Hokies Gobble Up The Vols

Recap ♦♦♦ Box Score ♦♦♦ Play-by-Play ♦♦♦ Drive Chart

Lane Kiffin's head hurt Thursday night, too, just like mine. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

After you subtract the 55 yards the Vols lost by Jonathan Crompton getting sacked six times, Tennessee was left with 5 net yards rushing on Thursday night. Five. Thank goodness Montario Hardesty was able to get all 39 yards, or we would have been deep into negative numbers.

Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin was quoted as saying “I was surprised we weren’t able to run the ball better.”

You and the entire Vol Nation, Lane.

Tip your orange hats to the Hokies, because they handed the orange arses back to the Vol players. Especially to Tennessee’s offensive line.

The Hokies were known as a great defensive squad against the pass, but known as a vulnerable unit against good running teams. The Hokies were known as one of the worst pass rush protection offensive lines in Division I, and the Vols were highly recognized as one of the nation’s best offensive lines against the dreaded sack.

I guess the magnetic field of the earth switched poles while everybody was busy unwrapping Christmas gifts last week.

It was the night of a blue moon after all…

Little about this game went to script, with the exception of Hokie QB Tyrod Taylor, who proved consistent and efficient, and freshman TB Ryan Williams, who rushed for 117 yards in three quarters and broke his school’s all-time single season rushing record.

Meanwhile, Tennessee, with the exception of the second quarter, when they evened the score at 14, looked out of sorts, dropped crucial passes, committed stupid infractions, had Tech defenders in their backfield all night, and chased after Hokies with a football in their grasp more times than not.

It was, in two words, largely disappointing.

How the Gobblers Ate The Peaches

Virginia Tech's defense suffocated the Vols running attack and sacked UT QB Jonathan Crompton six times. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

Virginia Tech’s defensive line penetration into the Tennessee backfield suffocated the Vol running game all night—Montario Hardesty had 0nly 39 yards on 18 carries (6 of those carries were for negative yards)—and made Crompton’s night a living nightmare—Jonathan was sacked 6 times, whereas during the season, the Vols gave up an average of only 1 per game.

In the first quarter, the Hokies started their four drives from the Tech 26, the Vol 44, the Tech 41, and the Vol 45. Tech scored two TDs on the drives that started in Vol territory. That gave the Hokies a good 14-0 start.

Crompton’s intercepted pass contributed to Tech’s first TD. It was a poorly thrown pass into double coverage.

Both Tennessee turnovers led to Virginia Tech scores (10 points).

Tech’s second TD should have been a FG attempt except for a stupid Vol penalty. On third and goal at the Vol 4 yard line, Tyrod Taylor had to run for his life and was tackled behind the 10 yard line, but Vol freshman LB Herman Lathers was called for a facemask penalty, giving the Hokies a first down on the Vol 1 yard line. Ryan Williams later scored a TD to put Tech up 14-0.

Hokie freshman RB Ryan Williams got 73 of his 117 yards on one drive in the early part of the third quarter that lasted 04:20. Two runs accounted for 53 of the 73 yards.

Virginia Tech scored on each of their possessions in the second half (except the last one where they took possession with only 0:46 left and ran out the game clock).

Turning Points

Hokie RB Ryan Williams' rushing performance in the third quarter was the major turning point in the game. AP Photo.

The middle portion of the third quarter, and then the early portion of the fourth quarter, was where the game swung to the Hokies for good.

At the half, with the Hokies hanging on to a 17-14 lead and Tennessee having fought back from a 14-0 deficit, Chad Cunningham’s punt after the Vols’ opening possession of the second half stalled set up Virginia Tech’s drive of the game.

It took 8 plays, 04:20, and covered 74 yards—73 of them by Ryan Williams. The drive ended with a 1-yard run by QB Tyrod Taylor for a TD. A pity, really. Because the other plays were runs by Williams of 21, 3, 32, 5, 9, 6, and 2 yards. In that order. Hokies 24 Vols 14 with 08:42 left in the third quarter. A drive so dominating that it took away whatever momentum the Vols had gained in the second quarter. Then, Tech on their next possession managed a Matt Waldron 46-yard field goal, his career’s longest, to put Tech ahead 27-14 with over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Vols’ next possession saw their last chance to get it back in one single play get frittered away by what fans see as perhaps the most frustrating of all errors. On the second play from scrimmage, at the Vol 41, Crompton dropped straight back and fired the ball straight down field where Denarius Moore had lost his man with a beautiful two-stage move. The perfectly thrown ball hit Moore, who was in full stride on his way to the end zone, right in his number and fell harmlessly (or harmfully would be a better word) to the artificial turf.

