First of all, I think you have to give a ton of props to Bud Foster. You may hate him, but you better respect him, because he had those kids ready to play a pretty complex scheme against us. Most teams line up with one base formation all game and just do a couple simple variations off that based on down and distance and our formation. Not BF and the VT defense. They did a little of everything and often mixed, from down to down, who had QB, who had pitch, and from a totally different look. It is obvious they wanted to confuse JT and our OL. Personally, I think the game ball (for either team) goes to #36 on VT's defense. He played better than anybody else on the field. Although we owned the action in the G-C-G area of the field, we just couldn't get a hat on that guy or take him to the ground pursuing to the edge. He single handedly kept our dive from blowing up on them and he single handedly allowed them to run some of the tactics they did in the flats. Without him, they are not even in the game. He made tackles everywhere and seemed to easily defeat our attempts to pick him up. I don't think he took a single false step all game except one play where JT jukes him and took off for a 20 yarder. If I had to guess, I would say he made 40% of their tackles by himself. You have to go all the way to Vellano for MD at DT, to find as good a game played against us by a single defender.
With all that said, VT had a hard time adjusting to the speed of our option early. The guys on the edge screwed up assignments in the first series and we busted some runs. Eventually they settled down. Most of the day they had 8 in the box in one variation or another with as many as 6 on the line or as few as 4. They didn't jump the A gap but a few times. They did come with pressure this year, probably more than I would have expected, but the difference was they usually had one guy held back who spied JT. This was the "containment" tactic that I had alluded to in prior posts leading up to the game. They often fired corners and rotated safeties over to the boundary. We picked this up nicely, in scheme if not execution, by having the WR crack inside and the play side AB taking the firing CB. Once again, despite the lessened pressure, they were daring us to beat them through the air. Their defense flowed quickly to the pitch lanes and CBs were left to fend for themselves. There were a ton of plays "there" that we didn't hit for 3/4ths of the game with Smelter in the clear or a wheel route.
I thought CPJ did a masterful job with the play calls and I don't use that term lightly. With the game on the line late we ran two plays that took advantage of #36 in the middle a little bit, an AB dive, and a QB follow where we essentially optioned him off by having him take the BB. Those weren't big gainers but they mattered big time in the flow of the game late. The best play call of the day was the last TD to Smelter on the stop and go. CPJ guessed right that they would fire the corner on the play. That put a ton of pressure on the safety to get over to Smelter in a timely fashion and interrupt a quick throw that we had tried earlier. Well, he was running full speed over and DS baited him perfectly. The only other player on the field was a safety on the other side. He had no chance.
I don't think we played particularly well on offense as a whole. There were just a slew of unforced errors on the day. Penalties, just like last year, really killed some drives. ABs didn't play all that well. There were too many missed blocks or blocks that were too easily defeated in space, or penalties that brought plays back. While our OL generally blocked very well and got the best of the guys in front of them, they let down by turning a guy loose at the worst possible times. The biggest thing I can say is that we persevered. That seems to be our character this year and it is a good thing to say. There were a ton of reasons to throw in the towel and we didn't do it.
I am so proud of JT I can't even put it into words. He was asked to grow up yesterday. He was confronted with a puzzling and frightening array of tactics all day and he kept the pedal down throughout. He is a warrior who, once again, put his team on his back. We don't win yesterday if anybody else was in his place. The number of plays he keeps alive for modest gains, or makes huge gains out of seemingly routine plays is staggering. He sees holes developing before they open. He reads defenses very well for his relative inexperience. The two most important things about him are that, right or wrong, he commits to the decision and plays it out as fast as he can, and he makes adjustments as he goes along learning from his mistakes rather quickly. He has developed a tendency to overthrow receivers right now. His arm is strong and he is speeding things up a little too much getting rid of the ball. At crunch time you could see him consciously trying to take a little off to MAKE SURE of the throws. From that point on he was money. Eventually, he will learn to put air under the ball when he needs it. He hasn't yet. Some of his touch throws don't have enough altitude. I feel strongly, very soon, he will be coming out of the gate hitting important throws early.
Bottom line, there were a ton of plays missed yesterday. There were still many others that were an eyelash of going for huge gains that didn't. From my vantage point, we weren't all that far from blowing them out. We CAN play better. The locker room talk is the truth. We looked like the better team. They were under an extreme amount of pressure. They were well prepared. We were inconsistent, but we made played with talent. Yes the T word. We have some on offense.
Sorry I have to go. One last word. There is no doubt Freddie Burden was jacked up to play. That first series, he knocked his guy back about 4 yards a pop one on one. No kidding. He looked like that guy who got his car vandalized on "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". I haven't seen that from him yet. He has played well so far but that first series really showed what he can do. WOW.