Ohio Game Analysis: Taylor Impresses, Defense Returns to Form

I gotta admit, at halftime I had flashbacks of another close game against a
big underdog from Ohio and the MAC. In 1997, Miami (OH) came into Lane Stadium
and knocked off the undefeated Hokies, setting the stage for a late year
collapse that ended with a blowout loss to UNC in the Gator Bowl.

But that Tech team didn’t have this defense. And that team didn’t have Tyrod
Taylor. The true freshman QB impressed, made big plays, and showed everyone why
there has been a buzz around Blacksburg since the first day he stepped on
campus. So after bumbling along a bit in the first half, the Hokies put it all
together in a dominating second half to pull away from the Ohio Bobcats 28-7,
giving Frank Beamer his 200th career victory.

Much of this analysis will focus on Taylor’s first start at QB and some of
the new things we saw out of the offense. But I can’t ignore the rebound
performance from the defense. It was the fast, suffocating defense that we have
seen so often over the years. There are a couple of things that need to develop
further, but the defense appears to be back on track.

More on that in a bit. First, the offense.

Offense

With the debut of Tyrod Taylor as Tech’s new starting QB, the obvious place
to begin is with the offense. With this Ohio game, a new era has begun — one
that has a lot of people excited, and with good reason.

After
the first two weeks of the season, it became clear that the offense would not be
successful running a conventional ground / pocket passing attack behind a subpar
offensive line. Those puzzle pieces were just too easy to defend. Defenses were
putting a bulls-eye on Branden Ore and aggressively funneling their LB’s and
safeties directly to him. And the traditional passing attack with pocket-style
QB Sean Glennon had not developed far enough to force defenses to respect it and
take the pressure off the running game.

So in a move that bordered almost on desperation, Frank Beamer took the
unprecedented step of turning the reins of his offensive operation over to a
true freshman quarterback. How unusual of a move was it? With the Ohio win,
Frank Beamer reached a significant milestone with his 200th career victory, yet
it was the very first time in his 27 years as a head coach that he had started a
true freshman at QB.

That decision told all of us a little bit about Tyrod Taylor. In many ways,
he is mature well beyond his 18 years, both on and off the field. In addition to
his natural talent and uncanny physical abilities, the coaches are most
impressed by his poise, his willingness to work and aptitude to learn, and his
natural leadership qualities.

All of us saw the evidence on Saturday.

The Hokies unveiled a different offensive look, one that was tailored for
Taylor (sorry, couldn’t resist). We all saw (and later heard) some of the new
things that were installed to take advantage of Taylor’s strengths — more
spread formations, more traditional option looks, the ever-popular read option,
and that “pistol” formation.

The objective was to get the QB more involved in the running game. Defenses
have to adjust to account for Taylor’s ability to run. That means more
containment responsibilities across the entire field and at least one less
defender to zero-in on Branden Ore. And by spreading things out, the QB sprints
and draws become a weapon (as we saw on Taylor’s TD run in the 3rd quarter).

His ability to step up and throw on the move to either side also opens up the
passing game. Escape pressure and he is buying time for his receivers to get
open against man coverage. It’s tough for even the best corners to stay with
receivers for an extended time, especially once the scramble drill starts.

One thing Taylor does extremely well for such a young QB is that he keeps his
head up and continues to look down the field when he is on the move. By doing
so, he puts tremendous pressure on the linebackers to make a decision. As we saw
on Saturday on the big pass to Josh Morgan in the 1st quarter, his initial
movement forward in the pocket forced the linebackers to shorten their drops and
come up to contain him on the scramble. When they did that, it opened up a huge
area in the middle of the field in front of the safeties and Taylor found Morgan
on the deep crossing

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