Virginia Tech Football: Alabama Game Immediate Impressions

by hokieg on September 7, 2009 · 14 comments

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beamer saban Virginia Tech Football:  Alabama Game Immediate ImpressionsI’m back to doing off the cuff type posts immediately after Hokie football games, just getting thoughts about the game, players, coaches, opponent, or whatever else out there for you to digest.  In these posts last year, they usually ended up being a laundry list of observations about each game.  However after watching Virginia Tech’s 34-24 loss last night to Alabama, there’s one dominating impression on my mind.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing new.

If you aren’t student (or even if you are) you can probably relate a football team to a business, for example Frank Beamer as the CEO, the assistants being his VP’s or executive team, who are then responsible for ensuring the players (employees) execute on their individual parts of the company (team) so that Frank’s overall strategies are successful.  Well Frank’s got one division of his company, the ‘offense’ division, whose executives can’t always turn a profit.  It’s been this way for years and Frank has to rely on the other divisions to keep the overall company successful.

Look, it’s obvious and consistent, and was perfectly clear in last night’s game:  our offensive coaches are underperformers.  Bryan Stinespring as offensive coordinator takes the majority of responsibility for these deficiencies.  Certainly there could be issues with other coaches, but hey that’s what happens when you’re VP of a division that’s not turning a profit.  You shoulder the blame for the group.

What’s wrong with our offense?  That’s an important question and important point because I don’t think you can point to just play calling, or just scheme, and it certainly isn’t talent (I’m tired of seeing former VT wide receivers ‘surprise us’ when they excel or start for NFL teams).  Using the business theme, last night the Virginia Tech offense looked like a sales team that was completely unprepared for an important sales presentation.  And we’ve had months to prepare. Virginia Tech Football:  Alabama Game Immediate Impressions

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Yeah, I know Alabama’s defense is stellar, and I know our offense has its warts.  But I watch a lot of college football, including a lot of bad teams, and you just don’t see teams underutilize talent on , offense, or be less creative, or simply just not have an ‘identity’ they way the Hokies do.  Our entire strategy from scheme, to game plan, to play calling just doesn’t produce results, despite plenty of talent on that side of the ball.

More specifically:  the ball doesn’t get in playmakers hands.  Dyrel Roberts, Xavier Boyce, Jarret Boykins, Marcus Davis, Danny Coale, Greg Boone (I know he got injured), Andre Smith – where are they?  Stinespring has virtually every top playmaking recruit from the state of Virginia from the last 3 years, and Virginia produces a lot of talent.  But they aren’t put in positions to get the ball and make plays. 

Last night, unless it was a read option to Ryan Williams or a Tyrod Taylor scramble, our playmakers didn’t even test the Alabama skills.  Even bad teams with inferior talent do something with scheme or formation to at least let their best players touch the ball.  With the Hokies, if you take away the run game and the QB scramble, you’ve pretty much got us figured out.

I understand the intricacies of football.  I know Alabama didn’t give Taylor time to throw, Darren Evans was out, yadda yadda yadda.  But was any of that a surprise?  Did we not have in the game plan the screens, quick slants, audibles to the TE, etc. that other teams seem to have that can neutralize a pass rush?  And frankly, our OL wasn’t all that bad last night compared to recent years.  Whatever it was our coaches designed, practiced, and play called just didn’t work, as usual.

As I said, other teams, even if they are bad and don’t have talent, at least have coaches competent enough to use what they have.  All you have to do is look at last night’s opponent.  Was Alabama facing any less of a challenge than us?  A new QB, new OL, loss of best RB, and they were up against Bud Foster’s nasty defense.  That’s not easy, and VT double teamed Julio Jones all night.  The VT defense was very stout against the run for 3 quarters, and forced 9 incomplete passes in a row at one time.  But the Alabama offensive coaches (who are by no means offensive geniuses), did enough coaching to force the ball into their playmaker’s hands:  Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Hanks, Maze, etc.  They got enough touches to let their talent take over and make some plays.

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The preparation, scheme, coaching, etc. to do this seems a foreign concept to the VT Hokie coaches.  Dyrel Roberts best chance to make a play last night was on the kick off team.

The stats will say that last night’s loss was not just Virginia Tech offense, but the 498 yards given up by the defense.  I put very little blame on theme.  Time of possession can be a very misleading stat sometimes, but last night it told the whole story.  Alabama’s 37 to 23 minute advantage is off the charts.  No defense can last 4 quarters when asked to be on the field as much as Bud’s group was last night. 

