Furrer4Heisman over at Gobbler Country is one of our oldest BC Interruption blogger. Seriously, we go way back.
So we couldn't pass up the opportunity to exchange some questions and answers to preview this weekend's ACC opener between the Eagles and the Hokies. In exchange, we answered some questions on the Eagles over at Gobbler Country.
BC Interruption: Let's start by playing the blame game. For a program that came into the season with such high expectations, Virginia Tech has again come out of the gate sluggish (how's that for an euphemism?). Who's to blame for the Hokies' slow 1-2 start?
Gobbler Country: I don't think there's one thing we can blame on the two losses. Our offensive line gave a pitiful performance for the first two and a half games. On defense, there was a lot of missed tackles and missed assignments for the first two and a half games and there was a lack of execution on both sides of the ball in the first two and a half games.
And on top of that I just don't think the coaching staff had the team ready to go in the two losses, which is really sad. I think they underestimated how tough it was going to be working in new starter on D and new offensive line and didn't have the guys ready to go. There was a lot of unimaginative play calling from the sidelines as well.
Then, after a hard-fought loss to Boise State, they had to play five days later against a motivated and prepared team in imperfect weather conditions. They came out flat and suffered an embarrassing loss to a team they had no business losing to. Again, I think part of that is coaching and having guys ready to play. We simply weren't ready to play James Madison, or anyone, on short notice like that and we got beat.
BCI: The Hokies notched their first win of the season last week against East Carolina. What, if anything, has changed from weeks 1-2 to week 3? Where is there still room for this Hokies team to improve?
GC: Oh, there's plenty of room for improvement, especially on both of the lines. East Carolina wore down as the game went on, something I don't expect BC to do. We were able to get consistent pressure on Dominique Davis and a consistent push against their defensive line in the second half.
That will be much tougher to do against BC's offensive and defensive lines because they're bigger, tougher and more experienced than what we saw against ECU. We need to get our ground game going against BC with David Wilson and Darren Evans and force BC into situations where Shinskie has to pass and we can pin our ears back and go after him.
BCI: After a 1-2 start, what are the revised goals and expectations for this team from the fans? Win the Coastal Division? An 8-4 (6-2 ACC) record? (Fans do realize this team can still win the ACC and go to the Orange Bowl, right? Right?!)
GC: My expectations at the start of the season were simply to win the conference title. I've still got that expectation, but this team needs to improve a lot in order to reach that goal. The loss to James Madison was embarrassing, but I hope the team has realized that it wasn't the end and there's still a lot to play for.
I predicted the team to go 10-2, and while that's still possible, I think 9-3 or 8-4 is much more realistic. What they really need to do is survive this next pair of games against BC and NC State. I think 2-0, 1-1 and 0-2 are all very possible outcomes of these next two weeks. If they go 2-0 and be 2-0 in the ACC with four of their last six league games at home, then watch out.
BCI: Are you sick of hearing the term "Beamer Ball" now that Virginia Tech's special teams aren't that special anymore?
GC: Yeah, the special teams were horrible against Boise State, but to say that they're not any good anymore isn't accurate. We've had to replace a three-year starter and punter and our place kicker. The new guys are coming along although the new punter, Brian Saunders, hasn't had to do much work of late. The new kicker, Chris Hazley was 3-for-3 in the rain against James Madison.
We still have an outstanding kick returner in Dyrell Roberts, who was fourth in the country in kick return average last season and punter returner in Jayron Hosley, who averaged over 11 yards per return last year. While we aren't blocking kicks at nearly the same pace we were in Frank Beamer's early years, we've started to do different things better than we used to.
BCI: Where do you feel Virginia Tech football is as a program? Can this program get to the next level and compete for a National Championship, or are the Hokies on the down slide, getting ready to relinquish their ACC "placeholder" status to traditional football power Miami in the Coastal?
GC: You used the "P" word, boys. Now my blood pressure is up. I have a feeling as long as Randy Shannon is in Miami we won't have to worry about Miami making its way to the top of the Coastal. I almost said "back to the top of the Coastal" but the Canes haven't been relevant since joining the ACC. Sure, Miami might beat us every now and then, but Shannon's record on the road is too atrocious for it to ever amount to anything.
As far as Virginia Tech is concerned, I'm not yet willing to say it's made a downward turn. I will say that things have started to get stale with the program and if we're not careful there could be a regression. We're getting much better athletes than we were 10 years ago and we've started to vastly improve our facilities. But we can't continue to do things the same way we have for the last 10 years just because it produced 10 win seasons if we want to turn the corner. That includes how you schedule and how you prepare for the season.
We changed the way we prepared for bowls prior to the Orange Bowl against Cincinnati and two years later we have won consecutive bowls for the first time in program history. Maybe the slow starts should signal to the coaching staff that we need to change the way we prepare for the season. This should probably have been a blog post, but oh well.
Changing some of the fundamental aspects of a program have worked for some (Oregon is very close to turning the corner with Chip Kelly) and failed for others (Kansas State ended up rehiring Bill Snyder), but if you want to go from being a very good program to an upper-echelon program, you can't be stuck in your ways. I'm in no way saying replacing Beamer is the way to do this, but the great coaches are able to change the philosophies to where the gel with the players they have on their roster and the current college football environment.
Yeah, that definitely should have been a blog post.
BCI: Indeed. Shifting gears a bit, when will you and I get to redeem ourselves and avenge our 2008 defeat to my wife in cornhole? When's it gonna be? The 2010 ACC Championship Game? The 2011 game in Blacksburg?
GC: Living as far away from the East Coast as I do, it's tough to say and it all depends on the schedule. I do want this rematch, though. Mrs. Brian has had bragging rights for far too long and it's time to put her in her place. Kind of like, oh, I don't know, some game that was played last October.
My cornhole skills were pretty legit last summer and fall, but I haven't been practicing. Once we get a date set for this rematch (Raj has to be there, too, or it's not official) I'll start refining my game again. Bloggers unite. #ACCSolidarity.
BCI: Hokie Bird vs. Baldwin. Who you got in a street fight, Rufus vs. Brutus style?
GC: I've gotta go with the Hokie Bird. The Miami Ibis learned a long time ago not to mess with him. I reckon Baldwin would learn that painful lesson as well.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got in this one? What's the final score?
GC: I'm taking the Hokies because I won't be there. Tech by a field goal in a low-scoring game, something like 23-20.