*programming note, got busy during the holidays, sorry if anyone was looking for scouting reports. Things have slowed down now, so expect a Nebraska game wrap next week, or the week after, depending on if I feel like writing anything about the SEC non-championship exhibition game.
Winners find a way to win.
It started as a joke, but now no one can deny the awesome power that is Brady Hoke's magical golden poop. Everything he touches turns into roses. When he walks through a forest, flowers bloom in his wake. Youtube is sadly lacking in good golden poop videos, so a unicorn farting rainbows of destruction was the best I could find. I hope it's not too disturbing.
Our ND friends gave us the wonderfully self-fulfilling cliche' "Winners find a way to win, losers find a way to lose." But we'll just focus on the first half of that, and they can focus on the 2nd half, thank you very much.
Was Brady Hoke lucky that Tressel was caught lying? Maybe. Maybe he pulled a Peter Wiggin and dropped a few well placed emails. Was it luck when we fumbled on the 1 yard line against ND and Denard scooped and scored a walk in? Maybe. Maybe Hoke used his secret telekinesis.
I don't know, I don't care. At this point I'm just happy to be along for the ride.
But how else can you explain what happened?
How does a sure INT on a fake FG where no receivers went into pass patterns end up in the arms of the long snapper for a first down? How does what looks like a TD to 80% of the twitterverse get reversed in OT? How have all the great things that have happened this year happen to one team, in one year? It boggles the mind.
They say you make your own luck. They say that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." But whether it's luck, or karmic retribution, or a secret plot by an undercover invisible agency from the future, it can't be sustained at this high of a level. So let's just enjoy it while we can.
On to the pics.
Al. Al? ALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
This week's love-hate relationship status with Al Borges is .... .... Love? That's odd, because during the game there were times when the needle was strongly tilted towards hate. But after a second look at the game film, the final analysis, just like the outcome of the game, is slightly positive.
Much like the Iowa game, the lack of production on offense wasn't really his fault so much as it was a combination of a lack of execution, personnel limitations, and a darn good defense.
Oh sure, there's plenty of things he could have done better and a few stinkers that make you want to pull out your hair... hmmm....nevermind. And I'll get to those in a moment, but overall, we did what we've done all year. And many of the plays should have worked.
I mean, Molk getting injured and having this
happen on two consecutive plays to kill the first drive can't really be blamed on Al. Maybe it would have been better to go under center with the backup playing, but after we've been crying all year for more shotgun, you can understand why he didn't. Luckily Molk came back in, but wasn't at 100% which probably put a dent in our selection of play calls.
And give VT credit. They played a lot of Man-Free forcing Denard to make tough passes to the outside, which frankly, we all know is not his comfort zone.
Yes, the manball mentality is frustrating especially when VT is putting 9 men in the box.
(It's 8 because Denard going backwards is not a threat to run.) But it's there to setup big plays.
With both safeties up like this, the thing you have to do is make them pay for it.
But with two defenders beating their blockers, Denard has pressure right up in his face resulting in this jump pass.
It's not Al's fault that Denard threw to the wrong guy. Roundtree had a step on his man and Jr. was getting interfered with. Despite the interception, you can't argue that it wasn't the right play call.
[ED: More after the jump.]
And here again they've got their safeties up.
So we call the OHNOES! play that shoulda been a touchdown.
Except the Va Tech lineman jumps up and tips the ball.
What's Al supposed to do on that? Sure Omameh needs to do a better job of punching that guy in the stomach and getting his arms down and Denard needs to put a little more air under it or slide into a better throwing lane. But once the kickoff happens, it's kind of late to be giving that advice, this is a failure to practice (or failure to learn) proper technique for this play.
And then on the very next play,
We go back to the golden oldie, "throwback screen to Vincent". But VT is getting good pressure on Denard.
Which causes him to underthrow. That's the definition of a convoy. That's two plays in a row that should have been touchdowns.
And they didn't even have anyone to block.
So we had our opportunities, we just didn't quite execute them.
My bigger problem with Borges is his stubbornness to not take what the defense is giving him. And maybe I got spoiled watching RichRod and his coherent suite of plays, but there's just something lacking from Borges's style that I really appreciated with RR.
It's hard to explain the difference, because Al is a good OC. He's proven that everywhere he's been. OK, so he had an off year at Auburn which made him take a year off to recharge his batteries and found him landing at SDSU, but he's shown he knows how to play this game from the press box.
But the plays that he uses are more like "one offs". Whereas with RR, every play was really more like 3 plays that you could choose from depending on what the defense was doing. You can see it in the way that RR calls the plays after lining up. It's all about hitting the right note at the right time and making adjustments during the play. Borges sends in a play, sees what happened, and then sends in another play that makes sense in the sequence.
