It has been four days since Matt Ryan’s TD pass late in the rainy Blacksburg
night brought an end to one of the most thrilling games in recent years for the
Hokies. A game like this, decided in the last fifteen seconds, is ripe for
second-guessing, and as the days go by and things settle in, I find myself
giving more and more credit to Matt Ryan. I also find myself questioning the
Virginia Tech coaches and thinking that the offense was a big reason the Hokies
Emotionally, this was a crushing defeat. Tactically, and in the context of
the ACC championship race, it was nearly meaningless, as Virginia gave the
Hokies a mulligan on the BC game by losing to lightly-regarded NC State on
Saturday. The Hokies and Hoos are still in front in the Coastal Division and are
still tied in the loss column. One of them will still likely have to beat the
other to win the division championship.
That is small consolation, though. I will always remember where I was and how
I felt when Andre Callendar caught the winning touchdown pass in this game, just
as I will always remember the same details when Donovan McNabb’s throw nestled
down in the arms of Syracuse tight end Stephen Brominski on November 14, 1998.
There’s nothing quite like that feeling, that 2-3 seconds where you’re
wishing-wishing-wishing what you just saw didn’t happen, that you imagined it,
that it will go away.
But it doesn’t, and you’re left to deal with the residue.
This was a perfect night, up until the last 4 minutes and 16 seconds. Sure,
it was raining, but the game was playing out the way we all felt it would. The
Hokies were putting on a defensive clinic, one of the most impressive
performances I’ve ever seen from Bud Foster’s unit, and I’ve seen a lot of them.
After a “season of malaise,” after all the recovery from April 16th,
the Hokies were kicking off the final stretch of the season in fine fashion,
burying the #2 team in the country and even putting themselves (gasp!) back into
the national title discussion.
Then it all came apart, and the second guessing and what-iffing commenced.
In the last four minutes of this game, the Hokies gave up touchdown drives of
92 and 66 yards, and Bud Foster is taking some heat for putting his troops in a
“prevent defense.” I think that heat is coming mostly from fans whose
capacity for analysis doesn’t go any deeper than parroting the line, “All
the prevent defense does is prevent you from winning.” Yuk-yuk.
TSL analyst Raleigh Hokie made noise all weekend long that the Hokies did not
go into a prevent defense, that they actually played the same defense in those
fateful four minutes that they had been playing all game long. I’ll leave the
technical analysis to him, but the tale he will tell you is one of a brilliant
defensive scheme that ran out of gas at the end and was beaten by a talented,
experienced quarterback who was having his Heisman moment. Matt Ryan may not
actually win the stiff-arm trophy when all is said and done, but he is
unquestionably the frontrunner at this point, and he earned it.
After the initial emotional blast settled down completely, and after Virginia
lost to NC State, I could take a little bit more of an analytical look at this
game. As I said above, my thoughts went in three directions: (1) give Matt Ryan
credit; (2) the Hokie defense did enough to win; and (3) the offense let
Virginia Tech down again.
Not to mention, the Hokies got no lucky bounces and squandered some great
opportunities to do some damage, both offensively and defensively.
Ryan the Heisman Guy
on ESPN’s College Football Live, they jumped on the Matt Ryan for Heisman
bandwagon. And why not? He deserved it.
ESPN opened their show with Heisman moments: Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary TD pass
(ever seen that one? Me neither), Desmond Howard’s end zone Heisman pose, and
then … a couple other stretches, like Nebraska’s Scott Frost catching an
option pass for a TD, or something like that. I was too busy trying to figure
out what I was looking at to know if I got the details right.
Then they segued into Matt Ryan on the last two drives against the Hokies
Thursday night, and I’ve got to admit, if you take the knife out of your heart
and take off the orange and maroon glasses, what Ryan did was impressive. He
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