October 28, 2011

Celebration Six-Pack

Here's a six-pack of thoughts as I prepare to pop into a real-life six pack and continue the celebration from last night into today...

1) What a huge, huge win last night.  The 5th on the season, which means we only need to pick up one more win in order to become bowl-eligible.  HUGE.  @ Maryland and home against Duke these next two weeks, I'm guessing we're favored in both.  Just need one more...

The Little Engine That Could
2) Perry Jones was freaking incredible last night -- 12 carries for 74 yards, 1 reception for 78 yards and a TD, and one pass for 37 yards and a TD.  Wow.  His season totals: 125 carries for 677 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and 2 TDs, 28 receptions for 314 yards and 2 TDs.  He's having a phenomenal season.

3) I think the D played pretty good, with the exception of the coverage on Tommy Streeter (Miami #8).  But that dude is a Megatron-ish monster; a 6-5 kondor behemoth.  No way tiny little Tra Nicholson could hang with that guy.  As for the overall defense, a good showing.  Holding an explosive Miami team to 21 points is always going to be a feat.  Specific props go out to LaRoy Reynolds, who made the critical 4th down stop late in the 4th quarter.  He anticipated that snap perfectly (to the point where I was worried he'd get nailed with a bogus offsides penalty).

4) We've bounced back and forth this season.  Great win against William & Mary, got lucky against Indiana, decent loss at UNC, bad loss against USM, bad win against Idaho, breakthrough victory against GT, crapped the bed against NCST, and then last night.  It's a roller-coaster ride with this team right now.  But the bottom line is that we're 5-3 (2-2 ACC) with a very legitimate chance to get to 7-5 (4-4), which puts us into the category of being "decent."  I'm not saying we're rebuilt, or that we're at where we want to go, but it's hard to argue against the notion that we are definitely on the right track.

5) Make no mistake, Miami is a better team than Georgia Tech.  This was a better win than the one from two weeks ago.  Relish it, Hoo fans.

6) Mike Rocco is and should be our starting quarterback for the balance of this season, and he should be the favorite to win the job for next year and also 2013.  He's a good enough passer, has underrated mobility, and has the tools to develop into a very solid starting quarterback.  That's what we need right now, to find a competent starting QB to stabilize the program and develop a healthy succession plan behind him.  Where does David Watford fit in?  Honestly, I'm not sure he does.  I doubt he'll be content being the gadget play, change-of-pace QB.  Give him the chance to win the starting job in the spring, and if he fails, you have to be straight up with him that he's going to be second fiddle behind Rocco until injury or until the 2014 season.  That's my two pennies on the matter.

Anyway, great win!  We're getting there.  Slowly but surely, and in fits and stops, two steps forward / one step back, we're getting there.  Laying the lumber to Maryland in eight days would go a LONG way toward cementing the program's rise from the abyss.  Get it done, guys.


October 27, 2011

Keys to Victory

Hello there Wahooze. We are in the extremely rare position this week of having me actually be competent in the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent we are facing. This is the great showdown of my household, if we win it basically affirms my life choices (yes college for me was mostly about sports), if we lose I have to listen to my mother sing the UM fight song at 6 in the morning tomorrow. Don’t really need that to happen since I will be picking up the team at 3am tomorrow. All that being said here is what the Hoos need to do to beat the Canes tonight:
1.       PASS THE BALL:
Miami, for all the athletes it has, does not have many picks this season; in fact they only have 4, which is half of our count on the year. All those athletes come in to get after the QB. Safties Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque (both great names) are much stronger in run support than they are in the passing game. Miami also has lost some key corners to the pros in DeMarcus Van Dyke and Brandon Harris. This means that there will be young CB’s matching up in press coverage against our more experienced wideouts. Look for Kris Byrd to be featured heavily in the short passing games as well as a lot of passes out of the backfield. Miami’s overaggressive nature on defense is what makes them great, but also what kills them. Look for a ton of play action and bootlegs to take advantage of this.

2.       DEFEND DEEP:
Miami has a very simple and effective offensive game plan. Lamar Miller+Burners at wideout=points. Miller average 114 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry. He is clearly their biggest threat on offense and Miami knows it. Their strategy is usually a steady diet of Miller until the defense is force to pack it in to try and stop it. That’s when senior QB Jacory Harris and his arsenal of receivers tears the top off the defense. We need deep safety help over the top the entire game. This puts a ton of pressure on the linebackers to man up and stop the run but after that performance against Georgia Tech we know that is what they are good at.

Especially coverage. Travis Benjamin is no joke in the return game. That school has a ton of athletes and that is best shown on special teams. UVA needs to continue to play well like they did last week to contain them and keep the big play from happening.

Their play will make or break this game. They need to show up to hold off the Miami attack and blow holes for the run game. They have the ability to blow them off the ball every play they just need to make a concerted effort. Miami is a relentless pass rush but can be exploited if that is handled properly. They are tough against the run so the O-Line will need to play well in order to keep the balance in the attack.

We can do this. I am slowly convincing myself. We just need to keep the big play out of their game. They rely heavily on it. Lamar Miller is going to run the ball, a lot, but we can keep him contained. We’ve shown it before. If Rocco can get in a rhythm we can control the ball and keep them off the field with short passes. Their over aggressive style can be used against them and I’m sure they will. Welcome to screen city tonight.


October 26, 2011

Wahooze Picks Week 9

Last Week:
Mike: 8
Pierce: 7
Kendall: 7
Sparkle: 7

Season Totals:
Pierce: 66
Guests: 61
Kendall: 59
Mike: 56

Week 8 was a pretty good week for all our pickers, leading to little in the way of separation. As my two lesser prognosticators try and catch up to the guests' total, this week's games feature a handful of tricky games. This week's guest picker is Havens. He assures me that he reads Wahooze regularly and has been attending UVA games his entire life. He's also short and going to be a doctor. Welcome to Internet Glory, Havens.

