Tag Archives: Virginia Tech Football

Virginia Football is Heading in the Right Direction – Despite the Last 2 Games

It’s a shame that disappointment was the overriding sentiment among Virginia faithful as the regular season came to a close on Saturday in Charlottesville. The current sentiment is understandable but should not be the prevailing sentiment when looking at the full body of work and the progress Virginia football demonstrated during the year. That said, I get the current feelings of disappointment and pondering what might have been.

Two weeks prior, Virginia completely dominated the #3 team in the country, on the road, for two and a half quarters before falling apart and adding an expected, but still disappointing loss to the 2017 record. Overmatched and on the road, Virginia looked like they could play with some of the best teams in the country before mistakes and fatigue showed that they couldn’t.

If I’d have been offered the following bet prior to this weekend’s game against Virginia Tech – if UVA holds VT to 10 points in the game, would you bet $ 100 that UVA wins the game? – I would have taken the bet in a heartbeat…which reinforces the reasons why I’m not much of a gambler. Virginia’s defense played very well against a respectable Virginia Tech offense, while Virginia’s offense posted its worst performance of the year against a solid but far from great Virginia Tech defense.

Virginia Tech feasted on wimpy opponents to start the year, bolstering its defensive stats by smashing lousy Delaware, ODU, and ECU teams while pitching shutouts in two of those three scrimmages. On Saturday however, Virginia’s offense helped the Hokie defense look like 1975 Steelers. It is hard to fathom that this was the same Virginia offense that racked up 28 points and 440 yards of total offense the prior week against a far more talented Miami defense. The Virginia offense had a couple of chances to score enough points to beat Virginia Tech, but unlike several games prior, dropped passes, overthrown balls, and a fatigued offensive line sealed Virginia’s fate.

Virginia fans know this drill. So close, but no cigar. Hence, the pervasive and familiar feeling of disappointment.

I’d suggest that Virginia fans need to shake off the disappointment and recognize that the 2017 football season was not only a success but could be a turning point in the return to football respectability. Optimistic projections entering the 2017 campaign predicted 5 wins in ’17. Many fans would have seen progress if not success in more than doubling last season’s win total with a 5-win season.

While close-but-no-cigar is recognizable territory for Virginia fans across the athletic spectrum, “close” has not really been part of the equation for football for the past 5 years. Not only was Virginia close in most of their games this season, they won 6 of them and are going bowling for the first time since 2011.

While a bowl game is a significant achievement for a previously 2-10 team and a nice reward for seniors who worked hard to turn the fortunes of Virginia football around, the best outcome of making a bowl may not be apparent until next season. Making a bowl means an extra month of practice for a Virginia team that sports a plethora of red-shirt and true freshman in their 2-deep. An additional month of practice gives Bronco and his staff the opportunity to give younger guys significant practice time and more first-team reps than usual. This extra practice time is invaluable for young teams working to build on a successful season.

Virginia fans can do their part in the turn around of Virginia football by forgetting the disappointment of 2 losses to end the season plus the distraction of a nice start to basketball season by turning out for the bowl game this year. Most projections have Virginia playing in the Military Bowl in Annapolis which is right in the drivable heart of the Virginia fan base. If Virginia draws the short straw and ends up in Detroit at the Quick Lane Bowl I understand that is a slightly less desirable trip and may not see a stellar Cavalier turnout.

Given the breaks of the last two games, I think this team is overdue for a bit of good luck. See you in Annapolis!

The New Era of College Football: The Haves Trump The Have-Nots

The evolution of college football has created a new reality. Thanks to the college football arms race in facilities, fan support, and money as well as the nascent playoff system, there are two types of college football programs:

  1. Those that have a chance to win a national championship
  2. Those that have no chance to win a national championship

There is no migration between the types of programs. You either have a chance to win it all or you don’t. The rich teams get richer, everyone else treads water or drowns.

While there are two types of college football programs, there are three types of college football fans:

  1. Those fans who correctly recognize that their teams have a chance win a national championship
  2. Those fans who correctly realize their teams have no chance to win a national    championship
  3. Those fans who incorrectly believe their team has a chance to win the national championship, when in reality, they have no chance.

No convinced? Take a look at the following videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVC3UziHeGk and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU4NXtu2T5E.

