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I Guess The Answer To "Now Or Never" Is Never...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)
Tayvion Robinson Makes A Catch Over The Middle For Virginia Tech

I wrote after Virginia Tech’s defeat to Notre Dame that this week was a “now or never” moment for Justin Fuente. He needed to rally his team and help them compete against Pittsburgh in a de-facto Coastal Division title game.

I guess the answer is never.

The Hokies’ 28-7 loss can be described in a number of ways. Disappointing is surely one of them, but the predictability of Saturday’s performance might be the worst of them all. And the most damning.

We knew the Hokies’ offense would struggle. We’ve seen it all season. Once Pittsburgh hit the 21-point threshold, it felt like the rest of the game was a moot point.

Tech only has one conference loss, so they’re by no means eliminated from the Coastal race. But if you watched them against Pittsburgh, you know that this Virginia Tech team needs to worry more about bowl eligibility than winning a divisional title.

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Maybe Justin Fuente Isn’t Virginia Tech’s Biggest Problem

In the famous words of legendary NFL coach Dennis Green, “The [Hokies] are who we thought they were.”

But it's possible Justin Fuente and the coaching staff may have been forced to shoulder too much of the blame.

Virginia Tech enters Saturday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Panthers with a 3-2 record, having just lost to Notre Dame, and they won every other game except for one of the North Carolina/West Virginia rivalry games.

This is exactly what most people expected; yet here we are, feeling as if the Hokies have let everyone down.

Many key findings have come to light throughout the early portion of the season, but I challenge you to ask yourself this: How many of these things are actually surprising? Are the Hokies really losing because of in-game coaching decisions, or are there larger issues with the roster that are driving these decisions? Is the coaching staff truly the problem?

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Yeah, I Hated It. But I'll Be Back This Week For More...

Maybe it’s because it’s Columbus Day. Or maybe it’s because last week, just to refresh my memory, I went back and watched the entire first season of The Sopranos.

But in seeing a lot of different reactions to Virginia Tech’s 32-29 loss to Notre Dame Saturday night, I find myself coming back to the same expression in regards to the football program.

It’s the life we’ve chosen.

I’m not going to stand here and try to make you believe all is well in Blacksburg. There were plenty of things I questioned in watching the game, not the least of which is why this coaching staff can’t figure out how to put a decent goal-line offense together. After getting embarrassed against West Virginia with more trips inside the 10 than the entire sports media made trips through the buffet line in the press box, you’d think they’d make that a priority, given how few points they scored after those trips.

Good teams score when they get inside the 5-yard line. They have packages ranging from every tight end on the roster on the field, to maybe a running specialist in a wildcat format, or special plays they only run when get close to the endzone. The team takes pride in being able to impose their will on an opponent in such scenarios, and they practice these situations over and over again because they believe their effectiveness when called upon can make the difference between winning and losing.

I mean, the Hokies had a first and goal at the 1-yard line early in the second quarter, and three plays later, they were still there, having to settle for a 19-yard-line field goal by John Parker Romo with 10:35 left in the first half. If my math is correct, a touchdown and extra point gets you 4 more points, which is not an insignificant amount when you end up losing by 3 points.

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Dave Fulton

Our Number

You're oh so right, Dave. The college & pro teams we pull for have our number. No matter the score or bonehead coaching calls, her... Read More
Monday, 11 October 2021 15:08
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For Hokies, Fuente This Week, It's Now Or Never...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

As is usual after a loss, the most important game is always the next one on the schedule.

For Virginia Tech, this is especially true.

The Hokies’ 32-29 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday served as a yet another heartbreaking loss. Tech’s defense battled exceptionally well for about 56 minutes and Braxton Burmeister gutted out a tough fourth quarter with one healthy shoulder.

But good teams find ways to win. Bad teams find ways to lose.

Notre Dame scored 11 points in the final four minutes, dashing the Hokies’ eight-point lead with 3:55 remaining. Burmeister had just loaded up the offense on his back and carried them 19 yards through a sea of defenders for a touchdown, giving Tech what should’ve been a cemented advantage.

