Wait, shoutouts for Virginia Tech football after they were dominated by Duke this past weekend?
Am I joking?
No! This is not satirical. Like the guy in the bleachers in Sixteen Candles, I am totally serious.
I could easily write about the continued Virginia Tech football struggles, but why keep going down that oft-traveled road? I mean, if I did, the article would look something like this…
The Tech defense did not put pressure on the quarterback, had several missed tackles in space, and could not get off the field.
The Tech offense could not move the chains with any consistency, did not score after its first drive, and has now been shutout in 11 of their last 16 quarters.
And the Hokies lost again. For the seventh straight game (something that has not happened since 1951).
Do I want to write that article? No. I’ve already done that several times this year. And do you really want to read that article? I know the answer is no. If you must, here is a good recap with the box score from David Cunningham of Techsideline.com.
So let’s not beat that dead horse. Instead, let’s find something else worthy of the next seven minutes and maybe try to put a smile on our faces (something that has definitely been lacking this football season).
Shoutout to the Virginia Tech Football Players for their Effort
It has been a difficult year – yes, thank you Captain Obvious – but let us not forget to give praise – and even thanks – to the players on this team. There is a ton of negativity in the Hokie cyberworld – just go on Twitter or join a Hokie Facebook group or read a Hokie message board and you will see thousands of rants and complaints. (If I had a dollar for every time I read the word “trash” this season, my Hokie Club status would elevate to Golden Hokie! And seriously, if you use the word “trash” to describe a player or team, your complaint just lost all credibility in my book.)
Sure, the fans are frustrated. We invest time and money and emotions into this team. But we are not playing. We are not in the weight room. We are not on the practice field. That distinction goes to the young men, many of whom are still teenagers, and they have not quit! The Virginia Tech football players are still competing. Sure, they are not successful, but they come out of the tunnel each week and try to win.
No one is more frustrated than the players. No one works harder than them. They have to balance studies with film and meetings and practices and travel – it is a grind like no other sport. Yet they still play hard. The team is not winning, but it is not for lack of effort. They might not always be put in the best position to win, and they might not always have good play calls from the sideline, and they might not always execute, but they are still playing hard.
The players feel the frustrations. But they are keeping a good perspective on it all. Just look at this comment from linebacker Keli Lawson:
#Hokies LB Keli Lawson on finding motivation for the final two games of the year: "I'm not going to lie, it is frustrating, it is hard, but we’ve just got to fight through it. Adversity comes with this sport."
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) November 12, 2022
He and a few others have echoed similar sentiments. It is difficult. It is frustrating. They are not making enough plays, winning enough one-on-one battles.
But they are coming to work. Every day. Lunch Pail mentality.
For that they deserve a shoutout. And less negativity in the cyberworld.
Shoutout to the Tech Fans for Showing up at Home
Despite the tough year, the Virginia Tech football fans have still filled the seats of Lane Stadium. Boston College, West Virginia, and Miami were sellouts. And the Wofford game? It was a noon start against an FCS opponent. Yet the students were there an hour before kickoff and the place was pretty full for “Enter Sandman.”
Last week against Georgia Tech, with a two-win team in the rain against a three-win Yellow Jacket team, there were almost 60,000 fans!
Tech Fans may be expressing frustration on social media, but at least 60,000 a week are coming to the games. That is important for a few reasons. One, it shows the players and coaches that the fans are still behind them. Second, it shows recruits that Blacksburg is a special place. To get this thing turned around, the Hokies need recruits who want to be there to be part of the rebuild and fans who will support them.
The fans are still showing that they want to support the process too, and for that, they deserve a shoutout.
Shoutout to the Band for Making Wallace-Wade Sound Like People Were Actually There
And just as the Virginia Tech fans are showing up to support their Hokies, the Duke fans are NOT showing up to support their Blue Devils. The posted attendance at Wallace-Wade Stadium was 20,857 last week, but let’s be real…there was probably half of that in the seats. I think there was more noise in that stadium from the cardboard cutouts during the Covid season of 2020!
Minutes from kickoff here at Duke and, uhh … not quite a standing room only crowd. #Hokies pic.twitter.com/spCR7NlTKw
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) November 12, 2022
But the Marching Virginians were definitely in attendance, and their performance was coming through my TV loud and clear. Numerous times throughout the broadcast I heard the band playing, and I knew it was Tech’s band – and that made me feel good. They helped create some atmosphere in a venue that was otherwise devoid of any excitement. And for that, they deserve a shoutout!
Shoutout to Mike Young for Showing Us That Rebuilding Can Work!
When I think of the football roster turnover at the end of last year – 13 starters and several other contributors left the program – I think of the Virginia Tech basketball team when Buzz Williams left for Texas A&M.
When Williams exited, all five starters left too. Three graduated, one left early for the NBA, and one transferred to an SEC school. One additional freshman medically retired and never played for Young. Additionally, the top four recruits de-committed. Young was left with a thin roster that included a 6’ 6” center and several players that were mostly recruited to mid-major schools. To make matters worse, several starters transferred after Young’s first season in 2019-20.
The Hokie hoopsters struggled that first year under Young. Yes, Landers Nolley helped them win their opener, an ACC game at Clemson, and then they beat Michigan State in Hawaii. However, they struggled in the second half of the season, losing 10 of their last 12 en route to a 16-16 record, 7-10 in the ACC, good for a 10th place finish.
