Saturday night, the Hokies probably played the best team they will face all season long in all honesty (unless they play Clemson if they reach the ACC Championship). For one half, it looked as if the magic of a night game in Lane Stadium was going to strike again. However, just like most Cinderella stories, the clock struck midnight or in this case, the second half started and the dream was dashed.
Notre Dame used a strong second half showing to put the young Hokies away 45-23. The score is a bit deceiving as this game was played much closer. Not only were the Hokies firmly in this game with momentum on their side, but they were, in my opinion, a couple mental errors and one big play away from shocking the college football world.
The Good: Transfers are Apparently Where this Game is Going Now.
Two transfers shined for the Hokies. For the second week in a row, Ryan Willis showed he could be a good replacement for the Hokies at QB. Along with Willis, fellow transfer Damon Hazelton shined on the outside
Willis found his favorite target early and often leading to a career night for Hazelton. Hazelton ended the night with 12 receptions for 131 yards and a score. Of all the Hokie receivers, he seemed to be the one who was consistently open and making plays. Part of this familiarity can be attributed to Willis and Hazelton's work together on the scout team last season.
Willis has said before Hazelton was who he looked for to throw the ball too against the first team defense last season. Working against a defensive unit who boasted 5 guys in the NFL right now had to be great practice for this season. One thing is for sure, the Willis to Hazelton connection needs to continue for the rest of the season if the Hokies want to make a run at the ACC championship Game.
The Bad: Youth and Poor Play Execution Will Bring Any Team Down.
There is no denying the fact this is by far the youngest Hokie team in a long time. On Saturday night, the majority of players taking meaningful snaps were either freshmen or sophomores. Regardless of how talented these youngsters are, age and lack of experience has a way of negating that talent to an extent.
The Hokies were not the better team on the field Saturday night. However, the gap between themselves and Notre Dame is not as wide as some might think. Virginia Tech was in this game and probably should have been leading at times except for the mental mistakes that derailed their momentum. A lack of focus for one split second cost the Hokies points on one drive, momentum on many others and ultimately the game. A freshman Christian Darrisaw not paying attention to where he was on the field cost the Hokies early points on an extremely well executed trick play. Darrisaw, for all his talent, let his inexperience get the better of him and cost the team.
Another example is Caleb Farley, who was gutting it out on a bum ankle, over pursued on a run play, opening up a huge cut back lane which led to the 97 yard touchdown run for Dexter Williams. This score, I believe, was the score that swung the entire game to the Irish side.
Two simple plays are just an example of how the Hokies youth may have cost them a very winnable game. Penalties, and players out of position are just part of the growing pains still being exhibited by the Hokies. This team, if it can grow up a little, has the opportunity to become a team to be reckoned with, but if they keep making these correctable mistakes, the season could go very much in the other direction.
The Ugly: Everyone is an Arm-Chair Coach and Make-Believe AD
The atmosphere in Blacksburg on Saturday was as good as any college atmosphere in the country. However, since the loss all I have read is how this is wasted because “Virginia Tech can’t win a big game at home” Honestly, I’m with Justin Fuente on this “WVU was a big game till we won, FSU was a big game till we won."
Fans need to realize this team has had success under Fuente and the idea he can’t win the big one is silly. In his three years, the Hokies have attained heights as a team we only hoped to be getting to this year. Our editor Tim Thomas wrote a fantastic article about Facts vs Ficton for the Hokies under Fuente. I encourage all to read it and really think about the truth that is written in the article. I have said it multiple times in articles don’t become the entitled fans who think if we aren’t going undefeated, the coaching staff is terrible and the whole thing needs to be blown up. The fact is if any of us were qualified to coach at the D1 level, we would probably be doing it. With that being said, it’s ok to be disappointed in the loss, but don’t look for one person to blame. Instead look for the instances where the team could improve and become better. After all, Lane Stadium is a magical place, don’t let the magic fade just because of a little adversity or disappointment.
The Hokies will look to bounce back and continue the path to the ACC Championship this week at UNC. I think many of the issues I talked about will be resolved, and this season will ultimately be a very satisfying one for most fans. Taking games one week at a time has become the motto of the Fuente era, I vote we all adopt it as well. Until next time fans LETS GO HOKIES!!!!!
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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