These are, theoretically, facilities for college students. But we all know what these really are. Recruiting tools to draw top athletes to Texas and Texas A&M. These are “in-kind” payments to players who are ostensibly amateur athletes.

I have no doubt that the other programs with a chance to win a national championship have (or will soon have) facilities on par if not better than these. We all know the names of these programs – Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Ohio St, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, & Oklahoma. You could probably add Oregon, Tennessee, Notre Dame and a small handful of other programs to this list, but that’s it. No other programs have a chance.

It is not shocking for fans of programs like Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College, Vandy, Kansas, and Northwestern that they have zero chance to win a national championship…ever. I think the fans of these programs understand that they will never have facilities like Texas or Texas A&M. They will never compromise their integrity to the extent that the contending programs must to get the numbers of top players needed to compete for a national championship. Fans from these programs and many more like them realize their role in the world of college football. They are fodder for the teams with a chance to win it all. They can have successful seasons and win bowl games, but they will never hoist the national championship trophy. Maybe that’s okay. The point of college, after all, is to educate young minds, not win national championships. College athletics is supposed to be entertaining, so if you recognize your place and revel in reaching the heights of success within the boundaries of your possibilities, college football is a great deal of fun.

What might be shocking to the vast majority of the fans of programs not listed above, is that their teams also have no chance to win a national championship. None, zero, zilch, nada… they just don’t realize it. Many programs fit this description…we can all name these programs with perpetually frustrated fans who mistakenly think they are on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of college programs – Virginia Tech, NC State, UNC, West Virginia, Michigan State, South Carolina, TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas St, and Arkansas among many others, have no chance to win a national championship. Unfortunately, their fans think they do.

Think about how excited fans of these programs are when they land a big-time recruit. A 5-star or high 4-star kid who is a “can’t miss” prospect. There are high-fives all around and dreams of winning the college football playoff. The sad reality is, the teams that have a real chance to win it all, get at least a half a dozen of these players – every year. Not one per year or every other year like the wannabe programs. So the teams with a real chance to win it all have 30 or more can’t-miss players on their teams. The wannabe teams might have 5.

None of this is lost on the best coaches in the industry either. Do you think Nick Saban is going to leave Alabama to coach Northwestern anytime soon? Urban Meyer going to Wake Forest? Which programs have huge donor bases that make space-age locker rooms possible? (hint: it’s not Duke and it’s not Virginia…nor NC State or West Virginia) The best coaches go to the programs with the biggest donor bases that pay the biggest salaries & fund the best facilities, which draw the best talent…and so the cycles continues.

Like gambling in Vegas, the college football game is rigged. Over the course of any season, there will be exciting times when wannabe teams beat the odds and score big upsets. But over the course of a full season (including the playoffs), a single wannabe program cannot beat the system. There are too many 30+ mega-recruit teams out there, getting better every day and one of those teams will win the national championship every time. It’s why house wins over time in Vegas. The swanky trappings of the Bellagio are not there because gamblers go home winners. The odds favor the house, so it always wins. The system favors the top programs, so they will always win.

As we begin the 2017 college football season, we could create a list of 18-20 programs with a chance to win it all. It would be the same list from 2016. The participants in the football championship will be from that list – with no chance for an upstart to crash the party. It’s like the list to get into the VIP section of a popular night club. Not on the list? Not getting in.

The downside of this could be that as more college football fans realize the game is rigged against them, fans will lose interest and the game’s popularity could begin to fade. Then again, Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be losing its steam and state lotteries continue to be wildly popular. Maybe the fans of the wannabe programs understand their fate better than they let on. Maybe they are like the lottery players, thinking that someone is going to win this jackpot, if I buy a ticket it might be me, so every season, misplaced hope springs eternal. Unfortunately, the odds of winning the Powerball are better than their team winning the national championship.

E-mail David at david.rayner@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

Can Bronco Deliver Before Moses?

Moses wandered 40 years in the desert leading the Israelites in search of the promised land.

Since it decided to relieve George Welsh of his duties leading it’s football program, Virginia has wandered for 16 years in the wasteland of college football. 15 years were essentially wasted chasing false prophets. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 24 years for Bronco Mendenhall to find the promised land. Unfortunately, watching the debacle in Blacksburg on Saturday, 24 years looks about right.

