The college football season is a maze of pitfalls and trials. Some roadblocks non a season are small, some are the size of mountains.
For the Virginia Tech Hokies, the obstacles of this season have started as pebbles and turned into Mt. Everest. Such was the case with last Thursday, a roadblock that started out before the game as a small hill grew to to be something the Hokies couldn’t overcome.
This has been a recurring theme with this team and honestly, the inconsistent performances have the fan base frustrated. However, you have the wide variety of reactions from fire them all to patience is the only way to go.
The Good: No, The Sky is Not Falling
It literally took me three days to figure out what to write as good about this game. I toyed with the idea of having no good and just highlight the horrible things about this game. Thankfully, the more I thought about the game and the Hokies season as a whole, I realized there is some good to come out of this game. The Hokies legitimately still have things to play for.
Hear me out fans and stop with the "season is over" reaction.
Yes, the loss was ugly. Yes, the way the defense played was disheartening but did this game really end the goals for the Hokies? The answer is a resounding No.
Virginia Tech still controls it’s destiny in the Coastal. Yes, they have to win out but it is doable. They still have an opportunity to continue a very impressive bowl appearance streak by winning 2 more games. Finally and honestly selfishly on my part, the most important thing to preserve is the winning streak against UVA.
All these things are possible for the Hokies to achieve. It doesn’t matter how unlikely any of these scenarios seem, the fact remains they could happen and fans should take hope and solace from that.
The Bad: I Know It's The Way They Play But Come On Ref
I try to make it a point to stress, referees don’t decide games. It’s the players on the field making the plays that create the outcome.
My beef is with refs that know something is more than likely to happen but however, they don’t look for the infraction. My biggest hope every year when the Hokies play Georgia Tech is not only to win but to have all our defensive players come out healthy and not to banged up. Every year, this gets harder and harder to accomplish because of the blocking scheme the Yellow Jackets employ.
Cut blocks; and more dangerously, chop blocks are the backbone of the triple option. For those that don’t know what these blocks are, a cut block is a block where the offensive player goes low to take out the legs of the defender, completely legal in the NCAA eyes. However, chop blocks are not legal and involves the defensive player already being engaged by an offensive player, having a second offensive player come in low to cut the legs out from under the defender.
All game long, it seemed the front seven of the Hokies were getting cut and chop blocked with no referee even thinking about blowing their whistle. My problem is the risk of injury it places on the defenders. The Hokies suffered the loss of more than a few starters because of these blocks.
We like be in an age of football where the rules are trying to protect people holding the ball from head injuries, what about protecting the players coming to tackle and have their knees and legs being taken out. Where is the outrage there and the quick whistle from the officials? That’s right, it doesn’t exist.
A prime example is Hokie starter Dylan Rivers being injured on the second play of the game by being the victim of a chop block.
No whistle, no review to see if it was an illegal play. Fast forward to the second half; Khalil Ladler makes a tackle high on a Georgia Tech player, no penalty is initially called but because there was so much uproar from the Yellow Jacket sideline, the play was reviewed.
The outcome was Ladler was assessed a penalty and ejected for a hit that, at game speed, looked innocent enough. Where is the fairness in that a player was not injured and yet they reviewed the play and retroactively call a flag.
I will say this again, officials do not affect the outcome of games, but they sometimes do a bad job of calling the fouls that could get players hurt.
The Ugly: The Lunch Pail Was Left in the Locker Room.
Ok folks, enough of my rant on officials, let's get down to brass tacks. The Hokie defense was absolutely decimated by the rushing attack of the Yellow Jackets. They gave up the most yards in the Bud Foster era on the ground. The reality was the defense had no answer for the triple option, Georgia Tech knew it and exploited it. The tackling was bad, the gap assignments were bad and the effort, while it was still there, was not nearly enough to overcome the landslide of rushing yards.
Youth and inexperience have been the excuse for the defense, but that needs to stop.
Four games remain in the season and the mistakes the team is making week in and week out need to be corrected. Multiple times, the defense would make a great play only to shoot themselves in the foot on the next play. A missed tackle here, a foolish penalty there and all of a sudden Georgia Tech reeled off 35 straight points.
I still believe this defense is talented enough to play with anybody. However, since the second half of the Notre Dame game, the defense has consistently not been up to the high standards of the Lunch Pail D.
Trust in the fact this is not lost on Bud Foster, I thought a bye week would give him the time to rally the troops for a late season push and with four games that can still happen. If the tackling and mistakes don’t improve, these last four games could be more of the same disappointment for fans of the Hokies.
All in all, I am hopeful these last four games will be the team we saw the first week against Florida State. However, with tough foes coming to Lane for 3 games and one extremely tough task on the road, the Hokies; by no means, have a cake walk left. It will be interesting to see if the team rallies and plays better on homecoming Saturday against a very good rushing team in Boston College with a healthy AJ Dillon.
After last game, most teams now are not going to be afraid of the Lunch Pail. It is time for the Hokies to reinstate this fear. As always fans, LETS GO HOKIES!!!
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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