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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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Recent comment in this post
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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Here's A To-Do List For Virginia Tech Against MTSU

Virginia Tech welcomes a lesser-regarded team to Lane Stadium Saturday in Middle Tennessee State. The Hokies have done this regularly in the early part of past seasons but lately, those games haven’t always gone as well as they’d hoped.

It happened twice in 2019, when the Hokies knocked off Old Dominion by 15 points and Furman by just 10 points the very next week. When the Hokies hit the road to face Old Dominion team in 2018, Tech lost by two scores after opening the season with a big win over Florida State. Back in 2017, Virginia Tech scored just 27 points against Delaware.

The Hokies have an opportunity to reverse that trend Saturday. While Middle Tennessee State opened its season with a 50-15 win over Monmouth, it would not appear MTSU has the depth that would allow them to compete with Virginia Tech on the field for a full 60 minutes.

Because of that, rather than break down the Hokies’ specific matchups against the Blue Raiders, I’d instead like to create a to-do list for Virginia Tech on Saturday.

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Nobody's Saying Justin Hamilton Is Too Young Any More

There have been some great stories coming out of Virginia Tech after the Hokies claimed a season-opening win over a ranked team.

But the one that makes me smile the most regards defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton.

When he was named to the position, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. From everything I’ve heard from folks in Blacksburg, he’s very good. Great teacher, great communicator, patient, a Hokie through and through. He’s the kind of person you rebuild the foundation of a program with.

But he’s also young, and this was his first coordinator job with a major program. Youth can be both a strength and a weakness in such situations, because on one hand you have the potential for longevity that is a huge bonus in the long run.

But in the short run with an impatient fan base, you are not given a margin of error to make mistakes. Plus, as I learned in the business world, you may think you are ready to run the show, but for most, it takes a little time to get into the proper mindset of running things.

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Hokies No. 19 In AP Rankings, 21 In Latest Coach's Poll

For the first time since the week of October 18th last year, Virginia Tech’s football team is nationally ranked.

The Hokies – on the strength of a 17-10 win over then No. 10-ranked North Carolina – are ranked No. 19 in the AP poll, and 21 in this week’s coaches poll. In the writers poll, UNC fell to 24th, while Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M comprise the top 5. Clemson is the ACC’s top-ranked team, falling to No. 6.

In the coach’s poll,  North Carolina fell to No. 22, while Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M comprise the top 5, which is identical to the AP rankings. Just like the writer’s poll, Clemson is the ACC’s top-ranked team, falling to No. 6.

Last year the Hokies were ranked No. 20 in the pre-season poll, and were ranked as high as 19 until a week 5 23-16 loss to Wake Forest bounced them from the top 25 list. The Hokies would beat Louisville in week 6, but then lost 4 straight to make their disappearance from the polls in 2020 permanent.

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Hokie Offense Is Going To Need To Take More Deep Shots

It’s now the Tuesday after Labor Day. Everybody’s back at work. The first full weekend of college football is over. So it’s time to empty the notebook about things seen this weekend before moving on to week 2.

Which Version Of Braxton Are We Going To See Saturday?

Oh, I know his name will be Braxton Burmeister, but Friday night we really saw two different players. First-half Braxton was smooth and cool, completed 7 of 8 passes with the only incompletion a dropped pass by Tre Turner in the end zone, and his team ate up huge chunks of time in running to a 14-0 halftime lead.

Second-half Braxton wasn’t quite so cool. He only completed 5 of 11 passes for 43 yards, threw an interception, and missed some wide-open people on what should have been easy throws. Some of that was caused by the plays being called, as Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen went very conservative in protecting that 14-0 lead.

But while seeing a lot of good things Friday night, it was the consistent lack of the Hokie offense taking deep shots again UNC that bothered me. You don’t have to be the Oakland, er, Los Angeles, er, Las Vegas Raiders and go deep all the time. But if you look at most successful teams over the last two decades, it has been the threat of a deep ball that keeps defensive backs from creeping up close to the line, and thus opens up the running game.

Of course, if you pass all the time, the running backs and offensive line never get in a rhythm and the running game doesn’t realize its potential, so finding that optimum mix is something coaches experiment with all season long. I didn’t think the Hokies really tried to find such a mix Friday, and you’ll notice in the second half that as the passing game stumbled, so too did the running game.

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Exactly Seven Years Ago Today, In Norfolk and Columbus...

When you get to be an old geezer like me, you look back, and at times remember really special occasions you did not expect to end up being so special.

Like what I experienced exactly 7 years ago.

That’s because September 6, 2014 was the date of my 40th high school reunion in Norfolk. That alone should have made the night special enough, because unlike earlier reunions where people try to impress their classmates with their success, 40th reunions don’t have such drama. The number one thing people are impressed with is that we all survived and are still standing. Nothing else really much matters.

But while I was reeling in the years hearing story after story from my friends, something else was going on. Virginia Tech was in the Horseshoe in Columbus playing Ohio State, and as anyone who knows me understands, my blood types are Type Orange and Type Maroon. I didn’t have great expectations for the Hokies, so it was being DVR’d back at my house in Ashburn, and I was going to get up early the next morning, drive home, and then watch what I thought would be athletic carnage.

But as I was donating my drink tickets to old friend Wendy Rieger (of NBC 4 fame here in the DC market), my phone started buzzing. Texts from multiple people – who happened to be in Columbus – filled my phone. Whatever I was doing, they all said, I needed to extract myself from what was going on and find a television.

The Hokies were beating the eventual National Champion Buckeyes.

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It's Time To Take A Look At The Numbers From UNC-VT

By now, you've probably read Dave's thoughts on the season opener, as well as Ricky's offerings about what he thought were the biggest takeaways of the game. With the high-level analysis out of the way, it's time to take a deeper look at specific elements that guided the Hokies to a victory Friday night.

In other words, let's look at the numbers and see what the statistics have to say.

The Game Was Statistically Strange

Not many offensive categories in the stat sheet will lead you to believe it was a good game for Virginia Tech. Braxton Burmeister threw as many interceptions as touchdowns, although he also scored once on the ground. The top three running backs each averaged fewer than three yards per carry. Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson and James Mitchell only hauled in eight of the team’s mere 12 receptions.

In fact, 40 percent of the total passing yards (66 of Burmeister's 169 yards) came on three catches by running back Raheem Blackshear, with the biggest play of the night a 34-yard wheel route to Blackshear on what looked like a busted coverage by UNC on the Hokies' third play from scrimmage in the game. The lack of a downfield threat may have been related to the 3-yards per carry by Virginia Tech running backs, as UNC's secondary crept closer to the line due to a belief Burmeister was not going to be taking any long shots to stretch the defense.

Conversely, North Carolina’s top skill position players fared pretty well. Ty Chandler and D.J. Jones picked up 111 yards on 16 carries, and Josh Downs caught eight balls for 123 yards and a touchdown.

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Doug Johnson

Clock Mis-Management in the 4t...

I am sure that you heard me screaming from Sec. 8 for Fuente to "Run the Ball!" and "Run the Clock" when Tech got down into FG ran... Read More
Wednesday, 08 September 2021 23:07

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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

Stephen Newman

Stephen Newman

The only things he loves more than following Virginia Tech and Washington sports teams are dogs. Meet Stephen Newman.

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