I guess the best analogy I can come up with is this; watching Borges call plays is like watching a great xylophonist, but RR was more like a concert pianist. They're both good, they can both play the same songs, but the result is just different when each note is a harmony of chords instead of overlapping lingering vibrations.
Borges hits you with that hammer, and while the defense is still reeling from that vibration, he comes down hard at the other end of the spectrum, and Vincent Smith is walking in for a TD on a throwback screen.
RichRod looks at the OLB and gives him a conundrum, does he defend the index finger (Denard), the ring finger (Fitz), or the middle finger (Slot man OHNOES!). And that's all on the same snap. Then he comes back on the next play and does a chord on the cornerback. Then the safety gets his turn to look foolish.
Both styles work, and you can't ask one man to magically turn into another. BUT
GOD DAMN, Sometimes you just look at things like that and go "COME ON, AL!" And it doesn't have to even be a bubble screen. A zero yard hook probably gets a first down. Any kind of short combo route is wide open. The bubble probably goes for 20 yards, a Hook n' Ladder is a TD. But instead it's a slam into the LOS for no gain.
And when VT sends a 7 man blitz, there should be a hot read.
Sure if you are in the groove and sniff out the blitz, a screen pass here goes for a TD, but you didn't sniff out this one.
So the RB has to choose one of 3 Blitzers while the other two drive Denard's facemask into the ground. This would have been a good time to stretch the defense laterally.
The bubble screen is just a play, if you only take it by itself. Yes it's a good play when you've got the right personnel and the defense is in the right alignment it's like free money.
As VT showed.
But when it's used in a suite of plays, it can be deadly as hell. Especially if your WR can get a good block, 2 yards can turn into 20 pretty quick.
Whatever, I'll get off my soapbox for the season. I don't really expect Al to change, if anything, as he gets the types of players he wants, he'll go even more towards banging on those bells with our superior athletes. And maybe that's the right way for a school with our built in advantages. But I'll never forget about what could be, and I'll probably always wince a little when I watch Oregon put up 50 and imagine those players in winged helmets.
All Hail Mattison
It's no secret by now, but our defense is so much better.
When Greg Mattison wants to single out a player to be stopped, by god, he's going to be stopped. David Wilson was the focus during the Sugar bowl, and aside from one big run (where he put a sick move on Kovacs, shown below), he was looking at pursuit like this all game long.
We also did a great job containing Logan on runs, He made a couple of nice cuts, had some scrambles on passing downs, and always seemed to manage to fall forward. But on this play Demens put a nice form tackle on him and stuck him cold in his tracks.
Even when we were screwing around with alignment on short yardage, it didn't hurt us.
On this 4th and 1, our two senior DL are in position and literally no one else is.
BWC gets set just in time for the snap. So we've got 3 players in position to stop the inevitable QB sneek.
And by god, those three guys stopped it long enough for the LB's to join the pile.
We did give up the TD on the quicksnap qb sneak in the 4th, but we were very tired by then and didn't have the right playcall or alignment. Notice the open gaps for the sneak.
But up until that play we had been the embodiment of "Bend but don't break" defense.
So what if you get to the 4 yard line? We'll just RPS your outside play. Roh does a great job of beating his blocker and makes Wilson stop his feet.
Despite getting held. Gordon has fought off his block to make Wilson turn around, and Kovacs would have been there to clean up anyway.
Then Wilson has a brain fart and starts going backwards.
But he wasn't prepared for Jake Ryan's closing speed. And look at the angle Kovacs is taking, that's just gravy.
From behind you can see how disciplined Ryan was on the initial sweep motion. So when Wilson tried to reverse field, Ryan was in perfect position to race upfield and get that huge TFL.
Jake Ryan kicks ass
Jake had probably his best game all year. And that's saying a lot. He started the year off by making big plays, but he was also making big mistakes. He's really clamped down on the mistakes and everyone is excited to see what he does next year. He's going to be the star of the defense and in the hunt for all B1G and All-america honors if he continues to progress as expected.
Here he is blowing up the outside zone play.
The pulling lineman isn't going to win much praise for his effort, but it wouldn't have mattered as once Jake recognized the play, he would have run right past that guy with his quick first step (tm).
And on this play he displayed his chasing speed. It's a bit of a change up as he does an inside rush, so the rollout should have been wide open for Logan. But Jake peels out with him and chases him down from behind.
That's not a slow QB he just shoestringed for a sack.
And this might have been the play of the game. If you listened to Beamer's press conference, he mentioned how Jake blew this up. BTW I agree with going for it here but I didn't like the fake punt call. Why snap the ball back 15 yards instead of 5? When the game is on the line, put the ball in the hands of your best players, your ACC player of the year or your mammoth QB. Why go to the punt formation? especially after you've called a timeout which signaled to everyone that you were thinking about it. Look at where Kovacs is lined up, perfect position to defend a rugby style run to the right.