He's very intimidating
Let's get to it:

Virginia @ Miami (13.5)

Picking The University: Pierce, Kendall, Havens

Picking The Letter U: Mike

Pierce Says: Mike London has finally admitted that switching two QBs in and out is stupid, albeit 8 weeks later than he should have. I think Rocco could bounce back well enough to manage a game that will be closer than two scores.

Kendall Says: I seriously doubt we'll win, but I have a hunch we'll keep it somewhat close. I could see a 28-17 type of game unfold. The offense has to play a lot better... but the good news is that it can't get any worse than it looked last week. The D has been making strides, so I do think things are kind of coming together. Miami on a Thursday night doesn't scare me. There might be 40K in the stands, not too intimidating. If we do go on to get our asses kicked, let's hope there's a World Series game 7 to distract the national audience.

Mike Says: I'm hoping my terrible luck works in our favor. But I feel a beatdown a brewin.

Havens Says: I think our defense will continue to make strides and if we can stick to our power running game so we dont have to ask much of whichever guy is at qb we keep it close. I dont know if we have enough to win at Miami but I think we beat the spread.

UConn @ Pitt (-10)

Picking the reigning basketball champs: Nobody.

Picking the best football team in the city of Pittsburgh: Everyone!

Pierce Says: Pitt proved me wrong already this season and UConn just isn't any good.

Kendall Says: Two weeks for Pitt to prepare, and UConn is not very good this season. Todd Graham quite likely cooked up something awesome for this game.

Havens Says: Pitt has had too much time and UConn is already looking at basketball season.

Wake @ UNC (-7)

Picking the actual academic school: Havens, Mike

Picking the faux-public-ivy: Pierce, Kendall

Pierce Says: Wake beat up on FSU, but barely beat Duke. I'm going with the home team.

Kendall Says: Wake is now looking a bit wobbly. So does Carolina, but I like their superior talent. At home, they should win by more than a touchdown.

Mike Says: Upset city.

Havens Says: This is a great matchup between a bunch of talent (UNC) and a cohesive team (Wake). Unfortunately, at the college level talent can really make up for a lack of chemistry and I think UNC wins but only by a field goal.

NCState @ FSU (-19.5)

Picking the ugly stepsister of NC: Mike

Picking the sort of hot, but trashy stepsister of Fla: Pierce, Kendall, Havens

Pierce Says: NC State is really really really bad. I'm still shocked we lost to them. Sigh.

Kendall Says: I saw it with my own two eyes: NC State SUCKS. (We just sucked a little worse on Saturday.)

Mike Says: flying high off that big win. Fsu takes risks. Nc state capitalizes.

Havens Says: NCST is flying high but terrible and FSU is not us. They smack the wolfpack down

Clemson (-4) @ GT

Picking the sister-kissers: Everybody!

Picking the nerds: Nobody.

Pierce Says: Woooooo Al Groh sucks.

Kendall Says: Georgia Tech is now exposed, and this does not look like the standard-issue choke on a chicken bone Clemson team.

Mike Says: By a lot.

Havens Says: The past couple games Clemson has started off slow which could cause problems if they do again against GT but I dont think they do and this one is not close.

VT (-15.5) @ Duke

Picking the worst part of the Commonwealth: Kendall, Havens

Picking the worst part of Durham: Pierce, Mike

Pierce Says: Upset special! (Is it an upset if the Devils beat this spread?)

Kendall Says: Only 15.5? Seriously, Vegas?

Mike Says: Pick up your jaws bitches.

Havens Says: Duke sucks. Enough said.

Syracuse @ Louisville (-3)

Picking the guys unlucky enough to live in upstate NY: Everyone.

Picking the guys unlucky enough to live in Kentucky: Nobody.

Pierce Says: Cuse looks good. Young QB though. Letdown game for the Cards.

Kendall Says: They really, really impressed me against West Virginia last Friday night. That Orange team looks tough and balanced. Louisville looks about like Virginia -- still a couple of years away, with a young QB that is prone to making mistakes. 'Cuse is just in a more advanced stage of rebuilding, and I think Doug Marrone is legit.

Mike Says: Louisville has a good defense. But not that good. Cuse is riding high.

Havens Says: That beat down of WVU was pretty impressive and I am worried they might have a bit of a let down this week but I think they still get it done.

BC @ UMD (-7.5)

Picking the Jesuits: Kendall

Picking the "What's a Jesuit?": Pierce, Havens, Mike

Pierce Says: BC hasn't kept it within single digits against any non-UMass team this season.

Kendall Says: I detect a faint pulse, and I would really love to see UMD spit the bit in a should-win home game like this. This is a wishful thinking pick, but I like cutting against the grain every now and again.

Mike Says: Enjoy your last win of the season.

Havens Says: I want to pick BC so badly because Maryland is just not very good but I think they get it done at home. If nothing else maybe my pick will jinx them and they lose.


Baylor @ OK St (-14). I'd take double this spread.
Wisconsin (-7) @ OSU. Bouncing back after a heartbreaker - run run run the ball.

Stanford (-7.5) @ USC -- Trojan heads are all swole up from beating Notre Dame, but this Stanford team is a different kind of breed. The march continues. The Cardinal is 7-0, and 7-0 against the spread. I'd be an idiot not to ride that train until it derails.
Oklahoma (-13.5) @ Kansas State -- *UPSET SPECIAL!* Love home underdogs, and K-State suddenly has more to play for than does Chokelahoma. I'm probably wrong with this pick, but give me my style points. K-State is a surprising 7-0 and 5-2 ATS. They are the new Kansas (which used to be bettor's paradise ATS.)