Just for a little comparative ACC perspective, it took David Cutcliffe 5 years to start winning at Duke after decades of football futility. Dave Clawson didn’t start winning at Wake Forest until his third year leading the program. Heck, our own football legend George Welsh went 2-9 in his first year at Virginia. So before we all panic and assume that Bronco Mendenhall should have stayed in Provo, I think it is safe to say that fan expectations were well ahead of reality for Bronco’s first year leading the program. 

That said, I have seen some bad performances by the Virginia football team in my decades as a fan, but I would have a hard time coming up with one worse than this year’s drubbing against a pretty good, but not great, Virginia Tech team. The players made mistakes early and often on both sides of the ball. I don’t have the space nor the stomach to review Saturday’s on-field miscues.

I am most perplexed however, by the decisions of the coaching staff. When your team is 2-9, there is nothing wrong with going unconventional. There is a difference between unconventional and stupid. Calling a flanker option pass on 4th & 1 is unconventional. High risk & high reward. Rotating quarterbacks with similar skill sets based on down situations is stupid. If we were going with stupid, why didn’t we play barefooted or with our helmets on backwards. At least that would have given us a legitimate excuse for the results on the scoreboard.

I’d love to know who on the staff thought that the situational quarterback rotation with two pocket passers would be an effective strategy for an upset win. Oh, and let’s toss in a QB option run with our 3rd string quarterback, also a pocket passer. Who wouldn’t have guessed that play along with this game would end in tragedy? Maybe this was Bronco’s way of throwing in the towel. Letting Matt Johns play in his final game with the team, but not letting him be the sole scapegoat for the inevitable embarrassing loss. I can’t think of another reason for such an inexplicable strategy.

Whatever the reason for the quarterback carousel, the fanbase is not amused. Virginia fans are tired of being the doormat of the ACC Coastal, which is the doormat division of the P5 cartel. If Virginia had a solid game plan and played their hearts out but just lost to a better Virginia Tech team, I think Virginia fans could have accepted that result. However, the team played like the plan for the game was to throw the towel early. It is too bad Virginia couldn’t have just gotten on the bus back to Charlottesville at halftime and saved everyone a lot of time. There was no fight, no adjustment in game plan in the second half, just more of the same nonsense that didn’t work in the first half. In poker I think that is called throwing good money after bad or doubling down on a pair of 2s.

I suppose the good news is that what should be the worst season of Bronco’s tenure in Charlottesville is over. Like lousy corporate earnings from a prior year, the comparison for next season is based on a pretty low bar. Let’s hope that Bronco and staff can double the number of wins and show some heart in both play on the field as well as game planning & strategy.

While Virginia fans are generally a patient bunch, they do not have the patience of Job and are tired of directionless wandering. I’ll renew my season tickets for 2017, but may not have 24 year’s worth of patience left to see this program get back to relevance.

E-mail David at david [dot] rayner [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

Photo: Wikimedia

Misery Compiled: Another blown lead costs Irish

In the bitter cold of a vintage November Saturday in South Bend, Indiana, The Notre Dame Fighting Irish warmed up the 80,000 in attendance with the dumpster fire that was the second half against Virginia Tech. For the third straight time at home this season, the Irish blitzed out to an early lead, before suffering a total collapse.

Against Stanford, the Cardinal fell behind 10-0 at halftime, but then went on to score 17 unanswered and beat the Irish by seven. After a bye week to recuperate and fix their mistakes, the Irish assumed that a 20 point lead would be safe against Miami. 27 unanswered points for the Hurricanes debunked that theory, but the Irish were fortunate to scrape their way back and win that one.

Now, this week, Notre Dame took a quick 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Hokies, led by dual-threat quarterback Jerod Evans, scored 34 points in the next three quarters. They went on to win 34-31, capped off by 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

The “what-ifs” surrounding this game are brutal to consider. What if the Irish had punched it in when they had 1st and goal from the 1, instead of settling for a field goal? What if DeShone Kizer’s head hadn’t been slammed into the turf when he scrambled for a first down (The incident is at 2:13:45 in the video)? What if he hadn’t been knocked out again on the penultimate play of the game? What if Cole Luke hadn’t been wrongfully called for pass interference (2:47:30 in the video) in the fourth quarter? What if?