I thought the Hokie defense kept VT in the game.  They made stops especially after turnovers and held Bama to FGs, got some turnovers, but simply ran out of gas in the 4th quarter.  Why?  The Virginia Tech offense literally had NO sustained drives!  None!  Like I said, the non-profitable division (offense) of this company has become so bad it is affecting the profitable division (defense) of this company.

Alabama plays Florida International next week.  FIU is going to struggle, and lose.  But I’ll be interested to see how many yards FIU puts up on Alabama, and specifically how often TY Hilton (FIU’s main playmaker) gets the ball.  Sigh.

Go Hokies!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott September 7, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Sadly I have to agree. I cannot figure out why we flat out refuse to even attempt screen passes. Alabama blitzed time and time again and just one well-timed screen play to Ryan Williams could have made a huge difference, not just in the potential yards gained but by showing them that we are capable of burning them when they bring pressure. This has been a theme with our offense for years now and I’m really getting sick of it.

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Mike September 7, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Well written. Is it scheme, coaching, etc. Look either be a running team and live and die by it or do something but talented players are going to stop coming to VT because of the offense. Look at the quarterback situation at this time. No matter what happens the rest of the season, everyone will point back to this game. It would be different if the offense could have done anything good.

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hokieg September 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm

You guys are right on. The Hokie fan base has lost complete confidence in the offensive coaching staff. There too much underutilized talent, virtually no sophistication in the offense, and what’s worse, nothing that makes anyone feel like it will get better.

There are schools that would dream to have a talent like Tyrod Taylor and our WRs, TEs, and RBs, and I’m sick of them not being put in a position to succeed until they get to the NFL.

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Jeff s September 7, 2009 at 5:52 pm

My first question is what kind of offense are we? We seem to run a pro style offense. If I’m correct, then why in the hell do we want “dual-threat” qb’s? A pro stle offense needs a qb who ca attack the defense with his arm. Just look at USC. That is the offense we need to study. They run and pass but they leave the running to the rb’s.

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Tom September 8, 2009 at 2:32 am

Tech picks up where we left off last season with very good defensive and special teams play, but again appears to be woefully inadequate on offense. Bama is one tough defensive football team and they presented a heck of a first game test. The Hokies hung tough and appeared to be in a position to win the game through 3 quarters of football. Like so many years in recent history, our offense just wasn’t there. Most discouraging about this loss is a problem that has plagued us over the past several years-poor offensive play calling and failure to execute. Plays called never permitted Tyrod to develop any rhythm with the short passing game. Passing plays called were eerily similar to the long balls thrown against Kansas in the 2007 Orange Bowl that resulted in nothing. Tyrod’s ability to throw the football does not appear to have progressed beyond last year and the coaches have apparently forgotten about his playmaking ability with his legs. Lack of a productive offense, incompetent play calling and the inability to develop a 5 Star high school athlete into a serviceable quarterback will severely limit the success of this football team. It’s ridiculous to be in this situation year after year. It’s time Beamer and Weaver act responsibly and put the good of the program first and get an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who can install a legitimate offense. Time’s up, if they can’t or won’t do this, they should be shown the door.

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David DeCorte September 8, 2009 at 2:41 am

VT offensive coaching failed on two accounts: game plan and play calling.

Game Plan: Bama runs a 3-4 defense with a lot of lateral speed. You can’t run wide on them and you can’t run plays that take time to develop. The weakness of any 3-4 defense is the lack of the extra big body up front. With their big, experienced offensive line, VT should have lined up in the I-formation with both of their massive tight ends and just run straight ahead between the tackles. Once the running game is establish, use play action to throw downfield. The VT game plan Saturday night played directly into the strength of Bama’s defense.

Play Calling: This game reminded me too much of the 2007 losses to LSU and Kansas. Just as in those games, Bama was consistently blitzing. And just like those games, VT made no adjustments to counter the blitz. All Stinespring needed to do was watch Bama. They effectively countered VT’s pressure with screen passes. VT didn’t throw a single screen pass the entire game. You can’t blame Tyrod Taylor if on every play he has to dodge a linebacker before he can even look upfield.

You also can blame the offensive performance over the past few years on a lack of talent. As the NFL season starts next weekend, two 2007 VT receivers, Eddie Royal and Josh Morgan, are starters, and a third receiver from that team, David Clowney, is a backup.