West Virginia (-7) at rutgers. West Virginia picks up its few remaining teeth after getting kicked in the mouth by Syracuse.
Wisco (-7) at the horseshoe (OSU). Rookie qb plus angry wisco equals jump around.

Wisconsin(-7) @ Ohio St- tough loss last week at michigan st meaning wisconsin is going to look for someone to beat up on. Come on down depleted and undertalented ohio st team.
Baylory @ OSU(-14)- I think Baylor is a pretty good team but have you seen OSU this season. In Stillwater I dont think this one is close..

Never Forget.

October 23, 2011


Whelp, we knew the quarterbacks would cost us a game (or two, or three...) this season, and yesterday was exhibit 1-A.  Just terrible play from both Rocco and Watford, to the point where I truly wondered what Ross Metheny or Michael Strauss could have given in relief.  How does a combined 11-for-35 for 125 yards and three interceptions taste?  Sour and bitter.  It tastes like failure.  It tastes like a loss.

The defense played a decent game, certainly good enough to win.  The special teams were okay, even pitching in a rare blocked kick.  This loss is squarely on the offense.  Lazor didn't call a good game, and the quarterbacks executed that bunk gameplan horrendously.

At this point, it's time to shit or get off the pot, and choose a freaking quarterback.  Based on everything we've seen, that guy needs to be Mike Rocco (now nicknamed "Checkdown Charlie" by some message board warriors), and not Jameel Sewell, Part II... er... David Watford.  Can Greyson Lambert put his application in for October admissions?

So most of the blame goes to the QBs, a big chunk to the OC, but the offensive line is not without their share of blame, either.  The backs were running hard, there just weren't any holes.  A week after blowing Georgia Tech off the line of scrimmage, our o-line got themselves manhandled by NC State.  Not great.

The big losers in all of this - as always - are the fans.  Specifically, those of us who allowed a little hope and optimism to creep back into our lives after the GT win.  Shame on us.  This is Virginia football, an entity whose entire creation was destined to punish and torture those who love it.  Virginia Football is Rosemary's Baby.  Another Saturday, another metaphorical curb-stomp.  My jaw is starting to hurt.

The good news is that I have found a new gameday tradition: in the closing seconds of a loss, I rip my ticket into shreds and throw it into the sky, to rain confetti down on another huge, embarrassing failure.  To celebrate another wasted Saturday by the biggest freaking chump in the world.

I honestly thought we were going to win the game yesterday.  Expectations are like assholes -- they stink, and nothing comes from them but shit.

Here we sit at 4-3, possibly on a beeline toward 4-8.  Up next is a nationally-televised ass-kicking at the hands of a now-clicking Miami team, hungry for a little revenge after last year's fluke in the Hook.  Can't wait for that.

Basketball season starts three weeks from today.  Go ahead and sign Watford to the team.  He throws a mean bounce pass.

October 21, 2011

Wahooze Picks Week 8

Last week:
Keens: 5
Mike: 4
Kendall: 6
Pierce: 6
Season Total:
Pierce -- 59 points
Guest Pickers -- 54 points
Kendall -- 52 points
Mike -- 48 points

We have reached week 8 in the ACC football season and Pierce’s lead continues to swell like Kendall’s tear ducts watching a swing pass to Perry Jones. After another impressively shitty showing by yours truly I have actually done some research this week on something other than hilarious nicknames for each team. It’s about to go down.
This week’s celebrity picker is Andrew “Sparkle” McCampbell, loyal reader, bus driver, and somehow fantasy football savant. If Sparkle did half as much research for these picks as he did for our draft, which is enough to make the people who planned D-Day blush, then you should take his picks to the bank. Sparkle is a great guy and loyal reader, and also one of the loudest UVA fans on the planet. Without further ado let’s jump into week 8:

NC State at Virginia (-5.5)
Picking the Hoos: Pierce, Kendall, Sparkle
Picking the Pack: Mike
Mike Says: I like UVA to win but this one will be close I think. Late Robert Randolph field goal wins it. Our safties have to pass defend again…
Sparkle Says: I know the history. The Virginia of the past would falter after GT, but I feel it in my gut that this is going to be different. Hopefully, we will have a repeat performance of the amazing rush offense from last week and destroy the Wolves. Add the growing injury list for NC State, and I don't know why you wouldn't pick the Hoos.
Pierce Says: I'm going against my UVAfan experience in this one. Mojo feels good, but logic dictates we screw this up somehow. What are we if we don't follow our hearts though?
Kendall Says: Gotta believe in the Hoos, though State has more experience and (possibly) more talent.  I just think we've found something with the power running game, and it will carry the day.  Looking for a close 28-21 type of game here.

West Virginia (-14) at Syracuse
Taking the Mountaineers: Pierce, Mike
Taking the Orange: Kendall, Sparkle
Mike Says: West Virginia needs to prove it belongs in the BCS before it gets handed the spot with its garbage AQ spot. Look for them to start steamrolling people.
Sparkle Says: Not picking Syracuse to win, but coming off a bye week, I think this game is going to be closer than the lines suggest.
Pierce Says: Cuse seems to have been struggling a lot lately.
Kendall Says: Not a believer in WVU.

Maryland at FSU (-17)
Taking the ‘Noles: Pierce, Mike
Taking the Terps: Sparkle, Kendall
Mike Says: FSU’s defense is too fast for that running QB to handle.
Sparkle Says: Maryland came close to knocking off Clemson. I think they will have no issue at least keeping this close.
Pierce Says: Rough place to play for a young QB and FSU is more than talented enough to keep up with the mobile QB threat.
Kendall Says: Not to win, but to beat that way-too-big point spread.

