Last season for Virginia Tech was disappointing to say the least. Perhaps the most disappointing loss for the Hokies came at the hands of Old Dominion. The Hokies were highly ranked and highly favored going into the game last season, but ODU pulled off the massive upset and well, the rest of the season is history.
Fast forward to this past Saturday and the Monarchs were coming in to Lane Stadium looking to pull another massive upset. However, the Hokies would exercise a few of the demons from last season in getting their first win of the season with a 31-17 defeat of ODU.
The Hokies got a big monkey off their backs on Saturday with not only getting the first win of the season, but also getting revenge on an instate foe. With that being said, the Hokies are still very much a work in progress as anyone watching the game could tell.
The Good: VT is Loaded at Receiver
Once again, the best part about this game was the receiving corps.
These guys so far this season have been the only consistent aspect of the Hokies on either side of the ball. This week, the numbers were somewhat down from last week as the Hokies tried very hard to get a running game started, but the wealth was spread around very nicely.
Seven different Hokies caught a ball as Ryan Willis had a multitude of options of where to go with the football. Tayvion Robinson continues to be one of Willis’ favorite targets and with good reason. The freshman is not playing like a freshman at all as he is making great catches and creating havoc after the catch.
Hezekiah Grimsley, one of the elder statesmen on this receiving corps, put the cherry on top of a great performance for the unit with a juggling-one-handed grab for a touchdown, which in my opinion could be a great nominee for catch of the year.
Keep in mind folks that all this success is being had without Damon Hazelton, who was the leading touchdown catcher last season as Hazelton has dealt with a hamstring injury. Imagine what the unit will be with the addition of another weapon like Hazelton.
The Bad: VT Really Needs a Running Game ASAP
I miss the days of the Hokies have a back they could turn and hand the ball to get 4-5 yards with ease. However, Kevin Jones, Lee Suggs, and David Wilson aren’t walking though that door anytime soon.
The Hokies rushing attack has been a topic of concern for many years now. Justin Fuente, for the most part, has favored a running back by committee type of offense. However, Fuente stated this year that he would love to find a back he could hand the ball off to 25-30 times a game.
So far, the Hokies have not found this type of back. With Jalen Holston hurt the majority of the carries fell to redshirt junior Deshawn McClease and true freshman Keshawn King. King is a dynamic back who has show flashes of greatness already, but he found himself in Fuente's dog house on Saturday after a very promising start.
Fuente stated that he benched the freshman because of his ball security, when it was actually McClease who ended up fumbling between the whistles. I appreciate the fact that Fuente is valuing ball security but sometimes talent might need to win out.
In theory, the Hokies offense is set up for a back to have monster numbers, that is if it is run the right way. The fact of the matter is for all of Willis’ prowess throwing the ball, his ability to read a defensive end needs a lot of work. The Hokies finished Saturday with only 131 yards rushing with Willis being the second leading rusher with 34 yards behind McClease’s 64. The fact that Willis is the second leading rusher is a bit disturbing to this fan.
Granted, I love the fact Willis is a tough nosed QB an will pull the ball down and run to get the 4 or 5 yards the team needs for a first down, but the fact of the matter is he does not need to be the second leading rusher on the team.
This a fundamental flaw in the Hokies offense right now. The athletes that the Hokies have at the skill positions should lend themselves to a potent rushing attack whether that's via a RPO, jet sweep, or reverse. This needs to be a point of emphasis for the offense because a good rushing attack will open the field up even more for the Hokies' talented receivers.
The Ugly: Turnovers and Mental Lapses Could Doom VT Again.
Once again, the Hokies were victims of the turnover bug. This week was better than last as the Hokies only lost control of the pigskin twice. Willis was better at not throwing the ball into traffic, but he was the beneficiary of a little bit of luck as a few times, he stared down his intended target, but the Monarch defenders were unable to make the play.
Willis did fumble the ball away in a very weird play where he was on top of an ODU defender on the ground and was stripped of the ball. Willis was also on this play he was banged up a little as well causing very bad memories of last season against the Monarchs to come floating into every fans head.
The fact is the fumble by Willis doesn’t bother me near as much as the decision he made in that moment. Like I said before, I love the fact Willis will put his head down and get the 4-5 yards the Hokies need for first downs but after that, he needs to get down. Willis is that rare quarterback that seems to seek contact. This is extremely dangerous as big hits tend to end in disaster for the offensive player more times than not.
Justin Fuente said after the game that he put Hendon Hooker in the game to finish off for two reasons. One, because he was concerned with Willis health and two, because he was a little miffed by the turnover. Fuente it seemed was trying to send a message to his senior signal caller to get the yardage then get down and avoid big hits.
Willis isn’t the only Hokie who needs to try and be better on the mental aspect of the game. Several other Hokies committed penalties and mental lapses on two specific drives to allow ODU back into the game. Being mentally tough and executing to put teams you should beat running away is the sign of a true championship or even division title contender. The Hokies aren’t quite there yet but I believe they can get to that point. The fact is this team is only going to be successful if they are just as strong in the mental game as well as the physical game.
Next week offers another opportunity for the Hokies to improve and get better before the meat of the ACC schedule begins. Once again, the Hokies will be heavy favorites with Furman coming to town. The goal should be to clean up their mistakes as much as possible and get several contributors 100% healthy. As the saying goes, the Hokies need to go 1-0 again next week. Until next time Hokie fans LETS GO HOKIES!!!