That felt like the 2011 defense was playing with the 2007 offense. OUCH.
Christion Jones wins the offensive and special team MVP (not sure when that happened last). All my concerns about his return abilities were wiped clean tonight (though he did have that one punt return where he backed tracked and ended up losing yards). Jones had a solid 250+ total yards on the night and had our lone receiving TD.
Jones for the Heismanz??
Amari Cooper showed flashes of 2012 (one long catch of 18 yards) but for most of the night he seemed frustrated and not himself. Maybe his ankle was slowing him down more than he let on? Perhaps it was due to the struggles at offensive line which led to issues everywhere else?
AJ looked off after the 1st quarter. 10 for 23, 110 yards and 4.8 yards per attempt? Jeebus. ErikRBR noted that every throw was seemingly off his back foot and I KNOW the TD pass to C. Jones was. It's hard to believe the ingrown toenail possibly had that much effect on his ability to plant but that would explain a lot. Regardless, his performance was 2011'ish and not what we expected from our senior, two time national championship winning QB.
And let's go ahead and get this out the way — we have major issues at offensive line. DUH. Everything and I mean everything begins and ends with their ability to block and 2.5 yards a carry ain't gonna cut it. If tonight proved anything it was that, at least at this moment, we can't count on the passing game to drive the offensive bus. The running game has to produce some type of threat or the offense will grind to a halt. (VT actually out-gained our offense 212-206)
I haven't seen the film yet and I'm going mainly off memory, but CyKo had his worst performance of his career, Kelly routinely was beaten on stretch runs, and Arie looked plain awful (I believe he was pulled some time in the 3rd and Kellen Williams took his place). Again, I watched this game with a large group of people and wasn't able to pinpoint specifics errors. (Trust me, GOS is already on it, probably.)
I was baffled at times by our play calling, which didn't seem to help out our line at all. After the 1st quarter it was apparent to anyone with eyes 'Bama wasn't going to be able to run the ball as effectively as we'd hoped. VT knew this, they began to load the box and at times had 5-6 guy stretched out across the line (with a LB or two as well). Seven guys can't block nine. Run blocking is largely a numbers game and VT had the advantage most of the night. But instead of checking out of the run, we ran right into the teeth of their defense and most of the time for a loss.
So much for pick you poison, right?
The defense was the lone bright spot on the night. They looked faster and more physical than a year ago. I was impressed by the push by the D-line and we seemed to pressure the quarterback at a high rate. Off the top of my head I believe we only recorded one sack but Thomas was consistently under pressure all night.
It's hard to judge the pass defense off this game, because Logan Thomas and the 150 dropped passes by his WR's, but still, I saw few coverage breakdowns and I believe VT only had the one "explosive" play. Sure there were some open receivers here and there (remember the other team is playing hard too) but what I didn't see was confusion (like we saw on offense) from our inexperienced secondary.
If I have one concern on D it's that we gave up 4.6 yards per rush (2012 averaged 2.43) and a many of their longer runs came up the middle. One of my worries for this defense was that our run defense would take a step back and in way that prediction sadly held true. However, subtract that 77 yard run (which at this point must be treated as an anomaly) and that number drops to 2.3.
Tip of the cap to the Hokies. Their offense may be terrible but the defense, at least the defensive line, was much better than we gave them credit for. Their defense gave our offensive line hell all night and that can't be understated. I thought they played about as well as could be expected and their effort was admirable.
Landon Collins tho. Had it not been for Christion Jones' two kick/punt returns for TD's, Landon is likely the special teams MVP. He likely ends up only being a three year player after only spending one year as a starter. Jarrick Williams looked good in place for Geno Smith. When there was a wide receiver open. it was usually John Fulton's man (at least that's what I'm telling myself). Ha Ha took a couple bad pursuit angles early and I'm pretty sure one led to the 77 yard long run (that and poor gap assignment by the DL). Consider that sweet justice for VInnie on the pick 6. It was good to see Tana Patrick on the field in non-mop up duty. OJ Howard only had one pass thrown his way and he dropped it. Did any TE record a catch last night? 3rd and 16 and you call a draw with Jalston Fowler? Nuss had his head stuck up something last night and it wasn't in the games. Altee Tenpenny was the 3rd RB off the bench but sadly it didn't matter who was running the ball....Reports are that Saban looked calm in his post game press conference. I'm scared.
14-10 That is the final score if you take away the special teams and defensive TD's. Yes, offense is just one phase of the game but we can't expect the defense and special teams to outscore our own offense and still hope for #16.
If 'Bama has any hope of making it a three-peat the offensive line must play much, much better. It really is as simple as that.