FBS Mission Statement:

We at FBS believe that offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring bears the largest share of the blame for years of sub-par output from some of the most talented players ever to set foot on Worsham Field. We believe the main objective of the VT football program - a national championship - will escape us as long as Stinespring is making the calls. We therefore advocate the improvement of our football program through the replacement of our offensive coordinator.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Narrow Line Between Suck and Awesome

So I reconsidered. I spent like two frickin' hours breaking down each series of downs on which the first six drives of the Boston College game stalled, so I figure, what the hell, someone else might actually enjoy reading this crap.

I also think this exercise shed some light, for me at least, on the difference between bad play calling and bad game planning. While breaking down these 18 plays only one jumped out at me as a bad call. But of the 18 plays, 12 were passes while only 6 were runs. VT is not built to have a 2:1 pass/run ratio. While the individual calls were all pretty decent, the overall trends in the calls were too aggressive in the passing game while not respecting what David Wilson can do on the ground.

Follow the jump for the detailed breakdown.

1st and 10 from the VT 22: For the first play of the game the Hokies come out in a five wide shotgun set, trips right. For once we actually pass out of this formation. LT throws to Boykin down the left sideline with a little too much velocity on the ball but on target. I'm getting tired of writing this this season, but the ball deflects off the receiver's hands, incomplete. To make matters worse, before the snap Boykin lines up on the 20 yard line, two yards behind the line of scrimmage, which gets VT flagged for illegal procedure with too many men in the backfield. I'm guessing maybe he thought the opening kickoff was a touchback, maybe? But still, how hard is it to just check where the ball is before the snap? BC declines the penalty, preferring the loss of down to the loss of five yards. Between mistiming his jump and drawing a flag, Boykin, who was coming off back to back solid performances, earns an F minus for the first play of the game.

2nd and 10: Still in the shotgun, three wide single back set. LT dumps it off to Wilson on a delay out of the backfield for a pickup of five. Nice play to set up a manageable third down.

3rd and 5: Shotgun again, trips right single back with Drager lined up left. If this was an option run LT never even hinted at pitching it. Kevin Pierre-Louis sheds Jaymes Brook's block and forces LT to take it a bit more to the outside where he runs into Danny Coale blocking a safety. LT comes up a foot short. Insert your random "game of inches" bullshit here, because one play later Michael Branthover shanks a 9 yard punt and BC capitalizes to score the first touchdown of the game.

The drive was doomed when: Boykin lined up wrong, then mistimed his jump and tipped the pass on first down. Or just time the jump right and come down with the ball. That would have forced BC to accept the penalty, which would have backed VT up five but still given then three downs to get the fifteen yards. We got 9.75 yards in two plays on this drive so 3rd and a long 5 wouldn't have been the end of the world. This was a freshman-level double decker mistake from a senior wide receiver.

1st and 10 from the VT 32: David Wilson runs out of the shotgun to the short side of the field, bounces outside and slips trying to cut upfield. Gain of 2 yards.

2nd and 8: More shotgun. Wilson, lined up as slot receiver, comes in motion before the snap. LT fakes the end around to Wilson then pulls the ball back and runs ahead for 4 yards. Sets up a makeable 3rd down.

3rd and 4: Three wide shotgun set. LT motions Drager from left to right pre-snap, leaving Boykin with man coverage on the short side of the field. BC brings a corner blitz and LT has to hurry the throw, sailing it above Boykin's head and out of bounds.

The drive was doomed when: The Hokies failed to pick up the blitz on the edge, giving LT the time he needed to connect with Boykin. LT had what he wanted in coverage but didn't get three seconds to step into his pass.

1st and 10 from the BC 12: The Hokies have put together a decent drive up to this point and are knocking on the door. LT under center with two tight ends in for max protect on blocking. Wilson is the single back, two receivers left. LT floats a beautiful fade to a WIDE OPEN Jarrett Boykin, who fails to get a foot down in bounds. This one was an absolute heartbreaker to watch as Boykin realizes as soon as he plants his foot how badly he just fucked up.

