Friday, October 30, 2009

Oops, I Crapped My Pants (Twice)

Disgusting. This game was basically a mirror image of last week, even though the Hokies went about achieving the result in a different way. UNC decided to stack the box and make Tyrod beat them with the throw. Bryan Stinespring, for the most part, did a good job of recognizing this. The difference this week is that Tyrod was just off. He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in the first half, and his efforts seemed to be tentative. He would buy some time, scramble free, then have time to unleash a pass, only that the pass wouldn't come. On third down and long, I have no problem with taking a shot downfield and hoping a receiver can make a play. At worst it's like a long punt. But instead Tyrod would take the sack. That makes no sense to me, and I won't stand by that logic. So there were three things that I learned from this game:

1) Our offense only works if Tyrod can make the opposing defense pay. Look, you can't call the play-calls stellar, but you can't call them bad either. They were safe, but they would have worked if TT could have hit his men in stride. Sure, I would have loved to see a Wild Turkey (what ever happened to that??), or maybe another type of gimmick play thrown in, but you can't blame BS for that loss. And trust me, I would really like to do that. Also the offensive line was not what you would call "great", but I felt like they did enough. I am putting this loss on Tyrod's shoulders, and let's not overreact to this statement... I still think he's had a fantastic season and will continue to improve. He just blew this one game.

2) Our defense isn't nearly as good this year as it's been the past 3 or 4 seasons. It's just not. You can slather make-up all over a pig, but it's still a pig. Foster, with the exception of the second half last week, is scheming really well. His players just aren't using their heads. For whatever reason, there's been a lot of mental errors on the defense this year that allowed some long plays. The best example in this game against UNC was when they would motion their RB down to WR and then motion a WR over to RB. For whatever reason, this caused our defense to mess their pants the first couple of times they saw it. They eventually got their stuff together, but it took a while. It took too long.

3) We apparently are no longer to be feared on Thursday night in Blacksburg. This used to be a game that would cause opposing players to start shaking in their pads and urinating in their cups. We had the 12th man effect for just about the entire game. Our fans were loud, and probably a little obnoxious. But, this never amounted to having a 12th man on the field. We got maybe 1 or 2 false start penalties, but that was it. UNC was not scared of us, and that fact might be the most depressing of everything that happened last night. Losing to an unranked team in Blacksburg on a Thursday night... just saying it out loud sends shivers down my spine.

The short and simple is that you can't expect to win a game where you don't score at all in the first half, regardless of how the defense plays. Ryan Williams did a great job and the fact that his fumble came at the end of the game was a huge let-down, but he showed in the rest of the game that he was working hard and getting the extra yardage and you can't fault the guy's effort. This loss hurt, but not nearly as bad as the GT game. We were already looking at a long shot to make the ACC title game. Now it's completely gone. It's time to back the Hokies for the sake of rivalry and for the sake of football. And whatever crap team we play in our bowl game better watch out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oops, I Crapped My Pants

I apologize for the tardiness of this post... I really wasn't looking forward to writing it. The fact of the matter is that there is one way to beat a team like Georgia Tech, and that's to put some points on the board early so that you force GT's limp-armed quarterback, Josh Nesbitt, to throw the ball much more often than usual. If you try to establish the run early, knowing that GT was keying on the run, you are digging yourself an early grave. But apparently Bryan Stinespring decided to revert back to his old tentative ways and treated our players like corpses. We tried to run up the middle for the first down twice on 3rd and 2. TWICE! WHAT THE FREAKING CRAP! Stinespring saw that it didn't work once, so what did he do? He tried it again. The other damning fact is that we had yet to put up any kind of yardage running the football. GT had clogged the lanes, forcing us to use Tyrod. We didn't use Tyrod. The Yellow Jackets' offense is perfect for eating time off of the clock and gaining 3-4 yards per play. You can put the pressure on your defense to play flawlessly in order to win, but that's asking a lot of some young players. This game would have looked completely different if BS didn't tiptoe down the field and take the ball out of our quarterback's hands despite a lack of success running the football. You all saw what happened in the second half... we let Tyrod make some plays, and that forced GT to drop another player into coverage, which opened up the running lanes for Ryan Williams. It's just too bad it took BS 3 quarters to figure out what the rest of us saw by the end of the 1st quarter.