Georgia Tech at Miami (-3)
Taking the Canes: Sparkle, Kendall, Pierce
Taking the Jackets: Mike
Mike Says: Somehow I am the only one picking against Miami this week. The defense is consistently overaggressive and struggles against this attack. I would love to be wrong but I think a GT team with renewed focus takes it to the Canes this week.
Sparkle Says: As much as I hate Miami, I see them finally putting a halt to being schizophrenic long enough to beat Tech and that shitty, shitty defense. Plus, GT has to be tired. Here is to Mike's two teams metaphorically kicking Groh in the balls.
Pierce Says: Al Groh sucks. Lamar Miller does not.
Kendall Says: I think the Canes have enough talent up front to cause some trouble for the suddenly-exposed Wreck.  Lamar Miller will run wild on Al Groh's always-shitty 34 that looks and plays more like a small/slow 52.

Wake (-3) at Duke:
Taking the Deacs: Everyone!
Taking the Devils: No one!
Mike Says: This is easy…
Sparkle Says: Come on? Seriously?!
Pierce Says: Wake may be coming off a couple losses, but they're still a way way better team than the Blue Devils.
Kendall Says: Really?  Only three points?  Easiest pick of the week.

UNC at Clemson (-10.5)
Taking the Tigers: Kendall, Sparkle, Pierce
Taking the Heels: Mike
Mike Says: I think this is a sneaky close game. UNC is better than Maryland who may have exposed the Tigers a bit this week. Clemson wins but Carolina covers
Sparkle Says: This one is almost as absurd.
Pierce Says: I think Clemson rolls in this one - 20+ pt win
Kendall Says: Here comes a beatdown, 35-14 type of game.

BC at Virginia Tech (-21)
Taking the Eagles: No one!
Taking the Hokies: Everyone!
Mike Says: BC is accepting coaching applications I’m sure.
Sparkle Says: Have you seen BC? No way they are sticking with the Hokies. But, boy if I am wrong, will I be so happy.
Pierce Says: High spread, but Thomas has been scoring at will recently. BC's garbage.
Kendall Says: BC is just terrible.  The Hokies are pulling it back together.  Bloodletting to ensue.

Auburn at LSU (-22.5): Wouldn’t it be nice for us to be able to suspend 2 starters from the secondary and still be favored this much?
Oklahoma State (-6.5) at Mizzou: Not even close

Wisconsin (-8) at Michigan State: The Spartans have finally figured out their shit after a few injuries, the game is at home, and Wisconsin has only beaten one team worthwhile. I am going for the upset.
Oklahoma State (-6.5) at Missouri: They are going to need to watch for the upset, but I think they will keep their shit together and get things done.

Washington at Stanford (-20.5) - I'm going to stick with the Andrew Luck party until they play anyone who's any good. I'm not sold on the Huskies one bit, plus the game's a night game in Palo Alto

OK State (-6.5) at Mizzou- This looks like free money to me. Watch OKSU play if you haven't had the chance.

Poke State (-6.5) at Mizzou- Ready to win a game like this, but @ Mizzou is no easy task.
Washington at Stanford (-20.5)- They are now not only on the Luck for Heisman campaign, but on a national championship warpath.  In other words, they're digging for style points.

Read em and weep. Let’s go get a win this weekend!

October 19, 2011

Q&A With Doug

I want to take a few seconds to tell you about my friend Doug.  He's a truly great guy.  Loyal to a fault (I know this, because he's a fellow life-long Bungles fan).  The kind of guy who would give you the shirt off of his back.  The thing about Doug... brace yourselves... is that he's a Virginia Tech fan.  One of the biggest I know, actually.

But that hasn't stunted our friendship at all.  Quite the contrary.  I think it's made us better friends. Mostly because I needed to know a decently reasonable VT fan so I could come down off of this misconception that all Virginia Tech fans are total redneck scumbags.

Doug isn't a scumbag at all.  Like I said, he's a great guy.  And he probably knows more about football, and has the most even-keeled opinions about football of anyone I've ever known.  I respect him and his opinions a lot.  A helluva lot.

His wife is a Virginia alum and season ticket holder.  When he's not down in Blacksburg for a game (he's a Tech season ticket holder, himself), he's out there tailgating and taking in games in Scott Stadium.  He knows the Virginia Tech program from top to bottom, but he also knows a hell of a lot about the UVA program.  So he brings a lot of knowledge and a lot of unique, interesting perspective to the table.

That's exactly the reason why I wanted to do a blowout Wahooze-style Q&A with the man, coming from the angle of breaking down Tech's success over the last 15+ years, and digging down into how it will continue long term, and how UVA of the 2010's might be able to mirror the 1990's rise of the Hokie program.

As much as we Virginia fans might deny it, it is Virginia Tech's gridiron success that we aspire to.  That's the God's honest truth.  So I thought Doug was the perfect person to give us a little gospel on the subject.  As you read through these questions and his extremely well-conceived and thoughtfully-constructed responses, try to keep that in mind.  Where Virginia Tech is right now is exactly where we want the Virginia program to eventually ascend.

On to the Q&A...

1) How long have you been a Virginia Tech fan?  Did it start with you going to school there, or before?

Doug: I started my Virginia Tech career in the Fall of 1990. I have to admit I was not a big Virginia Tech fan that first year. I suppose it was a combination of my love for basketball, my interest in pro football (The Bengals were one year removed from the Super Bowl and made a return trip to the playoffs, and frankly just the overall newness of college.) It pains me to admit that I chose to skip the 1990 VT-UVA game because I would have had to go back to school one day earlier than planned. I would say that the beginning of my fandom began my second year, in 1991. I went to every home game in '91 and '92 and saw 5-6 and 2-8-1 seasons. The payoff was the 1993 season which resulted in an undefeated home season and an overall 9-3 record.