Unfortunately, all of those things did happen. Now, the reality is that Notre Dame has now lost seven games by a combined total of 32 points. In each loss, the Irish have had the ball in crunch time with a chance to win or tie the game. 5 times this season, the Irish have had the ball and failed to score with under 2 minutes left in the game. The absence of a consistent, clutch playmaker has hurt the Irish time and time again. DeShone Kizer, after throwing for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, went 3-of-15 for 36 yards as the Hokies stormed back to take the lead.

There were some positives to be gleaned from this game, however, the most significant of which being that Josh Adams ran for 100 yards, and Notre Dame as a whole ran for 200. Kizer hit 8 different receivers for passes of over 10 yards, despite being under pressure for almost the whole game. James Onwualu got a sack on Senior Day, and Jarron Jones recovered a fumble.

There’s not a lot to celebrate right now as a Notre Dame Football fan, but a big rivalry game against a talented USC team and the optimism that comes with a new season are enough to keep the hope alive. A lot of talent returns next year, and I’m calling it now, 11-1 next season for the Irish. Come back next week to read why I’m right about that prediction. But for now, Happy Thanksgiving and beat Trojans.

Contact writer John Horlander on Twitter:John_Horlander or by email: john.horlander@campuspressbox.com

Flickr – Neon Tommy

Ohio State Football: 5 Underrated Players Versus VT

It is well known by now who the key players will be for Ohio State as they take on Virginia Tech in a highly anticipated rematch.

Ezekiel Elliott, J.T. Barrett, (or Cardale Jones) and Michael Thomas are all names that come to mind. Lets take a look at some of the players flying under the radar that will be key cogs in Ohio State’s Labor Day match up in Blacksburg.

No. 5- Marcus Baugh:

Redshirt sophomore tight end Marcus Baugh may not be a name you think of when it comes to key players for Ohio State, but he could play a huge role in tonight’s match up with Virginia Tech. Baugh is slated to be the second tight end behind senior Nick Vannett in an Ohio State offense that loves double tight end sets. Even at 6’5, 255 pounds, Baugh is an exceptional athlete. Rated a four-star and top 150 prospect by all the major recruiting rankings out of high school, (Rivals, Scout, ESPN, 247Sports) Baugh has the talent to fill the role Vannett filled last season as an understudy to Jeff Heuerman last season. Ohio State also doesn’t know what it will get out of its receiving core Monday night, so the tight ends could play a huge factor.


No. 4-Gareon Conley:

We all know how important it is to have good defensive backs. Just look at the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes who’s leaky secondary probably cost them a shot at a national championship. That goes to show the importance Conley will play for the Buckeyes tonight as well as this season. Slotted as the starter at corner opposite Eli Apple, the former number one player in the state of Ohio out of high school (ESPN) will need to show he can hold his own. In his only start last season against Michigan State, Conley looked unsure and not ready to live up to the pressure that comes with playing for Ohio State. Conley’s play against an average VT receiving core will be one of the key aspects in tonight’s match up.

No. 3-Tyquan Lewis:

A lot of talk goes to the other defensive end for Ohio State, Joey Bosa, and for good reason. Bosa is well known as one of the top defensive players in college football. But there is a new defensive end lining up on the weak side for the defending national champions. That man is redshirt sophomore Tyquan Lewis, and his play in tonight’s game will be even more important with Joey Bosa set to serve his one-game suspension. Replacing dependable senior Steve Miller, Lewis has the strength and pass rush ability to be a force on the Ohio State Defense. Lewis was said to have had a great spring and fall camp as the new starter, and it will show tonight in Blacksburg.

No. 2-Tommy Schutt:

Schutt takes over at defensive tackle this season in replace of arguably Ohio State’s most important player on defense last season in departed senior and NFL draft pick Michael Bennett. Now a senior, look for Schutt to step up in place of Bennett and prove himself on one of the nations best defensive fronts. Schutt was also the first player to commit to Urban Meyer’s first recruiting class at Ohio State. Rated a five-star prospect out of high school and the number five defensive tackle in the country back then, (Scout.com) tonight is the night Schutt may finally live up to that billing. Schutt has the ability to penetrate as Bennett was so good at, and should cause problems for the Virginia Tech offensive line.

