8:32pm: Bobby Bowden is on the field for the coin toss and gets a surprisingly warm reception from VT fans, considering VT and Florida State battled for the ACC title more years than not over the past decade. Maybe I’ve seen one Capital One commercial too many, but I keep waiting for Bobby to try to call Peggy at USA Prime Credit from a fishing boat, or whatever exactly he does in the spot. VT wins the kickoff and defers – be careful what you wish for Hokies.
8:38pm: Owusu returns the opening kick to the 25. VT’s band is loud, will not stop playing and is annoying me already, with 14:53 left in the first. The VT fans are making good noise too, but Luck pulls and scrambles for a first down on, what else, the bootleg. I imagine Jaws is taking full advantage of the opportunity to talk up Luck’s decision-making at the moment.
8:41pm: Stanford’s second play is a six-yard dump to Taylor in the flats, and the third play is a three-yard loss on a handoff to Taylor going left. A former VT walk-on, Jack Tyler, made the tackle for loss, blitzing upfield before Taylor had a chance. Stanford’s gone left every play this drive, but Luck slides right on a designed rollout and throws it away on Stanford’s first third down of the game, as his man was well-covered. The Card down the punt at the VT 31 after a disappointing first drive. The second-and-five stuff of Taylor really killed the drive.
8:45pm: VT throws a flare to test Stanford’s secondary in space on first down, a good idea I think, and the Card D responds by holding the gain to three. That was regularly eight yards a pop last year, quietly a great play. A second-down run, like first down, again left -- everyone’s going left – goes nowhere, and after Taylor buys some time on third down with decent scrambling, Skov comes up to tackle one yard short of the sticks on a wide receiver out. Smart play, and Stanford’s getting it back, 0-0, 11 minutes first quarter. Terrell returns to midfield on a short punt ranging to his left, with seemingly the last VT defender keeping him from a touchdown.
8:51pm: Luck runs away from two guys on first down to run out of bounds only one yard behind the line of scrimmage. I don’t know whether it’s coverage or protection, or more likely a combination of both, but this defense is giving us fits. Second down, to our left like first down, sees Luck throw a checkdown for eight, and on third down, a deep sideline ball is thrown beautifully to Doug Baldwin’s back shoulder, where only Baldwin can get it, but it hits both Balwdin’s outstretched hands and falls incomplete at the 15. On fourth and three from VT territory, with our defense playing well, I like the play call to fake the punt on a direct snap to Chike Amajoyi. I don’t like the result as much, as Amajoyi is dropped a yard behind the line and the ball turns back over to VT. 9:01 first quarter (slow game with all the possession changes and incomplete passes thus far), still 0-0, VT ball at their own 45. It’s early, but this VT unit appears to be the best defense we’ve faced thus far this season.
8:56pm: Taylor lines up in the shotgun in a four-receiver spread but an inside handoff to No. 2 back Darren Evans gains only two. On second down, the throw is inaccurate to split end Jarrett Boykin, though Stanford had great coverage and might have been able to make a play on a good ball. VT drops a third-down slant that would have gained only five when the Hokies needed eight anyways, and here’s our fourth punt of the game, fair caught at the Stanford 13. It’s uncanny how evenly the two teams’ drives thus far have mirrored each other – with both teams going three-and-out after missing a long shot downfield last drive, after both squads had to quickly punt on their first drives.
9:00pm: Stanford runs for just the second time in the game (surprising for a team that’s about 60 percent run, as the Card are) for four, then Taylor does well to break a tackle long enough to get one on a second down checkdown. Third and five – Stanford’s 0-for-2 thus far. VT’s confused and jumping around presnap. Luck looks left the whole time, and then comes back right to find Baldwin for the first. Baldwin jukes his man for another 15, and Stanford’s at the 40. On the next play, goodbye Jeremy Stewart, who goes untouched for 60 yards. Hard to tell in real-time, but it looked like our bread and butter play, power left, with the pulling guard creating the lane for Stewart to sprint to paydirt untouched. I don’t know what coverage VT was in such that there was nobody left after the initial wave, but Stanford’s offensive coaches again deserve mucho credit. The offensive playcalling all season has been simply amazing, far and away the best I’ve ever seen in college football. On replay, we bring Konrad Reuland in motion from right to left. VT shifts its linebackers but doesn’t appear to send anyone with him – tipping their hand that they’re in zone coverage, not man – and creating a numbers mismatch. Between Reuland motioned left, the left side of the offensive line and the pulling right guard, we have enough bodies that everyone blocks one person and there is nobody left for Stewart, and VT’s in an aggressive formation where there’s no second-level defender. Simply brilliant offensive chess from the Stanford braintrust, wow. 7-0, six minutes first quarter.
9:08pm: Virginia Tech beats Taylor Skaufel deep down the left side on second and long, though the ball was misthrown again (there’s a reason Tyrod Taylor projects as a wide receiver, not a quarterback, at the next level) and Stanford had a safety there anyway in cover-two coverage, so no harm done. On third down though, Browning lets his man get inside him too quickly, and a 17-yard slant to Boykin gives the Hokies a first down. On the next series, though, Marecic has an 11-yard sack on second down, which is big, because when Taylor does his best Michael Vick impression and jukes out literally five Stanford defenders for an 11-yard gain, it’s still fourth down. Terrell decides to catch the resulting punt at the two in hopes of faking out two oncoming, unblocked Hokie defenders. He fails to do so and Stanford’s at the five after a poor decision from its punt returner. 7-0 Stanford, 3 minutes 1st quarter.
9:11pm: A first-down run right goes nowhere and a second-down power left after motioning Marecic right-to-left goes nowhere – guess VT saw what they did wrong and adjusted to the exact same concept as Stanford’s touchdown. On third and long from the Card two, Luck avoids the safety by rocketing it hard into the belly of a VT lineman two yards from him, but the ball deflects backward to Derek Hall, who catches it and falls down for a safety. Weird sequence, I can’t decide whether the Luck throwaway was a smart move to try to avoid a safety or dumb given the potential for a pick-six. Terrell’s blunder obviously put Stanford in a hole on the series, but VT’s front seven stopped Stanford’s line in its tracks on both first and second downs.
9:17pm: After a 22-yard keeper, VT is at midfield with a 2nd and 7 and a 7-2 deficit. Stanford’s first-quarter highlight was obviously Stewart’s uncontested touchdown on a brilliantly drawn-up power left, but the defense has been a pleasant surprise thus far too as VT has only 59 yards. Stay tuned for our second-quarter blog.
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