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Associated Press | File August
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas lets one fly.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Perfect call. Perfect blocking. Perfect route. Perfect throw.
The ball’s in the air, soaring on an ideal trajectory. Virginia Tech’s receiver — any Tech receiver, take your pick — has beaten his man by four steps. He’s running free, and the naked eye can project that the falling football and its intended target will converge right in the heart of the end zone.
Is it a touchdown?
Will the receiver catch it?
Not sure, are you?
Let’s not single out the receivers, though. Back up a few frames on that image, keeping everything else constant, and make the quarterback’s throw the variable.
Does Logan Thomas put it exactly where it needs to be?
Not sure, are you?
Back up a little more, to the genesis of the play. A Georgia Tech linebacker is blitzing off the edge. Does somebody pick him up and give Thomas ample time to set up and let the deep route develop?
Again, this is hard to guarantee.
But you know what? That’s OK. Dominance is boring. We should embrace these marvelously mercurial Hokies, because they make tonight such a treat. They could beat Georgia Tech by 40. They could lose to Georgia Tech by 40.
“Well,” receiver Willie Byrn said, “I don’t think we’re going to lose by 40.”
“No, I see what you’re saying,” Byrn said. “You see a bunch of speed and you see a bunch of athletes, and you think: If we put him in this situation and line him up against this particular mismatch, then we’re going to have a touchdown. Stuff doesn’t happen like that.”
At least it hasn’t happened like that yet. But Tech’s offensive players believe that the breakthrough is coming, and they’re hoping it’s tonight.
Historically, Georgia Tech week brings out the X’s and O’s discussion more than any other matchup. That’s understandable. The Yellow Jackets do things differently on offense, and knowing how to counter that is critical.
But tonight really hinges on whether this Virginia Tech offense takes another step in its evolution. Those moments after the schematic battle is won? The Hokies have to turn those moments into six points. They have to make the block, the throw, the catch.
The Hokies figured they’d be there already, but reality intervened. The reality is that they’ve been running this offense — at least the more complex version of it — for only about 50 practices. New terminology plus many new players equals inconsistency that should have been predictable, even if it wasn’t for them.
“The offseason will lie to you,” receiver Joshua Stanford said. “It’s easy to think you’re really good.”
Is that applicable just to him individually or to the team as a whole?
“It’s applicable to anything that has an offseason,” Stanford said. “I’m saying it as a theory. Even in high school, my junior year, we were breaking it down on ‘State Championship!’ and we ended up going 4-6, didn’t make the playoffs. The offseason will lie to you. You’re trending and you’re progressing, so it’s easy to think you’re good. And then the games come and it’s like, ‘Dang.’ ”
Dang. Passes get dropped. Blocks get missed. Throws get airmailed. And maybe twice per game, formations manifest that make assistant coach Shane Beamer scratch his head and think, “Uhh, we’ve never once practiced that. What are we doing?”
What they’re doing is learning. All of them. Veterans such as Thomas and fifth-year senior guard Andrew Miller are as new to the terminology as anybody else.
At this point, the players won’t guarantee anything except the one thing they can control.
“We’re going to go out there and we’re going to work our hardest,” Byrn said. “We’re going to execute some plays. I do expect — and I think all of our coaches expect — we’re going to have some motioning procedures that go wrong, and we might have guys run the wrong routes or take the wrong handoffs or something like that.
“But as long as we’re executing the majority of plays, it only takes one to pop a game wide open.”
Will they pop tonight? Will the Hokies catch enough, block enough, throw well enough?
Your guess is as good as theirs. But it sure will be fun for us to find out.
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