Tyrod Taylor: 'We beat ourselves'
Where to start with this one? A disastrous first quarter for Virginia Tech followed by a tremendous response. Four lead changes in the second half. A near-perfect game-winning drive. Let's just dive right in.
Call me an eternal optimist but I tend to side with Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer when looking back on Monday night's wild 33-30 loss to No. 3 Boise State. Despite a litany of miscues and a 17-point first-quarter deficit, the reality is the Hokies mounted a valiant comeback and in the end, were just "one first down from putting the game away" in the fourth quarter.
But this week, when Virginia Tech's coaches and players sit down and look back at the film, they'll have to come to terms with a troubling reality. The Hokies' trademark special teams unit cost them a victory, and quite possibly, a shot at a national championship.
There was a blocked punt in the first quarter by Austin Pettis -- who came off the edge untouched -- that set up Boise State's first touchdown. Virginia Tech kicker Chris Hazley missed a 34-yard chip shot, and then kickoff specialist Justin Myer sailed one out of bounds to set up a Broncos field goal. And don't forget Hokies sophomore D.J. Coles committing a roughing the kicker penalty and a personal foul on the same punt return to help keep another Broncos touchdown drive alive.
In all, the special teams mistakes cost Virginia Tech 20 points. And that was just in the first half. It was no wonder the Hokies trailed 17-0 by the end of the first quarter.
"We made too many critical mistakes to defeat a top-five football team. I think all the points, after they blocked the kick, everything came right off of big plays from the kicking game," said Beamer, who is the coach in charge of the Hokies' special teams. "Kick the ball out of bounds, roughing the kicker penalty, that’s disappointing. That’s not Virginia Tech.”
Some more notes to chew on
*Speaking of special teams, during his postgame news conference, Beamer took issue with the block in the back that was waived off during the Broncos' final punt return. It set up Boise State with prime field position, on its own 44-yard-line, to begin its game-winning touchdown drive.
"They said the other guy had a better view of it, so I’ll take them at their word," Beamer said of the officials. "I thought we had a block in the back. You’re talking about a big penalty now. With no time on the clock, and not only where they gained the yardage but where the penalty would have taken them back to, you’re talking about a 35-yard penalty.”
*Throughout the preseason, Virginia Tech was adamant its linebacking corps would not miss a beat with junior Barquell Rivers taking longer than expected to recover from a torn quad injury. But the Hokies' youth at linebacker was exposed several times Monday night.
It seemed time and time again, the Broncos scheme forced Virginia Tech linebackers into one-on-one coverage against Boise State wide receivers. Most notably, Pettis scored both of his touchdowns -- including the game winner -- by beating sophomore whip Jeron Gouveia-Winslow.
But Gouveia-Winslow wasn't the only culprit on this night. Middle linebacker Bruce Taylor was called for a pivotal (and some would say debatable) late hit on the Broncos' game-winning drive and missed a tackle in the backfield when Boise State's D.J. Harper broke off a 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Veteran linebacker Lyndell Gibson also missed a tackle on the play.
*It wasn't all bad news for the defense, though. I thought safeties Eddie Whitley and Davon Morgan both had strong games. Whitley finished with a team-high seven tackles and forced a second-quarter fumble that swung momentum back to Virginia Tech after that horrendous start to the contest. Morgan had five tackles, and a key third-down pass breakup in the fourth quarter that gave the Hokies the ball back with a chance to run out the clock.
*Virginia Tech's offensive line had a shaky performance against a tough Boise State front four. It seemed senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor never could get comfortable in the pocket, and if it weren't for his maneuverability, the Broncos would have finished with more than just three sacks.
And the Hokies' supposed strength, the running game, was anything but. Virginia Tech averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Boise State, on the other hand, averaged seven yards per carry. Afterward, Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams wasn't shy about his frustration with the situation.
"All I know is that there was a lot of times I got the ball and there were defenders in my face," said Williams, who had three touchdowns but just 51 yards rushing. "I don’t know who let who by or what kind of scheme they ran, but there were people in my face and that prevented a lot of things going on.”
*I thought both quarterbacks had strong games. Boise State's Kellen Moore will draw all the headlines after leading the Broncos on that 56-yard game-winning drive in just 38 seconds. Working with no timeouts, Moore went 4 or 5 on that drive and finished the game with 215 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
But my guess is Bud Foster and the Hokies' defense will shake their heads when they look back at how little pressure they got on Moore.The defensive line struggled to generate a consistent pass rush all night, and it was no more evident than on the final drive when Moore seemed to have an eternity to survey the field.
As for Taylor, he took the blame for the fumbled snap on the second play of the game. He said center Beau Warren thought the offense was in a shotgun formation. But without Taylor's performance, there's no way Virginia Tech has a chance after falling behind by so much, so quickly. He finished 15 of 22 for 186 yards and two touchdowns and also led the Hokies in rushing with 93 yards.
Junior Jarrett Boykin finished with six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown, but could not haul in Taylor's desperation heave on Virginia Tech's final offensive play. For the record, Taylor thought it was a pass interference penalty that went uncalled (I disagree).
“It was an opportunity missed," Taylor said after the game. "But I believe that we beat ourselves. It wasn’t anything they did to beat us. I strongly believe that. We just gotta correct those mistakes.”
September 7, 2010; 2:59 AM ET
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