensive Coordinator. While at BC, Logan has already turned a lot of lemons into lemonade. Saturday there were no miracles or magic.
Outside of Raji, the defensive line struggled and looked sluggish. Ramella, Newman, and Giles all missed tackles or got pushed off the line repeatedly. Brace was limited and didn’t play much of the first half. Scafe got most of the snaps in his place and wasn’t as impactful as Brace usually is. As I said, Raji was the best of the bunch but not as dominant as he’s been. The whole group got pushed repeatedly on VT’s stretch plays. They also didn’t generate much pressure on Taylor. How many times did Giles, Newman and even Raji get a hand on Taylor only to watch him escape? Willette and Ramsey weren’t involved as much. (Credit also to VT for using the end around as a decoy. It kept our ends from crashing down on the real runners.)
The linebackers as a group had their roughest day since UNC. Francois missed tackles and was out of place throughout. McLaughlin, who we needed to stop the run up the middle, was a step off and also missed tackles. Herzy played well but struggled at times. He got eaten up on blocks a few times as WRs and backs chopped him at the knees. He also let Taylor slip by him a few times.
The DBs were actually better than the front seven. The longest pass allowed was for only 14 yards. They did a decent job in stopping the run as the front seven was getting gashed. Bowman played very well. Davis was good. Anderson had the pick. Rollins looked good. Fletcher recovered from his rough week against Maryland. Gause had some hard hits.
I don’t think Spaz called a bad game necessarily. I actually think most of our problems were in execution. We didn’t win the battles at the line like we have all year. The linebackers weren’t as steady as they have been. The secondary had a pick but couldn’t change the complexion of the game because what was happening up front. I also give Spaz credit for making adjustments that worked. Although we didn’t shut them down, we did slow them a bit in the second half. My one gripe is that we didn’t blitz (or even run blitz) much as the game wore on. Why not take a risk or two once VT has shown they can move the ball on us?
Special Teams: C-
VT’s early advantage was due in part to good field position. And we gave them good field position through special teams.
The kickoffs had decent distance and hang time. The coverage wasn’t very good with the exception of a kick they bobbled.
Quigley’s punts were shallow for most of the day. Flutie placed his punts fairly well…we just couldn’t keep it out of the endzone.
Virginia Tech had good punts that either kept it out of bounds and away from Gunnell or led to an obvious fair catch situation.
Beating a team twice in one year is tough for a reason. You’ve been exposed (good or bad) and are left to adjust and anticipate what your familiar opponent is going to try. I think the VT coaches deserve credit for adjusting their rushing game and gashing our defense like few other have this season. Beamer’s guys also slowed our rushing game and put it all on Davis’ shoulders. As we adjusted and tried to take advantage of some of the throwing lanes, they then adjusted in the second half and came after Davis. The other bit of criticism our coaches deserve is the emotional aspect of the game. I concede that this is more subjective but our guys just seemed out of it early on. And once things got going, we couldn’t capitalize in the second half. It wasn’t our day and with it all on the line, that leaves a bad taste.