Well, it’s been a very hectic year. Only my 4th post in 2014. Obviously, I’m not a very good blogger.
Life has gotten in the way.
House repairs, work, added responsibilities, the new puppy, who is now BIG and everything else. I’ve gone through illnesses, skipped vacations, twice the workload at the office, a concussion and everything you could imagine. I’ve even (due to a slipped disc in my back) had to drop my beloved CrossFit for 2014. But, it’s December, Phoebe will be a year old this month, 2014 is ending, and new beginnings await in 2015. So there is good on the horizon.
(Phoebe a few months ago enjoying the sun)
Speaking of things that have ended, the college football season in 2014 is coming to a close and with that, the Hokies have finished their season with their 22nd consecutive bowl-eligible team. The longest “officially recognized” current streak in college football. (FSU has 34, but had to vacate some due to NCAA violation issues). Something to be proud of, yes?
I am proud of this team. They have battled through a number of injuries, I believe at points throughout the season, we have played 14 (true) freshmen this year. We are extremely young. We have skill position players to build with and the future is potentially bright for the next few years. We beat UVA again this year, for the 11th straight time. Unheard of in most state-wide rivalry games. Some middle-school aged children have never experienced UVA beating the Hokies. I respect our in-state rivals, they have given us good games, and this year came down to the final minutes. All of these things are good, positive things to build on, and things that we can look back on and say, all is well.
Started out 2-0. Beat Ohio State at the Horseshoe. Our QB transfer from Texas Tech looked like the next Tom Brady. Suddenly, we were looking like a team that may be a year ahead of schedule considering our youth. I attended the third game of the season. East Carolina v. Tech. Always a tough game, I call them “the Rodney Dangerfield of College Football. — They get no respect.”
We came out flat after our big win at OSU. They played us tough, and after tying it late in the 4th, they drove down the field for a final minute TD and won 28-21. Okay, we’re young, the big win, we thought we were just going to walk in and get a W at home. Not against ECU. I was fearful of that result, but I’m willing to accept it, especially with a young team.
Long story short, we stumbled down the stretch of the season, and NEEDED a victory against UVA in the final game of the season to get to 6-6 and be bowl-eligible. There was only one game when we were completely out of the game early. We lost 5 games this season by a TD or less. So you can’t say we weren’t in the games.
Looking at these results in a vacuum of just this season, QB transfer in his first year, injuries left and right, all the freshmen starting, etc. etc. I think I could really forgive these results. However, you can’t look at things in such a narrow view. Not even football.
There are potentially very big changes coming to Virginia Tech this off-season. Beamer is under contract through 2018. The buck stops with him as head coach obviously. Scot Loeffler’s contract ends this season. Bud Foster, the greatest Defensive Coordinator in college football (my opinion) has his $800K annuity come in at the end of this season and is under paid. So let’s look at these situations.
BeamerBall is strong defense, strong special teams, ball control and scoring in all phases. Beamer is the leader of the special teams, has been forever. Our Special Teams, honestly, haven’t been all that special the last few years. Blocks, returns etc have all fallen off dramatically in the last few years. Mostly due to penalties, blocks in the back etc. 13 double-digit win seasons, including the longest streak of 8 in a row gives you quite a bit of latitude, and should. I believe as the winningest coach in college football today, he deserves the right to stay, but things need to change. Someone needs to take over the special teams unit to bring new life to those strategies. Beamer needs to be in control of the team and the mental mistakes that have plagued this team for the last 4-5 seasons need to be his wheelhouse.
Foster has produced yet another stellar defense. Even with young players, and all but two starters coming back next year. His defense is ranked 18th in the country in points and yards allowed per game. A small drop off from the typical top 10 or 15 we’re accustomed to, but again, a young group! 4, All-ACC defensive players voted by the media shows the strength of this unit. Bud is the future of this program. He should be Beamer’s successor. He needs to be retained at all cost. He needs and deserves a raise. Without him, we’d likely be a 2 or 3-win team, at best! He recruits well, gets the most out of every player and is the sharp-fanged monster in the closet of every Offensive Coordinator’s nightmares on our schedule. -In the words of Metallica as we storm the stadium, he’s the:
“Dreams of war, dreams of liars
Dreams of dragon’s fire
And of things that will bite
Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight”
This brings me to Scot Loeffler. Good recruiter. Has a good rapport with QB’s and is probably the main reason Brewer transferred to Tech. That’s about where my praise stops.
