Sunday, October 26, 2008


 /ˌmɛtəˈmɔrfəsɪs/ [met-uh-mawr-fuh-sis]
–noun, plural -ses/-ˌsiz/ [-seez]
3. any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.

Yesterday evening, sometime around 7:30 or 8, ESPN posted the updated standings; they are usually the first to do so as the games of the day progress. Since then, I can't stop looking. I'm blown away by this team's ability to come back from the dead. Al Groh's Cavaliers are the turnaround story of the year; there is no team in the land that has had such a complete and total reversal of fortune. One month ago, we were left for dead on the BCS landscape, on the trash heap next to Washington and Syracuse and occupying a spot in ESPN's Bottom 10.

Today, go take a look at those standings again. We are halfway through the ACC schedule at 3-1. The road to Tampa, as the ACC likes to promote it, goes through the state of Virginia. Before, I was asking "did that really just happen?" Now I have to know: "is this really happening?" I was hoping for a miracle to get us into an undercard bowl game in Boise or DC. Yesterday for the first time I allowed myself to think "Orange Bowl."

Of course, the race does not go to the driver who leads at the halfway pole. Everything has changed, but nothing has. Before the weekend, three teams controlled their destiny in the Coastal; three teams continue to do so. Virginia Tech may have lost, but they still lurk. Miami is also hanging about, and can get to Tampa by winning out themselves, which is why you can't rest on your laurels in the college football season; they roll into town next week with revenge on their minds.

So what happened yesterday?

- The game looked pretty bad to start. The first GT drive was brutal to watch. Then Mosley bit and bit hard on a play-fake on GT's second drive and forgot that he was a defensive back until Demaryius Thomas was running past him. That led to a wide open throw and a touchdown the next play. I don't know what Pruett did to fix the problem and hold Tech to three points the rest of the way, but that is why he's the highly respected coach and defensive coordinator and I am the blogger.

- Marc Verica is an absolute machine. Seriously. Normally, part of the review of the game involves adjusting the quarterback's stats for things like penalties nullifying a play or dropped passes. There is none of that today, because none of that happened. The extent of the adjustments involve a zero-yard screen pass that a holding penalty brought back, and it's not enough to make me bother with it. His stats are his stats.

But that's not the end of it. Skimming back through the game on the TiVo made me realize something: Verica doesn't miss. Yesterday he failed to complete 10 of his 39 passes. 2 of these were poor decisions that resulted in INTs. Most of the rest were throwaways. He was otherwise automatic. Deep balls, slants, outs, tosses to the flat, shovel passes, it didn't matter. Verica hit them all. That touchdown throw to Ogletree was possibly his most perfect throw of the season. He is deadly accurate, poised in the pocket, cool under pressure, able to make a play or two on the run.....and a sophomore.

- In fact the passing game is humming along as beautifully as you could expect. The protection is excellent, the receivers are getting open, and the quarterback is hitting all his targets. I have only one complaint, and by now you oughta know where I'm looking, and that's the coaches' box, where the playcalling happens. Even this is not that bad, but if I see another one of those fake-a-handoff-then-roll-out-and-throw-to-the-tight-end plays, I will be forced to write a very strongly worded reprimand for Mikey Groh. I counted five of these plays yesterday, 100% of which were thoroughly ineffective. In one case I thought Phillips was throwing some kind of backwards block until I realized he was actually running a route, and covered. That scramble for a first down that Verica had on the first drive? He was supposed to throw to Phillips and wisely didn't; this decision had much to do with the three defenders surrounding the receiver. I think the five times this play was called resulted in negative total yardage. STOP CALLING IT.

- I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Cedric Peerman. The man is on a mission. He won't be tackled. Get us inside the 10-yard line and call the number 37. Mikey has this figured out, and it's paying off.

- A couple things. Yes, Will Barker was holding on the Covington touchdown. Pretty blatantly, actually. Only for just half a second, but he was holding. No, Minnifield did not interfere with Demaryius Thomas on the final drive. Thomas got both his arms up to go for the catch. Yes, Peerman probably stepped out of bounds near the end zone. No, it doesn't matter, because we would have called his number again, he would have got it the next time out, and besides, can you look at those replays and tell conclusively just where the ball was when that happened?

- Last point on the game: We caught a couple breaks. Tech played a sloppy game. Lost a critical fumble on our five yard line, dropped a couple passes. Couple calls went our way. But. But. GT was the 18th ranked team and 6-1. We scored more points on them than anyone has this year. We racked up more yards on them than all but one team. We kept them out of the end zone for three quarters. And then, like the fortune cookie trick in which you add "in bed" to every fortune to make them hilarious, tack on the phrase, "on the road," to put the final touches on the impressiveness of it all.

So: can we win the division? Can we win a championship and go to the Orange Bowl? We have the best running back in the conference and maybe we have the best quarterback too. Perhaps the question shouldn't be "can we?" Maybe we should be asking "why shouldn't we?"

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