Slept On It: William & Mary

Cam Phillips (18) runs towards Bucky Hodges (7) after he caught his first touchdown pass of the season. [Mark Umansky]

Ten years ago, the Virginia Tech Hokies opened the season in Landover, Maryland against No. 1 ranked and eventual national champion* Southern California. Led by senior quarterback Bryan Randall, the Hokies kept the game close against an incredibly deep USC team, despite having a bevy of untested players at key positions. That 2004 roster included true and redshirt freshman that went on to become Hokie legends, including linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi; cornerback Brandon Flowers; and wideouts Eddie Royal, Justin Harper, Josh Hyman and Josh Morgan.

It wasn't until the second game of the season against Western Michigan that those freshmen officially announced themselves to the Hokie faithful. Eddie Royal scored rushing and receiving touchdowns, Brandon Flowers had a 38-yard interception return and both Justin Harper and tight end Duane Brown—yes, that Duane Brown—added touchdowns through the air.

I remember standing in the North End Zone chanting "Eddie! Eddie!" with the rest of the crowd after an electric play by the freshman. It was impossible not to be blown away by the high level performance we were seeing from almost a dozen fresh faces. The coming out party proved to be a turning point for the 2004 season; after relying primarily on returning players in the opener against USC, many of the young playmakers became key contributors for the rest of the season, helping the Hokies win the ACC in their first year and earn a spot in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn.

So why do I bring this up? While watching the 2014 opener against William & Mary, it was hard not to have the same good old fashion feeling that I haven't experienced since my junior year. 10 of the 17 freshmen that dressed saw action, and many of them played key roles in the outcome. Think about this: The first 27 Hokie points scored were put up by true or redshirt freshmen. When was the last time this happened? I have absolutely no idea, but I feel pretty confident in saying "never."

After re-watching the game Monday, what jumped off the screen was the unique talent that each player brings to this team. After struggling a year ago at the skill positions, the 2014 edition of the Hokie offense appears to have a bevy of playmakers that add incredible depth to an already voluminous scheme. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler was not only able to get the youngsters' feet wet in a game against a quality FCS opponent, but we were able to see how Lefty is working to assemble his kit of parts into a dynamic offensive system.

Six-foot eleventy inch tight end Bucky Hodges was given the ball in a variety of positions designed to utilize his various physical abilities. Not only is he a red zone threat on jump balls, but we saw that receptions behind the line of scrimmage allow him to turn upfield and inflict pain on smaller humans, a la LT3.

After hauling in his first career score on the season opening drive, freshman wideout Isaiah Ford continued to highlight his already mature skillset by finding soft spots in the Tribe's zone coverage, while giving them adjustment fits by being sent in motion snap after snap.

Tailbacks Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie likely made the biggest impressions, combining for 147 yards on 21 carries. Both players were unafraid to lower the shoulder, with McKenzie flattening a poor Tribe linebacker on his very first carry. A once muddled running back rotation became slightly clearer after watching the pair run with power and decisiveness.

And to top it off, kicker Joey Slye looked extremely comfortable after taking a page out of A.J. Hughes book and making the tackle on the opening kickoff. Are kickers laying the wood BeamerBall 2.0? I could get behind that.

Was this a perfect performance? Of course not, and there is an incredible amount of room for improvement. But what Saturday's game provided us with was hope. It may not fully come to fruition this year, but what it illustrated was that the coaching staff's renewed focus on bringing in college-ready playmakers has immediately changed the landscape of Hokie football.

Face it, we have spent the last few seasons watching the Tech offense morph into a schizophrenic system that lacked the necessary playmakers and, more importantly, lacked a cohesive identity. The renewed recruiting focus to bring in instant impact players like Ford, Cam Phillips, Juice and McKenzie is a credit to Bryan Stinespring & Co. When he was hired, Lefty had a vision for what this offense could become and in order to maximize its potential, it would require these types of players at key positions.

Sure it was one game against a team that we should expect to beat comfortably, but it was hard not to walk away from Saturday's game with the feeling that change (for the better) was in the air. We should find out a lot more about what these young guys are made of on Saturday in a hostile environment against a talented team in Ohio State. Regardless of the outcome, what is important is that they continue to develop individually and collectively and use the experience as a springboard for future success. Saturday's victory of the Tribe was the launching point — now it's time to shock the nation.

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Comments

Shouldn't have read this tonight... too amped up to sleep now.

I'm working night shift, so... F*** yeah!

... inflict pain on smaller humans, a la LT3.

Gots me so amped.

What's Important Now?
The Lunchpail. The Hammer. BeamerBall.
Deal some damage boys

I have to agree. These freshmen may turn out to be pretty special. The Isiah Ford TD was extremely impressive. The ability to read the defense as your running your route and to break off the route into the soft spot of the zone is something I would expect from an upperclassman, not a Freshman in his first game.

Win or lose, Saturday and beyond, I want to see good play calling, and a team that is prepared and came to play, whoever the opponent. (or whomever, even)


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

This pretty much sums it up...