Loeffler was brought in from Auburn following the 2012 season. He’s done the same things his predecessor was guilty of, un-imaginative play calling, predictability and a fear to stretch the field. Yes, the run game established a passing game, but he never is patient enough to let the run game get started. Play action only works if there is a threat of running the ball. Yes, we’ve had injuries, but our leading rusher has 475 yards on the season before his injury, there are players that have almost hit that in a single game this season.
If we have a fear of stretching the field (Brewer had some really terrible throws for interceptions) you either work it out with that QB, or you move on to the next man up. You don’t leave him in for 90% of the season and not throw the ball.
Our offensive line is well, offensive. They’re terrible. They don’t block correctly, if we do make a good run, it’s only because we were holding or chop blocking or some other penalty. The entire offense is not in-sync and they do the most critical of mental errors at least 3-4 times a game. I’m not just talking false starts, but too many men on the field, illegal formations and the list goes on. You cannot tell me that 11 guys are wrong that many times in a game. There are issues in the game plan that create these mistakes. I will concede that they are a young group, but this has been happening for the last two seasons.
In the two years under Loeffler, the offensive output has not moved the needle. Stinespring hovered around the 100th best offense in his time as OC. 2013, 101st under Loeffler with only 22.5 pts/game. Again, new system, not a lot of weapons, I can forgive that. 2014, we’ve improved to 100th at only 23.3 pts/game. Better (real) quarterback (not a TE playing QB), and skill position weapons all over the place. While I am a proponent of progress, no matter how small is still progress, this is not what he was brought in for. He got “his quarterback” in a transfer. We’ve got the talent. When there are only 19 teams worse in the country at scoring points, there are problems that need to be addressed.
This, after a grinding stop to the offense in the ECU game. First two games of the season, throws down field, play-action, running between the tackles and inventive play calling. Your hero from the Ohio State game throws a few INT’s and now we play with midget-league-level play calls?? Remember my All-ACC defenders? 4 of them this year on various teams (1st, 2nd and 3rd). Tech only has 1… O.N.E. ONE, offensive player on the All-ACC team. 3rd teamer, TE Bucky Hodges. Do you see the disparity? 4 guys on Defense, in a 14-team league. Only 1 on Offense.
Finally, there are teams racking up 600+ yards of offense in college football today. Spread offenses, fast paced play calling, getting play-makers in space etc. Tech only crossed the 300 yards of offense threshold 4 times this season. So 66% of the time, we never even got 300 yards of total offense!! And only 7 times in two seasons under Loeffler. So in his tenure as OC, 28% of the time, we’ve gotten 300 yards of TOTAL offense (not QB passing yards, or total rushing yards… total yards as a team). 72% of the time we haven’t. You can’t put that much pressure on the BeamerBall Defense and Special Teams to win you games.
1992 was Tech’s last losing season. We needed our bowl win in 2012 to finish 7-6. Last year, with more senior players we finished 8-5 (but the offensive and defensive numbers weren’t that different). We were able to close out games, got lucky a few times, but we weren’t that good. This year, we have been in (almost) every game. Could potentially be 11-1 if we had a decent (even ranked in the mid 50’s in the country) offense. Heck, even the 30-6 loss at home to Miami, may have been different if the offense could move the ball. Momentum in a game can really change an outcome. This season saw the first regulation shutout our team has seen since 1995. We did score in OT, and lost that game to a terrible Wake Forest team 6-3 in double OT. So even when they gave us the ball at the 25-yard-line on two occasions all we could muster was 3 points…
Limping into the bowl season with a 6-6 record, when we could, potentially (I know it’s pie-in-the-sky) be in the discussion for the National Championship Playoffs doesn’t sit well. I don’t know our bowl, or our opponent yet for the bowl game, but I have a very real, and uneasy feeling we may finish the season with the first losing record since some of the current students were born. Drink up you 21 and 22-year-olds. Dark days this bowl and offseason may be ahead. Especially if we lose Foster to a better offer.