ECU Game Analysis: Inconsistent Hokies Will Look to Improve

Emotion is a vital part of football. Teams look to channel that emotion
during practice and preparation each week and then release it during the game.
For the Virginia Tech football team, the build-up of emotion usually reaches its
peak during that walk down the tunnel with “Enter Sandman” vibrating
throughout the stadium and the charge onto the field to the roar of 66,000
screaming Hokie fans.

It was different on Saturday. So much of that emotion was spent on things
outside of the game of football — and with good reason. The pre-game ceremonies
were so touching and so emotionally draining that the game itself was
anti-climatic. How could it not be?

When it was over, the Hokies survived a scare from a very good and
well-prepared ECU team and escaped with a 17-7 victory. That it was close did
not surprise me (I posted repeatedly last week that this game was going to be
much closer than many expected). What did surprise me was the inconsistent play
that tormented the Hokies on both sides of the ball throughout the game.

Let’s break it down…

Overall Analysis

This was one of those games where the good plays were very good and the bad
plays were very bad. Frank Beamer preaches consistency and on Saturday he didn’t
get it. Maybe it was the emotion of the day; maybe it was the opponent; maybe it
was a little bit of both.

The bottom line is that the coaches and players were looking for and
expecting a better and more consistent performance. That didn’t happen and, even
though they pulled out the victory, the team walked off the field a bit
disappointed in how they played.

That was particularly true on offense, so let’s start our analysis there…

Offense

The offense performed well during fall camp and expected to come out on
Saturday and show a national audience that they had made substantial improvement
since last season. In some ways, they did just that. There were a number of
nicely executed plays in the passing game — some that we did not see all of
last season.

In other ways, the offense showed that they still have a ways to go to pose a
consistent threat play to play, series to series, game in, game out. Much of the
credit should go to ECU’s highly regarded defense. They showed a few new
wrinkles and slanted their front a lot more than the Hokies expected. And they
played extremely well — they were physically tough, they were strong at the
point of attack, they were fast in pursuit, and they tackled with crisp
precision.

Having said that, the Tech offense was very inconsistent and a number of key
issues were exposed.

Of primary concern was the play of the offensive line. Physically, they were
unable to get a consistent push against ECU’s defensive front. The rotation at
left guard with Richard Graham and Matt Welsh didn’t produce a lot of positive
results. Graham struggled against ECU’s stronger defensive tackles and Welsh
didn’t fare much better. Their performances on Saturday did little to ease Curt
Newsome’s concerns regarding that position.

Mentally, there were many missed assignments, leaving one of more ECU
defenders unblocked in the running game. In my opinion, much of that was
indecisiveness and miscommunication among the linemen in the inside zone
blocking schemes. Remember the offensive line was in flux just a week ago, so
they have had minimal time to build the chemistry needed to zone block
effectively.

And they had no answer for ECU linebacker Quentin Cotton. Considered by many
to be ECU’s best player, Cotton was all over the field, finishing with 14
tackles (although it seemed like he had twice that many).

Because they couldn’t get a consistent push, Tech’s offensive linemen had
difficulty getting to the 2nd level where the LB’s roam. With no blockers
getting into him and no clutter to navigate, Cotton was free to make a beeline
directly to the ball.

Another issue for the offensive line was that they were worn out by the 4th
quarter. Whether it was conditioning, extra weight, or the emotional drain, the
OL was just plain tuckered out. That was particularly true for the starting
tackles, Nick Marshman and Duane Brown. Both were exhausted and their play later
in the game reflected that.

That has to be a concern for the coaches, especially with what they are
facing this week with the heat and humidity (against a darn good defense) at LSU.

Game Plan / Coaching Decisions

Like any offensive

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