We can talk about offensive line grades and knockdown blocks ... all of which were much-improved for the Hokies against East Carolina. But there’s really only one stat you need to look at to know that Tech played much, much, MUCH better up front against the Pirates than during the Hokies’ 0-2 start.
In those opening two losses, Tech ran the ball 19 times in the red zone – and gained only 15 yards. That’s not even a yard per carry. Which pretty much explains why the Hokies had scored just four touchdowns in 10 red-zone trips during those first two games.
But Saturday against the Pirates, Tech ran the ball eight times in the red zone – and gained 40 yards. Yep, that’s five yards per carry. Which pretty much explains why the Hokies scored four touchdowns in four red-zone trips against ECU.
Here’s another, similar stat: Tech in the first two games had run the ball five times on third down when needing 1-3 yards for a first down. The Hokies gained 10 yards on those carries, 2.0 per carry. But against the Pirates, Tech ran three times on third down when needing 1-3 yards and gained 16 yards, 5.33 per carry.
So what happened? Did the Hokies’ change their blocking schemes? Did they coach ‘em up? Is ECU just that terrible on defense?
My guess: It was a combination of a position coach who felt his seat getting a little hot and in turn cranked up the temperature on his players, and a group of linemen whose egos were bruised and who felt badly for letting down their coach. Voila! There was an attitude change against the Pirates and up front, in the trenches, that can make more of a difference than probably any other position on the field.
The Hokies came out swinging Saturday, and they’ll need to do it again this weekend at Boston College. Now here’s the guy who lit a fire under his players last week, along with 3/5 of his starting line ...
O-LINE COACH CURT NEWSOME
ON WHETHER HE SAW A GOOD PERFORMANCE COMING FROM HIS LINE AGAINST ECU: “They had a great week of practice. They were focused. They felt like I did last week (awful). I think the whole team felt like that. We were all starved for a win. We needed to feel better. Saturday afternoon we did – throughout the game. I thought we just competed and played hard.”
ON SAYING LAST WEEK FELT LIKE ONE OF THE WORST WEEKS HE’S EVER HAD AND HOW THIS WEEK FEELS: “Just proud of how they worked. Any loss is hard. Some are harder than others. This football team, we know we have a good football team, and we hadn’t won. I deal with the 14 or 15 guys in my (meeting) room and try to stay away from all the outside distractions, but I know how hard it was on the 14 or 15 of us.”
ON HOW MUCH DIFFERENT HIS LINEMEN LOOKED, EMOTIONALLY, AFTER HAVING A GOOD GAME: “A lot better. They approached everything, put in a good day’s work every day last week, and then coming off the field, I got a good feel for how they were playing. Just felt good about everything out there.”
ON HIS IMPRESSIONS OF LT NICK BECTON’S 25 SNAPS AGAINST ECU: “I really like where he’s at. Going to continue in that direction, getting him some time. It will help Andrew Lanier. Going to continue with (Andrew) Miller, getting him some reps (at right guard). He didn’t get in until a little bit later, but it’s just because the guard move’s been a little bit different. Jaymes (Brooks) is the one that sometimes needs a rest.”
ON BROOKS, THE STARTING RIGHT GUARD, SEEMING TO BE ILL A LOT: “After about 20 plays, he usually is (laughing). He’s struggled with stamina throughout. He’s in really good shape. He just told me it was an issue for him in high school. We were able to have (Greg) Nosal in there (rotating with Brooks) last year. So I think this will help him. But Jaymes, I thought, really played one of his best game, his most physical games.”
ON WHETHER HE FEELS LIKE HE HAS A BONA FIDE COMPETITION NOW AT LEFT TACKLE BETWEEN LANIER AND BECTON: “I’d like to think so. What you hope is you have two starters. I think overall, we were really good in protection (against ECU). We gave up some sacks, but it was for different reasons. I think our protection was good. We won a lot of one-on-one battles. So I feel good about he left tackle position.”
ON MILLER GETTING THREE KNOCKDOWNS IN JUST 12 SNAPS AGAINST THE PIRATES: “He’s a get-after-it guy. He’s a guy that’s going to get in there and play hard. He’s been a great wrestler; he’s good with his hands. A lot of times, those guys are. He’s athletic, a tough guy. I like him. I think he’ll really help this football team before the season ends, and it’s good to have a good young one. So I’m excited about him.”