What would have been a 6-point deficit with more than 12 minutes remaining, and who knows what kind of psyche turner (and remember Ryan Williams was on the bench with an injured ankle), turned into a 13-point deficit and less than 10 minutes remaining by the time the Vol drive ended near midfield after Crompton was sacked by Cody Grimm following a false start penalty.

If if’s and but’s were pretzels and nuts…

Stat of the Game

Six sacks for the Hokie defense. Tennessee allowed 12 all season entering Thursday’s game.

Man of the Match

Probably Ryan Williams, although QB Tyrod Taylor made few mistakes, and his bomb right before halftime set up a chip-shot field goal that gave the Hokies a 17-14 lead, taking the sting out of the Vols’ stunning comeback that tied the game at 14-all in the second quarter. Who knows how important that bomb and FG was to the Hokies in the locker room at the half.

All Along the Watchtower

In the pre-game posts, I pointed out a few things to watch. Let’s take a look and see how they played out Thursday night.

Battle of the Running Backs

Montario Hardesty had little room to breathe. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

Background: Coming in, the big headline-grabbers for this game were Ryan Williams and Montario Hardesty. Ryan Williams as a red-shirt freshman had gained 1,538 net yards on 268 carries in 12 games in 2009, 9 games over 100 yards, and he had scored 19 TDs. Hardesty who this season had gained 1306 net yards (5th on the all-time Vol single-season list) on 264 carries in 12 games, had 5 games over 100 yards, and had scored 12 TDs.

Peach Bowl Performance: No contest. Williams rushed for 117 yards on 25 carries in just 3 quarters of duty. This was Ryan’s 10th 100+ yardage game of the season. He’s a freshman. We’ll be seeing his picture on the cover of a few magazines come August 2010. Hardesty was surrounded by big, fast Hokies most of the night. Only 39 yards is a disappointing way for my man Montario to end his Vol career. But, his OL couldn’t handle what was thrown at them. That was obvious.

QB Efficiency

Background: Tech’s Tyrod Taylor was billed as an efficient passer. In 12 games, his number were: 126/226 (56%) 2,102 yds (17 yds per comp) 13 TDs 4 INTs. Tennessee’s Jonathan Crompton was seen as a poor QB before this year’s Georgia game and a good one beginning with the Vols pulverizing of the Dogs. First 5 games: 82/150 (55%) 900 yds (11 yds per completion) 9 TDs 8 INTs. Last 7 games: 127/208 (61%) 1,665 yds (13 yds per comp) 17 TDs 4 INTs.

Peach Bowl Performance: Should have been Crompton’s night by a long shot. Dropped passes, especially the dropped pass of the season in the third quarter, would have given Jonathan nearly 300 yards on the night. As it was, Crompton was 15/26 for 235 (9.0 avg) 1 TD 1 INT. Taylor was 10/17 for 209 (12.3 avg) 0 TD 1 INT. The difference in the numbers was predictable when looking at their respective season’s numbers. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

QB Rushing

Background: Tech’s Tyrod Taylor’s quality of dangerousness is in his ability to run for serious yardage in addition to being a passer of utilitarian quality. In 2009, he ran 101 times for 344 net yards and 4 TDs. Compare that to Crompton’s 3 net yards this season. Crompton is basically a pocket passer, or at best, a roll-out passer. Taylor is a good old-fashioned collegiate-style QB.

Peach Bowl Performance: Didn’t play a factor at all in the game. Taylor 5/26. Crompton 7/-55 (an artifact due to the 6 sacks, not “rushing”).

Pass Blocking

Background: Tech’s pass-blocking this season was awful. They were tied for 91st in Sacks Allowed (30 in 12 games for 174 yards lost). Tennessee’s pass-blocking was excellent. The Vols gave up the fewest sacks in SEC games this season (6) and ranks 12th nationally in Sacks Allowed (only 12 in 12 games for only 87 lost yards).