Sure, there's blame to go around. Brent Bowden punted like a pansy after getting some talk for being the best punter in the NCAA ranks, but we got great returns off of kickoffs which was all thanks to Dyrell Roberts. The defense let up some big plays, but they were pretty worn down by the 4th quarter due to the fact that our offense couldn't sustain drives. There's also some talk about Paul Johnson changing up GT's blocking schemes that helped thwart our defense. However, it seems that most of the blame should go to the offense for failing to execute in the first half, and to Bryan Stinespring for failing to call the plays that would put us in a position to score more easily in the first half. That was the easiest way to win this game... force GT to air it out. Why he reverted back to his sheepish play-calling after having so much success in previous weeks from letting Tyrod throw the football, I will never know. Tyrod was 10-14 with two interceptions... one was tipped at the line and the other was a hail mary at the end of the first half. So he threw incredibly well, despite the fact that we didn't give him a chance to throw it. All in all, a very disappointing loss as it not only knocks us out of contention for the National Title, it also makes an extreme uphill climb to reach the ACC Championship. VT has a new nemesis... move aside Boston College and make room for the "other Tech"... the Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech!

Something else I noted from the game was that Tyrod looked really tired and possibly sick during his final two drives. I've been trying to find talk about that, but surprisingly I didn't see anything. I mean he looked absolutely exhausted, then went over to the sideline and put his head in his hands like he was dealing with something. He had that look that people get where their mouth starts to water profusely and they're forced to start spitting it out. Usually Kyle Tucker would cover something like that in his blog and at least let you know that it was nothing, but I didn't see anything there. I covet answers.

So now expectations have to be lowered. It's time to root the Hokies on to another ACC championship and another Orange Bowl. This team can do it... it's the most talented team we've had in years in terms of offensive potential. Let's just hope that BS doesn't crap the bed again. I will now fling my arms about wildly at random times in a fit of discomfort. Go Tech (the real one).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Soccer Post

As most of you already know... I'm a big fan of the US Men's National Soccer Team. They had a couple of games over the last week that were very important and meant the difference between qualifying for the 2010 World Cup or else possibly going to a playoff against the 5th best South American team (the winner of that game goes to the World Cup and the loser stays home). Their first game was on Saturday in Honduras. Honduras is actually a much better team than people realize. Their lineup is littered with players who are either starters for European club teams, or else key contributors. And making things more difficult is the fact that Honduras was unbeaten at home in qualifying (8-0-0). The US was expected to lose this game and go home to face Costa Rica needing a win to qualify.

However, that's not what happened. The US Men's National Team came into Honduras charged up and unafraid of their rowdy fan base. After a rather boring first half, the second half opened with a Honduran goal from Julio Leon. Leon plays for Torino, one of the best teams in Italy's 2nd division, Serie B. After that goal, Conor Casey decided to go to work. Casey plays for the Colorado Rapids of MLS and was a surprise inclusion in the game. Most thought that Bob Bradley would opt to start both Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore at forward, with the possibility of Brian Ching starting instead of Altidore. To everyone's surprise, Casey got the nod ahead of Altidore, who plays overseas in the English Premier League for Hull City. Casey had looked poor in his previous stints with the national team, but on Saturday night he buried two goals in 7 minutes to put the US on top. Another beautiful, curling goal from a set piece off the foot of Landon Donovan put the US on top for good. They just need to weather another goal from Leon and a missed penalty kick from Carlos Pavon to get the win, which no one expected them to get.

So with the win over Honduras, the US did not need a result in its final game of qualifying in order to get into the World Cup... it was already done. There was nothing left to play for but pride. That is until Charlie Davies got into a life-threatening car accident on Monday night. Davies had been making a lot of noise over in France with the first-division club Sochaux, and had been very effective as a forward for the US team. The accident claimed the life of a 22 year old woman, and it left Davies with multiple broken bones and a lacerated bladder. It will take a minimum of 5-6 months for Davies to heal, and several more months to get into soccer-playing shape. He will most likely miss the World Cup. The car accident has been kept under wraps, and it leads me to wonder why that would be. The names of the two other people in the car have not been released, one of whom was the driver. Nor has there been any explanation of how the car was literally severed in half. The accident took place later than 3:00 AM, during which time Davies was in violation of the team's curfew. I'm just really interested to hear what the real story is here.