Anyway, they've got blockers in front and Jake has outside contain. So it looks like there should be a running lane if Coale had gotten on his horse sooner.
But Jake is so fast that he just runs around the guy trying to kick him out and has an easy angle to make the tackle since Coale is starting from so far back.
Then Coale has a derpy moment where he tries to punt with Jake all wrapped up in his ankles. He found out that it's hard to kick when you don't have a plant foot.
Seniors on D
I'm gonna miss these guys. I think we'll all be missing these guys. Next year's senior class will have some gigantic shoes to fill.
This stuff of the FB flat pass was vintage Kovacs. He's lined up in the slot but probably has flat responsibility in the zone. Morgan, bless his heart, moves to stop the run, but then realizes it's a pass.
So he goes with the FB, well, he follows the FB. But he doesn't have the speed to stop this play. Kovacs has to fight through the crossing patterns that are designed to rub him off the sticks.
But his recognition is so fast that he's at full speed by the time the ball is in the air.
And then he makes a textbook tackle by putting his shoulder in the ball carrier's thigh, head across his motion, and arm wrapping up the legs. The bigger man is stopped dead and has no chance to stretch for the 1st down marker.
I was bummed that he gave up a 1st down scramble on 4th and 11, until everyone pointed out that he got some illegal hands to his face that went uncalled.
But I'm not even mad, considering how the game turned out.
Kovacs on the other hand, might have taken some exception to that and got a little angry. So he Kung-fu's Wilson on this option, ensuring that he's not gonna receive any pitch on this play.
Mike Martin had a quiet day by his standards, probably because he had to Iron-Man it with no subs and the offense was getting killed in time of possession. But he was a force in the run game. Here he is laying some wood to Wilson near the goal line.
RVB has a slightly better day than Martin, but he too was looking pretty gassed on that last drive. Here he splits the gap and gets pressure on Logan.
I'm guessing a rested RVB would have gotten there in time for the sack.
But as it is he still laid a lick on the QB and nearly forced an interception if Demens had softer hands.
But with our coaching staff, I'm gonna squint at our defense and believe they can be molded into something approaching good for next year. Especially if you consider all the contributions from the Freshman.
When even a guy like Frank Clark who hadn't done much all year except get burnt on zone reads can come up with a play like this,
well, the future is looking pretty bright.
There's a lot of weird things in Quantum physics. One of the weirder ideas is that human thought can affect the output of a "random number generator". To make a long story short, it has something to do with the electrons in our brains being entangled with the electrons in the machine waaaaay back during the big bang or something. If you read Dan Brown, he uses this as a justification of prayer.
As for myself, I'm more of a believer in the multiple universes interpretation that says our thoughts influence which path of the already existing realities we end up experiencing.
I don't think either of those explanations really do justice to what happened at the end of the first half.
It started with this derpiness from Schofield. He, Fitz, and Odoms all miss the blitzing DB.
When he finally sees him, it's too late.
But Denard sees him and steps up into the pocket to let him run by.
Right into Schofield who should get credited with at least half a sack.
A stuffed speed option followed and so there was some negative sentiment on the liveblog on 3rd and forever. You know it's bad when people are all like, 'whatever, our offense blows, let's just throw it up and hope for an interception, maybe we'll get lucky with a flag or Hemingway can out jump someone."
Again, Denard is pressured
But he shakes loose and heaves a jumpball.
Somehow Hemingway comes away with the ball and walks into the endzone after the defenders collide.
Your prayers have been answered, liveblog. And not for the first time this season. (Yes I know this is just selective attention bias, but let a man have some fun!).
I don't think Beamer was mad (bro) so much as sad. Sometimes things are just so crazy all you can do is shake your head.
That ball was that close to being intercepted. Instead we've got a one point lead in a game where he had the ball for about 10 minutes of the first half.
Sometimes you're good, sometimes you find a million dollar lottery ticket while walking down the street.
Apparently this was a called fake FG. Except only 2 people got the call. The others must have been busy or had set their phones to vibrate. Dileo is looking to pass, but there's NO ONE out to receive. So he just chucks it up anyway. FUCK IT, ARM PUNT.
There was some talk that we should have been flagged for illegal linemen downfield, but you can see that's not the case.
It should have been intercepted.
But then a funny thing happened.
Which prompted this response. The best thing about this is that Felix was doing the play by play. I think that was the proper description.
So that's how we went into the half with a 4 point lead despite a pretty strong effort from VT, especially Wilson. That guy is no fluke, and we had to sell out to stop him.