ON WHETHER MILLER’S LONG-TERM FUTURE IS AT CENTER OR GUARD: “You know, that’ll be a decision, and it’ll be a tough one. Because you don’t know when Beau (Warren) leaves (after this season), if you replace him with Miller or you move Michael Via back in there. Those are your options. That’ll be a decision we’ll have to make as a staff. Michael Via (working as the No. 2 right tackle this season) started three games a year ago (at center), played pretty well. So he’s been out there. Miller’s got enough ability to do it, and enough toughness.
“They’re going to both need to be on the field (in 2011) some way, so we’ll make that decision in the spring. As of right now, Andrew Miller would go in if something happened to Beau. Michael, he hasn’t had as much time. You need a little more time. There’s not a huge difference – other than snapping the football – in the center and guard position. But there’s differences at the tackle position that just take a little bit longer.”
ON WHETHER MILLER’S JUST PROGRESSED A TON OR WHETHER VINSTON PAINTER HAS REGRESSED THIS SEASON: “I think Andrew’s got a chance to be a really good football player. I think that’s it more than anything. Vinston’s (developing) slow. You’d like to see him get better a little bit faster, but has he improved? Yeah, he’s a lot better football player than he was a year ago. (Said he has NOT regressed.) You’ve got a 320-pound guy that can run a 4.8 or a 4.9 and if that light clicks on ... he’s showing signs.”
ON OVERALL FEELING ABOUT HIS LINE: “I like the group. I was disappointed in the first quarter of Boise, no question about it. That was a nightmare. Since that time, would I have liked to see a couple things different? Yeah. I would’ve liked to see a some things different. But I think we’ve got a good, solid group up there.”
ON WHETHER HE SENSED HIS LINEMEN TAKING IT PERSONAL AFTER TWO WEEKS OF POOR PLAY AND TAKING CRITICISM: “I told them afterward that we need to (take it personal) for that (small) amount of points. We needed to be better in the red zone. There’s a lot of issues that go along with it ... but we kicked too many field goals. That’s where I was disappointed. But that (JMU) game is over. We moved on last week and we want to move on this week. We want to go in another direction.”
ON SEEING A DIFFERENT MENTALITY FROM HIS GUYS IN THE RED ZONE AGAINST ECU: “We had talked about it, so you would hope you would see that. That was an issue we addressed to the whole offense, to my guys. You’ve got to be more productive in the red zone. So it was good to see that when we got down there this week, we got touchdowns.”
ON TALK LAST WEEK OF SIMPLIFYING THINGS OFFENSIVELY AND WHAT, IF ANYTHING, THAT MEANT FOR THE LINE: “Really, with my group ... it’s about the same. We haven’t had any assignment issues. That’s when you know you have too much in, and we haven’t had those.”
ON WHETHER THERE’S A PRESSURE ON THE LINE GIVEN THE STAR TAILBACKS, QUARTERBACK AND RECEIVERS: “I don’t think we feel pressure. I’ve said that in our room, that we’ve got some quality (skill) people. Well, we’ve got some quality people in my room, too. So I just think that’s an offensive line’s responsibility. We’re going to get the blame when we don’t get it in, in the red zone. And well-deserved. Now, when we rush for 250 yards, we don’t get the credit. We understand that. I understand the world I live in.
“I live with it, and I care about my guys, those 15 guys in our room. Scouting who we’re playing and working on game plans, that’s the only thing I can control and those linemen can control. It’s my job to get them playing as hard as they possibly can. I think that’s the biggest chore of any football coach. People can learn Xs and Os, but I think it’s your job to get them playing hard enough. That’s where I thought we really played hard last week.”
ON WHETHER HE FELT PRESSURE AS THE COACH OF THE LINE, OF THE ONE QUESTION MARK ABOUT THIS YEAR’S OFFENSE: “I knew going into the season what it was going to be like. I knew. If we don’t score 50, I know where (blame) is coming.”
ON WHETHER THAT STRESSES HIM OUT: “No. Because I care how those guys play. What’s stressful to me is if they’re not playing as good as they possibly can. That’s what I stress over. Am I getting their best performance?”
ON O-COORDINATOR BRYAN STINESPRING TELLING TYROD TAYLOR ‘I LOVE YOU’ AFTER THE WIN AND WHETHER HE SAID THAT TO ANY OF HIS LINEMEN: “Oh, I think they know I love ‘em. I don’t think I could talk to them in practice like I do if they didn’t know I love them.”
LG GREG NOSAL
ON HOW MUCH HE COULD TELL NEWSOME WAS STRESSED OVER THE FIRST TWO GAMES AND HOW MUCH THAT MOTIVATED THE LINEMEN AGAINST ECU: “We definitely took it personally. Throughout the week of practice, he was definitely down. He wasn’t scrambling, but he was definitely pushing for one of our best games. We needed it. We all took that to heart and really tried to play for him.”
