As Tech moves forward from last night's difficult defeat, we take a look at the good and bad performers. If you think about it, what we ended up witnessing last night was a good old-fashioned defensive struggle between two well-coached disciplined teams. It was not a heavily penalized or turnover-prone game. The difference was they made the biggest plays when they needed to. At first glance, as a Tech fan I would be very pleasantly surprised by the play of the defense, special teams, and a short-range passing game. Conversely, the lack of timing by the offense and inexperience in key positions was sadly evident.
In honor of one of my favorite actors, directors, and convention speakers...I present to you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from last night's game after the jump...
Tevin Washington - Yes, I'm aware he threw the game-changing interception. However, you have to look a great overall game of managing the offense and making big plays when they counted. Tevin had 19 rushes for 63 yards (including a 22 yard scramble on the final drive), as well as 10-15 for 96 yards (pinpoint on the final drive as well) for 1 TD 1 INT on the night. Most importantly, until the overtime period he took care of the ball with no turnovers. Accept it or not, he kept us in the game and should have been the hero had the game ended in regulation.
Special Teams - When was the last time you could ever remember Tech's special team's outplaying anyone...let alone VPI's? Whether it's related to the coaching hire of Dave Walkosky or not, we witnessed solid, competent special teams play. With the kickoff moved up to the 35, David Scully took advantage and booted 2 of his 4 kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks. The punt coverage unit downed one inside the 5, and could have had another downed at the 1 if NFL rules were in effect (unfortunately college treats the endzone as a plane for touchbacks). And lastly, the FG was taken with confidence and hit dead-center.
The Front 7 - Who knew? Much maligned after the 2011 season, the DL and LB's combined to hold VPI's rushing attack to only 3.7 YPC (held Logan Thomas to 2.7 YPC) which also included 9 tackles-for-loss (TFL). After early success with their own spread option and pistol looks, the Tech defense locked down the Hokies on the ground. In addition, they pestered Logan Thomas with 2 sacks (shared by Jeremiah Attaochu, Brandon Watts, and Izaan Cross) and 3 QB hurries. Jabari Hunt-Days (JHD) acquitted himself nicely in his debut with 9 tackles. The 3rd down% was much better in this game versus the last few games of 2011, and VPI was forced into several 3rd-and-long yardage situations.
The Pistol - In the 2nd half (especially the last drive) CPJ brought out the Pistol formation, which you could sense gave Tevin a much clearer ability to read the defense and deliver throws. As stated above, Tevin was 5-6 for 33 yards and a TD on Tech's last drive in regulation. I would prefer to see fewer dump-offs to the A-Backs, as VPI had those covered all night for minimal-to-no gains.
The Secondary - Already thin from injuries heading into last night without Louis Young (suspension) and Fred Holton (injury), the Secondary had a particularly tough night. Though the defense as a whole held Logan Thomas to 55% completion, giving up a 23 yard gain on 4th and 4 on VPI's last drive is inexcusable. This is the play, you could argue, that lost the game. Rod Sweeting, while having some positives (tackling VPI's punter on the botched snap) cost the Jackets on two significant plays in the 4th quarter. The first was controversial. Logan Thomas, who was not very sharp in this game, slightly overthrew Dyrell Roberts and as the ball was drifting away...Sweeting delivered a clean, jarring hit. However, the referees deemed the ball uncatchable and the play resulted in an Unnecessary Roughness personal foul...moving the Hokies to midfield on a drive that ultimately resulted in a missed FG. The second, Rod Sweeting just got burnt and stared too long into the backfield and couldn't recover on the 42-yard TD pass to Demitri Knowles.
B-Backs - The trio of David Sims, Zach Laskey, and starter Charles Perkins could only muster a paltry 3.3 YPC, continuing the trend of no explosiveness from the position (the longest B-Back gain was 8 yards). Of course, their fortunes are directly tied to the...
Offensive Line - Against an experienced and healthy VPI unit, quite possibly maybe the best defense in the ACC, missed blocks and the inability to hold blocks on rushing plays was evident as Tevin often had no place to go on option plays other than to fall forward. For all the preseason hype about he OL being the deepest and most experienced position group, they did not live up to it Monday night. A positive takeaway, however, is the slightly improved pass protection that provided Tevin more time (than past seasons) to find a receiver.
The WR unit - The inexperience showed . By my count, only 4 balls thrown to them all night. Furthermore, the edge game of pitches and sweeps was continuously broken up by VPI's CBs shooting through to the LOS unblocked by the WRs. All in all, a very bad showing albeit against possibly the best Secondary Tech may face this year.
The Uniforms - but not in the way you think. I liked the uniform design, the nest theme, and the way it looked on TV. The helmets with the gold stripe and lettering and nest background are fantastic. The jerseys were obviously rushed to the production floor, as the back of the jersey (the name area) looked quite unfinished. Perhaps Russell can take more time and present a more finished product in 2013, but it's definitely positive that they are adopting a mix-and-match strategy (much like Oregon and Maryland). I would like a darker Navy blue numbering, but this type of visual texture is a great way to keep Old Gold on the uniform.
What do you think of last night's game. Are you hopeful or pessimistic for the next 11 games?