Taking the pulse of the program

This innocuous tweet from @Beamer_Ball (Frank Beamer’s personal website) set of a firestorm of reaction from the Hokie faithful:

Pretty safe to say that Hokie fans are not too happy with the results of the last two games.

They are who we thought they were…

… and we let ’em off the hook! Ohio State is a good team. ECU is a good team (they just hung 70 on UNC). GT not so much. They’re a decent team and they’ll probably go bowling this year. But they are not the type of team the Hokies should be losing to. They have a decent offense paired with a woeful defense. However, the Hokies did just enough to give the Jackets the game.

Going into this season I was concerned that Michael Brewer may be a bit too much of a gunslinger. When I say gunslinger, I mean like a Brett Favre-type who completes a lot of passes but also throws a lot of interceptions. In the first two games, it looked like he walked the line just right. He threw a couple of passes into tight windows and lived to tell about it. In this game, his fortunes changed dramatically and it cost the Hokies the game. Here’s hoping that he can reign-in his gunslinger mentality a bit and learn to make better decisions.

Michael Brewer took a lot of grief from Hokie fans during and after the game. One thing everyone needs to remember is that he is a first-year starter and will make mistakes. Overall, I think he moves this offense as well as anyone has since Tyrod was behind center. I think we’re just going to have to deal with the bumps in the road until his decision making improves and gets more comfortable playing at this level.

Looking back on the game, the defense played excellent. The Hokies gave up 2 TDs and 2 FGs. One of their TDs came by way of a pick-six. That’s par for the course as far as how Hokies normally play against the Jackets. But that pick six was a killer. Giving up 20 points should be enough to win the game and would’ve been on Saturday if not for the mistake from the QB.

The two aspects of the game that I think lost the game for the Hokies were not being able to run the ball consistently and Michael Brewer’s stat line. As I said in my preview, GT was giving up 216 ypg and 5.9 ypc. The Hokies only finished with 127 yards rushing (3.8 ypc). The Hokies had a great opportunity to establish the run game in this game. GT wasn’t able to stop the run against the likes of Wofford, Tulane and Georgia Southern. Not exactly a murderers row of opponents. This game makes me think the Hokies will struggle to run the ball all year unless the offensive line makes some huge strides in the coming weeks.

This post is not meant to bash Michael Brewer. I like the kid’s moxie and I think he will end up being an excellent QB and leave us with a lot of great memories in 2014 and 2015. But for this game, his stat line ended up being 28 for 39 (good!), 297 yards (good!), 0 TDs, 3 INTs (very, very bad!). I would love to see the Hokies be able to establish the run and take some of the pressure off of Brewer’s shoulders but like I said in the last paragraph, I don’t see that happening. I think what we saw from the offense is what we’re going to have to get used to for the rest of the season. Some days, Brewer is going to be great! Some days he’s not going to be so good.

I predicted before the season that the Hokies will end up going 8-4 during the regular season. I’m sticking to that. I still think they are going to lose two more in ACC play but I think overall, they end up with a pretty good record and challenge for that division title. I think it’ll end up being one of those years where the division winner goes 5-3 in conference and goes to the ACCCG by way of a tiebreaker. Luckily, I don’t think that tiebreaker will be against GT so take care of business against Pitt and UNC and I think we’ll be in good shape.

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

There are definitely some concerns going into this game. The Hokies starting DTs are banged up which is a bad thing when facing a Georgia Tech team that loves to give it to their B-back going right up the middle of the defense. In the past, VT’s ability to defend that part of the option has limited what GT has been able to do on the ground. It’s also a concern that the Hokies will have a new LB corps going into this game. Last year, they had an advantage with a couple of guys on the field who had seen this offense multiple times. For Clarke, Williams and DiNardo, it will be the first time they’ve played against it. All of this makes me think GT will put up more points than we’re all used to. Last year, they scored 10 and 17 the year before.

On offense, this is the game where Hokies need to be able to run the ball. GT has not been able to stop anyone on the ground (216 ypg, 5.9 ypc). If the Hokies can’t move the ball on the ground against this defense, they’ve got some serious issues. This is a game where they need to lean on the running game with McKenzie and Williams and let them carry the offense to victory.  If they can move the ball consistently on the ground, the Hokies should be able to outscore the Yellow Jackets.

Originally, I was thinking the Hokies would win by around 10 or 11. The more I look at the situation at DT and LB, I’m thinking this game will be closer than that (this game is always a close game). Expect a lot of trouble from Zach Laskey (FB) up the middle and expect former Alabama DB commit Justin Thomas (QB) to break a couple of long runs. Ultimately, I think the Hokies will do just enough on defense and the offense will be able to score consistently enough throughout the game that the Hokies win by a TD in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 21

Georgia Tech Q&A with ACC blogger Jeffrey Fann

You can follow Jeffrey @TalkinACCSports on twitter.

What are your thoughts on Georgia Tech so far this year?

After three games we know who Georgia Tech is. Solid on offense, dreadful on defense. Justin Thomas is the best dual threat QB [Paul] Johnson has ever had.