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Maybe There's A Reason 2 Experienced QBs Left Last Year

While many are beating a dead horse about offensive play calls after Virginia Tech’s semi-disappointing 21-10 win over Richmond Saturday, I find myself focusing on two plays that occurred in the second quarter.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

They involved Knox Kadum, a backup quarterback who had enjoyed a good week of practice, was firmly holding on to No. 2 on the depth chart at QB, and was told he’d see some action against the FCS Spiders. Midway through the second quarter with the Hokies up 7-0, he got the call to go in.

But that call was like your boss telling you go make a presentation to the board on 5 minutes notice.

You were doomed to fail.

Having not played any significant minutes when the game was on the line, Kadum was asked to go in when the ball was on the Hokies’ 6-yard line. While he probably ran sections of the playbook in practice all week, he now was thrown into a situation where half the playbook went out the window. Pinned that deep, everyone knew the first play would be a run, and sure enough Raheem Blackshear was stuffed at the line.

Now it’s 2nd and 10. Everyone also knows that the most effective defense against an inexperienced QB is pressure, and Richmond's defense came running - as Lawrence Taylor once said - like a bunch of crazed dogs. Kadum scrambled around his end zone looking for somebody open, then hoped for the best as he launched a pass downfield.

The pass was intercepted and returned to the 16. One play later Richmond scored to tie the score at 7-7. Kadum was taken from the game, never to play another down.

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FCS Frustrations Return in Hokies' 21-10 Win Over Richmond

Like many times before, Virginia Tech was presented with an opportunity Saturday to polish its strengths and address its weaknesses against a lesser opponent.

And like many times before, the Hokies came up short in trying to do those things.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)
Virginia Tech's Amare Barno

Tech’s 21-10 win over Richmond isn’t maddening in the sense that the Hokies nearly lost the game. But it was frustrating that once again, Virginia Tech failed to do what they should do against an FCS team — run them into the ground.

For some reason, Justin Fuente’s teams in Blacksburg tend to play down to their competition, especially against FCS opponents. I can go through the list, in case you might’ve forgotten.

It started in 2017 with Tech’s 27-0 win over Delaware. Two years later, Tech went to the wire with Furman after trailing by two scores at halftime. Later that season, Tech slogged through three quarters of football vs. Rhode Island before winning 34-17.

Those instances are just against FCS teams. I didn’t even include the 2016 losses to Syracuse or Georgia Tech, the 2018 stunner against Old Dominion or the 2019 Duke Debacle.

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Loss To WVU Was Frustrating, But The Season Isn't Over

No. 15 Virginia Tech fell to West Virginia Saturday, losing 27-21 in an “upset”, though the degenerates in Las Vegas knew better as the Hokies were three-point road underdogs.

It was as demoralizing of a loss as a fan will ever see, and we’ll try into get into those reasons below.

Cornelsen’s Decision-Making Is Still In Question

As the play-caller, you really begin to shine in the red zone. How you score points when the field shrinks like that shows a lot about your ability to get players open.

Virginia Tech ran 12 plays from the 10-yard-line or closer against the Mountaineers and registered zero points from those plays.

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There Was More Than One Miracle Going On That Day...

With Virginia Tech preparing to play at West Virginia Saturday, many a memory from the 1999 “Miracle in Morgantown” game has been revived, which has really been cool.

But there was actually a second miracle that occurred that day. And those two miracles probably led to a third a few years later.

That the Hokies gave up a touchdown in the final 1:15, then Michael Vick got them down the field just in time for Shayne Graham to nail a 44-yard field goal at the final gun is well known. The videos of that drive with 1:06 left have been shown a gazillion times. That it put Virginia Tech in the national championship game against Florida State is also universally recognized.

But allow me to take you back to the beginning of that season. Driving up for the James Madison game, I’d say there were two other universally held beliefs I and many other Hokies had come to accept. The first was that Virginia Tech would never play for a national championship in football. That was no judgment on where the program was going, but getting into the game involved too much politics and luck.

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Saturday's Game With West Virginia Should Be Revealing

There are games in the course of any football season that you look back on and realize it ended up defining who you really are.