Peach Bowl Performance: Just the opposite happened Thursday night. Tech’s pass blocking was very good, with the exception of Vol penetration into the Hokie backfield and a QB sack late in the first half. Meanwhile, as was mentioned before, Crompton was sacked six times, half the season’s total. We knew the Hokies had a good pass rush, but this was unexpected success on the part of the Gobblers.

Special and Not-So-Special Special Teams

Background: Under Frank Beamer, putting points on the scoreboard with a full team effort – offensive, defensive, and special teams – has become a hallmark of Hokie football. Non-offensive touchdowns are when “Beamer Ball” is invoked. Tennessee’s special teams this season were basically awful—kick coverage and field goal kicking.

Peach Bowl Performance: Virginia Tech didn’t score any non-offensive touchdowns. However, both Tennessee turnovers resulted in Tech scores (10 points). Tennessee’s special teams performances were okay. Kickoff and punt coverages were adequate to good, with the exception of Kevin Cooper being called for a face mask penalty on a punt coverage in the second quarter resulting in 15 yards being tacked on for the Hokies. Also, the Vols did not attempt a field goal, and never went for it on fourth down to avert a FG attempt.

Tech’s Wild Turkey Formation

Background: The Vols had trouble this season stopping any offense resembling a direct-snap offensive set. The Hokies run what they call the Wild Turkey, but not much.

Peach Bowl Performance: Tech never ran the offensive set. Apparently they didn’t need to.

For The Record Book

Ryan Williams needed 109 net yards to break the all-time Virginia Tech single-season rushing record (1647 net) set by Kevin Jones in 2003. Williams rushed for 117, breaking the record. He left the game with a couple of minutes remaining in the third quarter due to an ankle injury. He injured the ankle earlier in the game, but he needed help coming off the field the second time.

Montario Hardesty needed 158 yards to break the all-time Tennessee single-season rushing record (1464 net) set by Travis Stephens in 2001. Hardesty didn’t come close, thanks to the suffocating defensive front of the Hokies. A disappointing final game to a fine senior season by Montario. He finished fourth on the all-time Vol single season rushing list with 1,345 yards.

Eric Berry came into the 2009 season with 487 interception return yards and needed only 15 yards to break the all-time NCAA record (501 yards) set by Florida State’s Terrell Buckley. This season, Eric had only been able to compile 7 return yards on 2 INTs, so he needed 8 yards Thursday night against Virginia Tech for the NCAA record. Eric never came close to a thrown pass. He only had four hits all night.

Vol QB Jonathan Crompton finished the season with 2,800 yards passing. Only Peyton Manning, Erik Ainge, and Casey Clausen have thrown for more yards in a season for Tennessee.


Eric Berry announced after the game that he will enter the NFL draft, as expected.

Jonathan Crompton went to hospital after the game with symptoms of concussion, stemming from the last sack.

Eric Berry leaves the field in a Vol uniform for the last time. We will miss his greatness. We look forward to his continued greatness on Sundays. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.


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2 responses to “Hokies Gobble Up The Vols”

  1. DW says :

    Fred – thats a nice analysis of a game I’ll soon chose to forget. I might suggest that your two word summary – “largely disappointing” – could be expanded to four words by adding “mildy depresssing”.
    My midnight champagne tasted a bit sour or spoiled – -how about yours?

    I kept running the DVD back to watch our offensive line in slow motion because I couldn’t believe how they were being tossed around and blown apart. On one of the early sacks, I watched the VT tackle blow thru the Sullins twins and then toss aside the blocking back to make a straigt-ahead smack down. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an isolated incident.

    As an upside benefit – the adrenalin rush that never happened didn’t keep me up late, and I have fully working vocal chords on the day after.

  2. norcalvol says :

    DW: I raised my voice three times, twice to yell at a Vol: (1) repeated expletives at Lathers for that incredibly stupid facemask; (2) when Hardesty caught that screen out on the left flank, I yelled “Look at those orange shirts out front!”; and (3) when Denarius Moore dropped the pass, I screamed at my ceiling while dropped to the floor. So, my chords are in good shape today as well.
    I tried not to let the game spoil my evening, but the champagne tasted a bit flat…
    And the only reason I didn’t sleep well was to get the post up so I didn’t have to dwell on it today. I’m glad I did.
    The OL breakdown was astounding. Reminded me that the Sullins boys were walk-ons.
    The Fulmer era is still with us.

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