Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
A win is a win, I don’t care what anyone says. A win is what Virginia Tech got on Saturday against a very pesky Furman team. The Hokies managed to take care of business in Lane Stadium, despite a less than stellar performance, according to many of the talking heads.
Granted, the game presented some interesting questions to add to the already growing pile from the first games of the season. The fact remains the Hokies showed great resilience in erasing a halftime deficit, and asserting their dominance in a second half comeback.
I will recognize the fact the Hokies had to make a second half comeback is not exactly ideal, but it does say something about the character of this team to respond to the halftime message, and take care of business. I will also admit not getting to watch the game live then going back and watching it, knowing the outcome did give me a unique perspective on just how many mistakes the team made in the first half, and how many they didn’t make in the second.
The Good: A Sneaky Improving Defense and Perhaps A Feature Back
The young defensive unit for the Hokies showed me something on Saturday. They are very quietly improving and meshing as a unit. An initial look at the score might make some fans grimace and say, “they gave up 17 points to a FCS team, and were down at halftime. We are doomed”. These fans would be wrong because they didn’t look at the whole picture.
Furman, coming in, was averaging almost 600 yards of total offense through their first two games. The Hokies held them to under 250, 231 to be exact.
The Hokies did allow two touchdowns, but both of them were after the offense committed a turnover to have the Hokies backed up to a short field. The only long drive Furman was able to muster consisted of one big play, but ended in a field goal and not a touchdown, a feat by the defense as Furman was perfect in the red zone for touchdowns coming into that last drive.
Now folks, let’s not get this twisted, Furman is an FCS school. That being said, they do have some FBS talent at the skill positions. After watching the game on Saturday, I have no doubt in my mind, Darren Grainger, Devin Wynn and Thomas Gordon could play and possibly start for some D-1 schools.
Bud Foster and company had a great plan for the defense against what is a very unique offense, which shows the defense a multitude of different looks. For the majority of the game the Hokies were very disciplined and covered their gaps like the scheme was drawn up. Only a few instances were the players out of position, which is an improvement from the first two games of the season. Believe me, the tape will show this was a good performance that showed improvement from the first two games.
Not only was the defense improved but Justin Fuente might have found his feature back.
Freshman Keshawn King ran with a purpose on Saturday. He ran angry, he ran smart, and he ran with speed and power.
King finished with 119 yards on just 12 carries, while being a little gimpy towards the end of the game. Some will point to the fact King has a little under half his yards on one carry, but even without that carry King was going to average around 5 yards a carry, which this fan will take any day of the week from a rushing attack. I believe this could only be the beginning of a very productive year for King.
Combine King's speed and knack for finding holes with the jet sweep action with Tre Turner and James Mitchell and the Hokies rushing attack could take a serious upswing. One thing is for sure, King is going to be must see when he is handed the ball.
The Bad: Identity Crisis
Even with Keshawn King breaking out to an extent on Saturday the Hokies still have somewhat of an identity question when it comes to the offensive unit.
The offensive unit only managed to gain 350 yards of offense against Furman. Most would be happy with a 350 yard day and a win, but when the opponent is severely undersized, and perhaps the biggest mismatch in the secondary the Hokies will face this season, it is a little concerning.
Ryan Willis spent way too much time either running away from a rusher or on his back after a sack as he was sacked 4 times. The offensive mindset of the Hokies needs to have a better direction. Consistent production is really the problem, but that production is a product of the playcalling.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why the Hokies insist on trying to run a Run Pass Option scheme when Ryan Willis struggles at times to make the correct read. I know this is the way Brad Cornelsen believes he can exploit favorable matchups, but at some point, a change needs to be made to play to a team’s strengths.
In order to be a force in the ACC, the Hokies are going to have to be able to line up knowing what they are going to do and execute. So far this season, that has not happened for more than a few drives.
I believe the hiring of Jerry Kill with bring a more consistent identity to the Hokies. Kill is an offensive mind and will more than likely be a fresh set of eyes the coaching staff needs to get the Hokie offensive philosophy on a steadier path. One thing is for sure, with the talent across the board, 24 points and 350 yards is very disappointing.
The Ugly: Mistakes and Mental Errors Almost Sunk the Ship
Previously, I have touched on how the turnovers for the Hokies have shaped the outcomes of the first two games. Once again, turnovers threatened to derail the game before it really even started.
Ryan Willis and company turned the ball over twice against Furman deep in their own territory, both leading to Furman touchdowns. Playing a clean game seems to be something out of reach for the Hokies. They have 9 turnovers in the first three games of the season, while only forcing 3 themselves. The high number of turnovers and the -6 turnover margin is rightfully raising major concerns for this team long term.
Virginia Tech ranks near the bottom of the country in both of these aspects. Ball security is important to the coaches and the team, which can only be seen by how visibly upset Tre Turner was after losing a fumble early on Saturday. Turner, who is becoming a vocal leader on the team, was said to be severely distraught about his fumble and was consoled by the head coach. This situation only shows how much holding on to the football is being stressed by the coaching staff. The Hokies will need to clean up all these turnovers for the rest of the year if they have a hope of being successful.
For the first time this season, penalties seemed to bite the Hokies on the offensive side of the ball. The Hokies were flagged 6 times for 40 yards, but it seemed to be they where the only ones getting flagged. Several mental errors caused procedural penalties which started a struggling offense behind the chains to begin drives or turned third and short into third and long.
Being mentally tough is a hallmark of great teams. Little lapses in concentration can be the swing point in games, causing drives to stall or in the Hokies case one time continue on a fourth down where they stopped the opposing offense. The youth of this team can be partially to blame, but as this youth grows up, let’s hope the mental sharpness will grow as well.
Honestly, this bye week could not come at a better time. The Hokies need to work some kinks out on both sides of the ball and get some of the more important pieces of the offense and defense back to 100 percent. The bye week is no time to relax though as the Hokies start the meat of their schedule with Duke coming to Lane Stadium next Friday night. I think the addition of a new coach will be just what the doctor ordered and the team will continue to improve. Until next time fans LETS GO HOKIES!!!!!