2) At what point did you realize your football program had "arrived?"  Was there a specific moment in time, a specific win, or a specific recruit, something like that?

Doug: Interesting question. From the game point of view, I would say getting the 0-12 Miami record off of our back in 1995 was really big, as was winning the Sugar bowl against Texas that same season. From a recruiting standpoint, getting Ken Oxendine and Cornell Brown to commit back in '92 and '93 were big, and showed that we were capable of getting some highly-ranked recruits that would have otherwise gone to UVA or UNC. Obviously, from a program point of view, getting that first Thursday night game in '94 and Gameday in '99 were all big deals as well. In my opinion, the concept of "arrival" usually cannot be defined by one individual moment, but by a sequence of events that build up to general public acceptance of the program. Obviously, the National Championship game berth was the fruition of this for Virginia Tech just as UVA's #1 ranking in 1990 was a the fruition of many events for the Hoos (first bowl game appearance, first bowl win, signing Terry Kirby, beating Clemson for the first time, etc.)

Terry Kirby: UVA's first modern-era uber-recruit.

3) Why do you think Virginia has not been as successful on the field as the Hokies during the course of the last fifteen years or so?

Doug: From a head-to-head basis, I would say it's a variety of reasons. Let's go back to 1993 when VT started its current run. Throw out '93 to '99 as the series went 4-3 in favor of VT, which is essentially even. The only team that was clearly more talented during that stretch was 1999 Virginia Tech, which went on to the national championship game against FSU. From 2000 to 2004, It was 4-1 in favor of the Hokies. UVA had very talented teams in 2000, 2002, and 2004,  but unfortunately had to play in Blacksburg all three years. In 2001 we got Al Groh in his first year after George Welsh left the cupboard a little bare in terms of young talent. Ironically, 2003 was our most talented team ever in terms of top-end players, yet we couldn't beat our way out of a wet paper bag by the end of the year. Obviously from 2005 on is where the gap really gets stretched out. The bottom line for the past six years is simply a clear differential in talent; VT has simply had more. Honestly my only concern about UVA in the past six years was Chris Long going crazy and single-handedly beating us in 2007 as he did that year against Miami. As long as we showed up and played our game we were going to win against you guys. More on this later...

Overall UVA played a tougher schedule than us in the late '90s but unfortunately didn't win a lot of the big games (Michigan '95, Texas '95, Auburn '97), a trend on which Tech has sort of returned the favor recently (Boise 2010Alabama 2009, LSU 2007). The reality is that the margin between winning and losing is very thin. 

4) Name the five most important positions on a college football team.  Why did you choose those five?  How does Virginia Tech traditionally address those five positions in recruiting and player development?

Doug: I am a big believer in the baseball axiom... it's most important to be strong up the middle. In college football, I would rank them as follows:

1) Defensive Tackle -  Is there anything better than a disruptive DT in the 4-3, or a huge NT in the 3-4? They garner extra blocks and generally make everyone else around them better. I am convinced that this is the single biggest difference in talent between top-end SEC teams and teams that play in the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, etc. Look at the last few national champions what do they all have in common?

2) Quarterback - Obviously you want your quarterback to be a smart and solid leader. I am not a big believer in the two quarterback system just because I have seen the negative effect it had on VT teams in 2003, 2007, and 2008, but it seems to be working at UVA right now, perhaps because they are both young.

3) Center - They are responsible for making all the line calls and frankly they have to deal with #1 on this list.

4) Middle Linebacker - They blitz, they cover, they are there for run support, they do it all, and if they don't have a great DT in front of them, they had better be super-talented.

5) Free Safety - They are the quarterback of the defense.

If you have each of these five in place, then I think you can just plug in RBs, WRs and DBs.

In pro football, clearly the QB, the DBs, and the offensive tackles are at more of a premium.

My "five pillar" positions are QB, go-to WR, left tackle / blindside protector,
pass rusher (DE or OLB), and shutdown corner.

5) Are you getting nervous about Frank Beamer's eventual retirement?  What will happen to the program when that day arrives?

Doug: "Nervous" is not a word I would use, but I would say there is always a little bit of trepidation with the eventual change. Frank Beamer is the face of Virginia Tech football. He has built it to what it is today. When I hear Hokie fans grousing about getting rid of Beamer to "get to the next level" I wonder if they realize that the level they are referring could be the Tire and Music City Bowls. I am not one of the Hokie fans that think our birthright is the National Championship. We already had our chance to catch lightning in a bottle, and the landscape of college football has changed to the point where realistically only six to eight teams really have a shot to win it all, and VT is not one of them. I believe that with the ACC now looking stronger than ever, and while we're certainly smaller than the upper-echelon schools, our national brand should allow us to find a capable replacement for Beamer. My guess is that once he steps down you can expect a slight drop off (7-5 to 9-3) for a couple of years but I would hope that we would be challenging for the conference title again by year 3 of the new regime. I certainly am not trying to be cocky, but this gets back to my answer to #2, above. While the loss of Beamer would be a large axe chop, it certainly by itself should not completely decimate a program that has had a nice 18 year run. My big concern at that point would be holding on to the new coach if he is successful.

6) If UVA is successful under Mike London and the Hoos continue to recruit the state of Virginia with as much success as we've had during the 2011 and 2012 recruiting cycles, how much do you think it will undermine the on-field success of Virginia Tech, if at all?  Is there enough talent in the state of Virginia to support two top-25 type programs?

