Hokies remarkable win streak ends with a thud
Given the somewhat schizophrenic nature of this year's Virginia Tech football team, it was hard to nail down just how this season would come to be defined. The Hokies started out so poorly, with two losses in six days. They often fell behind in games. But in a remarkable feat, this group found a way to string together 11 straight wins and seemed on the cusp of becoming one of the school's all-time great teams.
But reality hit the Hokies square in the jaw during Monday night's 40-12 beatdown courtesy of No. 5 Stanford. While some in Virginia Tech's locker room lamented the various mental errors and mistakes that ultimately turned a one-point game at halftime into a blowout, the difference in this year's Orange Bowl was clear.
Stanford outplayed the Hokies. The Cardinal's staff out coached the Hokies. Simply put, Stanford was the better team. And no matter what the apologists say, it wasn't even that close.
"It’s a tough one to swallow," running back Darren Evans said. "It’s kind of like in an arm wrestling match. You’re faced up with somebody and either you’re gonna put their arm down or they’re gonna bring yours down. And they definitely brought it to us.”
This is not to down play Virginia Tech's fantastic win streak, either. It takes real talent and a ton of guts to right the ship in the manner these Hokies did. But ultimately, they wanted to finish this season considered as one of the nation's elite. The second half Monday proved that just isn't in the cards at this point.
Check out my game story, and then come back for some more notes and quotes after the jump.
*The Cardinal just picked apart Virginia Tech's defense in the second half. The Hokies gave up far too many big plays, a habit until the later stages of this regular season. When Virginia Tech was able to get pressure on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, he actually seemed human.
But the Hokies youth caught up with them. Linebackers Jack Tyler and Bruce Taylor got caught out of position on a couple of Stanford's long runs. The Cardinal's tight ends had a field day in the passing game as well. Led by senior Coby Fleener (career high six catches for 173 yards and three touchdowns), Stanford's corps of tight ends accounted for 236 of Luck's 287 yards passing on this night.
"We changed a few things at halftime to try to help us out and Stanford does a lot of motions and shifts and things, so you really have to be on your toes and know what you’re doing from the get go," Tyler said. "And sometimes, with all those shifts, one or two people, if they’re not running the right defense, they can really hurt you. A few times it happened tonight, and they broke off a few big plays and in football, that’s all you need. A few big plays here, a few big plays there and a whole game can switch. We played well for a half, and the second half, it was just we couldn’t make any plays and we couldn’t stop them."
*I'm sure cornerback Jayron Hosley will also think about his near-interception of Luck to begin the second half, a play in which the sophomore had nothing but green grass ahead of him.
"We get that interception that hit Hosley, it’s a different ballgame," defensive tackle John Graves said. "You take away that score and give us points."
Don't know if I agree that one play would have eventually kept the Hokies in it, but it certainly would have stemmed Stanford's momentum early in the second half.
"Coach preaches all the time, it’s the plays that you give up and make and don’t make in the secondary that win and lose games," Hosley said. "He always says that and it’s true."
*As for the offense, the offensive line ended the year as it began -- unable to open any running lanes. Stanford's multiple looks wreaked havoc on the Hokies offensive front. Virginia Tech's three running backs combined for 44 yards. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked eight time.
Maybe it was just me, but it certainly seemed as if Stanford's coaching staff dialed up more and more blitzes as the game went on. Against Miami last month, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was able to adjust on the fly with a determined running attack and strategic screen passes.. On Monday night, it appeared as if Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was always one step ahead.
And regardless of how well Virginia Tech's defense played, there was no way the Hokies were going to win this game putting up 12 points.
"Their switching fronts was kind of confusing to me and the linemen as far as protection-wise," Taylor said."
*Speaking of Taylor, his lone touchdown pass to David Wilson was probably the best individual play of his career. I thought it was better than the game-winning touchdown against Nebraska last year. I'll just let him describe it for you.
"I got flushed out the pocket to the left, wanted to keep the play alive and I seen Jarrett [Boykin] working to the back of the end zone, and that's who I was throwing to but David [Wilson] just try to make a play and he did it. As I was running to the sideline while I threw the football, their whole sideline was screaming I was out. I was asking Coach Harbaugh, 'Was I out?' He was saying I was in."
*In non-game related news, both running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams said they've received their evaluation from the NFL draft advisory board. Williams said he was rated as a first or second round pick. Evans said he fell in the 4th-6th round range. Neither has decided whether to declare for the draft as of yet, but the deadline to declare is Jan. 15.
Obviously, we'll have more on the decisions of WIlliams and Evans in the days and weeks to come.
*It's really late, so I'm going to wrap this post up quickly. But I wanted to leave you with this statement from Coach Frank Beamer that I thought was a shocking admission from a man who has won so many games over the years. He's always deferential to the opposing team, but when asked about how Stanford was able to stop Virginia Tech's vaunted rushing attack, even he admitted the Hokies were simply outclassed on this night.
"I think it was an execution difference," Beamer said. They did a good job. They moved those guys around and moved those big guys around and tried to get into different sets, and than all of a sudden motion. That's good stuff. When you've got experience you can do that ... You've got to give them credit. I mean, what they start out in is not what they end up in. It's good coaching and good playing with good players."
| January 4, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Save & Share: Previous: How will the Hokies handle 'Lord Fangio' and the Stanford defense?
Next: Virginia Tech's struggles vs. top five teams continue in Orange Bowl
Posted by: whlinder1 | January 4, 2011 7:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: LaserGuidedBomb | January 4, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: postfan1 | January 4, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: nkeitt | January 4, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: nkeitt | January 4, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: IndySailor | January 4, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse