Three Cheers and Three Jeers for Virginia Tech-North Carolina
Welcome to the 2021 college football season!
Even the briefest look around the world at large makes clear that things aren't "normal", but what does that mean anyway?
The scene of a full Lane Stadium jumping to Enter Sandman was as close to normal as we come anymore and just as good as expected. For a few hours on a crisp early-September night, the Hokies played intense and physical football that ended with a victory for the rowdy Hokie faithful. Downtown Blacksburg is going to be quite the scene after this one.
Don't forget to tip your bartenders you animals.
We're Back Baby!
Well okay, maybe not "back" in the Texas or Miami sense but it was certainly a return to form of sorts. Virginia Tech played dominant, aggressive defense that sacked the quarterback and turned him over as well. The offense was equally dominant at times as the Hokies pounded the rock in the ground game and mixed in a few exciting passes — along with just enough ill-timed three-and-outs to keep things interesting. There were also mistakes and all the crowd noise you can handle. Vintage Tech football.
I've spent a lot of raucous nights in Lane Stadium since '99. cool to see & hear it rocking like the glory days tonight. A performance vs a good team worthy of Enter Sandman runout. @HokiesFB— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) September 4, 2021
Great Program Exposure
Getting the early evening TV slot on a Friday night of a holiday weekend was also big. It gave the program a huge game to build towards all offseason and gave the program a national showcase that lived up to the hype. The Hokies outplayed a top ten team on ESPN. The entrance was great, the weather was perfect, and the announcers fawning over all of it for three hours didn't hurt either.
It was a huge boost to the program and nice to see Tech show out in a big game.
Mack Brown Loses
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a person look as miserable as Mack Brown right now.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) September 4, 2021
Since his return to coaching, Mack Brown has been recruiting like crazy, hasn't won more than eight games, and has now earned an unjustified preseason top ten ranking promptly followed by an upset. Who could have seen any of this coming?!
With apologies to our readers down in Texas, yeah this isn't shocking. I'm convinced the only reason so many in the media have been loving Mack is because everyone assumed it was going to be a complete disaster. Eight wins does feel magical when the bar is so low. He's a better coach than his detractors claim, but the UNC hype this offseason was crazy. They'll even out somewhere around seven or eight wins and life will return to normal.
Meanwhile, Justin Fuente has the moving company on speed dial and yet he has a 5-1 mark against North Carolina.
This is always the first thing coaches complain about after a victory and this one is no different. The fumble by Keshawn King deep in Carolina territory with the offense driving to take a two-score lead was inexcusable. Worse for King, it adds to his spotty history with ball control. In a crowded backfield the staff won't hesitate to change the rotation. That certainly happened here as Jalen Holston and Raheem Blackshear — who was more effective as a receiver — got the majority of the runs. This will be interesting to keep an eye on going forward.
The interception wasn't a huge deal, but I'll lump the shorter field goal miss in here because it's effectively a turnover. The long kick from John Parker Romo was clutch and looked beautiful. The short one was pushed from the start. He'll just have to clean that up as he gets more experience kicking field goals.
They Gave Us Hope
I'm going to cheat and lump two vague criticisms here.
This Tech team proved they could play more physically and match the speed of a team considered by just about everyone to have more talent on balance. They also honored the Hokies' tradition of keeping games far closer for far longer than they need to.
Certainly, hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. I learned that in prison. Anyway, the one downside of hope is the excitement and expectations that build in the fanbase and media. Teams that can stay focused and actually do the whole "1-0" thing can manage. It's a challenge to embrace excitement and use it as fuel. We'll know soon if Tech has that focus.
"They came out with a lot of different motions and shifts and got us on our heels in the first half," Mack says. "Jay (Bateman) got them settled down in the second half."— Lauren Brownlow (@lebrownlow) September 4, 2021
The Hokies missed some chances to ice the game or at least reduce the stress like on that King fumble or a handful of other empty drives. As has been the case so many times, the offense barely hung on as the defense had to play lights out the entire game. The tendency to go conservative on offense is understandable, but it's not like Tech was pitching the ball all over the field when having success. Shorter throws plus interesting motion both pre-snap and post-snap seemed to be the key to early gains on the ground and some well-timed catch and runs. Hopefully a better balance can be struck in the near future when crunch time approaches but at this point, that seems like wishful thinking.