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September 4, 2013Sign-up for HokieHaven.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
The result of the Virginia Tech and Alabama opener wasn't surprising to many. However, not many expected that the Hokies would compete on offense and defense.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster's defense produced arguably the best performance against a juggernaut Alabama offense since LSU defeated them 9-6 in 2011, and the offense was able to show the resurgence of a revamped running game thanks to Trey Edmunds' 132 yards.
It's those things that should encourage Hokie fans for the future, especially with a relatively weak schedule from here on out. If Virginia Tech can build on Saturday's 35-10 loss, it might be able to put together a run beginning this Saturday against Western Carolina.
Let's take our first look of the season at how Alabama defeated Virginia Tech purely based on statistics.
WHY ALABAMA WON
When you have an interception return, a punt return, and a kick return all go for touchdowns, it's pretty difficult to lose. In fact, it had never been done before against a Frank Beamer-led team. In what turned out to be the difference in the game, Christion Jones gained a total of 166 yards on his two return touchdowns, just 40 yards less than the Virginia Tech defense allowed. He added a 38-yard touchdown reception to finish with 256 all-purpose yards and was the no-doubt-about-it MVP of the game.
Even though the Alabama offense couldn't do much of anything, just four penalties for 25 yards helped to show that the Tide weren't going to beat themselves. The defense certainly proved that it will be one of the best in the nation once again after allowing just five completions and 59 yards of passing. Once again, it's hard to lose when you do that.
Alabama proved that they don't need to play their A-game, especially on offense, to win because they have so many weapons on different parts of the field. Vinnie Sunseri's pick-six solidified the game result after Virginia Tech had seized momentum with the score 14-7.
WHY VIRGINIA TECH LOST
This isn't exactly hard to decipher. Special teams' units allowed a total of 227 yards in returns. They didn't help the defense too much by allowing two easy starting field positions for the Tide's only two offensive scores, with the two drives starting at the Tech 49 and 47 yard-lines.
The passing game was anemic, and you really can't expect to win when you record seven first downs in the entire game. According to assistant Aaron Moorehead, the Hokies dropped six balls. (it might of been more) That simply can't happen to a shaky receiving corps if the Hokies hope to compete in the upper-echelon of the ACC.
After we saw Virginia Tech struggle to convert third-downs throughout the spring and fall camp, the Hokies were a measly 3-of-17 on third downs on Saturday. The offense also went three-and-out nine (yes, nine) times against Alabama. It's hard to believe the Hokie defense performed so well considering they didn't have much time to rest throughout the game.
NUMBERS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE WITH THE RESULT
If I told you the Hokie defense would allow 206 yards of offense, you would have thought Virginia Tech had a good chance to win, right? Allowing 21 points when the defense isn't on the field will likely not be seen again for quite some time. Still, allowing just 96 yards of rushing against one of the best running teams in the country is something for the defense to hang its hat on.
Speaking of rushing yards, the Hokies allowed less than 100 rushing yards just four times in 2012, winning three of those games. It's also interesting to see the 153 rush yards for the Hokies- they accumulated less than 150 yards five times in 2012, losing three of those contests. Winning the rushing battle should lead to more victories than defeats this season even though the 153-96 margin on Saturday didn't help.
WHAT VIRGINIA TECH DID WELL
The Hokie defense did everything in its power to keep Virginia Tech in the game. There's no question about that. To allow just 2.5 yards per carry to a team that averaged 5.6 in 2012, well that's just phenomenal. The last time Alabama recorded under 100 yards rushing it was in the 9-6 loss to LSU on Nov. 5, 2011. If the unit can produce similar performances throughout 2013, there's no question they will be one of the best defenses in the nation, especially with an Antone Exum return on the horizon.
Nobody expected a new offensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage. But even Nick Saban acknowledged that Bama was outplayed up front after the game. The offensive line established the line of scrimmage on each play, and it was a rare occurrence if Trey Edmunds had to make somebody miss in the backfield. The Hokies averaged 4.6 yards per rush, better than the 3.7 in 2012, and extremely better than the 2.4 yards per carry that the Tide allowed in 2012.
Going back to the lunch-pail defense, the unit recorded four sacks, forced an interception, and broke up four passes against the Alabama offense. To put that in perspective: the Tide allowed four sacks (23 total) over the course of the final four games of 2012, threw only three interceptions in 2012, and only had opponents break up seven passes in the final four contests. You simply can't overstate how well Foster's unit played.
WHAT VIRGINIA TECH COULD IMPROVE UPON
Well, a lot. But the Hokies are further along in many aspects of the game in which we thought they would struggle early on. Obviously, the passing game must improve. Regardless of the drops, chemistry must be found between Logan Thomas and his receivers. You can't complete 19.2% of your passes, period.
Special teams play will be a concentration this week in practice, and it will be interesting to see the new (if any) personnel changes amongst those units. It's simply unacceptable to lose by 25 points when Virginia Tech plays as good as it did on defense.
Although the running game showed some great signs, Virginia Tech must be able to put drives together by picking up first downs consistently. The Hokies recorded just two drives of 30 yards or more, with one coming via the 77-yard TD run by Edmunds. While Western Carolina's defense is nowhere near the same level of Alabama's, we'll likely see a more fluid offense this Saturday with new improvements.
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