Doug: A more talented UVA team is definitely a threat to beat VT more often than present and clearly there has already been a recruiting effect. In looking at VT's recruiting the past couple of years, you can already see that we are taking a few more kids than usual from Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and of all places Indiana. That being said, as the late '90s and early 2000s show, there is certainly more than enough talent in the Commonwealth to field two Top-25 teams. Historically, it has been done. The SEC teams are always going to get a couple of players from Virginia each year, so as fans of the in state programs you have to accept that. The real thing that UVA and VT fans need to worry about is just south of us -- UNC. Canning Butch Davis was a good start, but both of our fanbases should be hoping the NCAA prison-rapes UNC to make to make that job completely radioactive. I cringe at the thought of UNC's new AD bringing in some young hotshot like Gus Malzahn (Auburn OC) or Kevin Sumlin (Houston HC).

Beware the Tarheels poaching Virginia talent.

7) Name three things Virginia has that you wish Virginia Tech had.

Doug: I really like this question.

1. Baseball Team - I have to admit, I am insanely jealous of your success on the diamond. We had a nice run in 2009, but nothing like you guys have going right now.

2. JPJ Arena -  While I think the school may have been a little overzealous with the number of seats, the place is amazing and is a great arena for concerts. If UVA ever gets hoops going like they had in the '80s and mid '90s this place could be one of the more overwhelming home court advantages.

3. UVA's ability to put out top line OL. Sadly this is one thing that VT has been pretty much terrible with doing.  Offensive line.

Wahooze Bonus -  Three UVA recruits that I would have loved to see at Virginia Tech:

1. Anthony Poindexter - This guy is the best safety I have ever seen. I was disappointed when he chose UVA over VT as he was a local boy for me (Lynchburg... well actually ForestVA).

2. Herman Moore - Herman was seriously considering coming to VT, but did not have the extra math credit that is required for entry into the school. Needless to say VT's loss was UVA's gain.

3. Thomas Jones - Guy was a beast, and you came in and took him out of strong VT territory.

Honorable mention to the million dollar talent with 10 cent head - Ahmad Brooks. I think that guy could have been awesome as a rush end in Bud Foster's system.

8) Same question, but reversed.  Name three advantages over Virginia that you feel Virginia Tech has.

Doug: 1. An administration (academic and athletic) that sees the football program as a way to increase exposure for the school overall. While John Casteen certainly was an incredible fund raiser, it was pretty obvious how he felt about the football program. Not sure what President Sullivan's thoughts are on this, but it all starts with her.

2. Football practice facilities - there is no reason that a school with as much money as UVa has should have the football team practice on concrete floors when it rains… ridiculous. I suppose this is based on #1, above.

3. Larger and ever-increasing alumni base - Not sure what UVA's official enrollment is at present, but let's face it. Virginia Tech is putting out 6,000 grads each year. It is all about money, and the more alumni you have the more donors you have.

A commitment to football, Missus Sullivan.  Please make it happen.

9) Be honest --- does Virginia Tech have better fans than UVA, or is the Hokie fanbase just inflated after two decades of winning?  Break down the two fanbases with as much honesty as possible.  Do you think Virginia will develop a decent fanbase after some sustained levels of success?

Doug: Okay this is kind of a loaded question. "Better?" No way. Do I like the Good Ol' Song and the swaying after each score? Nope. But then I also feel that Hokie fans shaking their keys on third down is lame, as well. The point is that each school has their own traditions and the fans should embrace them. It is what makes each school unique. Do I think that there a lot of bandwagon VT fans? Absolutely. That sort of comes with the territory. They are typically the ones that predict 12-0 seasons and expect Logan Thomas to change water into wine. They are also the ones who complain about Beamer after the first loss. That being said, I do think that Hokie fans have two aspects to the fanbase that currently trumps the Hoo fan base... passion, and the knowledge for when to show that passion.

It drives me crazy to hear the home crowd start a "Go Hoos" chant when the UVA offense is staring at a 4th down play. Stop waiting for Crazy Train to play to make noise. Part of the play is when the other team is on the sideline trying to get the play in. Half the battle is lost when you wait for the QB to get under center before you start making noise. And for God's sake, stop streaming to the exits when there is 3 minutes to go, you have the ball and are down 5 points. Sad. Start coming to noon games, students. If you don't, you might miss that upset of Miami.

I know Kendall pretty well, and if you are reading his blog, my guess is you have just as much passion as he does, so you are not the problem. Not sure what the answer is in this case or if it is just serendipity. VT's entrance into the stadium to Metallica originated from someone in the band that was simply jumping up and down to keep warm and then others started doing it. I think things will improve from a fanbase standpoint as UVA improves. However, the double-edged sword from that is that the addition of bandwagon fans and their ridiculous and unrealistic expectations.

Passion and knowledge... got it.

10) Based on your experience as a Hokie, what's the key to building a successful football program... and do you think Virginia is currently on the right track?

Doug: VT's rise can be traced to several factors - admission to the Big East, ability to hold on to Frank Beamer in 1993 and 2000, and most importantly, a commitment from the top to embrace the role of the football team to the university. Now that we are in the ACC, we no longer have to do this to the detriment of our non-revenue sports. UVA is in the ACC, has a top-notch athletics program, and appears to be increasing the commitment to football... so YES, I would say that you are on the right track for sure, depending on your expectations. If you are thinking 11 or 12 wins and contending for national championship, then I don't think that is realistic. The cold reality is that it's not really in the cards for just about every school (including Virginia Tech), unless there is a dramatic change to the college football landscape.  I think it is realistic for a UVA fan to expect to win 7 to10 games every year and contend for the Coastal Division and ACC title. 2007 was fun having the berth to the title game on the line between UVA and VT.

BONUS QUESTION: If you were in charge of all conference realignment, in which conference(s) would Virginia Tech and Virginia end up, and why?  Where do our schools belong?

