I was looking forward to watching the Tech game last night for several reasons. I hadn't seen them play all year, and I thought they had a real chance to beat Virginia Tech. The offense had been opened up to best utilize the tremendous skills of Vad Lee. Any offense than can run Paul Johnson's option and pass with precision would be hard to stop by even the best of defenses. Ted Roof's defense was showing marked improvement over last year, and I also wanted to check out freshman kicker Harrison Butker. And as an additional bonus, GT was breaking out throwback uniforms for the occasion.
Unfortunately GT once again fell flat on national TV. Thanks to the defense (and several VT miscues), the game was close – actually quite winnable. But time after time GT's offense sputtered and committed stupid mistakes – so many that a list is required.
1. Six offsides penalties. Three by the same lineman. Once by two wideouts. How long have these guys been playing football? Vad said these penalties were his fault, because he had lost control of the huddle. This was his fourth game as a starter. Not good at all.
2. GT couldn't run the option. VT has a great defense, and made a point of stuffing the middle and covering the option. Vad made many poor option reads, especially on his handoffs up the middle. Not the best play-calling OR execution.
3. GT's passing game was ineffective, for several reasons. Lee only completed 7 of 24 passes, with two interceptions. Despite working with the much-heralded "quarterback guru" Vad kept under-throwing receivers due to throwing off his back foot. The passes went too high and too short. VT put great pressure on Vad, which was definitely a factor. Several passes were dropped, including a couple by Smelter.
4. Johnson's decision to go for it on fourth & two with over eight minutes remaining was rightly taken to task by the ESPN announcers. The play call was horrible: VT had stuffed the middle all night. Had VT scored, GT could not have scored twice to catch up.
5. On GT's final possession Vad took most all of the snaps from under the center. With the clock counting down VT would've loved for GT to run, but knew GT had to pass to win. Despite this, Paul Johnson had Vad waste time dropping back to pass in an effort to disguise the pass. Instead VT defenders had more time to pressure the passer. Only on the final fourth down play did Vad take the snap from the shotgun – even though he had taken many shotgun snaps earlier in the game.
VT did not play their best game, and the Hokie offense is definitely beatable. The VT offensive coordinator makes the best use of QB Logan Thomas' abilities. GT has never been able to tackle Thomas. The large QB is not forced to make many difficult, long throws, instead focusing on short, quick passes. Unlike many, I do not see Thomas making it big in the NFL.
The fans in the stands did dress mainly in white, perhaps GT's best white-out yet. Although white-outs have become the latest thing in the NBA playoffs. they are yesterday's news in college football. GT is usually late to recognize trends like this. Despite a few alumni non-participants, the white-out did not contribute to GT's embarrassment.
GT's uniforms were the highlight of the evening. The gold pants with simple stripes looked great, The uniforms were supposed to be replicas from the 1950's, when GT's three sleeve stripes were black-gold-black. In the 70's GT only had two stripes. Thursday night most players only wore two stripes, not counting the lower black band at the end of the sleeve. The offensive linemen did have the 50's style three stripes plus the black band. In the early 80's Ted Roof captained the black Watch defense, which were designated by an all-black GT helmet logo. Thursday night GT went without a helmet logo to be like GT's helmets in the 1950's. I wish they'd wear these throwbacks in every game.