Well, it's over.
There was the good (Dyrell Roberts and his 98-yard return), the bad (498 yards of offense allowed? Seriously?), and the downright ugly (two fumbled punt returns). But, Frank Beamer always says, "it is what it is", and that's what it was.
Let's examine what we can take away from this game.
- Despite another season of practice, and a ton of returning players, Tech's offense is continuing to struggle. Big time.
11 first downs. 91 yards passing. 64 yards rushing. Two turnovers. Egads, with stats like that, Hokie fans should feel fortunate that the game was as competitive as it was, until the fourth quarter. Witness point number two:
- Despite those lousy statistics, Tech was in this game all the way up to the fourth quarter.
VT actually led the Tide 17-16 going into the fourth quarter, and though they got behind, they had a chance to catch up with Ryan Williams' spectacular 32-yard touchdown run. But Alabama chose this moment to start playing smart and zipped right back down the field to score on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Mark Ingram. After that, the Hokies seemed to deflate, and it was over...
- Virginia Tech still knows how to take advantage of sloppy play and penalties.
Even though the Hokies were darn near inert on offense, they scored a lot more points than most people had predicted. Why? Tide penalties. Three huge penalties on one drive alone gave the Hokies a touchdown. Then a big kickoff return, followed by yet another personal foul set the Hokies up to score again. Without the penalties the Hokies could get absolutely nothing going offensively at all.
- Dyrell Roberts is going to be one heck of a return guy.
Note to Beamer: Roberts is your guy. No offense to Ryan Williams or Davon Morgan, but those two fumbled returns were costly, as well as momentum killers. Roberts was really impressive back there, and has the ability to make some things happen. Heck we didn't have a kickoff or a punt return for a touchdown all last year. So that one was truly exciting.
- Despite the work in the offseason, Tyrod Taylor remains a work in progress.
Last night was not a good game for Taylor. His stats were unimpressive at best. Taylor was 9 of 20 attempts with 91 passing yards. His rushing yards were something like negative one million (it seemed like that on TV at least). But what stood out to me was the lack of poise. For much of the game, Taylor looked flustered and out of sorts. He stayed in the pocket for far too long waiting for something to develop, and looked like he was taking off in a panic when it didn't. Most of his scrambles were disasters. He really looked out of his element, and that is troubling. This is arguably the best defense the Hokies will face this year, but there are going to be plenty more that aren't pushovers. Taylor needs to be ready.
- Virginia Tech's defense, while impressive at times, disappointed in the end.
Now, I don't completely blame the defense for the outcome of this game. For the first three quarters, they did an admirable job of both confusing and disorienting McElroy, shutting down Julio Jones (I don't even recall hearing his name but a few times, and, side note, good gracious he is huge), and stopping the run. I don't have a stat handy about how many of Ingram's rushing yards came in the fourth quarter, but I would be willing to bet it would be telling. By the time Ingram was through racking up his 150 rushing yards, the Hokie defense was just flat worn out. As usual, they spent far too much time on the field, and this really seemed to wear on some of the newer players.
So What Does All This Mean?
Is it over for the Hokies? The ACC? As a conference the ACC looked just freaking awful this weekend. Losses to Richmond and William and Mary, plus the only wins coming against teams like The Citadel and Jacksonville State continue to give this struggling conference a bad name. But that's an article for another time.
The Hokies can recover from this game, and they will. Despite yet another loss to one of college football's "big boys", the Hokies should be able to regroup, take a look at where they continue to be weak (cough, offense, cough), and hopefully tweak the defense a bit. The Hokies have become famous for stopping the run, and 268 yards of rushing is going to bother Bud Foster just a little bit.
They need to do it quickly though. Nebraska is coming to town, and they are sure to be fired up from last year's defeat in Memorial Stadium.