And we did for the most part, except for this play. Wilson is hiding over there as a flanker and goes in motion to the backfield.
Gordon was in man coverage, so he's not sure what to do now, he just drops back into a 2 deep look. That probably would have been the right choice on a more obvious passing down, but here it would have been better for him to sneak up into a strong safety spot to help run support. But that's a pretty advanced adjustment to make and who knows if he has the freedom to do that kind of thing.
If Gordon had stacked loose behind the LB's between Demens and Jake, the two MLB could have shifted a gap or half a gap to better cover that backside option.
Instead Morgan is caught flat footed and out of position so he gets sealed inside and there's no one to stop the pitch since the DE forced on the QB.
At this point we should have stopped the play for a modest 10 yard gain. But Wilson is the ACC player of the year for a reason.
That's some pretty sick moves fooling a pretty good tackler.
And then he refuses to go out of bounds and slips by Demens for an extra 15 yards.
He finally gets taken down from behind by, who else, Jake Ryan.
Does VaTech have bitching rights?
Yes and No. Mostly No.
I wrote a comment immediately after the game that said something like "Va tech fans have all the bitching rights in the world" which first got a bunch of upvotes and then a bunch of downvotes. I've since backed down from that position.
And the reason is that they made too many unforced errors. They can't blame the refs. After re-watching the game, I thought the refs did a pretty average job. Fair, but average. Despite the allstate guy admitting to everyone that he's an alum, I don't think there's much evidence of a conspiracy from the game film.
For example, here's a pass interference they got away with. Even the announcers were making comments about the orange gloves being hard to miss.
And btw Roy, THIS IS HOW YOU SUCCESSFULLY BEG FOR A FLAG. Please take note.
This play got me a little more peeved. I'm sure the officials thought it was incidental contact, but that's an obvious hip-check/trip that actually injured our receiver. No flag there.
And you can't complain about this INT that was taken away.
Because there wouldn't have been an INT if the DB hadn't pulled down our guy by his should pads.
But the real reason they can't complain too much is they just failed at what they do best. Beamer ball was a disaster.
Beamer ball isn't about fumbling kickoffs.
And you're lucky it wasn't picked up cleanly. If it had been, it's a walk in TD.
Let's recap, roughing the punter, shanked kickoff, kickoff out of bounds, fumbled a kickoff, gave up a fake FG conversion, failed on a fake punt, and throw in a couple of penalties on returns and that's a pretty disastrous day from your special teams.
The one part of your specials teams that was playing well was the one part that shouldn't have been. So when he finally missed in OT, it was more of a delayed expectation getting realized than a disappointment.
But I do think you got jobbed on the OT non TD. I'm not gonna post anymore pictures about it since that's been done ad nauseam. But I will add my two cents.
It was a catch. Not by the letter of the rules. But that rule is stupid. It's horribly written. You know a rule is bad when you have to parse the definitions of what should be straight forward words. "Control" "Help" "Maintain" "Elbow".
Did the ball hit the ground? Yes. Did the ground "help" him make the catch. No. If anything, it was a hindrance he overcame. If he had fallen into a swimming pool or a ball pit, he still has control. Did the ball move when it hit the ground? Yes, but they're two separate objects, THERE'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE RELATIVE MOTION. Was his elbow in bounds? Yes. Is an elbow the same as a foot? Who knows? Is the upper arm part of the elbow? Is the sole of a foot part of a foot? If a player's toe touches in bounds first but then the rest of the foot comes down on the line, will a monk in India ride on the back of a cow if the cow asks him to?
It's a stupid rule. There's two ways to fix that rule. Either you make it concrete black and white, i.e. "if it touches the ground, it's not a catch". Or you make it completely subjective like pitches in baseball, i.e. "if it looks like a catch, it's a catch".
The way that rule is written now is a clusterfuck waiting to happen, and it happens about once every 3 games. You got unlucky, it happened 3 times in this game.
But even with that crappy rule, the refs have been enforcing it consistently. Consistently opposed to every human emotion and rational thought, but consistent with how the rule is written. We got screwed by it during the Iowa game, so it's only fair that we benefit from the same assbackwards interpretation during this game.
So I completely understand why you're making that face Danny, but that's it. We're not giving back any trophies, so all you VT fans (and other fans) can politely STFU.
I found the "real" reason why they missed their last kick.
Denard has the most expressive face I can remember on a football player.
And keith stone, I mean Gibbons came through in the clutch.
And even though this scene is completely staged with the different colored confetti of each team loaded into the machines and one box of horrible T-shirts gets opened while the other gets incinerated or sent to Indonesia, this team deserves this picturesque fairy tail ending. All you need to do is listen to Jr. to realize how much pain this team has been through. They earned this moment.