Doug: This one is easy. Both schools are exactly where they belong… in the ACC. I have zero interest in moving to the SEC, where football is the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd priority with football recruiting #1a. Admittedly, we had a long way to go but I would like to think that VT has held up their end of the bargain in terms of helping the ACC in football while also increasing our relevance in the Olympic sports. We still have a ways to go, but I really love how far we have come in seven years. UVA and UNC are the gold standard for the non-revs, and I hope that one day Virginia Tech can have an overall athletic program that is on par with these two programs.

October 18, 2011

Corner Turned?

Here's Perry Jones turning the corner on the defense,
but that's not exactly what I meant with the title of this post.

Mike did a fantastic job of summarizing the significance of the win over Georgia Tech.  If you haven't read HIS POST, I strongly encourage you do so.

I choked up and got some tears in my eyes on two separate occasions on Saturday -- the swing pass to Perry Jones for the third down conversion in the last possession, and then later in that same drive when Jones ran for 11 yards to pick up the last first down we needed to ice the game.  I got that lump in my throat not because we were winning the game against the #12 team in the nation, but because I understood just how important that win was for the program on a much grander scale.

A turn-the-corner win.

London's signature moment at UVA.

A watershed victory.

A program-changer.

The turning point in the rebuilding effort.

A breakthrough win.

Really?  All of that?  Maybe more?  Not sure I'm buying... yet.

Look, I'm not trying to be a wet blanket, but we've seen this before.  Last year against Miami, to be specific.  And that win segued to an embarrassing loss to Duke a week later, on the way to a four-game losing streak to end the season.

But that win against Miami was fluky.  It was all interceptions and knocking Jacory Harris out of the game and hanging on for dear life.  This win over Georgia Tech was different.  It was dominant running, defensive excellence, want-to and heart.  It was gritty, not lucky.  It was a win that makes you believe, not just a win that gives you hope.

Still, I'm guarded.  25+ years of being a Virginia fan teaches you the survival mechanism of being "cautiously optimistic."  I want to believe that the corner was just turned, but I'm not sure I should jump in head over heels.  My heart says yes, but my head says "wait a second!"

Reasons to doubt that the corner was just turned:

-- We had the bye week, and thus two weeks to prepare for the triple option.  That's why the defense was so good.

-- Georgia Tech was overrated after beating up on a collection of middling teams (Kansas, MTSU, et al) to pump up its image.  It was a team that had grown fat and sloppy off of its early success, and it was ripe for the picking.

-- It wasn't a lucky win, but there were lucky plays.  The blocks in the back leading to two big plays being called back, the pitch off of the offensive lineman's back, missed blocks, missed reads, the low field goal kick that was easily blocked.

-- One game doesn't tell the story of a team.  This is the same team that should have lost to a terrible Indiana team, and damn near lost at home to a pathetic Idaho team.  You're never as bad as your worst loss... or as good as your best win.

-- The QB carousel continues to spin.  David Watford and Mike Rocco, both had good moments and bad.  The presence of both ensuring that neither could settle into a proper rhythm.  Think Rocco throws that interception if he didn't know Watford was set to relieve him on the next series if he didn't make a play?

Reasons to believe that the corner was just turned:

-- The defense... it was just... it was just AWESOME.  Disciplined, tough, fast.  Fundamentally sound.  Aggressive without getting out of position.  Ballhawking.  Hard-hitting and sure tackling.  Everything you want.

-- And the D hasn't been good for just this one game.  It sparkled against William & Mary.  Struggled a bit against Indiana and UNC, but then pulled it together in the second half against USM and played a good game against Idaho.  It's coming together, slowly but surely.

-- The offense found an identity, at least for one game.  Pound the ball.  Run off tackle.  Mix in some dumpoffs, some swing passes, screens, play action.  But mostly, RUN THE FREAKING FOOTBALL.  Perry Jones was incredible.  He was so good, I couldn't tell if he was running on churning legs or rolling on a pair of giant testicles.  KP was a little beast, and Clifton Richardson was beyond impressive.  This is a talented trio of runners, and they all seem to be gathering a serious head of steam running behind a very capable offensive line.

-- This was the single biggest recruiting game of the season.  Mike already hit on this, so I won't belabor it.  Needless to say, it's great for recruits to see us win a game like this against a ranked team.  It gives them a belief in the true potential of this "sleeping giant" of a program.

-- The play action touchdown pass from Mike Rocco to Tim Smith.  Best throw I've seen since Matt Schaub.  Just a thing of beauty.  An angel's kiss.  That throw gives me some degree of faith that we have found our starting quarterback for the rest of this season and the next two seasons after this.

-- The fans.  They were great.  Even the students.  We've hung in there, and we're all so desperate for a winner, we're almost ready to will it into being.

-- It looked like a team out there, with playmakers and poise, with confidence and belief.  It looked like they're ready to start winning.  Not just this one game, either.

My good friend Doug (a Virginia Tech fan, more from him later this week) had a couple of things to say after the game.  Both points resonated with me, to the point that I bought into this whole turn-the-corner thing, not just with my heart but with my gut.

1) He said this at halftime and reiterated after the game: In watching you guys so far this year, this is the first time since 2004 that I am actually concerned about the UVA/VT game based on your ability to pound the ball between the tackles.  I had concerns in 2007 that Chris Long might single-handedly beat us, but this is the first time since 2004 I am actually concerned about UVA's ability to run the ball and our inability to stop you.

2) You'll know for sure after this weekend's game against NC State.  Come out and lay an egg, this win was a fluke.  It's one step forward, one step back.  This win means nothing.  But come out and play another good game and beat State... then UVA has taken the next step and is officially back to being a decent team.  