2nd and 10: Same formation. Wilson runs off left tackle, bouncing it outside as he runs into the blitz. Gain of four.

3rd and 6: After a timeout, VT hurries to the line in a five wide shotgun set. I might be wrong here, but to me this looks like a QB draw all the way and LT unloaded it out of the back of the endzone when he saw the blitz coming.

The drive was doomed when: Boykin forgot where he was in relation to the sideline. A toe drag knots the score at 7. Instead VT settles for a field goal.

1st and 10 from the VT 42: LT throws deep over the middle off play action and overthrows Danny Coale by ten yards.

2nd and 10: Bubble screen to Danny Coale who can't quite find the edge. Gain of three.

3rd and 7: The play I've wanted to see all season. Wilson, lined up in the slot, comes in motion before the snap. LT tries to hit Wilson on a wheel route, completing the pass but throwing a bit behind DW. Instead of catching it in stride Wilson has to wait and adjust, giving the BC defenders time to close in and snuff out the play. If they get the timing right on this play Wilson is 40 yards downfield. As it stands, this was a gain of two.

The drive was doomed when: LT failed to hit Wilson in stride. But please, Mike O'Cain, please do not give up on this play. Work on it in practice. This could be money down the stretch.

1st and 10 from the VT 42: Wilson runs out of the shotgun to the short side for a gain of three. At first I thought this was a read option play that LT let go, but this was a designed handoff all the way.

2nd and 7: LT tries to hook up with Marcus Davis on the far sideline. Either the throw was off target or MD7 ran a bad route. Hard to tell.

3rd and 7: LT takes a shot downfield, trying to hit Boykin down the left sideline but is forced to hurry his throw as the O line fails to pick up the linebacker on a blitz. LT gets destroyed as he releases the ball and Boykin can't quite make the grab.

The drive was doomed when: the BC linebacker came through untouched on the blitz. You give LT one to two more seconds and I honestly think he makes that throw.

1st and 10 from the VT 18: Two tight end set, two wide left, single back. LT rolls right off play action and tries to hit Randall Dunn down the right sideline but Manny Asprilla breaks on the ball and bats it away. Not a bad play call here at all, but that's just good defense by Asprilla.

2nd and 10: LT tries to set up a halfback screen to Wilson. The BC offensive line sniffs it out and LT dumps the pass at Wilson's feet to avoid the sack. Again, good defense by BC to realize a screen was being set up.

3rd and 10: LT is flushed from the pocket, pulls it down and runs right. Kevin Pierre-Louis takes a perfect angle and knocks LT out of bounds two yards short of the first down. The play by play guy make such a BFD here about Pierre-Louis giving up 35 pounds to LT and still forcing him out of bounds, but when you take the right angle and play disciplined defense that will happen every time.

The drive was doomed when: it started. BC played damn near perfect defense on this series of downs.

VT would not punt again in this game. The only other drive that "stalled" in the sense that it didn't result in a touchdown occurred when DW ran straight up the middle on a very makeable 3rd and 2 from the BC six yard line. This wasn't a failure to sustain a drive, it was Frank Beamer not being an asshole.

Again, compare the game plan to the play calling. All of these drives stalled in part because the Hokies were out of balance on offense, but the individual play calls all make fairly good sense in the circumstances under which they were called. This is a critical distinction with Mike O'Cain in the booth instead of Stiney: when you have a play caller who understands the flow of the game and how to use play calls to set up future play calls, then as an offensive staff you can make effective adjustments in the way you want to attack the opposing defense.

Also, having given this some more thought, don't dismiss the possibility that it was precisely all the passes in the first half that set DW up to have such a monster second half running the ball. I still think MOC went a tad bit overboard with 25 passes in the first half, but BC obviously came out of the locker room after halftime expecting more of the same, and they were completely unprepared for Wilson running it down their throats on the first drive of the third quarter.

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