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hokieg September 8, 2009 at 2:58 am

Tom, David-
both made good points. I saw Justin Harper getting a lot of time at WR for the Ravens as well.

You just get the feeling our offense coaches are easy to out-smart. They can’t out-game plan you, can’t react to what you are doing, can’t exploit your weakness, and don’t get the most out of their players.

I still content you give our talent to most average OCs in the major conference, and they would have tremendous success. Tyrod Taylor should be a superstar with his talent in his 3rd year of playing.

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Tony September 8, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more, and you have captured my exact thoughts. The Hokie coaching staff had months to prepare a game plan (apparently the Hokie Offensive Coordinator watched game film from a Pop Warner team and mistook it for Alabama’s defense), which at half time needed to be adjusted based on what was learned the first half. What separates the men from the boys is being able to admit your game plan stinks at halftime, and re-write the script based on what you learned from the first half. It was clear to me that the Alabama game plan was simple: Wear out our defense, and double or triple the time of possesion. It’s also clear to me that until we can focus on the basics, we won’t beat a top 5 team. Once again, Bud Foster’s gang was called upon to keep us in the game, while our inept offense went flacid. Why can’t we play smash mouth football to keep the other team’s defense on the field longer than the offense? Look at the talent pool we have. It’s clear to me the problem is not the troops, it’s the Commanders.

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Jorts! September 8, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Great post, well said, and very true.

Want to add how much I detest having to use my DVR to try and disect how aweful our offensive schemes are after each and every play.

I truely miss the downhill style of offense we once had. It works. Screen passes, quick slants, reads and adjustments even within the schemes we have are also void. Something has to be done. I’d be happy if it’s done THIS WEEK as opposed to the off season.

Despite all the games we’ve won past few years, watching this offense play is not fun. Thank goodness for Bud Foster and his Defense. Without them, Hokies would be entirely off of the national radar – which we need to stay on top of.

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kent olson September 8, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Has anybody ever asked Frank Beamer. “If you were the Offensive coordinator and not the Head coach how would you have changed the play-calling, adjustments at half time, game plan, etc. to take advantage of our strengths (quickness and raw talent), minimize our weaknesses (OL Domination) and beat Alabama or other top 10 teams?” We belong in that same group. Did anybody notice that the Sportcasters seemed to know what plays we were likely to run before we actually ran them? Are we that predictable that someone studying our team for a couple of days could make such accurate assestments? Change is necessary!!!

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paul harper September 11, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Comparing sprots coaching to businees management has many correlations, and I agree with the lack of VP skills directing the O, but lets be clear (kinda Obama like huh), in the last 5 years, in virtually every game Tech has lost, except for the thrashing by LSU,the point difference can be attributed to either special teams turnovers, or complete lack of sideline / in game coaching skills when things are not going well. If Tech ever has hopes of getting to the big dance, Beamer needs to give up the media hyped value of Beamer Ball- it has not existed in years – get a special teams coach, and learn how to counter punch from the sidelines. Next time Tech take the field against a real team coached by a real coach, try to see the fangs in the eyes of that coach who knows the lamb is just 52 yards away. Dont get me wrong- I want to tech to win as much as anybody, but at some point, if you want to dance big, you need to coach big.

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Steve September 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I guess holding calls aren’t called against SEC players this year, especially when SEC teams play quality teams outside this overrated conference. The SEC team of officials didn’t have a problem calling a very questionable holding call or calls against Tech during key ponis in the game, a game that we went into the lead with in the fourth quarter. I also never saw “double holding” where two offensive lineman actually grabbed and held one defensive lineman at the same time before. Thats not even done in the NFL, let alone at the college level. Alabama offensive lineman also made some creative tackles on Tech defensive lineman during this one too during pass rushes.

This game was vintage “SEC home cooking”. I guess SEC teams also don’t play quality teams outside of SEC venues and/or without SEC officials either. I guess it is also OK in the SEC to allow your defensive team captain to put his hands on officials as well after making a blind cheap shot against another player not even involved in the play. Horse collar tackles aren’t permitted usually either, but Bama players didn’t understand that as well as these blatantly biased officials.

Tech really didn’t play well enough to win this game, as the actual offensive stats and time of possession indicated. However, the SEC “home cooking principle” held true, to assure we couldn’t walk away with a victory. But this is actually good exposure for the Virginia Tech football program because you have to be aware of things like the “SEC home cooking principle” if you are going to complete for a National Championship. I say “Tide”, lets play in Blacksburg next year with neutral officials and we’ll see how you roll.

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