ON NEWSOME SAYING AN O-LINE COACH’S BIG CHALLENGE IS GETTING GREAT EFFORT – MORESO THAN TEACHING Xs AND Os – AND HOW HE DID THAT AGAINST ECU: “He always preaches to play to the whistle, finish blocks. Last week, he was really in your ear screaming if you didn’t play to the whistle. We really needed to finish everything. That was the whole motive, to finish. That’s what we did.”
ON THE LINE SHOULDERING THE BLAME FOR A LACK OF PRODUCTION WITH ALL THE SKILL TALENT ON OFFENSE: “The whole group took it personally. We knew that we had a really talented backfield, and we knew that it would all rely on us. The first two games, we just didn’t produce and we’ll take the blame for all of it, for everything.”
ON HOW MUCH BETTER THE ATMOSPHERE WAS IN THE O-LINE MEETING AFTER THE ECU WIN COMPARED TO AFTER THE TWO LOSSES: “It was a whole different story. This last two weeks, I was pretty depressed, just down on ourselves. This Sunday and Monday completely turned it around. We’re ready to go keep on winning.”
ON NEEDING TO EXPERIENCE SUCCESS BEFORE THIS FIRST CONFERENCE GAME: “It’s really important. When conference play gets started, you really have to turn it up a notch. To have this game under our belt is really a confidence boost.”
ON WHAT, SPECIFICALLY, WAS MISSING IN THE FIRST TWO GAMES: “The Boise game, there were some miscommunication problems. We were still feeling it out. And JMU, we just couldn’t get it going in the red zone. Maybe every play, one person would mess up. We didn’t come together as a group, and that really hurt us.”
ON THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE AGAINST BOSTON COLLEGE THIS WEEKEND: “Just establishing a run game. We have great backs. We just need to start off strong and really get it going.”
ON BLOCKING THE EAGLES’ STAR LINEBACKERS, GETTING TO THE SECOND LEVEL AND GETTING A BODY ON THEM TO NEUTRALIZE THEIR IMPACT ON THE GAME: “They’re definitely great players. I can remember back up at BC my redshirt freshman year, Herzlich jumping over Blake DeChristopher’s cut (block) and chasing down Tyrod. They’re great athletes and we really need to be able to move our feet in space and get on them.”
ON THE BC CROWD: “It’s definitely one of the toughest crowds. I remember going up there my redshirt freshman year, and they were definitely hard on all of us. I’m actually really looking forward to going back.”
ON WHAT MAKES THE CROWD SO TOUGH: “There’s some rude language. It was just one of the most interesting crowds I’ve ever been a part of. I personally got some crude ridicules, but it’s just great to have fans that are so into it. I really liked it.”
ON WHETHER HE’D CALL EAGLES FANS CLEVER: “I don’t want to say anything bad. Not as clever, but they definitely were interesting.”
ON THE ENVIRONMENT AFFECTING PERFORMANCE: “I wouldn’t think so. Our offense is just starting to click and I think we will be OK and really be able to move the ball.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION ON THE LINE AND HOW MUCH THE CROWD CAN AFFECT IT: “It’s definitely a big factor. Before every play, you have to alert the blitzes. Sometimes the fans do make a big difference with that, not being able to alert different types of blitzes.”
ON WORKING ON CUT BLOCKING, WHERE NEWSOME SAID RIGHT GUARD JAYMES BROOKS SOMETIMES AIMS A LITTLE LOW: “In practice, we don’t work it as much, just for our own players’ safety. You might take out a knee. But we really worked on it this week because we were going to low or not getting square. I think we did a lot better this last week with it.”
ON HOW THEY WORK ON IT: “Just on dummies and practicing footwork, getting in front of people instead of just diving at them.”
ON WHAT HE SAW FROM LEFT TACKLE NICK BECTON IN HIS 25 SNAPS AGAINST ECU: “I thought he did really well. He’s definitely a great athlete and definitely can lock down people in protection. I would’ve liked him to be a little more vocal, because there was one time they blitzed and he didn’t alert it. But that will just come with time and reps. He’s going to be a great player.”
ON HOW HE’S MAINTAING HIS WEIGHT THIS SEASON (AROUND 293) AS OPPOSED TO LAST SEASON, WHEN HE DIPPED BELOW 270: “I’m just trying to be conscious of what I eat and constantly eating as much as I can. After dinner, before I go to bed, I’ll have a late-night snack just to keep the calories on, because you lose so much calories during practice and during games. You’ve just got to be aware of how much you’re losing and how much you’re gaining.”
