Let’s just call them the cardiac kids. On Saturday, the Hokies traveled to famed South Bend and came away with an impressive win over a scrappy Irish team. This game was not decided until the final minute. Excitement was definitely the order of the day, as not only was the game decided late but featured a comeback by the Hokies.
The game was important for the simple reason that it represented a way for the Hokies to get back on track after a disappointing loss in the previous week. The Hokies got to 8 wins with this victory, a goal I had in mind for this team as a win total for the season plus the bowl season. Being at this goal with not only the UVA game left, but possibly the ACC Championship and a bowl appearance gives me pause to think what this team could really accomplish.
The best thing to come from this game was the fight the Hokies showed. Once again, the Hokies started slow, but we will talk about that soon enough. However, unlike previous occasions, the Hokies came storming back. Even down 17 in what seemed like a blink of an eye, the Hokies stayed the course, followed the coach’s plans, and executed at a high level. This is a very important step in the evolution of the Justin Fuente era at Virginia Tech.
This season has been about establishing an idea of what the Hokies can be, and Saturday was exactly what fans hope this team could be under Fuente. The team was able to score quickly and often to get back into a game while the defense continued to be the dominant force it has been for years. Not getting down on themselves and rising up to come away with a big win (even if the polls didn’t see it that way) was the real story of this weekend. I believe this comeback is just the beginning OF great things to come from this offense.
Cam Phillips makes an appearance in the good parts of the game this week. Phillips for most of the season has become the forgotten third of the Hokies’ big three receiving threat. Phillips, for most of the time, has been pigeonholed in his role as the “jet sweep guy”. Phillips is a great receiver, and at times is downright spectacular. For instance against Notre Dame, Phillips had 6 catches for 56 yards and a score. The scoring catch is where Phillips really shined as he used his great athletic ability to turn what would been a simple 6 yard catch into a score.
Phillips juked the Notre Dame defender, who I might add had him dead to rights, completely out of his uniform. However, even with all his athletic ability, Phillips did have a key drop which resulted in a turnover that killed some of the Hokies” momentum early in the second half. It will be interesting to see how Fuente and company continue to use Phillips for the rest of the games this year
Once again, the rushing attack for the Hokies was a bit stagnant. The Hokies are depending on Jerod Evans to lead the way on the ground, a plan I have be critical of for weeks now. I understand Evans is a terrific runner, and the threat of him taking off gives this offense a dimension which is extremely hard to deal with. However, I am still not convinced this lack of a rushing attack, or depending on Evans to carry the load is not going to backfire on the Hokies.
Travon McMillian was thought to be the an answer to the running game, but last game he was definitely in the coach’s dog house as Sam Rogers and Steven Peoples were primarily lined up in the backfield. Matters were compounded by losing Marshawn Williams for the year to an injury. Williams had been the bruising change of pace back the running game so desperately needed. His loss is going to put even more pressure on the other backs to create some explosive plays.
This is a two-fold situation, first there is the turnover situation. Once again, the Hokies lost the turnover battle. However, losing the turnover battle did not directly mean they lost the game this time. The Hokies have of late been a little careless with the football, a trend which cannot continue. Against Notre Dame, the Hokies lost the ball only two times, however during the game there were multiple occasions where the Hokies could have coughed up the pigskin but were fortunate to retain possession.
Travon McMillian was responsible for one of the turnovers, but he put the ball on the ground three times during the game, definitely a great way to end up in the coach’s dog house. Jerod Evans threw another pick in this game, his 5th on the year. This one was not really his fault as Cam Phillips couldn’t corral what seemed to be a very catchable ball, combined with a fantastic play in the Notre Dame secondary resulted in the turnover.
The turnovers helped create the deficit the Hokies faced for most of the game. Once again, Virginia Tech started off extremely slow, and it cost them. Being 17 points down in a matter of minutes is enough to color the outcome of the game. This is the second week in a row where the Hokies did not start well, and seemed sluggish coming out of the game. This was the direct cause of two of the Hokies three losses.
However, this slow start did not keep the Hokies from winning what was a fantastic game. The slow starts need to be corrected, because looking ahead, getting down early in a potential ACC Championship against Clemson would spell disaster.
This week is honestly one of the best weeks of the year. Its UVA week which means the Commonwealth Cup will be on the line this Saturday. For 12 years, the cup has made its home in Blacksburg, and I see no reason why that would change this year. The Hokies will need to start fast as giving UVA any hope of staying in this game is a very dangerous idea. I believe next week, I will be talking about another rivalry win and looking on towards an ACC Championship game. As always Hokie fans, LET’S GO HOKIES!!!!!!