As Justin Fuente walked out of Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon, he was probably feeling ok about Virginia Tech’s win over Liberty. However, Fuente was probably already thinking of the things the Hokies need to clean up before their massive matchup against Tennessee.
Virginia Tech was able to get a 36-13 victory on Saturday, which made Fuente the first Hokie coach to win their debut since 1961. The game was in most eyes a success, no major injuries, and the second team got into the game in the 4th quarter. However, as with any college football game, there were good parts, bad parts and the always dreaded ugly parts.
Let’s start with the good parts. Obviously, in a 20-plus point win, there were many good things to happen. First, the play of the Hokie defense, primarily junior cornerback Greg Stroman. Stroman, who I will freely admit was not my favorite player to see on the field last year, worked extremely hard in the offseason, and it shows. Stroman accounted for two of the turnovers caused by a dominant Hokie defense.
Also, he was credited with a pass break up. For the most part Stroman played lock down defense as he was often matched up one on one against some talented Liberty receivers. His play is going to be key as the return of Adonis Alexander gives Bud Foster real depth in the defensive backfield. Stroman also excelled in the return game averaging 30 plus yards in kick off returns. He was a little less effective in the punt game only averaging a little over 7 yards a return, but his big play ability is just waiting to erupt.
On the opposite side of the ball, the move of Bucky Hodges to wide receiver was a very good part of the game. Now you might say Hodges only caught three passes, how was he such an impact player?
Remember folks two of those were for touchdowns, however his imprint was on the other scores as well. First, Hodges is a matchup nightmare for any team in the country. His size alone is a problem for defenses, by splitting him out wide Fuente has essentially forced teams to cover him with smaller defenders. When Hodges was inside he would routinely torch linebackers for big gains, but now to prevent this from happening to smaller defensive backs, teams must double him with a safety.
What does this mean folks? It means Isaiah Ford will have more 11 catch 100 plus yard days because he is facing single coverage. It means the underneath routes will be clear for Jerod Evans to hit with ease, because Bucky has already cleared to defenders out of the way. It may not have shown on the stat sheet but Hodges’s fingerprints were all over this game.
Now for the bad part my friends, the rushing attack. I know, I know the Hokies amassed 206 yards on the ground. However, no Hokies rusher had more than 50 yards. Now I’m not sure if that is by design in the new Justin Fuente offense, honestly I don’t have enough experience watching his offense to be sure. I do know for a fact having your quarterback being the leading rusher isn’t usually how you win a ton of games.
Jerod Evans had one rush that was more yards than all other rushers save one had total. This could be a result of poor line blocking or just the backs not hitting the holes. The Hokies averaged 4.3 yards a carry, but that stat is misleading as it seemed the runs most of the time were stopped for smaller gains. A strong rushing attack will be key to keep the defenses in the future honest. The talent level is there in the backfield, I just hope the Hokies use it.
Now for the dreaded ugly part. The game for the most part was pretty good for the Hokies, aside from one huge glaring aspect, the turnovers. Turnovers will kill any team’s momentum, cost them games and will drive coaching staffs nuts. The Hokies were even in the turnover count for the game so that is something. Only problem was the defense forced four Liberty turnovers. The Hokies had three fumbles and a miscue on special teams.
First, the miscue on special teams was more a problem of not knowing where you are on the field, and the other players not communicating the ball is coming. The fumbles are just killers. Ball security is going to be paramount for the Hokies this year as the up-tempo offense will put pressure on the stamina of the defense because of lack of rest. Just imagine if that rest was cut even shorter because of the turnover. Better teams are going to take advantage of these turnovers.
Liberty only turned two of these fumbles into points: the Jerod Evans fumble, and the Cam Phillips fumble which was returned for a second Liberty score. The long and short of it is the Hokies need to win the turnover battle every week, especially next week if they want to continue to be successful.
I look for the coaching staff to address the problems the Hokies had in their opener. Next week offers a whole different set of obstacles as the competition increases tenfold when the Battle at Bristol kicks off. However, as long as the good parts outnumber the bad and ugly parts I think Hokie nation will be happy with the outcome on Saturday night. Until next week folks LETS GO HOKIES!!!