A week removed from a frustrating primetime loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech bounced back in a big way Saturday afternoon and trounced crossover foe Boston College 49-0. Thrashing a team that has lost ten straight ACC games shouldn't be too much cause for celebration. However, the Hokies dominated the Eagles thoroughly in what otherwise could have been a letdown game on the heels of the much-hyped Battle at Bristol. It was almost cathartic.
Players, coaches and fans left Bristol wondering, 'what could have been' if not for the multitude of self-inflicted wounds against the Vols. This last week was filled with constant reminders of Tech's ill-timed penalties and fumbles from fans and media alike; correctable mistakes, but not irreversible
How the Hokies were able to move past the loss was both calming and exciting, assuaging lingering doubts over this team's prospects with an emphatic victory.
Hokie Nation has seen their team win by large margins in the past, including a 48-14 blowout win over BC in 2009. You remember that one. It was the game where the Hokies held the Eagles to two first downs and 28 total yards through three quarters, and limited former minor league pitcher Dave Shinskie to 1 completion in 12 attempts and four — four — yards passing before getting yanked. After the game Frank Beamer said, "We haven't had one like this in a while." Sound familiar? You probably uttered those same words Saturday evening.
For years, fans have openly wondered what a potent offense could accomplish for Tech alongside Bud Foster's defense. On Saturday, they got a glimpse of the possibilities against a big, physical Boston College team.
Against a talented BC defense that finished 2015 ranked first in the nation in total D, the Hokies wore down the Eagles with their pace and consistent execution. Brad Cornelsen's group used a balanced attack to keep the Eagles on their toes, finishing with 223 yards on the ground and 253 through the air.
Jerod Evans' varied skillset was on full display in Lane. Evans mixed in solid gains on the ground with stellar throws en route to tying Bryan Randall's school record for passing touchdowns (5) in a game. Through three games, Evans has showcased his strong arm and solid touch, carving up defenses on short, intermediate and deep throws alike.
His two touchdown throws to Isaiah Ford highlighted just how big of an addition he is to this Hokies team. The delicacy he showed on the fade route was a thing of beauty, the second time in three weeks that the duo has connected on such a play. And while few receivers could have hauled in the 30-yard pass to the back of the end zone, Evans put the ball in the perfect place for Ford to make a play.
Despite a string of talented signal callers in orange and maroon, the Hokies have struggled with consistency on deep balls and fade routes over the years. That's why Evans' performance on Saturday was a welcome sign for Hokies fans. Evans is still developing, but through three games he has shown the talent to make a lot of the throws that Justin Fuente is going to ask of him. His ability to expand the field laterally and downfield will keep defenses from loading the box, providing increased opportunities for the run game.
One of the beneficiaries to a said looser front was Marshawn Williams, who returned from a 2014 ACL tear to cut up the BC defense. A bruising rusher capable of serving as the thunder to Travon McMillian's lightning, Juice wore down the imposing BC defense with punishing inside runs and demoralizing outside scampers.
But the progressive destruction of the Eagles' defense wasn't simply a byproduct of the offense's big day. Bud Foster's unit played one of their more complete games in recent memory, eliminating the back-breaking big plays and long conversions that did them in against Tennessee.
Fuente remarked post-game that the defensive effort really set the tone for the offense's performance, most notably the successful rushing attack against such a stout opponent.
"I think part of it was that Boston College got tired," Fuente said. "I felt like that it was very difficult to run the ball early in the game. It felt like as the game went on their defense was on the field more and it just wore them down."
Mook Reynolds continued his standout play off the edge and in coverage, while Tremaine Edmunds and Andrew Motuapuaka cleaned up some of their uneven play from a week ago to stymie the Eagles attack. The collective played so well that it almost feels unfair to single out specific players on a Hokies unit that now ranks No. 2 nationally in total defense and No. 1 in pass D.
Much of the talk in the immediate aftermath of the win was whether or not Virginia Tech's performance was a sign of things to come. Is this the type of play the Fuente era might be filled with, or was the blowout victory a one-off like in years past?
Boston College's prolonged struggles and offensive deficiencies notwithstanding, putting up 49 unanswered points on a conference opponent is no small feat. The Hokies' ability to wear down and overpower the BC defense through both offensive and defensive success underscores this team's potential. The jury is out on whether or not Saturday's successful union of Fuente's O and Foster's D is an indicator of future results. One thing is for certain though, it's a step in the right direction.