Reflections: Boise State

When
I was younger, defeats in big games crushed me. I used to wake up the next day,
and the moment in which I remembered the previous day’s defeat was the worst
moment of the day. I carried the loss with me all day, agonized over the twists
and turns that had come between the Hokies and victory, and was depressed. The
best thing I can say about this loss to Boise State is … that it made me feel young
again.

I really wanted this one. I wanted it for the program, I wanted it for the
coaches, I wanted it for the fans, and I wanted it for the players. There’s not
much I can add to what I already said in Fired
Up for FedEx
about a week and a half ago. This was a unique opportunity
brought on by a combination of a high preseason ranking, a bright spotlight on
the national stage, and an opponent that was also highly ranked, very good, but
not absolutely intimidating.

And the Hokies failed to seize it.

I wanted this one to be different. I wanted the offensive line to show that
it’s improved, I wanted the running back trio of Williams, Evans and Wilson to
surprise Boise State with big plays, I wanted the defense to somehow overcome
its inexperience, and I wanted the Hokies to put Boise back in their place.

I did not want to come here a couple days after the game and try to
pick you up, to try to put some perspective on a loss and give you some positive
spin on it. But here we are, and I don’t know that I can do it.

I’ve got a lot to say about that, but first let’s walk through the game
(ugh), and I’ll share some of my observations. It’s always cathartic to break it
down, no matter how much it hurts.

The Hokies Did What They Couldn’t Afford to Do

Tell me if you recognize these words:

The list of items that can derail the Hokies is, in my opinion: 1.) Blocked
punts. VT’s punt protection has been bad this fall; 2.) Getting young
defensive players caught out of position; 3.) Boise’s stout DL manhandling
Tech’s notoriously slow-starting offensive line; and 4.) Bryan Stinespring
abandoning the running game (no offense to Tyrod and the receivers).

I wrote that in the game preview, and how I wish it hadn’t come true. The
Hokies managed to squeeze items 1-3 into a nightmarish first quarter that saw
Tech down 17-0. The Hokies simply weren’t ready to play, but Boise, as Brent
Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit put it, was humming along in midseason form right
out of the gate.

It’s hard to pack as much disaster as the Hokies crammed into that first
quarter:

  • A fumbled snap that BSU recovered and converted into a field goal. 3-0.
  • A blocked punt where a gross error in miscommunication led to Boise’s
    Austin Pettis coming in untouched. Pettis blocked the punt, and Boise
    recovered on the Hokie 12 and scored a TD. 10-0.
  • Dual penalties from DJ Coles on a Boise State punt. He roughed the kicker,
    but made up for it (as the joke goes) with a late hit downfield. The double
    penalties spotted Boise at Tech’s 32 yard line, and the Broncos turned it
    into a touchdown. 17-0.

When the frenetic, panicky first 15 minutes finally came to a merciful end,
the numbers were nasty. The Hokies had five yards of offense, just one first
down (from a penalty), were down 17-0, and had come completely unglued.

But it was early. And as the first quarter gave way to the second, things
turned the Hokies’ way.

Hokies Regroup

In the second quarter, the Hokie offense settled down and started moving the
football, led by Tyrod Taylor. He scrambled for 9 yards, then completed his
first pass, a slant to Dyrell Roberts for 16 yards. He hit Jarrett Boykin for 34
yards down to the BSU one yard line, and two plays later, Ryan Williams followed
a great block by Kenny Younger into the end zone. 17-7.

The Hokies then committed yet another special teams gaffe that is all but
forgotten in this game, but was as important as any other goof: Justin Myer
kicked the ball off out of bounds, giving Boise possession at their own 40.

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