I walked into SB Ballard Stadium Friday night feeling rather confident, as despite Virginia Tech’s thin roster and brand-new coaching staff, I figured Brent Pry and Co. could overcome that and escape Norfolk with a win.
I left SB Ballard Stadium Friday night envying those fans that stayed home.
At least they could get to bed sooner.
For the second time in two trips, Virginia Tech returned to Blacksburg with a loss at the hands of the Old Dominion Monarchs. From my seat in the stands, this year’s defeat seemed less to do with a thin roster and more to do with coaching and preparation.
The only proper place to begin is with the turnovers, of which Virginia Tech committed five. None were as brutal as the poor snap from Enzo Anthony on a field goal attempt that sailed well past midfield. Peter Moore, the holder, attempted to fall on the ball, but instead caused it to bounce off the ground, allowing Old Dominion to scoop and score, forever changing the complexion of the game.
Other turnovers included four interceptions from Grant Wells, three of which were backbreaking. Wells’ first came well inside his own territory, directly leading to three points for the Monarchs. The second came just outside the red zone on an apparent miscommunication and the third on a dropped pass by Jalen Holston.
While the turnovers might be the dry meat and undercooked potatoes in Virginia Tech’s 20-17 loss, the penalties represent a bitter, watery gravy. The Hokies committed a whopping 15 penalties for 106 yards, many of which came at critical junctures.
My friend and Hokie Hangover pal Mike McDaniel noted after the game that eight of Virginia Tech’s penalties were procedural, which falls directly on the coaching staff. Will Kakavitsas committed a drive-stopping pass interference penalty inside the redzone before the botched field goal attempt, and Nasir Peoples tackled Ali Jennings while the ball was in the air on a fourth-down attempt at the end of the third quarter.
I haven’t even addressed the Hokies’ level of execution yet, and that’s because in the end, it didn’t matter.
What mattered is that Virginia Tech at times did not appear to be prepared to play football.
Prepared teams don’t commit five turnovers — to be fair, one of those came on a Hail Mary attempt, but is four any better? Prepared teams don’t commit 15 penalties. Prepared teams don’t lose to a team that completes less than 50 percent of its passes and averages 2.5 yards per rush attempt.
None of the reasons Virginia Tech lost Friday night can be blamed on the previous coaching regime. Talent wasn’t the reason Tech lost to Old Dominion — again.
No, the reason looked a little like a brand-new coaching staff didn’t appear to have their team ready to roll when the lights came on. Maybe it was first-night jitters, but for all the work done during the summer, it sure didn’t seem like the offseason program was all that effective.
These mistakes are correctable, and Pry should be able to get his players on track. Fifteen penalties should never happen again, and Wells should learn from this game's interceptions and be able to be smarter with the football. These types of issues shouldn’t happen in Week 1 of a season when you've had months to prepare for this game, as these mistakes end up looking like they are the culmination of that preparation.
But now we go to week 2. Virginia Tech starts off its home schedule next Saturday night vs. Boston College. The team needs to be ready to roll.
Otherwise, this season could end up quickly going off the rails.