If you look at the stats from this game, just the stats, you'd think the score would be different. 34 points to 24 points doesn't correlate to 498 yards to 155 yards.
But that's exactly what happened last night in the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta.
Alabama won the game and they were the better team. They played tough, physical football the entire game, and a tired Hokie defense couldn't hold up late. The Tide outscored the Hokies 18-7 in the fourth quarter after a very eventful, but scoreless, third quarter.
The game started off with VT's offense sputtering and 'Bama taking advantage. Tiffin knocked in field goals from 49 yards and 34 yards to make it a 6-0 game.
Virginia Tech's offense had done nothing up to that point, but it wasn't needed. The next play, Dyrell Roberts returned a kickoff for 98 yards and a score. The play was set up by perfect blocks and Dyrell did the rest, stiff-arming a defender on the 10 before scoring six for Tech.
Later on, Tech's special teams added another crucial moment to the game. Ryan Williams muffed a punt and it was recovered by the Tide on the 16. 'Bama converted yet another field goal to make it 9-7.
The defenses of both teams then shut down their opposition's offense until, after an interception by Antonie Hopkins, Matt Waldron kicked in a 28-yard field goal. But right after VT took the lead, the Tide marched down the field and Roy Upchurch had a 19-yard rush for a touchdown.
The Hokies rallied back, and Tyrod Taylor had his first big pass play on a wheel route to RB Ryan Williams for 43 yards. Williams was later able to punch the ball in to make it 17-16 Hokies at the half.
The third quarter was the only scoreless quarter of the game. However, as Roy Upchurch broke into the open field for what would have been his second touchdown, Cody Grimm stripped him from behind, forcing a much needed turnover for the Hokies.
The fourth quarter, as previously said, was dominated by Alabama. The Tide scored on a six-yard Mark Ingram rush. Then, on the following kickoff, Davon Morgan, who bobbled the opening kickoff, fumbled again, and Alabama recovered.
This was the play that really sucked the life out of the VT crowd (trust me, I was there) and fired up the Alabama faithful.
The Hokies weren't out of it, as Dyrell Roberts had another great return and Ryan Williams broke a great 32-yard rush down the sideline for a score.
This made the score 27-24 Tide. McElroy later tossed his first and only touchdown of the game to Mark Ingram. This would prove to be enough, as the score ended 34-24.
Why, if Alabama dominated the stat columns so bad, did they not dominate the score board?
The answer is what I call the "hidden yardage." This is what "Beamerball" is really all about.
"Hidden yardage" is the kickoff yards, punt yards, penalty yards, and turnovers. If you add Virginia Tech's kickoff and punt return yards into their total yards, they exceed the 400 yard mark.
These are yards that people forget about. Without Dyrell Roberts' big kick returns, Virginia Tech wouldn't have been close in this one.
Then, look at the penalty yards each team accumulated. Alabama had 83 while VT had 45. That's a difference of 38 yards.
Now, let's look at turnovers.
Alabama's first turnover, the interception by McElroy to Antonie Hopkins, was inside Alabama's 20 yard line. This saved the Virginia Tech offense from traveling about 40 yards if Alabama had punted.
With the way they were playing last night, that wasn't too likely.
The Crimson Tide's other turnover was a fumble by Roy Upchurch after he had broken into the open field for a score. This strip certainly saved Virginia Tech three points, maybe even seven points, and brought the momentum back to the Hokies.
All this "hidden yardage" was in Virginia Tech's favor. It truly kept the Hokies in the game, and was the reason for their lead after three quarters. The reasons they didn't win were their two turnovers, and lack of offense and defense.
Virginia Tech's two turnovers were both fumbles on special teams. One was Ryan Williams muffing a punt, even when he called for a fair catch. The other was Davon Morgan fumbling the ball during a kickoff.
Both of these turnovers led directly to six points; without those points, it's a four point game. I firmly believe that without these turnovers it could have been a much different game.
With all these stats, the fact remains that Alabama was still the better team. They played more physical and had an excellent offensive game plan. They attacked Kam Chancellor in the secondary and wore down the defense by using a power running game.
On defense, Alabama played press man to man and mixed it up with lots of different blitzes that confused Tyrod Taylor and the Hokie offensive line. I saw numerous corner blitzes that caused the line to miss assignments and give Tyrod lots of pressure.
Alabama dominated both sides of the ball, but the third side was all Hokies. Special Teams was what kept the Hokies in the game.
Beamerball isn't perfect, but it's what Beamer built the Hokies upon. Tech showed some good things in the game and I'm positive they will build on them and have a very successful season.
The Tide are a different story. They executed a very good offensive and defensive game plan. They have one of the best defenses in the entire country, and their offense has lots of firepower.
Upchurch, Ingram, Jones, and McElroy all showed that they are big time players and I believe they have a chance to challenge for the national title for a second straight season.
The last two top-five ranked teams Virginia Tech played in the first two weeks of the season have gone on to win the national championship. These two teams were '04 USC and '07 LSU.
Can Alabama be the next team to do it?
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