So with the crash still fresh in the minds of everybody on the USMNT, the Yanks took the field at RFK Stadium in DC against Costa Rica with a resolve to play for Charlie. Roommate and good friend Jozy Altidore had the letters "DAVIES" written on his shirt beneath his jersey, which were easy to see thanks to the combination of rain and white team USA jerseys. The crowd held up papers with #9 on them in support of Davies and the families affected by the accident. However, as fired up as the US team was, they were shaky on defense in the first half and gave up two goals to Bryan Ruiz, who starts at striker for FC Twente in the Netherlands' Eredivisie (top division). The second goal came about 5 minutes after the first goal, where Ruiz was unmarked about 5 yards from the top corner of the penalty box, and he ripped an amazing shot into the top left corner of the net. Tim Howard stood no chance. After these goals, the US shored up its defense and put together a ton of chances on goal, but the formerly adept Conor Casey looked horrible and couldn't finish the easiest of chances. Jozy Altidore was all over the place and created tons of opportunities, but he couldn't put them away. Landon Donovan was also active, but couldn't get the ball in the net. Some second-half subs saw Jose Torres and Robbie Rogers come into the game, and both created the spark necessary to finally put the ball in its home. Rogers crossed a ball that bounced around a little and finally found Michael Bradley's foot as he shot it home off of the goalkeeper's leg. That was around the 72nd minute... the tying goal wouldn't come until 4 and 1/2 minutes into overtime. Costa Rica had done their best to waste time off of the clock, including having both their manager and assistant manager sent off by the referees for complaining (supposedly about a substitution issue, but I am fairly certain they were just trying to waste time). That left the Strength & Conditioning coach as the man calling the shots for Costa Rica. The tying goal came off of a last-minute corner kick where Jonathan Bornstein flew in unmarked to nod in the goal into the bottom right corner of the net. The defender on the near post hardly had enough time to react and just barely got a toe on the ball. The loss sends Costa Rica into a playoff game with Uruguay for a shot at the World Cup. I would not be envious of that position.

So as you can see, it's been a terribly exciting week of soccer. The US is headed to the WORLD CUP in South Africa!! The last week, both on and off the field, has cost the US two of its best players in Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu, our gigantic defender who plays for AC Milan. Onyewu was injured trying to plant his foot on the wet field of RFK in order to jump for a ball that was sailing over his head. The motion caused Onyewu to tear a tendon and he's out 3-4 months. He should be back for the World Cup, but the lack of a chance to play for AC Milan during that time is extremely unfortunate. But there's also a lot to be excited about. The US team has had great contributions from a bunch of young players (Robbie Rogers, Jose Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Chad Marshall, Jonathan Bornstein, and even Conor Casey). There's a lot more depth to the US team than there was four years ago when the US Men's National Team traveled to Germany for the World Cup. And, for once, the coach of the US team has some decisions to make as to which players he will use to match up with whatever teams are drawn. In previous years, there wasn't much of a decision... the best players were obvious, but the player pool has gotten so much more talented since then that it leaves a lot of possibilities.

There are certainly several players who will compete if healthy. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, and Tim Howard are definite starters if they're healthy. Even with Dempsey's seeming lack of effort in qualifying, he is still going to be a starter because of what he can do offensively. Nobody else on the team has the same skill with the ball at their feet or the ability to finish like Clint does, so he'll be included in the starting lineup even if he's half-assing it on defense and giving the ball away by trying one too many fancy tricks. But we also know that Clint brings his "A" game for the World Cup, so I am not worried.

The remaining decisions are who else should join those players. Defensively, you would think Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Bornstein will join Bocanegra and Onyewu. As wing backs, they both get forward well and help out the offense with incredible speed and good crossing ability. Defensively, they are both lock-down defenders when on the ball, but they can get caught wandering out of position on occasion. They are also both short in stature and have a hard time beating tall strikers for balls in the air. Jonathan Spector is a nice option to replace either if there is a need for height. He also possesses a very good ability to pass from wide positions, but is more inclined to be beat in a 1-on-1 matchup.