The starting five included several players who were young and not ready, but out of necessity they had to play. Hunter Cattoor, Naheim Alleyne, Jalen Cone. Young reflects on the defense of some of those guys, saying how they “couldn’t guard a sandwich from a hobo.”
Fast forward one year. The Tech basketball team finished 15-7 for a .682 winning percentage. And in their third year…we all know now…ACC tournament champs! And Hunter Cattoor plays some pretty good defense!
How did Young do it? Player development and the transfer portal. Yes, it is easier to reap more immediate impact via the portal in hoops with such a small roster. But still, he found the right pieces, let the wrong ones go, developed his young guys, and cultivated a winning culture.
The current football team reminds me of Mike Young’s first team. The huge roster turnover, the need for young guys to play now, the struggles to win. Can Tech develop their young guys in the off season and have more of them ready to play next year? Can they bring in key transfers? Can the players buy in to what Pry is selling? If so, the next few years should be better. I’m not calling for an ACC championship in year three, but Mike Young showed us the template for success when rebuilding from scratch, so shoutout to our favorite popcorn eating coach!
HUGE Shoutout to the Incoming Recruits for their Solidarity
Apparently, there are a group of current recruits who prepared a statement to show that they are still committed to Virginia Tech. Standing together, they want to build back the Virginia Tech football program. This is encouraging to hear, as many in the Hokie Nation have an uneasy feeling going into an off season after a two- or three-win campaign.
Brent Pry and his staff have to close out on the recruiting trail. They currently have about a dozen and a half commits, and they need to sign them. They also will want to land a few of the undecideds. On top of that, they will have to not only work the transfer portal for incoming recruits, but they will also need to keep their best players from fleeing the program, given how easy it is for college athletes to just up and leave.
So to hear that the current recruits are still committed and want to restore Tech to its winning tradition, well, that is comforting. A huge shoutout to these young men!
In a season like this, it is important to see progress as the year goes on. It is hard to identify any real progress so far. The offense continues to bog down, and the defense continues to be out on the field too long and lose steam late.
There are two games left. While it would be nice to win one – or both – there is a complete lack of confidence across Hokie Nation that this will occur. There just has not been enough improvement to give fans hope that it will happen. And that is probably the biggest disappointment of the year.
This offseason will be very important for the future of Pry and company. What changes will be made to ensure that the team is headed in the right direction? What impact players can Tech bring in through the portal? Rebuilding takes time, but it will be important to make progress.
The staff misjudged their talent and implemented an offense that has not been effective. The offense was not effective in the early parts of the season, so the staff made some recent adjustments. Although those changes have yielded some improvement in run blocking and running the ball, the end result is still an offense that struggles to sustain drives and struggles to score. Pry has even acknowledged the difficulty in changing mid-season, saying, “You’ve invested a lot of time in being a certain style of offense, and when it’s not working and you have to get creative, how good can you be at what you’re doing?”
Pry and Tyler Bowen and the rest of the offensive staff will have to reevaluate their personnel and their system in the off season and make necessary changes. If they don’t, the pitchforks and torches will be out next season.
I also wonder if the Virginia Tech football team needs a “special assistant to the head coach”? I don’t mean a George Costanza position, I’m talking about a real consultant. Someone like Jerry Kill, who he came to Blacksburg three games into the 2019 season and supposedly told a certain OC that high school coaches were better at breaking down film. Kill took the same role at TCU the following year (gee, I wonder why he left after his personnel recommendations weren’t acted on). Gary Patterson retired from TCU and has that role at Texas now. Should Tech invest in someone like that to help with this young staff and the new Head Coach?
Tech’s defense gave a good effort for most of the Duke game, but like the previous two weeks, the Hokies just didn’t make enough big plays. Duke converted first downs on 4th and 7 and 4th and 5, and then a key 2nd and 20 was turned into a first down. They gained 50% more yards than the Tech offense.
The Tech defense was on the field FOREVER – Duke led the time of possession battle 39-21; the teams were even in the third quarter, but Duke doubled Tech in every other quarter…and the total offensive plays favored Duke 72-54. Six three-and-outs by the offense certainly didn’t help here.
After shouting out the playcalling and the punt return group last week…sigggghhhh. Against Duke, the Virginia Tech offense was horrible after the first drive – they only gained 226 yards over the next 55 minutes of football. And their punt return was back to its previous formation. Connor Blumrick was not brought back deep as the blocker for Tucker Holloway – and not-so-coincidentally, Tech had no returns on three punts.
The Hokies committed no penalties for the first time since 1987. While that is an incredible improvement from – well, every game this year – it deserves credit but maybe not a full-on shoutout just yet. Let’s see marked improvement in penalties in the final two games, then let’s shout it out.
It would be easy to criticize the officiating in this game (and the camera work!). It wasn’t very good. But in the end, it would not change the outcome of the game, so I won’t go there. Instead, I guess I will just accept it as the price Virginia Tech football has to pay as cellar dwellars…the league’s best referees will be working the important games.
Virginia Tech has now held the Commonwealth Cup for…well, that doesn’t seem to matter right now. After the tragic events in Charlottesville, the outcome of the upcoming Commonwealth Clash – if it is even played – isn’t really important. If the Hokies ‘n Hoos do play as scheduled Thanksgiving weekend, the game will be about way more than a silver Cup. My Hokie heart goes out to the Wahoos. #HokiesforHoos
To read more of my articles on Virginia Tech football, click here.
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