Virginia Tech 47, SW Louisiana 16
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
All right, folks, Iím going to be up front with you: this is probably the worst game analysis Iíll post all year. To be perfectly honest, this game didnít make much of an impression on me. Letís just say that I decided to have some fun at a Hokie game for once. I got to the tailgate early and often, and for once, I was just Joe Fan.
Thatís all fine and dandy, but Iíve still got to write a game report. Fortunately, I got a lot of email from people who were there (and were a little more alert than I was), and I talked to a few folks at work who went to the game, as well. So, as always, Iíve got some things to say.
My Overall Impression
Itís rare that you score 47 points and feel as if the offense didnít play well, but thatís what happened to the Hokies against SW Louisiana last Saturday. The Hokies showed a disquieting lack of ability to score in the red zone, leaving many Tech fans grumbling and grousing. The end result was good enough for the pollsters, though, who rewarded Tech more than they have after any Hokie victory this year. Tech moved up three spots in the coachesí poll and reappeared in the AP poll, despite the fact that Syracuse deservedly leap-frogged us this week after their victory over WVU.
The Hokies ďsettledĒ for four field goals (out of five attempts by Shayne Graham), despite spending an astounding amount of time on the Raginí Cajuns side of the field. Twice the Hokies kicked field goals on drives that reached the Cajuns 2 and 3 yard lines before stalling.
My answer to all that? A big, fat, ďSo what?Ē I read that prior to the SW Louisiana game, the Hokies had been inside the red zone 23 times and had scored 20 of those times, including 16 touchdowns. If they want to have a mediocre day at the office, then so be it. After all, I did a poor job of playing the role of ďHokie CentralĒ on Saturday, so if the boys want to have an off day, thatís fine by me. Do you do a great job at work every day? Huh? Donít lie to me....
Let's Set the Record Straight
If it sounds like Iím copping a bit of an attitude on you, itís because I heard from a co-worker of mine that the fans in his section of the stands were pretty merciless Saturday, booing the offense and raging on Druckenmiller for having an off day.
I think people who boo college athletes need to get the hell out of my stadium. Excuse me, but has anybody forgotten that this is the same Jim Druckenmiller that led the Hokies to the Sugar Bowl championship last year? And since when does 7-of-18 for 2 TDís and NO INTERCEPTIONS qualify as a bad day?
Remember the N.C.State game years ago, when Will Furrer threw five interceptions, and we lost 7-0? THATíS A BAD DAY. Remember Maurice DeShazo throwing two interceptions for touchdowns TO THE SAME GUY in the UVa game in 1992? THATíS A BAD DAY.
Letís go over this again: those of you who know me well know that I feel that Druckís biggest value as a quarterback is that he doesnít throw stupid interceptions. When youíve got a defense that is ranked 14th in total defense in the NCAA, like Techís is, and when youíve got a rushing attack thatís 10th in the country, like Techís is, all you ask of your quarterback is that he resist the urge to screw up. Not only does Druck not screw up much, but heís got that elusive quality that only a few of us are lucky to have, and that quality is leadership. Heís a winner. When I hear people booing Druck, I just want to slap them silly.
Okay, sermonís over (I think I just released all that pent-up frustration that was building up in me as I ONCE AGAIN WATCHED BRYAN JENNINGS PLAY A WHOLE GAME WITHOUT CATCHING A SINGLE PASS).
Offense - Defense - Special Teams
Now, letís talk about happy stuff.
It was great seeing Cornell and Myron and the boys back on the field, tuning up for The Big Push thatís ahead. Every time SW Louisiana ran the ball into another wall of Hokies for no gain, I turned to the guy next to me and said, ďThis is a passing team. Why do they even bother?Ē The Cajuns eventually put together 22 rushes for 81 yards, but that total included a meaningless long gainer late in the game.