So there you have it.  I believe, but am waiting to see what happens this coming Saturday against NC State, a team that has had a bye week to get healthy and hungry.  The Pack had two weeks to prepare for us, just like we had two weeks to prepare for the Wreck.

Is the corner turned?  I think so.  But we'll find out for sure soon enough.

Until then...


Indoor Practice Facility Coming Into Focus

From Jeff White, definitely worth a read while I continue to gather my thoughts about Saturday's [possibly] groundbreaking win over Georgia Tech...

Indoor Practice Facility Coming Into Focus

October 16, 2011

BOOOOM!!!!!! Now what have we learned

First of all let's start with how great that game was. In what, let's face it, most of us thought was going to be a throttling by the number 12 team in the country and our arch-nemesis former head coach the Hoos played a darn near perfect game. Yes we had an extra week to prepare, yes Georgia Tech is now 5-9 when the team they are playing had a bye the week before to study their offense, yes Jacob Hodges and Jim Reid know the spread option backwards and forwards and helped studying, and YES it is helpful that most of your coaching staff worked under that three four defense. BUT. NO WAY anyone saw this coming. Not a performance like this. I thought it was going to take an offense explosion for us to win based on the inconsistency and  lack of discipline that the defense has been showing this season,  but aside from that drive to start the 3rd quarter and the one in the middle of the second where GT decided that they wanted to shove the ball down our throats the defense played a PERFECT game. Holding GT to a scoreless first quarter, first time all season, and holding them to only 296 rushing yards, also a season low, is an incredible performance, one that should not go unnoticed not just by UVA fans, but by the rest of college football. It was a great win. And I hope at least some of you got on the field. I know I sure did.

But let's get into the bigger picture of what this means for the program and what we learned:

It really doesn't matter who the Quarterback is:

This is a bold statement so bear with me. This offense is not and should not be based on Quarterback play. What we learned yesterday is that the offensive line and ground attack is more than capable of taking the football, giving it to any of our three studs in the backfield, and shoving the ball right down your throat. To quote one of my favorite sports talk guys from home and former Redskin great Doc Walker, that game at the end became a "Manhood Issue" which we certainly won. You don't think all those big boys were extra motivated by shoving the ball right down their old coaches throat? I certainly do. Watching those last 6 minutes tick off the clock as they ran a perfect drive was beautiful to watch. We have the line to do this to EVERY team we play the rest of the way. Does there need to be some semblance of a passing game to keep our opponents from putting 11 in the box every play? Of course. But does that mean we need one of these guys to blossom into Joe Montana to win. Absolutely not. Pick one, get them in a rhythm, get them confident, and get them to master the turn-around-and-hand-it-to-stud play and the season and future will be much brighter. I understand that we promised David Watford playing time. But you need to read a the situation. Because after 6 games and a lot of head scratching I am finally on board with Michael Rocco.
More of this
On a side note about the offensive line while I was working the South Lot Shuttle with fellow Wahooze reader Andrew McCampbell there was a little kid asking for autographs. Oday Aboushi not only signed the kids program but talked to him for a while and I'm pretty sure made his day.

Enough sappy stuff let's move on.

This defense, when focused, can be pretty stout:
Who saw this coming? After watching Steve Greer release Tight Ends on seam routes with no safties in sight for the last 3  games did anyone think we had the discipline to shut this offense down? I sure didn't. But man was I wrong. While I don't think this makes us elite, or even great for that matter, I do think this allows us to be confident that our defense can shut people down. I think this game demonstrates the kind of team we should be which is running and defense, as opposed to the team we have been trying to be all season. The defense looked mean and forced turnovers, including another pick from Nicholson. The horses may not all be there quite yet but this should give you confidence in the coaching.

Speaking of the horses.

I cannot explain how big this was for recruiting:
But I'll give it a shot. First off this was the biggest recruiting day of the year. By far. UTS could barely handle them all. All but 8 of the commits from the 2012 class were here. (I counted when they ran by me while they stormed the field, and yes I can recognize our recruits by their faces already, what do you do with your free time?) More importantly Nate Staub (#33 right) and Kyle Fuller, both of whom are 2 of our last remaining targets of 2012, we there and on the field too. Talk about the game to come to! Especially for those two, Staub a fullback and Fuller an offensive lineman. If that doesn't show what this program can become I don't know what will. Kwontie Moore, who is by far my favorite recruit, ran right past me screaming "More to come next year baby!" Oh my god was that great to hear. You think Greyson Lambert, who is from Georgia and might be our savior at QB, isn't excited and now even more firm in his decision? This is so huge for recruiting that it's impossible to ignore.

6-4 280 as a sophomore...
It wasn't just the 2012 kids there either. Top 2013 RB target Taquan Mizzell out of Bayside was at the game along with Ocean Lakes QB Corwin Cutler. Not to be outdone 2014 Monster DE Andrew Brown (left) from Indian River, as well as Jamil Kamara were also in attendance. This is the kind of game that with all these players at, and more importantly at TOGETHER, that builds up the program. I'll reference that Miami article I wrote and say that these are the kind of games the build up a tradition. An expectation that we all want to go to UVA to be a part of that. Coach London is building that up and wins like this can only help. Can you imagine if we can win that game on the 26th of November...

On a side note I also spotted the 2014 basketball recruiting class sitting together int he Stith brothers and Devon Hall, who came with his brother, and UVA football commit, Mark to the game.

I'll close with this photo and say that we all need to embrace the magnitude wins like this can have on this program in it's rebuilding effort as well as this season going forward. This game was not only great to watch, but very telling as far as blueprints for success going forward this season. Big win, no HUGE win, for the Hoos all around. Let's keep it up vs. NC State next weekend!