Hokies Halt Hazell's Hope, 51-24
Welp, that didn’t end up as fun as it started. Purdue dropped their home test against Virginia Tech 51-24, after having the game tied at 17 with 2 minutes left in the first half. Unfortunately, the pre-game prediction that any high VT scoring would be fueled by defense and special teams came true. Sigh. Let’s get the little good stuff out of the way:
- The crowd showed up today, and looked pretty good on TV. 45,000 announced attendance, which may or may not be accurate but looked fun nonetheless.
- Freshman punter Joe Schopper is really really really good at his job.
- Gelen Robinson and Antoine Miles were pretty effective when they rushed the passer. The Danny Ezechukwu scoop-and-score was initiated by Miles’ forced fumble, which was the peak of the season so far. Hopefully it doesn’t end that way.
- Jake Replogle has been enjoyable to watch.
- Momentary glimpses of an Appleby-Anthrop connection, despite Anthrop’s health issues.
- Bearded Joe Tiller!!!
Oh, and there was MY MAN Anish Shroff announcing the game in his most fly Easter suit.
Shoutout to all the successful and handsome Aneesh’s out there. We can forgive Anish’s parents for the misspelling of his name, Aneesh solidarity transcends all borders.
Some of the quick-hitter bad stuff:
- Special teams coverage, which often left VT in great field position. This wasn’t why Purdue lost, but a short field doesn’t help a lackluster defense. VT’s average starting position after punts and kick-offs was just shy of the 50 yard line, which is pretty awful for everyone involved.
- Blocking for punts. As great as Schopper was, every punt seemed inches from being blocked. One finally was in the third quarter, but the game was well out of hand by then. Specifically, VT had a massive advantage when attacking either edge. #Beamerball lives.
- VT scored on offense, defense, and special teams. First time that’s happened for VT since 2007. Not great, Bob.
- Linebackers covering the run. The defensive line did a decent job clogging rushing lanes, but when VT’s offensive line cleared holes the Boiler linebackers had no solutions. Bentley, Ezechukwu, Miles, and Robinson looked gassed from the opening kick, and should be terrified of this week’s film session. It’s especially bad considering they were expected to be a top-half linebacking corp in the Big Ten.
- Anybody covering tight ends between the hash marks. This is not a recording.
- The offensive line in the second half was nowhere near as good as it seemed in the Marshall or ISU games, which means I officially have no idea whether this line is truly good anymore.
- Playcalling from DC Greg Hudson at the end of the first half, and the everything of the second half. How VT’s offense ended up looking like Baylor with RG3 was beyond me.
But, really, you only came here to see me talk about a) John Shoop or b) Austin Appleby. Bonus points if your answer was c) Greg Hudson or d) pepto + whiskey. It was a complete playcalling failure in every aspect of the game.
But there’s no running from it: Austin had an abysmal game today. 9/28 for 110 yards, 2 interceptions, 2 fumbles, and 0 touchdowns isn’t a turd that can be polished (as I was informed during the game). We can pretty easily point to the offensive coordinator in reaction, as Shoop’s playcalling was incredibly vanilla and completely dependent on read-option sets. I’m honestly not sure if Purdue even lined up once looking to run from a power set.
On top of everything else that went wrong, Austin looked clearly awful today. Overthrowing open receivers, mistiming anticipatory throws, miscommunications with receiver routes, and even a few mishandled hand-offs. Seemed to lose his feel for the game going in to halftime, and didn’t regain an iota of it before being pulled in the fourth. Just look at this snap from the first half, when he at least looked confident. The line gave him a picturesque pocket, and Austin almost immediately tucked the ball instead of letting the receivers complete their routes.
He had a bad game. The bigger issue, in my eyes, is that even very good quarterbacks have awful games. Especially against VT’s bear front, it’s easy to see how the entire offensive flow was thrown for a loop. A combination of pressure and unfamiliar coverage schemes won Beamer his first game in the state of Indiana.
The real question is how long to stick with Appleby, right? I mean, let’s assume that nothing will change concerning the employment status of either coordinator. Appleby is the easiest major adjustment to make, right? Just shuffle through another quarterback, see what redshirt freshman David Blough has to offer, and hope the law of averages gives us a quarterback that can lead Darrell Hazell’s team to, let’s just conservatively say, more than 3 wins in a season.
But if you agree that even the best of starters have bad games, and that sometimes allowing players to play through mistakes gives them valuable experience that can mold a very good starter…
Well, do we think Appleby deserves the chance to play through failures? The worst thing coaches can do is have their players worried that any single miniscule mistake will lead to getting benched. If your starter already has that fear, he might as well be benched to begin with.
Which is why I’m for letting Austin play through mistakes. I’m not confident at all in Blough, and the true freshman sensation Elijah Sindelar is recovering from (wait for it) a torn ACL. Hazel doesn’t have a better option than Austin on the roster at the moment, which means development through on-the-field continuity might be the best course of action.
Now, this could all change if AA’s confidence looks shot in the upcoming games. But, even though I have probably been Austin’s most vocal critic on this website, I think letting him play would be the move right now.
Then again, I was convinced Ekpe Udoh would be a better NBA player than Paul George, so what the hell do I know.
Feature image from IndyStar.com.