"And it is caught, it is caught for a touchdown"

I am cautiously optimistic, it was only one game against a div II school after all, but if they can execute well and keep us in the game against * this week I will be much more of a believer...

Damn the Man! Save the Empire!

'01, Bravo Company, Hokies, Midshipmen, Lakers, Dodgers, Nationals, da Raiders.

*sigh*

College of William and Mary = CAA = Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) != Division II

Virginia State University = CIAA = Division II != Division I-AA.

We can't play D-II schools by rule. There is a difference.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

there was a different feeling of confidence I got when the offense took the field Saturday. were there times when they screwed up, yes. but I felt as though the guys were all on the same page and it wasn't going to take one person (lt3) to win the game for us. I had confidence everyone would produce. great article I hope this team can be as productive as the 2004 team

tyrod did it mikey! tyrod did it!

Leg up in agreement. I think you put it well - a level of confidence that multiple guys would produce. I'll agree with that. Having Logan be such a focus for us the last two years was a double edged sword. That doesn't mean I'm glad to see him gone at all, it just means I feel like we've got a couple of RB's that will shine for us, some receivers that will shine for us, and a calm, cool headed QB that will lead us well. Multiple guys that can win it for us, not just one. That's raised the level of confidence.

I have a good feeling about this team...I have a feeling the mojo is back. I feel strangely confident about next weekend.

VHokie

I WAS going to suggest we start calling him Bucky the Jolly Maroon Giant, but I like "inflict pain on smaller humans" too much. Although, I guess if he's Jolly while doing it...and it DOES make us jolly...

Oh fine, sleep on it. Because that is sooo much more reasonable than overreacting the very next day.

You know, it is carefully measured analysis like this, what one could consider as the perfectly baked cake of Virginia Tech football coverage, that makes people want to come back to this site week after week. It's all your fault.

If by cake you mean the far superior pie ... then I agree.

All I keep thinking from this metaphor is "someone left the cake out in the rain..."

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

on Saturday in a hostile environment against a talented team in Ohio State

I plan to be there and make it as much less hostile as one man can. Also Logan got the typical QB treatment, all the credit and all the blame, but if we had Logan with this cast around him I think most of us would be licking our chops going into Columbus.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

On Saturday, you could really sense the confidence within the offense. Everyone looked calm and collected. There was just something different. I dont look too much into it since it was just an FCS opponent. However, there seems to be a storm "brewin" (no pun intended), and I like where it is heading.

VT 12'... but once you're a Hokie, you're always a Hokie..

I can't recall the first 27 points of the season ever being scored by freshmen, but I believe Michael Vick was flipping his way into the endzone against JMU the last time freshmen accounted for the first 3 TDs of a season. That ended up being a pretty fun season.

0

This is the number that I get excited thinking about coming out of last week's games. I'm not referring to the zero sacks allowed (allthough I do like that a lot!). I'm talking about the number of deep seam routes ran by the tight ends in the game on Saturday. This excites me because anOSU doesn't have one on film to gameplan against. This excites me because I can visualize Bucky bearing down on some poor OSU DB after catching one. And it excites me because I can see Bucky in the endzone after trucking said DB.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

They do have the spring game footage, although Motley was less than exciting when it came to successfully hitting that route. Brewer on the other hand seemed to love throwing that during his time at TTU. I'm pretty excited to see what Lefty pulls out this time.

I am going to echo similar sentiments expressed above my post. I came to Tech towards the end of Tyrod's career and through the transformation of several offensive coaching changes. I saw Duke slowly gaining points on us each game. I saw several things I can never unsee. The one thing that made it so difficult to swallow as seasons went on is how we could go down 17 points to Boise St. and come back to almost win (only time I've thrown up after a game, not alcohol induced either) but then we either lose games to teams we shouldn't or barely beat teams we should crush. It just seemed like we developed this tendency to fold up shop after bad plays or lack of momentum. This team was grown on hard work and persevering through those tough moments, not folding. This team proved against W&M, albeit I-FCS, that they are resilient and don't let anything stop them from progressing. They finally showed an energy to do better after screwing up rather than hoping to not do worse. That energy is something that should be around through every game. Cautiously optimistic here, but I see a lot of old Hokie tendencies that brought us national recognition. so pumped after yesterday, more than I have been in 4-5 years.

That's right. Let's F***ing Go!!!

What's Important Now?
The Lunchpail. The Hammer. BeamerBall.
Deal some damage boys

Two words:
Senior.
Leadership.

For some reason the offense in particular hasn't seemed to have any resiliency the past couple of years. I blame some of that on the coaches, but in my view a lot of it is failure of leadership among the seniors and other "natural leaders" on the team. It's one thing I remember reading about Brewer in camp -- someone said he walked into the huddle and took command of the offense. I think -- think -- this must have been a major shortcoming for LT3, because when the going got tough, the guys around him often appeared to quit (particularly the guys in front of him). That's not his fault, but if they were looking for a leader and didn't find one, well, it's the QB's responsibility.

We will learn a lot about the team Saturday, as they face adversity in a hostile environment. Yeah, some of the kids are going to panic. We will see if the leaders can keep them focused and competing.