Sunday, December 07, 2008

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).

Offense: C-

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.

Defense: C+

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.

Overall: C-

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.


The Big Guy said...

After all we dealt with this year, losing the best QB in college football, our two starting RBs, and several key defenders while suffering a rash of injuries that would of crippled many teams (Albright, Toal, Megwa, Crane, etc...) and consistently having to watch the worst kicking program in the country, we should be very proud of this season. Very, very few people if any expected to even get to the ACCCG, let alone win it. Jags and his staff deserve a ton of credit.

While the team didn't play great on Saturday, you can't blame the coaching or the players. Your not suppose to win a BCS berth with a freshman QB making his second start. It just doesn't happen. We got beat by the better team - plain and simple.

Hats off to a great season and heres to keeping the bowl winning streak alive.

Deacon Drake said...

The only objection I have is that the defense gave away free conversions by being too aggressive. Tech made enough plays to win the game regardless, but their first 17 points all could have been reduced to a couple field goals.

1. 3rd and goal, Taylor drops back, 4 man rush, Taylor holds, brings the ball up, Giles jumps, Taylor pulls the ball down and walks into the endzone. If Giles stays on his feet, Taylor either has to throw the ball away or roll back and away from Giles and Raji.

2. 3rd and goal, Taylor drops, 5 man blitz, McLaughlin splits the middle, forcing Taylor to begin rolling right. McLaughlin dives, Taylor is able to stop, turn the ball up the field, and make an incredible play to score. If McLaughlin gives chase instead of diving, odds are Taylor throws the ball away or is forced toward the sideline for a short gain.

3. 3rd and 9, near midfield, Taylor drops, 4 man rush, all three LBs drop. Taylor eventually forced to scramble, 4 defenders await short of the first down, but Herzlich come flying in like a bat out of hell, blows outside containment, Taylor gets 18 yards.

They also broke their bigger runs on weakside cutbacks, almost as if their o-line had anticipated being beaten, allowed the line to over pursue, then sealed the weakside.

The run defense improved with Scaife in and Brace out... I think Brace was running at about 70% on the bad ankle.

Still a tough game to sit through.

Anonymous said...

I want to preface this comment with the statement that I'm proud of the team and I feel the season was a great accomplishment for the coaches and players.

I do, however, think that our team was outcoached yesterday by Beamer and Foster. Pretty badly. There's lots to say but I'll cut it down to 2 main points:

1. Defensively: Both of VT's first half TD's woud likely have been prevented if Spaz had put a spy on Taylor. With the LB's playing well off of our front 4 this wouldn't have been much of a sacrifice. It was apparent quite quickly that VT was not going to throw the ball down the field, and therefore Taylor was always going to be looking to run. This oversight was huge, and there was no adjustment.

2. Offensively: Va Tech came out with an offensive plan to counter their inability to throw downfield against the ball-hawking BC defense. They ran lots of counter running plays to take advantage of our agressive over pursuit, and - when they did throw - they made sure that Taylor never had to make throws beyond his capabilities. Particularly noticeable were the many quick throws to the WR's when BC corners gave a big cushion.

BC, in contrast, didn't seem to have much planned in the way of making a big game against a top defense easier for a freshman qb against Davis. I wouldn't quibble with Logan's calls if this had been Crane playing, but with Davis in there I would have liked to see more safety valves for the pass plays and more misdirection on the running plays.

Congrats to VT for a great game though and best of luck to BC againsy Vandy.

Big Jack Krack said...

Deacon Drake - great points about the over pursuit and over aggressiveness.

Anonymous - good points. However I didn't realize until well into the game that Akins was out - hence no "spying" on Taylor, or if there was, I didn't notice it. As I recall, Akins did a nice job during the first game.

The injury thing caught us again for sure. No excuses, but the past two seasons have been ridiculous.

I'm very proud as well, Big Guy. Let's win big in Nashville. It is what it is - so let's do it right.

MadJay said...

Excellent effort by BC. Your team always plays hard and they play clean, hard-hitting football the way it was meant to be played. I saw some of the hardest hits of the year in our two games against BC.

You are right that it was the WAY too long decision making on the QB read plays that killed your run game and it was the QB not setting his feet on throws that killed your passing game. Once that QB learns the game, he is going to be pretty tough as he is big and strong and relatively quick for his size.

As far as defense is concerned, I hope Herzlich is leaving for the NFL. What a beast that guy is. Raji as well, as he is nearly unblockable one-on-one. I still can't believe the Hokies didn't use the tight end to expose the seams in your pass coverage but our offensive coordinator is shit. And those that are saying spy Taylor, that is basically a requirement and sometimes even if you do spy him he is a pretty amazing playmaker so some credit is due to him.

All-in-all, I think BC is going to WAX Vanderbilt and if you get better play from your QB next season, I'd expect BC to be right there battling for the ACC title again. Hopefully against my Hokies!!!


Jeff said...

Good assessment overall, but you focused primarily on us - it's worth pointing out that VT seemed like a very different team from the one we met halfway through the season. This was a complete team, which executed well in all phases of the game. Tough loss to a quality opponent.