I hate when we finish ugly. Whether it's a drive, a game or a season, when we finish ugly it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It makes it easy to forget the positives and feel (incorrectly) that the entire effort was as bad from start to finish as it looked at the end. I'm not sure why it's so much easier to forgive a slow start than an ugly finish, but it's true. (Not that we don't indulge in our fair share of hand-wringing over slow starts.) Psychologists would probably call it the recency effect. I call it disappointing to watch.
All the credit in the world to UNC's defensive front seven, who are legitimately as big and as good as any defensive line we've faced this season. They made us fight for every yard we gained on the ground, like I thought they would. And credit as well to UNC's entire team for playing sixty minutes of football. Everett Withers and his team believed they were still in this game when they were down 17 with 9:49 left to play, when we quite obviously did not. The ensuing disparity of effort and intensity between the two sides damn near resulted in what would have been one of the great all-time VT collapses under Beamer. Thankfully the Tarheels came up just short.
Let's be clear about exactly what happened in this game: we quit. It's as simple as that. The game was in hand, UNC had been stopped cold, we were doing what we do this season on offense. Then we got up by a comfortable margin. It's cold, it's senior night, and we're ready to be in a warm locker room while UNC is busy trying to mount their comeback. And we played like absolute shit on both sides of the ball for the last nine minutes of the game.
It is important - in fact, I might argue it's absolutely critical - to remember that for the first three quarters of this game there were a fair share of positives. First of all, this was probably LT's finest effort to date as a quarterback. It certainly wasn't his best game statistically, but this was far and away the best defensive front seven he has ever faced, and for the first time all season our offensive line was just simply fracturing under their pass rush. LT had defenders in his face all game long and was forced to scramble out of a broken pocket on multiple occasions. The results were often incredible to watch, like his NFL-caliber throw to DJ Coles on the run - a play that even fooled ESPN's prime time camera crew - and his 18 yard scramble on 3rd and 19 that was reminiscent of a Tyrod Taylor play...if Tyrod Taylor had been involved in some freak taffy puller mishap. His 23 yard touchdown run on the zone read proves that play with LT and David Wilson is damn near undefendable. And his first touchdown pass to Chris Drager was NFL-right-now good.
Second, let's talk more about that drive that was capped off by the touchdown pass to the Drager Bomb. OH...MY...GOD. In the comments on the open thread my response was, "This is what this offense has ALWAYS been capable of," and I stand firmly behind that statement. That drive - all 18 plays and 7 minutes 59 seconds worth - is a summary of the difference between the offense this season as called by O'Cain versus the past nine years of futility under Stinespring. Ten passes, eight rushes. Six first downs. A key fourth down conversion. And an absolutely colossal swing of momentum in the game.
Third, the defense did a good job reverting back to the base Bud Foster defense after spending basically two weeks preparing to defend the flexbone. I wanted to talk more about this in the preview but was limited by time constraints and had to leave it as just a bullet point, but you really can't overstate how difficult it is for our defense to switch everything up for one game against Georgia Tech and then go right back to how they had been playing before that. We really do defend Georgia Tech completely differently than any other team we play, and while it took a while for us to settle in on D, once we did we locked the Tarheels down. No small part of that was the sidelining of Giovani Bernard, but after giving up a quick touchdown on a short field to open the game, the defense did not allow the Heels another point until they decided to start mailing it in come the fourth quarter.
But sweet Jesus the wheels damn near fell off on this one. It was nauseating to watch how close we nearly came to a world-class bed-shitting on senior night, which I would argue is a more hallowed event than homecoming. In the end we survived our trap game when many top teams did not, but we came perilously close to shooting ourselves right in the Lisfranc. There's no excuse for what we saw at the end of that game. Hopefully it will serve as a wake up call as we finish out the season.
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.