Small Pleasures: Pittsburgh
by Kevin Cuddihy, 11/10/03
It's a heavy heart that brings you this edition of Small Pleasures, but one must understand that even in a loss there are things to celebrate, things that went well. Unfortunately more things went well for the "bad guys" Saturday night. That doesn't take away from what we can celebrate as Hokies though.
For those of you just joining us, Small Pleasures aims to look beyond the highlights and celebrate the hidden pleasures of the game, along with little things that just make the game more fun. Leave it to SportsCenter to show reversed-field runs or long touchdowns. With Small Pleasures we like to point out the support for those highlights.
As always with Small Pleasures, we start off with accolades for the opponent, in keeping with Jim Weaver's Hokie Respect theme. I was tempted to simply leave Pitt's pleasure at the win, but in looking over the drive chart one thing jumped out at me: Taking advantage of opportunities. Of Pitt's four touchdowns, two were on a short field; one after a fumble and another after a shanked punt. Of Tech's four touchdowns, three came after kickoffs and one after a punt. Both teams made mistakes; Pitt took better advantage of Tech's.
Within that Small Pleasure for Pitt, though, we can find one for Tech as well. Note again that the Hokies scored three touchdowns when receiving the ball via kickoff. This to me shows an impressive "counterpunch" ability in the game. Rather than getting down when Pitt scored, three times our offense put up a score of their own. No quit in our offense, we simply got "outpunched."
While turnovers and below average defense (below Hokie average, that is) seem to be the main culprits of this loss, there were still plays from the defense to celebrate. Midway through the second quarter after the Hokies took a 14-10 lead, Pitt ran wide on first down. If he gets the corner Tim Murphy has plenty of room to run ... all he has to do is get by Nate Adibi. Adibi, however, shows awesome speed and runs laterally to stretch out the play, finally getting to Murphy at the sideline after a paltry gain of one yard.
I also wanted to point out what I think was part of the game plan by Coach Foster that ended up working for the Hokies. Throughout the game, I thought we gave Pitt tight ends a few extra yards on completions while trying to strip the ball. I don't know if our coaches saw something on film, but that appeared to be a keen plan as early in the fourth quarter Kris Wilson was stripped by Vinnie Fuller when the D kept Wilson up for a couple extra yards to smack at the ball.
On to the offense. Back after the A&M game I preached the value of putting a man in motion for a potential end-around in the shotgun formation. Saturday night that worked to perfection on Kevin Jones' 80-yard touchdown run. If you can bear to watch the tape again, check out the play starting at 1:24 of the third quarter. Justin Hamilton went in motion, and with an awesome fake by Marcus Vick he drew Pitt's #19, Spencer, up to make a phantom tackle. As KJ goes past the line of scrimmage you can see Spencer flying past him blindly towards Hamilton, opening the hole wide for Kevin to go all the way. Great play fake, and one that has been set up all year long.
Speaking of KJ, he yet again is a big part of Small Pleasures. I can't say enough good things about his ability. He's surely a first-round pick in next year's draft, and as such I'm fairly confident in stating that he won't return to the Hokies. Enjoy his last four games in a Hokie uniform, and be thankful you got to see him play.
If you want to see what makes Kevin Jones such a great running back, rewatch the Hokies' second touchdown drive. On a first-down play from near midfield (roughly 10:30 left in the second quarter), Kevin gets stopped at the line of scrimmage. Rather than falling forward, he waits ... waits ... waits ... and then finally sensing an opening bounces it outside for a gain of twelve. Later in that drive, on first and ten at the Pittsburgh 12 yard line, Kevin puts a stiff-arm on not one but two Panther defenders to grind out 11 yards down to the one. Finally, he takes off on the next play and literally jumps through a tackle to get into the end zone for the Hokies. Three strong plays on the one drive showcasing three different talents from this extremely talented back.
Another of KJ's runs brought out a Small Pleasure for Marcus Vick. Yeah, I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. Kevin Jones reverses field in the backfield, and has two defenders about to make a tackle for a big loss. Except up steps Marcus Vick, who absolutely LEVELS one Pitt defender, and in doing so gets the two of them in the way of the second Pitt defender. Thus freed, KJ rambles for 15 yards and a first down.
By the way, I also wanted to highlight Bryan Randall for his attitude throughout the game. In a situation where it would have been easy to sulk, he instead was giving Marcus advice throughout, and on one particular run by Vick in the second quarter ESPN cameras caught Randall with a huge grin on his face, genuinely happy for the man he's fighting for playing time. A true team player.
That's it for this week's Small Pleasures. A slightly subdued one, but as I said even in a loss one can still take pleasure in the efforts of the Hokies. We'll be back in another week after our Hokies take on the Temple Owls in Philadelphia. Got your own small pleasure that you think was overlooked in the loss? Post it on the board! Take pleasure in the GAME, since you can't in the outcome.