When this season started, it seemed like a 9-win season, and a berth in the ACC championship was just a pipe dream. The season carried on with its highs and lows and what do you know, the Hokies were playing in Orlando last weekend representing the Coastal division in the ACC Championship.
The cherry on top of this end to the regular season was that the Hokies had managed to amass a very impressive 9 regular season wins. The Hokies may have come up short against an extremely talented Clemson team, but this team is definitely ahead of schedule. The team played valiantly, and in the midst of this game showed the entire nation that Virginia Tech football is ready to catapult themselves back into the national spotlight.
In a game in which you lose, is it possible to find a good parts about the game? In this game, there were a few parts which stood out as incidents the Hokies can take away as wins.
The Hokies never gave up in this game. They managed to pick themselves up off the ground not once but twice when the Tigers took a three touchdown lead. This peskiness has become a staple of the Justin Fuente era. The Hokies have showed they are a team who never gives up no matter the situation. It is a great trait for this team to be taking on this early in a new coach’s era.
It is a trait which has been showing all season long, and is proof this team is headed in the right direction. With the talent Fuente has coming back next year, (hopefully Ford, Hodges, and Cam will all come back) the future is extremely bright. This team impressed not only the members of Hokie Nation, but people across the nation.
Another part the Hokies can hang their hat on is the play of Cam Phillips. Phillips has been the almost forgotten amigo in the three amigo receiving corps of the Hokies. However, in the past few weeks, Phillips has been asserting himself into the passing game, proving he is a force to feared as well. Phillips caught a season high 12 passes for 92 yards and a score. Once again, he used his quickness and fast feet to make defenders look silly. Phillips will be a key cog in the offense against Arkansas and hopefully next year.
Even though the Hokies played the Tigers tough, a wise man said there are no moral victories. However, there are always places where a team can learn and improve. One place the Hokies could definitely improve is the running game. The rushing attack for the Hokies has been for lack of a better term, anemic for the majority of the season that is outside of Jerod Evans.
However effective Evans has been all season long running the ball, the idea of the Hokies rushing attack is for a multitude of different rushers carrying the ball. The Hokies have not had much success with the multitude of different runners. In fact, the rushing attack has not performed like Justin Fuente had hoped. Against Clemson, the Hokies could not get a running attack going at all. This lack of a rushing attack greatly affected how the Hokies ran their offense.
The play action and misdirection game help build the Hokies passing attack. A strong rushing attack doesn’t allow a team to load up and blitz only the quarterback, and creates one-on-one matchups on the outside. The fact that the Tigers frankly did not respect the Hokie rushing attack, or even believe it could be dangerous at any time handcuffed the Hokie offense.
The Hokies were constantly behind the chains because of a lack of a run game. This allowed the Tigers to pin their ears back, and attack the Hokies offensive line relentlessly. Even though the Hokies found ways to exploit the Clemson defense later in the game, this pressure kept the Hokies from mounting a solid offensive attack early on.
The ugliest part of the game was a part that infuriated me to the depths of my soul. The most penalized team for the most part does not win games. The Hokies were the most penalized team in this game, but most of these penalties cost the Hokies dearly. On four separate occasions. the Hokies were victims of pass interference calls. I can say it until I am blue in the face the officials do not cause a team to win or lose, but they sure can make things extremely hard on occasions.
These calls were a perfect example of the officials making the game harder on the Hokies. Honestly, I could not see how you call pass interference on a play where the ball could only be caught by someone in the stands. I understand the call is a subjective one but seriously, when a ball drops at least 20 yards away from the nearest receiver, I would have taken a serious hold or grab to keep a receiver from that ball. I’ll say it again, officials did not cause the Hokies to lose, a team could overcome these penalties and mistakes, but it sure is hard.
I’ll say it again ,there are no such thing as moral victories. Yes, the Hokies lost a heartbreaker, but they must pick themselves up and move on. The moving on part includes hoping to achieve another milestone which I believed to be out of reach, a ten win season.
The Hokies have not achieved this feat since the 2011 season. 10 wins was the standard for many years prior to 2011, and to achieve it in Justin Fuente’s first season at the helm would be a major statement. The Hokies will face a test in the form of a hungry Arkansas team. However, I will leave you with the two statements plastered all over the Hokies facility. WHY NOT US and 10-4 instead of 9-5.
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