In the midfield, Bob Bradley has opted to keep Donovan and Dempsey on the flanks, using his son Michael and either Ricardo Clark or Benny Feilhaber as the other center mid. The positioning of Donovan was a stroke of genius, in my opinion. Donovan has always been a forward at the club level in MLS, but on the international stage, he has been extremely ineffective as a striker. I think it's because he's just too small to be a target forward, and if he's playing a withdrawn forward, his ability to defend and hold the ball up is missed. He's not a player you want running onto a cross to try to head the ball into the net, he's a player you want to be the one crossing the ball because of his accuracy. He's played incredibly well on the wing. Michael Bradley has had his moments and definitely seems to have a nose for goal. Something like that can't be replaced, so I think he's going to be in the starting lineup come June. The other position seems to be much more open. At this point, the only true defensive midfielder on the roster is Ricardo Clark, and his size and passing abilities are both negligible. He might win the ball for you, but he's going to give it right back to the other team. He also hasn't really shown the ability to score, save one fantastic shot against Trinidad & Tobago that secured a win for the US. I think his spot is likely to be claimed with by recent US acquisition Jermaine Jones (who had been waiting to play for Germany's national team, but opted to play for the US because he wanted more playing time), or else by Maurice Edu when he finally gets back into playing shape. Edu is a young, up-and-coming defensive midfielder who players for Scotland's Glasgow Rangers. Edu is just now getting over his injury and starting to play again, so he has some work ahead of him to get back into shape.

Finally, the forward position. It's a little tricky to see what will happen here. I think most USMNT fans would say that the best pairing is Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies because the first gives you world class ability and athleticism, plus the ability to hold the ball up, while the other gives you the blazing speed and finishing ability that you want from a striker. However, since it looks like Davies might not be back for the World Cup, you have to consider other options. Conor Casey has a nose for the goal in MLS, but he's mostly just a blunt instrument. Not a lot of technical ability, just a lot of mass. He's hard to keep away from the ball when it's in the air. This works okay in the MLS and against Honduras' suspect defense, but not against most of the teams we will see in the World Cup. Brian Ching is a similar player to Casey, with maybe a little more ability to win fouls and hold the ball up, but you can't expect him to beat anyone with his talent. Personally, I like Kenny Cooper as a possibility. He's huge for a soccer player... 6'3" and 210 lbs. It's all muscle. He looks like a poster-child for the Aryan race until you hear him talk. He's soft-spoken with a love for just about everybody... kind of like a huge teddy bear, and maybe that is why he's not terribly physical. However I don't think he needs to be terribly physical alongside Altidore... Jozy is physical enough. Cooper needs to be the player who finishes the chances that Altidore creates and gets himself into good positions to score. Cooper had been doing that with FC Dallas in the MLS and is doing it now with 1860 Munich in Germany's 2nd division. He has very good speed to complement his size, and I think he may eventually wind up being a starter for the USMNT. It might not happen until the next World Cup though... my gut tells me Bob Bradley will use Brian Ching in this one to pair up with Altidore, and although that's not exactly an offensively potent decision, it's a decision I can live with.

Okay, that's it for now... no more soccer talk for a while, I promise. We can get back to football now. I am just extremely excited about the World Cup. You understand, right?

Monday, October 12, 2009


Yep, that was the word that Frank Spaziani used to describe his team at halftime. I'm sorry Frank, but that is not actually a real word. If you meant that your team was discombobulated, then I would be inclined to agree. BC left their man-pants in Chestnut Hill and showed up in some pretty pink culottes. The much-celebrated Boston College offensive line, with their 5 returning starters, was absolutely abused by the Virginia Tech defensive line all afternoon long. Nekos Brown had his best game of the season and was all up in Dave Shinskie's mug for the better portion of 3 hours. Every time Shinskie dropped back to pass, it seemed like he had at least 2 Hokies bearing down on him. Maybe that's why the guy only completed 1 of 12 passes, but you probably can't blame him... he had zero time to throw the ball.

Tech looked frisky... like maybe if you dropped a rubber mouse full of catnip onto the field, it would have been picked off and returned for a touchdown by Rock Carmichael. Rock keeps showing us that he's ready for the full time responsibility of that boundary corner role, and he's keeping a soon-to-be-fully-healthy Stephan Virgil at bay. The two TDs that VT gave up were against our second string defense, so I'm cool with that. Well done VT D! You deserve a Kudos.

The real story of this game is how freaking sweet our offense looked. Tyrod Taylor was completing pass after pass after pass. Ryan Williams, Josh Oglesby, and David Wilson ran around the field like they were playing soccer. It's possible that BC didn't realize what sport they were playing that day as their defensive backs kept looking at our receivers like, "No fair, you just used your hands." My favorite touchdown pass of the day was the one to Jarret Boykin, where the defender nonchalantly jogged along beside Boykin as he was burned for a TD. I think that the defender was pondering whether he left the iron on at home or possibly looking for his parents in the stands.