ON WHETHER HE FOLLOWED THE SAME PLAN LAST FALL: “Not as thorough as I am now.”
ON HIS GO-TO FOODS THAT HELP: “Protein shakes, I drink before bed. And maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
ON HOW LONG IT TOOK HIM TO DROP BELOW 270 LAST YEAR: “I think it was (week) 8 or 9. I just kind of let it get away. It was just consistent (dropping) throughout camp and into the season.”
ON WHY HE HASN’T NEEDED A BREAK YET THIS SEASON, WHAT GIVES HIM SUCH STAMINA: “We all just worked really hard in the summer. I didn’t miss any of my running. My conditioning’s been pretty (good) throughout the year.”
RG JAYMES BROOKS
ON HE AND DECHRISTOPHER BOTH GRADING 70 PERCENT AGAINST JMU: “We just had to fight back and show everybody we had a bad game, really.”
ON HAVING A FULL WEEK TO PREPARE FOR ECU, UNLIKE THE PREVIOUS SHORT WEEK: “Our bodies felt a lot better. We were talking about that, actually having a Friday walk-through, instead of last Friday, where we had the extra practice. Everybody felt good going into Saturday. A lot more refreshed.”
ON HOW HE FELT ABOUT GETTING A 70-PERCENT GRADE AGAINST THE DUKES: “I was disappointed in myself. I felt like I let Coach Newsome down. Not supposed to play like that. I just don’t like disappointing Coach Newsome.”
ON WHERE HIS GRADE REALLY IMPROVED AGAINST ECU: “My cuts (cut blocking). The JMU game, I was missing a lot of cuts. I was aiming too low, so I would just hit the dirt and the defender would just keep going. This week, I got up on my cuts. That was the main make-up of the points, really. Aiming for the thighs. I used to aim for the knee cap and down. Newsome told us we’ve got to aim a little bit higher. So we actually did a couple drills last week – a cut drill, having us aim higher.”
ON HOW OFTEN THE HOKIES USE CUT BLOCKING: “Outside (runs). One of the outside zones either (Ryan Williams) or Darren broke good, I had a pretty good cut.”
ON HOW MUCH THE PRACTICE WORK LAST WEEK HELPED HIS CUTTING: “That was a big emphasis on cutting, our aiming points. I just never really knew. He had told us how to cut, but the specific point, where to aim for, we never really went through that.”
ON WHETHER THE SIDELINE CONVERSATIONS WERE DIFFERENT AGAINST ECU THAN DURING THE JMU GAME: “We were kind of confident that we could still come back (against JMU). But we weren’t all the way sure. The ECU game, we knew we were doing our jobs, so the conversations were happy. We were just talking about blocks and stuff, locking up people and how we were staying on our blocks and all that. We knew at the game we were going to grade pretty good. Everybody pretty much knew we were all in the 80s.”
ON NEWSOME’S IMPROVED MOOD: “Our main goal, really, is to see Coach Newsome happy. It gets us down, too, seeing our coach like that, especially Newsome. He’s like a father figure to all of us. Seeing him down, it just gets our spirits, like, ‘We’ve got to do this for him.’ ”
RT BLAKE DECHRISTOPHER
ON THE CHANGE IN OUTLOOK AFTER A WIN: “We weren’t feeling good the first two games. No one was. We weren’t playing the kind of ball we know how to play. It was a better feeling during the (ECU) game on the sideline.”
ON WHAT HE DID BETTER FROM JMU TO ECU: “I just had an off game. I think some players have off games. I had one. And that’s unacceptable. There’s no excuse for that. It’s behind me and I’m not thinking about it anymore.”
ON WHETHER ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR, THOUGH, HURT HIM AGAINST THE DUKES: “Some of the stuff that JMU was doing was throwing me off. I wasn’t ready for it, with some of the stuff they were doing as far as our blocking scheme. Maybe I wasn’t playing as fast, just because of what they were doing. So it kind of slowed me down. I studied more and tried to relax more during this game, which helped pay off, because I knew what I was doing with what they were going. So it made me more calm.”
ON O-LINES NEEDING TO BE ‘MEAN’: “I thought we played aggressive in the first two games. I guess some things, as far as the scheme goes, as far as our blocking, we had mental errors that were kind of messing with us. We really wanted to work more on intensity and that’s what we worked on.”
ON HIS POSITION COACH’S MOOD AFTER THE FIRST TWO GAMES: “He was disappointed. We were all disappointed. No one likes to lose. Us losing is just not us. Everyone was in a bad mood and everyone was disappointed with themselves.”
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