Virginia Tech 38, Temple 0
by Will Stewart,

Click here for the game recap with stats

This week, Dr. Jekyll showed up. Apparently, Mr. Hyde was left back in Syracuse.

Against Temple, the Hokies continued their rollercoaster ride of a season, which has seen them look great at times (Boston College), terrible at others (Akron, Syracuse), and average at others (Rutgers). You can add the Temple game to the same category as the BC game now.

On a sunny day in front of a Homecoming crowd of 44,000, the Hokies did just about everything right. Some of it was expected, while some of it was not expected.

Expected: the Hokies won. They played well offensively and scored a lot of points, just like I thought they would.

Unexpected: the banged-up defense brought all kinds of horrendous pressure on Henry Burris, the Temple quarterback (who was leading the Big East in total offense), sacked him seven times, held Temple to about 200 yards of offense, and shut them out.

The Pre-Game Outlook

There was one corner of my mind that was worried about this game. Temple has a good offense, as I mentioned before the game, and I didn't think that it was out of the realm of possibility for them to rally around beleagured coach Ron Dickerson, run up some points against a depleted Tech defense, and pull off a shocking upset.

Yeah, right. The part of my mind that was saying all that was the same part that thought we would beat Syracuse and that also said, "Don't be surprised to see Temple put up some points this weekend." If I could only figure out which part of my brain it is that's producing that hogwash, I would shut it off, believe me. Or, I'd just drink a lot of beer until it died, all the while hoping that it wouldn't take the good parts of my brain with it. Assuming there are any good parts in my brain....

The Offense

But back to the game. Ricky Bustle can surprise you when you least expect it. After taking a lot of heat for his play-calling in the Syracuse game, Bustle came out against Temple and did what he SHOULD do against a lesser opponent: he played smash-mouth, ground-oriented offense, dominating the game at the line of scrimmage. Tech's first scoring drive was ten plays, all of them rushes (although the first play was a pass that Druckenmiller tucked and ran). The last eight plays were Ken Oxendine runs. That drive produced a fourth-down TD run of one yard by the Ox, and after that, Bustle didn't let up, as the Hokies kept running, eventually amassing 349 yards rushing on the day.

In addition to the long runs, the one big play that stands out is Druckenmiller's 64-yard TD pass to Shawn Scales. I wish I could tell you that it was a bomb down the middle, but I can't. It was the next best thing, though: a flanker screen, which I'm starting to think is the most exciting, unique, and well-executed play in Tech's offensive arsenal. The sight of huge Hokie linemen bearing down on helpless 170-pound defensive backs makes me giggle with glee. And I noticed while watching a highlight of the play on the Tech football show that Billy Conaty can be seen escorting Scales down the sideline, a good 20 yards downfield.

Let me repeat that: a 300-pound center who has pins in his ankles, clear over on the sideline, running full-speed, leading the blocking for a wide receiver. That is a sight to behold. I've been in awe of Tech's ability to get their offensive linemen outside on the flanker screen ever since I first saw Eugene Chung maul a cornerback on the play years ago. That is Ricky Bustle's signature play, in my opinion.

The Defense

None of what happened on offense was even a slight surprise. What was a surprise was the play of Tech's defense, particularly the pressure that the defensive line was able to bring on Burris.

The line pressure hasn't been very good this year. Most of Tech's sacks have come from the linebackers, or because the linebackers flushed the QB out of the pocket, into the arms of a lineman. The line itself hasn't been able to generate consistent pressure, although they have had their moments. Without Cornell Brown, and with Waverly Jackson nursing a bad back, the D-line was a big question mark going into the game.

Question answered. While Myron Newsome and the other linebackers did indeed make some plays, the line was able to generate pressure and sack Henry Burris without the aid of a blitz, which has been missing this year. The "jailbreaks" of last year, where J.C. Price, Cornell, Jim Baron, et al piled on the quarterback, has not been present so far this year, but there were a couple of those on Saturday. Tech's line collapsed the Temple offensive line into the pocket on many occasions, and there were plenty of times where Burris had to bail out and pick up yardage rushing instead. All in all, it was a surprisingly good effort by a bunch of former walk-ons and inexperienced players, who ran amok in the Temple backfield.

(One of my buddies wanted me to use the word "amok" on the page this week, because it's his favorite word. So there you go.)

And I wouldn't want to play against Myron Newsome. No way. Temple had no answer for Myron's blitzes up the middle. At least three times, he came untouched up the middle on the snap of the ball, and he was on Burris so fast that the Temple QB couldn't have dialed 9-1-1 if you spotted him the first two numbers. Those plays were fun to watch, but the best play Newsome made all day came when he flushed Burris out of the pocket, Burris beat him to the corner, and Newsome caught him from behind, grabbing the neck of his jersey and taking him down. Henry Burris, who is no slouch, had him beaten, folks, and Myron Awesome ran him down. I genuflected.

Are the Holes Plugged? Can We Be Happy Now?

Don't pop the champagne corks just yet. Let's review the weak spots that appeared against Syracuse, and see how well the coaches and team addressed them.

Interruption for a newsflash: I've got Monday Night Football on the TV, and I just saw Antonio Freeman (Green Bay) in an isolation replay, going one-on-one with Tyronne Drakeford (San Fransisco). The world can be a beautiful place sometimes, you know?

  1. The punting game: Jimmy Kibble punted, and the blocking was vastly improved. I used my geek-watch (digital with stopwatch) to time Kibble from the moment the ball was snapped to the instant Kibble kicked it, and I got times of 2.05, 2.00, and 2.15 seconds. That's excellent pace. It's tough for somebody to come around the corner unblocked and block a punt that gets away that fast. Give the Hokies an "A" on that quick patch of a nasty problem.

  2. The offense: Bustle's play-calling was 180-degrees different, this time to the good, and it was great to see Parker, Edmonds, and Ox get significant playing time, but there are still concerns. Namely, still no long completions, and the one pass that was thrown to Bryan Jennings was thrown into double coverage. My read on that whole situation is that teams are single covering the receivers and keying on Jennings, shutting him down. I'll try to keep an eye on that situation and let you know for sure. Grade: inconclusive.

  3. Run defense: also greatly improved, but you're talking about Temple. The Tech coaches were so unimpressed with the Temple offensive line that they threw out their regular blitz package and went mostly with straight pressure from the defensive front four. The only blitzes I noticed were the up-the-middle blitzes by Myron Newsome that I mentioned earlier. Grade: inconclusive.
What Next?

You can go back to sleep now. The Hokies have an off-week next week. They will be back on the field on October 26th, and given that the opponent is Pitt, you don't even have to wake up if you don't want to. Not to kick somebody when they're down, but Pitt possibly has the worst defense in Division 1-A. Statistically, I don't know where they fall, but I don't think they could stop a dead gnat in a driving rainstorm ... whatever that means.

Look for the Hokies to win big in that one. Until then, since we have next week off, look for us to plunge even further in the rankings.

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