On the other side of the ledger, the Cajuns had their seventh straight game with over 250 yards passing. But except for one long TD early in the game, again I say ... ďSo what?Ē
Hmmm....this so-called ďgame analysisĒ is developing a pattern.
The one downer about the defensive performance is that the Hokies didnít accumulate any sacks, for the first time since the Pitt game last year. But I also didnít see any stunts and blitzes by the Hokies. I think they went with a straight front-four rush, and the results were less than dominant. The tackle totals were spread around amongst the different Hokie players, with no one player having more than six tackles (Semones and Gray had 6 apiece).
On the offensive side of the ball, Iíve already talked about Druck, who was less than sharp but didnít cough up the ball, on an interception or a fumble. Jennings was ignored (again).
There were two players that I thought really shined on offense. One was Shyrone Stith, who came in late in the game and put on some dazzling runs to accumulate 87 yards on just 7 carries. The other was Michael Steuwe, who caught a pass in the flat, shook off a tackle, and turned on the jets, scoring from 65 yards out. Iíve been reading that Steuwe has drastically improved his speed, and it showed on that play.
But letís not leave out the Ox. He had 22 rushes for 140 yards, and that is the quietest 140 yards Iíve ever seen. And I mean that in a nice way.
This is how life with Oxendine was meant to be. Heís popping off a spectacular play here and there, but other than that, heís putting in workmanlike days, piling up well over a 100 yards without batting an eyelash. All this despite giving up significant carries to Marcus Parker, who deserves them (Parker had 13 carries Saturday for 51 yards).
On special teams, Shayne Graham set a Big East record for points in a game by a kicker with 17. Oddly enough, he broke the record set by the Miami kicker about an hour earlier, against Temple.
And for one game at least, the Hokies found a kick returner. Shawn Scales single-handedly vaulted the Hokiesí national rankings for punt returns and kick returns from the 90ís (out of 111 Division 1-A teams) up into the 50ís. At one point, Scales peeled of a 61-yard kickoff return, and thatís about the most excited that Hokie fans have been during a kickoff return in a loooong time.
Enough of That - Who's Next?
Letís be honest. The Hokies snoozed through this game. The fans snoozed through this game (only 35,000 showed up). I snoozed through this game (figuratively, not literally). Weíre bored. Weíve had enough. Letís play somebody who can actually threaten us.
Whatís that you say? ECUís next? Okay, thatíll work.
The coaches and the callers on the Monday night Hokie Hotline call-in show laid out the challenge to Hokie fans: show up Saturday night and make some noise. Well, I donít know how you feel, but I plan on leaving the stadium after the game Saturday night with a headache from screaming too much. If ECU thinks theyíre going to show up and catch the Hokie fans or team napping, theyíve got another think coming.
I think that when the team comes out and sees the size of the crowd and hears the noise that crowd is going to generate, itís going to light them up like a Christmas tree. Dress rehearsalís over, and this team is every bit as anxious to get into the November schedule as we fans are.
And I say this regardless of what Wednesday brings. Regardless of what the grand jury does, and regardless of what Frank Beamer does in response, I think the team will be ready to play. Even if Wednesday does bring some suspensions, I think that itís better mentally to have those things occur and to get them out of the way, even if they hurt.
Come Wednesday night, the Hokies will know whoís on the team and whoís not, and I think the survivors will rally around the flag and give it their best shot. The Hokies have a history of responding well to adversity, and weíll see in the coming four weeks what this team is made of.
As for ECU, theyíve got a great quarterback in Marcus Crandell, but he strained a knee in their last game and is questionable for the Tech game. Letís not overlook the other great parts of their team, though. Theyíve got a running back, Scott Harley, who is 6th in country in rushing, with 141 yards a game. Theyíve got a rushing defense that is 21st in the country, and theyíre 27th in the country in total defense. So if Crandell doesnít play, the Hokies shouldnít make the mistake of thinking that they can mail this one in.
But like I said, Tech wonít make that mistake.