Responding to adversity is the calling card of many a great team. Throughout many championship seasons, fans can point to one game or a handful of plays which turned the season from a dud to a success. The Hokies of Virginia Tech had one of those games on Saturday.
Coming off possibly the worse loss in program history, the Hokies traveled to undefeated, talented Duke; and came out victorious. This wasn’t just a small victory either but a resounding defeat which sent a statement to all ACC teams these young Hokies were not going to go away quietly.
The Good: I Told You There Was Nothing to Worry About.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Mr. Ryan Willis. The Hokies' New signal caller had a great game and not only did he fill the big void left my the injured Josh Jackson, but he took the passing game to the next level. As bad as I hate it for Jackson, an injury could cost him his job if Willis can keep this level of performance up. Willis made quick, quality decisions with the football in route to a 332-yard, 3-touchdown performance. However, the yards and the touchdowns throws; while impressive, were not the story.
The story was how well Willis and the whole offensive unit handled the moment. Willis was starting his first game as a Hokie in a situation where a great performance was needed. The offensive unit was playing with a different starting quarterback back for the first time in 15 games. Both parties responded in a big way. Willis will get most of the headlines but the trust the receiver corp already have in him is an unreal development. Against Duke, the passing game looked like it was in their fifth game together, not their first. This trend needs to continue if the Hokies want to have a stellar remainder of the season.
Another unit that deserves praise is the defensive unit. Not only were they dominate for the majority of the evening, but they were being dominant with a 3-man front. The Hokies stifled a Duke rushing attack that was more than average with 3-down linemen. Let that sink in folks, the offensive line of Duke only had to block 3 people initially to open a running lane, but for the most part could not do that.
This was a fantastic response by a unit that got shredded the week before and basically got no pressure or run stuffing. Bud Foster should be commended for getting the best out of his kids as well as having the faith in his front 3 to control the game like he wanted them too.
The Bad: Now Paging the Running Back
The Virginia tech rushing attack over the last few years has been extremely inconsistent. At the start of this year, it looked like the rushing attack had made the turn towards being a legitimate threat for the offense. However, it seemed there was a step backwards taken against Duke.
Justin Fuente's philosophy is running back by committee, which I have had some issue with but in the grand scheme of things, isn’t the whole issue. No one single running back has really separated themselves from the pack, so the carousel will more than likely continue. However, the entire unit was inefficient against Duke.
The Hokies averaged just over 2 yards a carry on 41 rushing attempts. That is not the average they need to keep defenses honest. There is no question the commitment to the run is there given the 31 rushing attempts. However, I’m not sure who is to really blame here as the offensive line looked to be opening holes while the running backs seemed to not hit them at full speed at times.
On the other hand, the Duke linebackers seemed to find their way to the ball carrier, which could just be the linebackers not being blocked, or them winning an individual one-on-one battle. Either of those don’t bode well for the Hokies going forward as the defenses they are set to face grows in difficulty each week. The rushing game needs to become a solid option in the offense going forward in order to keep defenses honest.
The Ugly: Hello My Name is Dr. Jekyll and This is Mr. Hyde.
I’m honestly nit-picking at this point. The Hokies played a very good game. Yes, they could have had a better rushing attack but in the end, the game was a dominant conference win against a ranked opponent.
I’m more or less looking forward for the rest of the season. I’d hate to see a week where the Hokies played terrible and had to come back refocused just to dominate a team they should. Divine Deablo said it best this week when he said they practiced for Duke like they were going to win not just play the game. This is the practice attitude that needs to carry on for the rest of the season. The playing down to the opponents level needs to stop. In order for the Hokies to be taken seriously in the national landscape, the wins need to be dominant and decisive.
This dominance and belief we can beat any team at any time needs to start this week as the Irish are coming to town. This game is one of the biggest under the Fuente reign. The Hokies can beat Notre Dame and fans need to have Lane Stadium return to its former Terrordome status. As always Hokie fans, I leave with our rallying cry LETS GO HOKIES!!!!
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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