Saturday, September 13, 2008

Football - Jackets Lose @ VaTech

Another game and another week with a game there for the taking. Against Boston College, Georgia Tech took it. Against Virginia Tech, we just couldn't get it done. Georgia Tech loses 20-17 in a heartbreaker that truly could have gone either way.

The keys to the game were crystal clear:


Really, you can stop at this one and have your answer. Dwyer fumbles at the end of the 1st half with a little over a minute to go and the result is 7 points for Virginia Tech. When you lose by 3, that's the difference. Throw in a Josh Nesbitt fumble in the 1st half at the Virginia Tech 33 and you've killed another potential scoring drive. Then you have a Nesbitt INT in the 2nd half that led to a Field Goal. Let's take stock:

Fumble #1 - 3-7 potential points lost -
Fumble #2 = 7 points VaTech
INT #1 = 3 points VaTech

10 hard points for VaTech on turnovers and another 3-7 lost for the Jackets on a potential scoring drive. That's your ballgame.

Last week, Jonathan Dwyer hit the big play with the 43 yard run. This week we missed it..... but it was there. On 3rd down and 7, Josh Nesbitt dropped back and went deep for Roddy Jones. He was wide open, but the ball was overthrown. That was the play. That was the chance. 2:24 on the clock, but it didn't happen this week. Incomplete, and 4th down.

The last Virginia Tech drive was a back-breaker and never should have happened. On 3rd and long, we forced Tyrod Taylor out of bounds, but Cooper Taylor is called for a personal foul, leading with the helmet. Shades of Brady Quinn and the Philip Wheeler (or was it Guyton?) call a few years ago. Technically, Cooper did lead with his helmet to the helmet. Did his helmet hit Taylors? Yeah? However, I can go through the game and show you about 40 plays where guys hit other guys with helmets. Why call that one then? Tyrod Taylor is NOT a QB on that play. He's a running back, and that's how just about every other tackle looks. Also, it wasn't that hard of a hit, and it was the difference in the game. Automatic first down. The next play Michael Johnson gets called for a face-mask, riding Taylor out again. It was "incidental", but there is no 5-yard variety any longer, and it was another 15 yards and a first down.

Johnson's comment on the helmet-to-helmet - "We pushed the quarterback out of bounds and got a helmet-to-helmet call," Johnson said. "Wow. Wow. 17-17 game. Wow."

Johnson's comment on the facemaks - "That," Johnson said, "was a facemask."

Here's the helmet-to-helmet call:

Joshn Nesbitt is going to be soooooo good in this offense. He's such a playmaker. He's also soooo young. My perception is that he made more of the right reads today compared to last week. However, he had some critical turnovers as well. Nesbitt ended the day 5-8 passing for 108 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and 28 rushes for 151 yards, setting a Georgia Tech QB rushing record.

Clearly VaTech had a strategy - #1 stop the dive, #2 - stop the pitch. What's left? Either a pass or a QB run. Well, when you only throw the ball 8 times, that's a lot of QB runs - 28 to be exact. At the end of the game, Josh was drowning in sweat and just trying to catch his breath. Poor guy got run into the ground. You have to wonder if we're going to ride that horse too hard and will he last all season.

He sure is fun to watch though, and to think - he's got 2 more years after this one. I ssoooo wish he had been redshirted last season.

Jonathan Dwyer just couldn't get anything going. VT set up their defense to stop the dive, and they did. Just not much going, and he got tackled hard in the 2nd half and left the game with a back bruise. We'll be watching closely this week to see his status.

Well, strap it on, because there's no conservatism in this guy's playbook. 10 drives - 2 punts. Going for the 2 point conversion even after a 5 yard pentalty backed us up further (which we converted to tie the game). Then going for it on 4th late in the game - although I think with the new clock rules it was probably the right play.

Bottom-line, we play to win. Doesn't mean it's going to work out all the time, but I like the attitude it brings.

If Johnson's not careful, he's going to get a rep as the Coach K of football. He works officials like nobody's business, with quite colorful language.

To my untrained eye, it looked like our interior line once again struggled mightily. Hokie defenders were shooting gaps for much of the game. There were a series of plays in the 1st half where the VT DLman was tackling Nesbitt literally milliseconds after the snap. They shot the gaps and there was nobody on the O-Line that even touched them.

Now, if a team is determined to take away the dive, they can do it. It's then up to the playcalling to adjust. The Hokies did decide to take away the dive, so it's not all the fault of the interior line. However, they just appeared to struggle once again.

There's this notion that fast defenses will kill the triple option. Miami fans think they'll kill us. UGAg fans are sure of it. Many VT fans thought the same thing. Take away the turnovers and we win today. Boston College had the toughest, strongest front 7, but they lacked speed on the edge. We stayed in it and won at the end. Virginia Tech has one of the fastest defenses in the ACC. We put up 386 total yards, including 278 on the ground and fell short by a field goal. Again, this game is ours without stupid mistakes.

Ok, let's be honest - we don't pass much. Yes, when we do, it's downfield and usually for lots of yards. Nesbitt complete 5/8 for 108 yards, which is 13.5 per attempt. Compare that to Tyrod Taylor, who was 9/14 for 48 yards. That's 3.4 per attempt. Big difference, and we're a long bomb to Roddy Jones and a drop by Greg Smith away from even more yards.

Having said that, I'm going to be the first to tread on some touchy territory - questioning the playcalling. I'll preface it by saying the game is about winning - not how you do it. But it just seems like we should throw it more. Nesbitt seems to show a good arm, and he's got guys pretty open most of the time..... I know, I know...... They're open BECAUSE we run it all the time. I get it.

There is another issue - pass protection. You have to have it to throw, and it really wasn't there, so maybe it's not fair. I'll tell you what though - if I'm a WR recruit - I'm watching this game thinking, forget what was said - this is pretty darn close to Navy's offense, with 50/58 plays running. That's 86% and that's Navy territory. Again, I know it's all about winning, and the last thing I should do is start letting these things creep into my subconscious. Can't help it. It's there. Why not throw more? There, I said it.

Greg Smith was in the doghouse coming in. He didn't help himself with a key drop on a long pass right in the breadbasket. The kid's got great talent, but for some reason he just hasn't gotten his head together enough to showcase those skills. However, I believe his best days are yet to come. We haven't heard the last of Greg Smith.

Let's be real - if I told you we would come out of back-to-back road trips against the defending Atlantic Champions and defending Coastal (and ACC) Champions with a 1-1 split and only 3 points from winning both - you would have been pretty happy. Honestly, I just don't feel that down. There's so much to look forward to, and we just played two good football teams tooth-and-nail to the bitter end. We took one by a hair and lost the other one by that same hair.

We are the youngest team in the ACC by far and have frosh and sophs at every skill position. Our players are learning new schemes, plays, blocking techniques, etc, etc, etc. From a big picture perspective, there's every reason to like the direction we are headed, since our downfall today was mistakes that are totally correctable. We didn't get "whooped". We gave Virginia Tech this game. That's an encouraging sign for such a young team.

I have other thoughts, but just no time to explore. Is our D-Line really getting the job done up front? Can special teams go one game without missing a FG or extra point? Can we have a game with all good snap & holds? There's more, but no time.

Good night my friends.