Relief. Exhaustion. Excitement. Pick your emotion. I choose disbelief.
We live in an alternate universe now. The world where Virginia Tech wins football games at FedExField. The one where the Hokies' offense answers the bell in a back-and-forth contest. In the same place, Tech knocks off ranked opponents in marquee season openers.
The existance where those three truths intersects is foreign, if not a bit weird. Oh look over there, the sink is leaking chicken wings again. Grab the ranch dressing.
Dissect Virginia Tech's 31-24 win over West Virginia at your peril. To reach a conclusion as to why the Hokies won, other than the obvious, is complicated.
The Mountaineers ran 89 plays and racked up 592 yards of offense. That's an uncharacteristically high amount of yardage ceded by a Bud Foster unit. Yet there was a span throughout the first half where Tech ran 13 plays and punted 4 times, and the gassed D only gave up a touchdown. That same offense employed a largely conservative approach in the opening half only to take more risks and become more productive down the back-nine. Only 3-of-8 Tech second-half drives ended in punts, whereas Australian Oscar Bradburn finished off 5-of-7 first-half drives with a boot. Each unit complimented the other — the defense got the crucial stop, the offense scored to keep pace. Neither unit played elite, but the balance was formidable. That's in stark contrast to the Hokie football many of you grew up on — Beamer Co. in the ACC — where the defense skewed savage and the offense hindered the effort at the other end of the scale.
Josh Jackson met and exceeded any realistic pregame expectations. He certainly made freshman mistakes, especially on throws early in the game, but Jackson didn't make any bad situations worse. At this stage in the game, that high level of poise and his command of the offense were unexpected. As were his 101 rushing yards and score. Jackson gashed West Virginia multiple times on inverted veers, a bread-and-butter Fuente run. That production even caught Cam Phillips off guard.
Jackson's passing stats — 15 of 26 for 235 yards and 1 touchdown — aren't jaw dropping. However, there were plenty of promising passes among his completions.
Touchback machine Joey Slye missing field goals from 38 and 32 yards is uninspiring. The latter attempt could have sealed the win for Tech and closed the door on any possible West Virginia comeback.
The running back rotation wasn't a disaster. That bucks the previous regime's trend of disastrous Virginia Tech running back rotations. Deshawn McClease (8 rushes, 51 yards, 1 TD), Steven Peoples (13 rushes, 39 yards), and Travon McMillian (9 rushes, 34 yards, 1 TD) all chopped up carries and looked like they had a role in the offense moving forward.
Cam Phillips footballs well. The senior caught 7 balls for 138 yards and a score. Attribute that in equal parts to his knack for getting open and because he's Jackson's comfort blanket.
Will Grier is legit. He has a live arm and can create opportunities outside of the pocket with his legs. As it stands now, he's the best QB Tech will face in the regular season. The Hokies' front-four struggled to generate pressure on its own, Foster wasn't keen on regularly sending extra blitzers, and as result the secondary was often left to die in coverage.
Find someone who loves you as much as Frank loves the Black Diamond Trophy.
It's a shame either of these teams had to lose such a spirited and competitive game. Except it isn't. Not for Hokies when it's the Mountaineers across the line. Virginia Tech gutted its longtime rival on national television in the face a sensational performance from the opposition quarterback. Perhaps satisfaction is the most appropriate feel.