1-0!!!!. First game of the season, and boy did the Eagles deliver. We saw some great signs and definitely some room for improvement. Coach Addazio said it well, that the team would grow and learn from this game and will practice humility at the same time. Many of these guys literally have not played a college game before, and many of them came up BIG.
This was a really good performance, but we need to look past that for a moment as we always do. During and immediately following the game I’m sure many of us had some similar instant reactions. Why did the play calling shift so much in the second half? How did we win the turnover battle 5-1 and only win by 7? We left so many points off the booooard? I’m here to say that while there were shades of some old tendencies, by and large the coaching staff did excellent and that these reactions are overblown.
But quick aside because it deserves mention.
YOU LOVE TO SEE THAT
- Anthony Brown did it all. Along with an exceptional passing performance, he took care of the ball, unlike another quarterback. I love seeing him use his legs too, converting third and fourth downs and scampering off for a 28 yard touchdown run.
- We had all three time outs with less than 3 minutes to go in the first half.
- Mike Bajakian had plenty of creative play calling. A much better mix of run and pass, and he did an excellent job of getting the ball outside and stretching the field on wide receiver runs.
- Addazio didn’t even blink going for it on 4th and 1 at the VT 16 on BC’s fourth possession. Mark Herzlich mentioned Addazio said he’d look at his percentage sheet on whether to go for it. Now, this was right after the missed field goal possession, but a good decision even though it was unsuccessful. And he did it again. Early in the fourth quarter, 4th and 1, no hesitation, AB sneaks in for the Eagles first down.
- Hunter Long leading the tight ends with four receptions, six or seven targets, and 53 yards, including three big catches on one touchdown drive alone.
- David Bailey converted your average 3rd and 22 on a dump off in the first quarter. The drive amounted to nothing, but I was impressed no less.
- There were a couple of early penalties, but it was quickly cleaned up, so I’ll chalk it up to first game jitters.
- Without bring pressure, the Eagles need to improve on creating an effective pass rush. It made the end of the game much more stressful than it needed to be.
- The defense gave up 442 yards mostly through the air, but they made it count when it mattered most, getting some luck and preventing scores. Unfortunately, it’s unsustainable, but it flew this week and will be something to work on as these young defensive backs continue to develop.
- Sigh, kicking. At least it wasn’t a total shank. I say we purposefully kick field goals next week, instead of trying to score otherwise.
Alright, let’s get on with it. Yes, the second half felt much flatter, but I can’t get on board with the narrative that the play calling dramatically changed in the second half. If we take out the one run heavy drive that resulted in a score and the last drive that iced the game, I don’t notice much of a change, and I can’t point out too many issues overall. There were four QB/WR runs in the second half, not just runs up the middle. Bud Foster and the Hokie defense made adjustments and made plays.
On the first possession of the second half, BC began by, uncharacteristically but also completely characteristically, running the ball twice in row despite the first being blown up for a tackle for loss. Given Tech gave no indication they could stop the will of Brown, I think a pass play or at least a more creative run would have made more sense. The offense was backed up a bit though, but to me, that says we’re up two scores, and we’re settling. OK, I’ll sort of give you that one.
Next, the defense comes up big again and Brandon Sebastian somehow keeps his head attached to his neck. NSFW.
The Eagles’ next possession was lost because Tech made plays including their first and only sack of the game.
After Virginia Tech capped off a five and a half minute drive with a touchdown making it a one score game, the pressure was on. What happened? The Hokies defense was well-rested, and the offense just didn’t answer. A QB run, and two pass plays. Three and out, but not on the play calling, the Eagles just got got. It was 3rd and 5 and Brown had great protection. Despite the situation, Captain Tanner Karafa soon thereafter reads a play like a book and snatches the ball in midair.
The Eagles defense and special teams are now up 5-0 in turnovers, and only up seven. Did the offense fail to capitalize on these opportunities? Not quite. Two scores did result after two turnovers, one was at the end of the half, another a deep red zone interception, and now this. If Kobay White had a half second more to step up and make the throw on the ensuing trick play, you couldn’t have asked for more.
I don’t understand the reasoning of the play mostly because of the timing. First down at the VT 30 after a big fourth down conversion? We reap what we sow, we asked for creativity, and they tried. And hey, maybe the design of the play wasn’t perfect since Kobay White got absolutely blasted trying to rush that throw, but he had Dillon and Long open and it would have been beautiful. Nevertheless, Tech was pinned at the two yard line, and the defense forced a three and out, so all’s well that ends well.
In what will henceforth be referred to as the “Run the Damn Ball Drive,” can we argue with the result? After a pass to Dillon, David Bailey and Dillon combined to rush nine straight times and scored. You could argue sprinkling in a shot down field on a second and short would have been ideal, but they beat down a defense that couldn’t handle them. Does it really matter if they ran with urgency instead of maybe killing clock at this point in the game? There’s about eight minutes remaining after this touchdown drive that started around midfield. That’s too much time to think kill clock, especially the way Ryan Willis was slinging it, and countless football games have been lost with this mentality. The same logic from continuing to pass because Tech couldn’t stop it in the first half sort of applies here. The Eagles put on tape the ability to low-key score in a multitude of ways in a single game, and teams need to prepare for all of it now, not just the rushing. This is a ridiculous comparison, but if the Patriots can run Jonas Gray a million times in one game and still win, let Addazio do it for one drive late in the game to impose his will.
Once it was a two score game the only way to lose was if we shot ourselves in the foot. I say only very loosely here. That was a very real possibility every single one us should have had at the forefront of their minds.
BC played a little too soft defensively and weren’t able to generate a pass rush and Tech scored, making it a seven point game.
Sigh of relief.
Coach Fuente should be fired immediately for not going for two after that score with 2:13 left. (Real talk though, if he had and Tech converted ... oh boy sorry to make you think of that scenario. You can’t tell me Tech wouldn’t have gotten the ball back after BC probably throws an incomplete pass from psyching itself out with the added pressure of actually losing the game in regulation. This disaster scenario would have no doubt resulted in Alumni Stadium mirroring the remains of the Plex across the street. But they didn’t, and AJ took us home as he does.
Let it be known though, that I will not fooled by one game of really solid play calling. This was a great win, and I’m ecstatic. Be happy!
We’re plying another team from the same lesser Commonwealth next week. We will win. Stay tuned for a preview still on Friday.