No. 1-Chase Farris:

Fifth-year senior Chase Farris will start his first game as a Buckeye tonight at Lane Stadium, and he is one the most underrated aspects of the chase to repeat for the Buckeyes. Farris takes over for departed senior Darryl Baldwin at the right tackle spot for the Buckeyes. Farris has paid his dues, switching from offense to defense, back to offense for Ohio State until finally being named starting right tackle for this season. Farris is athletic, (a former high school basketball player) and will need to be tonight facing one the best defensive end tandems in college football. How Farris performs is a very underrated aspect of how Ohio State will performs tonight against the Hokies.


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Ohio State Football Preview: What The Buckeyes Are Up Against Facing VT

By now, I am sure you have heard much about what Ohio State is up against come Monday night at Lane Stadium against Virginia Tech.

The Labor Day game, which is slated to start at 8:00 p.m (EST) on ESPN, will mark the beginning of the Buckeyes quest to defend their national championship. With the Hokies handing Ohio State their lone loss last season at the Horseshoe, this season’s match up has been a trendy pick by analyst and fans alike for an early season upset.

Ohio State (a team that has run off 13 straight wins since last season’s loss to VT) ended the season as the hottest team in the country. It seems inconceivable that with the number of experienced players returning, and revenge fresh on their minds that Ohio State would walk into Lane Stadium anything less than “charged up”.

As referenced above, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott seems to be full go for Ohio State’s match up with Virginia Tech Monday night.

That’s the beauty of college football though right? Anything can happen on any given Saturday (or in this case, Monday). It looks like the Hokies are ready as well.

With that being said, lets take a look at what the Buckeyes are up against as they travel along the road to a repeat.

Coming off a 7-6 season, the Hokies have not lived up to the standards set by previous teams where the expectations are to win double-digit games and compete for ACC championships. From 2004-11, Frank Beamers’ Virginia Tech squads won no less than 10 games in each of those seasons. In the three seasons since, the Hokies finished with no more than eight wins, with two 7-6 seasons over that span. Last season with a win over Virginia in the final regular season game, the Hokies were able to extend their streak of bowl appearance to 22 consecutive seasons.

So what will the 2015 version of the Virginia Tech Hokies look like? On offense, senior quarterback Michael Brewer returns after starting all 13 games for Tech last season. His shining moment came in the form of leading the team to a victory over Ohio State, but was very inconsistent the rest of the season finishing with 18 touchdown passes with 15 interceptions. With a full season as well as spring ball in this current system under his belt after transferring from Texas Tech, expect improvement from Brewer this season.

The real difficulties for the Hokie offense will be trying to find play makers around him. After averaging only 207.1 yards per game through the air, look for sophomore receiver Isaiah Ford to improve on his 709 yards receiving in which he led the team as a freshman last season. Ford has the ability to be the go to guy for Brewer this season. Sophomore tight end Bucky Hodges gives Brewer another steady option through the air, coming in second to Ford in catches with 45, and first in touchdown catches with seven last season.

If Virginia Tech can get anything out of its running game this season, (which had no player rush for more than 533 yards) it would take an enormous load off of Michael Brewer and the passing game.

What the Hokies lack on offense, they make up for on defense as they often do. Coached by defensive guru Bud Foster for yet another season, the Hokies have the talent on defense to give any opposing offense problems.Ohio-State-vs-Virginia-Tech-Football-2014-Schedule-Preview1

The defensive line is one of the best the country has to offer. Defensive ends Ken Ekanem and Dadi Nicolas both return as one of the best end tandems in the ACC, if not the country (combined for 19 sacks last season). Former All-ACC performer Luther Maddy returns at defensive tackle after missing most of last season due to injury. Corey Marshall will start at the other tackle spot to form one of the nations best defensive fronts.

Virginia Tech also boasts one of the top corner back tandems in the nation as well. Junior All-American Kendall Fuller may be the nations top corner, and will most likely be a first round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. On the opposite side, 6’2’’, 196-pound sophomore Brandon Facyson (who was granted a medical red-shirt last season) has all the tools to be a lock-down corner in his own right.

Ohio State won’t be going against a roster loaded with talent like their own in Virginia Tech, but they do have the defense (which will be aided by their home crowd) to keep the game close for a while.

Follow me on twitter for more sports coverage and analysis @D_woods21.