Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. Tulane
Do you remember the last time you went bowling? Like proper bowling, the way our presenting sponsor implored us all to do? For me, it was December 31, 2018 otherwise known as the last time the Hokies played in a rain-soaked Military Bowl. That game ended with a game-winning drive for Cincinnati — and a responsible ride home which I have less than zero memory of — but Tech got a far better result this time with a strong performance dodging rain drops and defenders for a 41-20 victory in Annapolis, Md.
We've got Beach Boys puns, several allusions to The Big Lebowski, and quite a few Oxford commas for the boss. Plus all the Hokie runs you can handle. Let's go bowling indeed.
Let Him Run Wild
Bhayshul Tuten reminds me so much of Khalil Herbert. They share a toughness despite being undersized, a knack for avoiding direct hits, and a remarkable ability to make it to the corner, turn it, and evade the defense despite zero space to run. Tuten had one of if not his best outright games of the season with 138 yards on an efficient 18 carries. He also added a bobbling 19-yard catch and dozens of Tulane defenders left grabbing air. One of the many exciting parts of building up unreasonable expectations for next season is that Tuten is coming back. With a little improved play up front, Tech might finally figure out how to consistently run between the tackles.
Tuten finished the season with 863 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 239 receiving yards and some big plays in the kick return game. Seriously, he's Khalil Herbert but far happier because he doesn't have to play for the Bears.
Run, Run, Run 'Til the Hokies Put Tulane Away
Drones was dominant outside of the loose balls with 20 carries for a career-high 176 yards. He has also become a master of holding onto the ball as long as humanly possible before flipping it to a running back or tight end on RPOs. His two-passing touchdowns were wide open and virtually impossible to defend. That should keep defensive coordinators up late well into the New Year.
The Hokies set a program bowl game record with 362 rushing yards. Tulane largely knew exactly what was coming and there was nothing to be done about it. Kyron Drones is just nearly impossible to stop, especially when you don't know where he's going on wet turf. A 21-point win that featured 50 rushes on offense and a largely aggressive and successful defensive effort (5 TFLs, only gave up 13 points) is a Brent Pry fever dream. Just Keep Pounding as they say in Charlotte — though not lately.
The conditions were sloppy which meant the football was on the ground a whole lot. Both teams seemed completely outmatched by the weather at times, with Virginia Tech giving the Green Wave life at several points. Kyron Drones had some particular struggles with the rare fumble returned for an opening touchdown by Tulane, and a loose ball at the goal line which yielded a Tech touchdown but probably would have been overturned if there were more than four low-resolution cameras at this game. Drones doesn't have a fumble problem, but he has managed to put it on the turf in some bizarre ways this season especially in this one. Not entirely his fault here though. Maybe just, ya know, keep running it when you have multiple 100-yard rushers averaging 6.5 yards per carry?
The Hokies promptly returned to the ground game and upped the average to 7.2 YPC.
There's room to work on ball security, but KD gets a pass quite literally because he's only tossed three interceptions all season and the ceiling remains incredibly high for him all around.
Start mainlining the Hopium now friends! While I'd appreciate if the world would slow down for a minute, I can't wait for next season. I'm even curious about the rest of the offseason period as we eagerly wait to see what the portal spits out before we properly assess the final roster tweaks.
Admittedly, excitement and high expectations aren't always my thing these days. Over the last few years of writing this column I've experienced the perfect storm for becoming a calmer, more rational fan. I'm a little older, a little busier, and the Hokies haven't been particularly good at football during that time. That coupled with forcing myself to find good and bad things about every game since 2020 has tempered my sports lunacy and somewhat ironically given me the tools to enjoy myself more. I don't take it as seriously most days and I don't get too worked up about things within the game. Take the Tulane drive when they were on the goal line. I had the thought that I've seen a lot of weird stuff, Tech might well get a turnover here. Then they promptly forced one.
Sometimes it doesn't really pay to get too worked up in either direction. Like Frank Beamer often says you can't get too high or too low. This season was refreshing and fun for me because I entered with zero expectations. I felt like three wins was possible and making a bowl game could happen too. Who knew! I could hear the eye roll Billy Ray gave me when I told him that early in the year.
We were rewarded with a few steps in September followed by more of a methodical forward march for most of the season. Those among us who were able to remain even-keeled weathered this campaign quite well, but that doesn't mean we're entirely immune to Lying Season. for now, next year is a long way off and I'm still basking in the warm glow of a Hokie victory.
It's a big dumb sport and this was a very silly and wonderful example of what bowl games can be. Remember, it's not that the games don't matter anymore, it's that the results aren't important. Bowls have become simply chaotic spring games with weird rosters and little hats for the winners. Thankfully, our team won the hats and some free bowling vouchers.
Do fandom the way you like, but there's something to be said for being chill and taking things as they come. You know, strikes and gutters, ups and downs. The Dude abides.