The New Normal

I would say that last night’s loss is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, but it’s not.  My camel’s back was broken in the Sugar Bowl, and before that it was beaten to a pulp by Boise State.  Last night wasn’t surprising.  Last night has become the new normal.

The Book on Losing Gets Longer

Last night, Virginia Tech wrote a new chapter in the book on how to lose a football game.  Actually, they might have written a full-fledged sequel.  How did they lose this one?  Let me count the ways:

Bobbling a punt snap, which led to a blocked punt, which led to a short Miami touchdown
Missing an extra point
Missing a 47 yard field goal (not an easy kick, obviously)
Allowing an 81 yard kickoff return, which led to a short Miami touchdown
Throwing an interception in the red zone
Fumbling the snap on the 1 yard line
Overthrowing a wide open fullback on 4th and 1
Dropping a touchdown pass
Poor clock management at the end of the first half (more on that later)

Did I miss anything?  I didn’t take notes while watching the game, but if I had, I probably would have run out of ink just from writing down all the unforced errors.  That’s nine unforced errors listed above.  Even if you take out the kickoff return (you do have to give Miami credit for making the play, after all) and the 47 yard field goal (a tough kick), that’s still seven unforced errors.

Frank Beamer

When Frank Beamer said “we were 4 or 5 plays away” from winning on the postgame show, he was correct.  If A.J. Hughes didn’t bobble that punt snap, Miami wouldn’t have blocked a punt, and they probably wouldn’t have scored a touchdown.  If Dyrell Roberts catches that pass in the end zone, it’s seven points for the Hokies.  If Logan Thomas doesn’t fumble at the 1, that’s a likely touchdown and seven more points.  That’s 21 points in three plays, all off unforced errors.

So yes, Beamer is correct.  But there are bigger issues in question here.  Those “4 or 5 plays” are becoming a trend.  Actually, they became a trend a long time ago, and now they’ve become the norm.  It seems as if every one of Virginia Tech’s big game losses all feature the exact same things:

1: An unforced special teams error (or multiple errors, like last night)
2: Some type of a sideline, in-game error (the clock issue at the end of the first half)
3: Some type of offensive screw up, either lack of red zone success, turnovers, no blocking, or all the above
4: The defense usually plays well enough to win.

That’s it, in a nutshell.  All four of those things don’t happen in each big game loss, but I’m pretty sure at least three of them happen each time Tech drops a big game.  You can probably go back to each and every big game loss dating back to the Sugar Bowl against Auburn in 2004 and find at least three of those things, if not all four.

When it’s been happening that long, then it’s a trend, and it’s not likely to be fixed by the current staff.  A new offensive staff could certainly fix the offensive problems, but what can they do about special teams and Frank Beamer’s lack of in-game awareness and decision making?  Not much.

The Lost 27 Seconds

With 59 seconds remaining in the first half, Virginia Tech called a timeout on 2nd and 2 at the Miami 6.  A Miami player was injured on the play, and the officials gave the Hokies their timeout back because the injury stopped play.  After the injured player was helped off, the ball was spotted and the clock ran down to 44 seconds before the ball was snapped.  It was as if the Tech coaches either didn’t know it was an injury timeout, or they didn’t know that the clock was going to start running as soon as the ball was spotted.

The Hokies ran Logan Thomas next, and the play ended with 39 seconds left.  The clock ran down to 29 seconds, and then Beamer signaled for a timeout.  The officials decided to measure for a first down, and gave the Hokies their timeout back again.  Yet again, it was as if Beamer didn’t realize his timeout wasn’t used.  The clock