It didn't end up hurting us today, but man did Jayron Hosely have a bad day returning the football! It seemed like he ran backwards every time he touched a punt. Beamer will be all over him about going north/south this week. I'd bet a shiny nickel on it. Matt Waldron also got a missed field goal out of his system at an opportune time. If you're going to miss them, Matt, then by all means do it in a game where we're killing the opposition.

Another note: one of the announcers on Raycom kept calling Boston College kicker Steve Aponavicius "Sid Vicious" during the game. It might have been an amusing little joke if he'd done it once, but we're talking about 5 or 6 times, which leads me to believe that he didn't know that Steve Aponavicius was the kid's real name. I could be wrong, but I really don't think I am. If I am wrong, then that announcer needs to understand that "Sid Vicious" is a cool nickname for a linebacker or a safety or something... it's not a cool nickname for a kicker. That would be like having a toy poodle named "Killer". (Yo, they killed Killer, B!)

I'm nervous about our game against Georgia Tech this weekend. It's the hardest game remaining on our schedule, and you know the Yellow Jackets are going to be gunning hard for the Coastal Division title. Foster's defenses are usually designed to stop gimmicky offenses like GT's (their quarterback is more of a running back who occassionally throws the ball in a triple-option type of offense), but Jake Johnson & company have shown that they aren't terribly adept at staying home in their assigned gaps. That's the key to beating an offense like Georgia Tech's... if you play your assignments, you win. If you have mental errors, then you see Jonathan Dwyer's well-toned ass leaving you in the dust and running into the endzone. Seeing as how I don't particularly care about dude's asses, go TECH! I am calling for a win, but not a blowout... should be high-scoring, but close like the Duke game.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Really? Duke?

Yeah... Duke. They're not as bad as they would appear at first glance. Their two losses before this past weekend were against Richmond and Kansas. Despite being in the FCS, Richmond is 4-0 and could run the table this year. They're good enough to hang with at least half of the the FBS teams. Kansas could also be decent in the Big 12 North this season... they're 4-0 at this point and have some talent. I don't think VT's coaches are the least bit surprised that Duke put up a fight on Saturday, and we shouldn't be surprised either. Their depth is terrible, but Thad Lewis, Vince Oghobaase, and a few other Duke starters are quality ACC talent and could end up being selected in the NFL draft. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was a trap game, so I'm glad to see Tech come out on top.

As usual, Cody Grimm was all over the place. He is our best player at this point of the season with 14 tackles (2 for loss) and a forced fumble. Jason Worilds is a close second and he's making a real case for himself to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. He had 3 tackles (.5 for loss) and 5 QB hurries. Steven Friday also had a coming-out party with 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hurries, and a sack. Let's hope Friday is good enough to replace Worilds when he leaves.

The offense looked competitive and you have to hand it to BS for getting another solid performance. I really liked the effort we got from Tyrod Taylor in that game. He played with confidence and threw with a chip on his shoulder. 17-22 with 327 and 2 TDs is nothing to scoff at, even against this suspect Blue Devil defense. We can't expect to get this kind of yardage from Taylor every week, but I would love to get this type of completion percentage from week-to-week. Duke obviously keyed on the run, limiting Ryan Williams to 83 rushing yards. Williams did a nice job with what the offensive line was able to give him. I am also being forced to eat a little crow in regard to Josh Oglesby. I didn't think we'd get much of anything from him this year, but he's been a good Darren Evans clone so far this season. Not much in the break-away speed department, but man is he running with power! Jarret Boykin and Danny Coale quietly had monster games with 144 and 97 yards respectively. They also each had EXCELLENT touchdown catches. Those catches were extremely difficult, and I love that they were able to give Taylor a reason to put the ball in the air.

Honestly, I think we are going to crush Boston College this weekend. The players want revenge for past losses, and there's no better place to do that then at home on Homecoming weekend. Nobody is going to overlook BC's defense, so our Hokies should be fired up and ready for the challenge ahead of them. I would still like to see more play-action from Stinespring, and I think he really needs to key on that... especially when we're racking up yardage on the ground! We'll see what the offense has in store for us next weekend. No let-downs, boys!