DeAndre Smelter at WR has NFL ability, and there is good depth and quality talent at RB. The problem with this team is defensively. They are awful. The defensive line is thin and inexperienced.

There just isn’t much talent to speak of anywhere on defense. Johnson has not recruited well there.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

 From the Georgia Tech side, I think you have to hope the defense gives you something/anything on defense. Georgia Tech will be able to move the ball, and Virginia Tech will be surprised at the raw speed Justin Thomas has at QB. Think Tevin Washington but a much better athlete.

I think Georgia Tech’s defense will cure what ails inconsistent Virginia Tech offense. There won’t be much of a pass rush from the front 4.

Is your team featuring any new players or running any different schemes that we haven’t seen in the past?

Actually, Georgia Tech will run more traditional triple option than you saw last year. No more pistol, no more shotgun. Paul Johnson is going back to his bread and butter. We’ve already mentioned Justin Thomas. He’s young, but he is a 4 star talent, that was recruited to play DB at Alabama. This is his first year starting, and he has a ton of potential.

Georgia Tech elite return man Jamal Golden returns this year missing 2013 with injury.

What is your prediction for the game?

Georgia Tech’s only chance in this game and in most games the rest of the year is dominate the time of possession. The Jackets need to hold the ball at least 35 minutes and keep their defense off the field. If Georgia Tech’s offense can’t dictate the tempo of this game it could become a route. That said Thomas hasn’t seen anything close to the defensive talent the Hokies will bring. I expect Foster to try and bring pressure much the way he did against Ohio State.

It’s not a good recipe for the Jackets especially playing what should be a a really mad group of Hokies. I’m seeing 28-14, 31-17 type game in favor of Virginia Tech.

Grading the unis – ECU game

Helmet: B+

It’s exactly what it should be for Military Appreciation day. The VT is there but it is also honoring America and our Armed Forces with the waving flag motif. I like what they did with this helmet and with all the tacky helmets we’ve had over the years, this one was a pretty good effort.

Jersey: B

I like that we didn’t feel like we had to do a new jersey for this game. I feel like this uni would have looked bad if we tried to apply the waving flag motif to the jersey too. I like that we switched up the helmet but left the rest of the uni largely the same.

Pants: B

Would be an A if they had gone with the O&M stripes on the side.

Overall: B

They did a solid job putting this uni together. Significant improvement from the atrocities we’ve put out there the last couple of years. I hold to the fact that we should only ever wear maroon jerseys at home (no white, no orange). We lost to JMU wearing white at home. We lost to ECU wearing white at home. I’m over it. Let’s find a way to support the military and/or Herma’s reader while wearing maroon.

Momentum and how it swings – The ECU story

There were two key plays in the game that clearly swung momentum and were critical to the outcome. One play was at the beginning of the game. One was near the end of the game. The first was 3rd and 2 from the Virginia Tech 27 yard line when Shane Carden went back to throw and the ball was batted up in the air and was caught by ECU’s Jimmy Williams and taken 22 yards for the first down. If that ball had been batted down, ECU is in a situation where they probably attempt a 50-50 FG and there is no major shift in momentum. Two plays after the batted ball, ECU scored a TD, once again to Williams and the offense kicked it into high gear. By the end of the 1st quarter, ECU was up 21-0.

Luckily, over the course of the next three quarters, the defense clamped down and the offense found its rhythm to tie the game at 21-21 with 1:20 left in the game. That’s when Joey Slye kicked the ball out of bounds. Before that, all of the momentum was on the Hokies side but once that ball sailed out of bounds, the Hokies momentum was on life support. And lo and behold, ECU quickly marches down the field not for a game winning FG, but they went ahead and put it all the way in the endzone. Fairly easily, in fact. And that was that. Game. Set. Match.

Overall, I felt like the Hokies played fairly well. Seriously. ECU made A LOT of plays in the first quarter but those plays were mostly made against tight coverage. Great throws. Even better catches. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap. And on offense, going into this year, we all knew that the offense was going to continue to be a work-in-progress with so many young players. Unfortunately, going on long scoring droughts is not going to be uncommon for this team. I’m proud of the way the Hokies fought back but sometimes the ball simply does not bounce your way and on Saturday it did not bounce the Hokies way.

Tip your cap to ECU. That’s a really good team. Possibly the best in the state of North Carolina. They beat us fair and square and are likely on their way to a 9 or 10 win season. The Hokies will learn from their mistakes and get better as the season progresses. It’s just one non-conference loss and hopefully it will propel the Hokies to accomplish great things in ACC play.

ECU Game Prediction

If ECU were in the ACC, they’d be a middle of the pack team and would probably finish fourth in either division. ECU will definitely give the Hokies a test but the offense should be able to move the ball against their defense both on the ground and through the air. Look for the Hokies to have a balanced attack just like they did against Ohio State. Shane Carden (QB) and Justin Hardy (WR) will be a challenge for the defense but I think the Hokies have enough talent in the secondary to limit their passing attack. Ultimately, I think the Hokies come ready to play after the big win at Ohio State and they are able to beat ECU in a relatively close game.

Prediction: VT 28, ECU 17

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