I can't help but think that for Virginia Tech, one of those games is coming up Saturday.

It’s not that West Virginia is some awesome super power in the mold of an Alabama or Ohio State. The Mountaineers just happen to be the next game on the schedule where the Hokies are going to have to battle a confluence of factors that usually try one’s soul.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

Today’s news that James Mitchell is out for the season is just one more factor. He statistically hasn’t been that important to the Hokie offense in the first two games, but that’s badly misleading. He is a strong presence on the field that draws a defense’s attention so when not individually making plays, the double coverage he draws opens up an opportunity somewhere else on the field.

He’s also the guy you don’t notice when a running back makes a great run, blocking the downfield safety who might have come across the field and made a touchdown-saving tackle.

Then there is presence as a leader in the locker room. If you’ve ever played with someone like that, he’s the guy that shows you how to be a complete player by example, makes you smile when you get down on yourself, and is always talking in terms of “when” the team succeeds, not “if.”

He’s also the guy who stares at you in the huddle when you’re thinking about coasting on a play, and his eyes simply communicate to you the message “don’t.” His absence in some ways changes the entire chemistry of Virginia Tech's offense.

This comes at a time when I really couldn’t tell you how good the Hokies are. Their offense showed in the second half they can make big plays, but they have yet to show me they can do it consistently. The defense is much better than I hoped, from their coverage to their tackling, but they have not faced a high-powered offense like West Virginia showed in its loss to Maryland. For that matter, both West Virginia and Maryland played non-major teams Saturday, and West Virginia scored 66 while Maryland scored 62.

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Wade

Yeah, but we shouldn't play WV...

So I've had an intense dislike (I hate to say hate) for WVU that I inherited from my father. However, that dislike was intensifie... Read More
Tuesday, 14 September 2021 07:49
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3 Takeaways On Hokies: Offense, Injuries and Identity

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

Virginia Tech had the chance to cement themselves as one of the better teams in the country Saturday with a resounding win over Middle Tennessee State, but while the Hokies’ covered the 20.5-point spread in a 35-14 victory, the first half presented a bit of a wake-up call for everyone around the program.

Here are three key observations from the Hokies’ win over Middle Tennessee that caught my eye:

Inconsistency Continues To Plague Offense

Fans rejoiced two weeks ago as Virginia Tech jumped out to a 14-0 lead over North Carolina in the first half. But for the rest of that game, the Hokies’ offense scored just three points and struggled to move the chains.

The Hokies’ second half against Carolina looked a lot like their first half vs. Middle Tennessee. Tech scored just 14 points against what should have been a lesser-regarded defense, and failed to generate much of a rhythm.

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It Wasn't Perfect, But It Was Just What Hokies Needed

It’s not often you can say that the key play of a game was the halftime interview.

But that may have been the case in Virginia Tech’s spread-covering 35-14 win over Middle Tennessee State today at Lane Stadium.

Despite last week’s impressive win over probably over-rated North Carolina, the Hokies did not come out for today’s first half with a fireball of emotion. While the defense continued to look sharp, the maddening offensive game plan used in the second half last week where the unit crawled into its shell to protect a lead was again on full display.

It was good enough to take a 14-7 lead at the half, as Braxton Burmeister threw a 6-yard fade pattern to the left corner of the end zone that Tayvion Robinson caught for one score, then new crowd favorite and designated wildcat quarterback Connor Blumrick scored from 2 yards out for the 14 Hokie points.

But it was also at times a ball of confusion when it came to the passing game. On some plays, Burmeister seemed as if he couldn’t find anyone open when he looked downfield, leading one to wonder if the Hokie wide receivers just couldn’t get any separation, or if Braxton wasn’t making the right reads and looking for completions in all the wrong places.

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Recent Comments
Doug Johnson

Yeah, But In The First Half,

Jagger was singing "I Can't Get No - Satisfaction"
Sunday, 12 September 2021 01:03
Dave Scarangella

But By The End Of The Third Qu...

He was singing "Time Is On My Side"
Sunday, 12 September 2021 10:17
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