Well Hokies, we’re back down to .500 again. And you know what? It all looked so promising too…
If I told you before the game that Virginia Tech would score a touchdown on their opening drive, force an interception on defense after that, accumulate more first downs than Clemson, and out-gain the Tigers in total yards while holding Clemson to less than 300 on the day you would have thought the Hokies spanked the Tigers.
Nope – instead, that is the formula for a 38-17 loss and a 4-4 record. Where did it all go wrong, though?
In the first quarter the Hokies actually faced a 4th and 1 at Clemson’s 18-yard line. Instead of taking the points by kicking a field goal, Frank Beamer aggressively decided to go for the conversion after failing on a 3rd and 2 the play before that. The Hokies handed the ball off and Michael Holmes was blown up at the line of scrimmage and never really stood a chance to get those yards. The offensive line never got any sort of push against the defensive line and Clemson’s linebackers filled their gaps quickly. It also helped Clemson, however, when Virginia Tech tight end Ryan Malleck ran through four (read it: 4!) Clemson defenders and touched/blocked none (read it: 0!) of them. Malleck was Holmes’ lead blocker on the play, and left him to get crushed. Despite the outcome, I like the decision to go for it.
Then on Virginia Tech’s first drive of the 2nd half, Tony Gregory runs the ball up the middle for 16 yards and fumbles. Luckily for him, Corey Fuller and his incredible awareness was there to snag the ball out of mid-air and fall forward for the recovery. No harm, no foul – right? Well…two plays later in an attempt to either hit Dyrell Roberts down the sideline, or throw the ball away – I’m not sure which it was in all honesty, Logan Thomas got intercepted by Clemson’s safety Johnathan Meeks. A couple of bad plays don’t dictate the game, though. It was still alright, right?
Well on Clemson’s next drive, the Hokies defense that played stellar for most of the day, actually forced a punt. Then the 2012 rendition of Beamerball happened, and Clemson got the ball 29 yards downfield. Clemson’s punt was short and either due to the crowd noise or just being unaware, the ball hit Christian Reeves in the back. Clemson jumped on the ball, recovered, and promptly finished their drive for a touchdown.
Bear in mind that these past two paragraphs have been over the span of about three minutes of game time.
Later in the second half, Logan Thomas threw his second interception. In the crowd you probably couldn’t hear it, but I’m pretty sure I heard the ball quacking as it flew right into the hands of the Clemson defender. Johnathan Meeks snagged his second interception of the day, and returned it for six points. It was an absolute duck of a throw, and after the game Logan said that he knew it was a bad pass when he threw it. Apparently the ball slipped out of his hands, according to Virginia Tech’s quarterback. Perhaps Todd McShay’s comparisons to Shaq shooting a free-throw weren’t too far off-base.
So that was the first half. Tech trailed Clemson 17-7 at that point, despite playing really well for stretches and out-gaining Clemson in yardage. In fact, If not for the botched punt and pick-6, Virginia Tech’s defense held Clemson to three points in the first half! Virginia Tech should have been leading this game at the half, but instead got sloppy and cost themselves big time.
That was the first half – this is the second half. Outside of a couple of plays, the Hokies players performed alright in the second half. There weren’t nearly as many as egregious lapses like there were in the first half. However, the lack of preparation, proper coaching, and play-calling were all evident in the second half.
Here is where I go on my rant about the coaching…
It’s the job of the coaches to put the players and team in a position to succeed. I’d argue that in the 2nd half they didn’t do that at all.
When Virginia Tech runs quick slant patters over the middle they constantly get 8 yards or more (including giving players like Corey Fuller room to run after the catch like he did today), but they only run those plays maybe 3-4 times per game. Instead the coaching staff decides to run wide receiver screens that are painfully obvious (and one should have been taken for a pick-6 today) when Virginia Tech’s wide receivers on the outside are soft and refuse to hold blocks. Those screens have shown almost no success all season – why do the coaches keep trying to force those instead of going with a play that puts the playmakers in good positions to work?
Also – see the Demetri Knowles screen on 2nd and 20 in the 3rd quarter for another example of that. Clemson was either expecting a pass or a draw play there probably after a botched reverse play on first down that went for a loss of 10 yards. Screens work best when the defense has committed to a blitz, not when they drop seven into coverage. Was that a smart decision? Even if the pass to Knowles had been better, Clemson was going to smother Knowles.
Or I could go on ad nauseum about the fourth quarter play with Marcus Davis throwing across the field. Instead of giving the ball to your 6’6 monster of a QB that had just led Tech down the field for a touchdown on the previous drive, O’Cain/Stinespring decided on a WR pass deep in VT’s territory while trailing by 14 points on an obvious passing situation. The defense was already dropping back expecting a pass, but instead we gifted them a duck of a ball from our WR instead of a bullet from our QB. Moreover, that was the SECOND TIME in the game that they tried that play. You don’t try the same trick play twice in a game, because the defense is already expecting it! Is the coaching staff putting our players in good positions to make plays?
And I don’t know if any of you noticed this or not, but on the sidelines Frank Beamer was holding an offensive play-call sheet. Why? I can only formulate two possibilities – either:
- Frank was trying to hide his mouth after Clemson apparently picked up on Virginia Tech’s signals during last season’s games. Or…
- Frank has his hands in calling the plays on offense.
Frank Beamer is a defensive minded coach, and he coaches special teams. He should in no circumstance be calling or affecting play calling. If this was really the case yesterday, it’s no wonder why our offense looked like trash against Clemson’s atrocious defense. Sure – 406 yards of offense looks good on the stat sheet…except when you realize that Clemson’s defense averaged giving up 446 yards per game before the Hokies came to town. Even 1-6 Boston College managed to score 31 points against this defense. Oh, and 1-6 Auburn scored 19 points against this defense too. And so did Ball State, and Florida State, and so did every other team on Clemson’s schedule except for Furman.
You see – when you frame this game in the bigger picture, how well did Virginia Tech really fare? Virginia Tech’s defense played very well all things considering, and major kudos to them. This was a much better showing than this defense had against Clemson last year. However, the constant lack of offense is killing this team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rumors of a rift between the defense and offense were true.
And I’m not even going to go into the officiating. Yes, it was awful. Yes, it killed Virginia Tech’s momentum. No, it did not decide the game. Great teams win in spite of poor officiating.
How long can this go on? When will Frank Beamer finally admit that some changes need to be made? The answer, sadly, might be never. I don’t know what you should expect moving forward this season. Perhaps hold out hope for a bowl game? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that, regardless of the outcome of what we get, the execution and coaching won’t be pretty.
Sound off below in our comments section – let it all off your chest. I know you’re all frustrated because I am too. Let your voices be heard here.