Monday, September 1, 2008

Hokies' Special Teams, Defensive Help Still Not Enough to Carry Offense

The Virginia Tech Hokies lost to the East Carolina Pirates this past Saturday, 22-27, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

So what happened to make the Hokies, ranked #17 in college football at the time, lose to an unranked Conference USA team? The lack of Victor "Macho" Harris? A young team? A so-called neutral field that really didn't seem all that neutral? All of those things probably didn't help, but such adversity hasn't kept the Hokies down in the past, especially against such a beatable opponent.

It was a number of things, including good special teams on ECU's part, that hindered the Hokies Saturday. But most of all, it was the performances by quarterback Sean Glennon, the defense, and punter Brent Bowden. Bowden, who had never had a punt blocked at any level of football, took the time to ponder life and lovingly stare into the pigskin before kicking it square into ECU's T. J. Lee. Planet Blacksburg reports that Beamer called the kick "slow," but that is putting it mildly — I was there, and it seemed like everything was moving in slow motion during that play.

But it wasn't Bowden who lost the game for the Hokies, even though the defense may have held out to keep the two-point Hokie lead alive if the punt had made it down the field. It was poor defense, uncharacteristic of Virginia Tech, that really hurt them, coupled with a lackluster performance by Glennon. The defense just shifted left and right with ECU's running backs, allowing small, but meaningful gains on virtually every down instead of actually tackling them. Getting some backfield tackles, and some sacks for that matter, needs to be defensive coordinator Bud Foster's primary focus in the coming weeks (not his crappy restaurant). Also a problem for the defense, from what I personally saw right in front of me at the game, was #33 Brett Warren, who danced around on more than one play in the middle of the field, looking left and right, but never really hustling to do anything but stand in one spot. Warren, a senior linebacker, has a good history with 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year, so I hope his lack of motivation in going for a sack Saturday was just related to first-game-of-the-season jitters.

But, oh, here is the part you've been waiting for — Sean Glennon, a fifth-year senior who still has not developed into much of a quarterback. Beamer's decision to redshirt Tyrod Taylor may turn out to be as bad as his decision to go for it on fourth down when the Hokies could have generated momentum early with a field goal score Saturday — instead, they turned it over on downs, and Glennon would go on to throw two interceptions in the game. Oh, and guess what — not one single VT point was scored off a Glennon pass to a receiver, as the Hokies had to rely on special teams, defense and a mediocre running game in the absence of accurate, catchable passes.

Perhaps putting Taylor back in the QB slot wouldn't be the best thing for Virginia Tech at this point, but it should seriously be under consideration. And I still don't see any reason why Beamer did not at least give Cory Holt, also a senior, at least one drive to come out onto the field and see what he could do to help out his team, especially after Glennon demonstrated he hasn't learned much since being booed by the home team at home last season. Interceptions happen, and even a QB getting sacked with such a young offensive line is not unheard of. However, when it counted most, Glennon threw the ball where? To an empty patch of grass. I, and everyone around me, was silent with frustration. This is what started the Tyrod Taylor chants from the crowd last year.

So what will happen to VT this year? Will the team that went to the national championship just a few years back, the team that made it to the Orange Bowl last season, just fizzle out and go under the radar? Or, will the coaches get together, make some tough decisions, and get the Hokies back on track to at least win the ACC?

This weekend, Furman probably won't put up much of a fight (or so everyone in the Hokie Nation is praying), so we won't really get to see what the coaches have done to fix the team's current problems until Georgia Tech comes to Blacksburg in two weeks. That game will define VT for the rest of the season. You can brush this one off (though no one will forget it, especially with a reversed Beamer Ball play to win the game for ECU), but you absolutely have to shine from here on out and make a good showing in the conference — because, let's face it, no other ACC team seems to be able to do so if the opening weekend is any indication.

Note: Kudos to Kenny Lewis for an outstanding performance. Some better blocking on special teams, and Lewis could be the next Eddie Royal.

This blog post is just my opinion as a fan who absolutely loves the Hokies and just wants to see them obliterate every other football team (and I do realize that's not possible all of the time, but I can dream), but here are what some others in the Hokie Nation are saying:

Blog! on Sean Glennon

Tiger Droppings on Sean Glennon

The Hokie Nation (MySpace page) with comments about the game, Glennon, Stinespring

Hokie Sports game article

ESPN game article

Roanoke Times game article

An expletive-filled College Gameballs article with mean fan comments about Sean Glennon

SportsLine Glennon comments

Yahoo! Answers comments on Sean Glennon

Some blog logs about the game, quarterback decision

ESPN blog with comments about Glennon, Stinespring, Beamer and ECU's domination

Hokie Haven game article

Washington Times game article

TechSideline game article

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