October 19, 2008
CHESTNUT HILL, MASS.
Absent a timeout, Virginia Tech had 68 seconds to travel 71 yards. It was a daunting challenge for the most potent offense.
For an inept attack it was impossible.
Virginia Tech lost 28-23 at Boston College on Saturday night despite forcing five turnovers and returning two interceptions for touchdowns.
The culprit was an offense that produced a season-low 240 yards — this in a season replete with lows, from the performance on the field to the play-calling from the press box and sidelines.
So when the Hokies (5-2, 2-1 ACC) took over on their own 29 with 1:08 remaining and no timeouts, you knew they were toast. Truth be told, they could have had 8:08 and all three timeouts. They weren't going to muster a touchdown without intervention from the defense or divine.
Virginia Tech usually feasts on these games. The Hokies snatch giveaways, compound them and step on the opponent's throat.
Not Saturday night.
All the 17th-ranked Hokies needed was a clutch catch, a line surge when it mattered, a tailback breaking tackles: They were capable of none.
Tech intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles, for goodness sake. How can you lose when you're plus-four in turnovers?
On its own, the offense generated six points on two Dustin Keys field goals. The other 17 points go to the defense.
Take away quarterback Tyrod Taylor's improvs and 110 yards rushing, and there was nothing.
The offensive line could not budge 320-plus pound defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, who clogged running gaps all evening; Taylor threw erratically, completing 12 of 27, and on the few occasions he was accurate, his callow receivers let him down.
Freshman Jarrett Boykin dropped an easy throw that would have netted 16 yards on third-and-10; freshman Dyrell Roberts muffed a Taylor heave that should have gained 45 yards to Boston College's 25.
Finally, freshman Danny Coale got both his hands on a high throw in the end zone. The degree of difficulty was considerable, but it's a catch you need to make in a testy road game.
But don't heap all the blame on the rookie receivers.
To open the fourth quarter, Tech faced third-and-1 at BC's 30. Time for the allegedly improved offensive line to show its chops.
Twice Taylor handed to tailback Darren Evans. Twice the Eagles stuffed him.
The line blocked poorly, and Evans ran timidly, a recipe for disappointment. Evans had scored at least one touchdown in each of the season's first six games. Saturday he gained 27 yards on 17 carries, the longest of which netted 5 yards.
Special teams flopped, too. Tech missed a field goal, had a punt blocked and allowed a 65-yard punt return for touchdown, the third such score this season.
And while the defense pitched a second-half shutout, yielding a paltry 60 yards in the process, it came up small in the clutch, allowing the Eagles to retain possession for more than five minutes on their final drive.
During the first half, the defense was often helpless. Stephan Virgil committed two pass interference penalties, one in the end zone, and lost Ifeanyi Momah on a 41-yard post route. Macho Harris got beat on Chris Crane's 10-yard touchdown throw to Momah and a 48-yard pass to Brandon Robinson.
Less than halfway through the conference schedule, both ACC divisional races are indecipherable with every team saddled with at least one league defeat.
In the Coastal, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Virginia have one loss; in the Atlantic, Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida State and Maryland share first place.
Favorites? You must be kidding.
If coerced, I'd pick Georgia Tech and Florida State without a lick of confidence.
How much confidence Virginia Tech carries to Florida State next week is another curious question. With two weeks to prepare for Boston College, two weeks to nurse bruises and refine strategy, the Hokies showed little resolve.
Oh, they jumped to a 10-nil lead in the opening six minutes. But the rest of the night was downhill.
On its last trip to Boston College, in 2006, Virginia Tech embarrassed itself in a 22-3 defeat. To its enduring credit, Tech learned volumes from that Thursday night and did not lose another regular-season game, closing with six victories.
A repeat seems improbable.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com For more from Teel read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime