With a few days to reflect on Monday night's events, I expect that I'm in the same boat as many of you: imagining all the ways this season is now set up to go right, and (of course) many of the pitfalls that could ensure it goes wrong.
The win over FSU, and the swagger with which the Hokies pulled it off, should be appreciated on its own, without wild considerations of what else it could mean.
But I know it didn't take me long to start fantasizing about how that win has instantly changed the complexion of the team's season, setting up a whale of match-up against Notre Dame and instantly making Miami's dud of a debut against LSU all the more meaningful.
Still, I am trying to be reasonable. This team, as we've discussed ad nauseam, is young and will do something stupid.
Maybe it'll do something catastrophic like lose one of these next three easy games — I'm old enough to remember similar feelings and the ensuing the post-OSU hangover of 2014, to say nothing of 2010 — or something more mundane, like regressing as the season goes on and injuries add up.
But it sure is nice to give in to the wild dreams every once in a while and dream for a bit. It strikes me that these next three games will be excellent tools for the team to work out the kinks and find its footing for that aforementioned visit from the Fighting Irish.
And if Tech delivers a similar performance on Oct. 6, well, perhaps I might not be quite so restrained.
Willie Gets Salty
Before we turn to a discussion of William and Mary (and the rest of the season), it has come to my attention that Willie Taggart is not taking this loss particularly well.
In one of the dumbest controversies in recent memories, he shared the following when asked if he thought Tech players were faking injuries to slow down FSU's offense Monday night.
"It happened too often, so it's hard not to," Taggart said during the ACC's coaches teleconference Wednesday, per Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It happened too often."
Yikes. The only defense I've seen of this, outside of Nole fans furiously insisting he's correct, came courtesy of people like Bud Elliott of SB Nation arguing that Taggart was simply answering a question candidly and has already taken his fair share of the blame for the loss.
That may well be. But Taggart had to know it was going to play out this way, with the furious online backlash that's accompanied it, the moment he said it. Even if he believes in his heart of hearts that Bud Foster orchestrated a scheme to slow down his otherwise potent offense, he should've known this would be the end result of saying so publicly.
And that's to say nothing of whether or not he actually has a point. Andy Bitter of the Athletic has done a pretty good job of debunking the notion on Twitter, and I won't rehash his work. Justin Fuente himself also was pretty dismissive of the notion, saying his team had "numerous issues with cramping and guys battling through bumps and bruises and nicks and things" with several players needing IVs at halftime due to dehydration.
But, even if the Hokies did indeed manage to pull this off this scheme Taggart envisions, I'd argue that it doesn't exactly manage to explain why his team turned the ball over so frequently, or looked so inept in the red zone.
And even more importantly, to say that you're taking ownership of the loss (your first one at a new program, no less) and then knowingly kick off a controversy about another coach's methods indicates to me that you're not all that serious about owning the L in the first place.
More Questions Than Answers, Still, on Trevon Hill
With that bit of business (hopefully) behind us, we come to a more intriguing point about Tech's defense from Monday night: DE Trevon Hill's status.
As someone watching in a bar with, let's say, limited ability to hear the broadcast, I'd missed the fact that ESPN's commentators attributed Hill coming off the bench to an academic issue of some sort. That would plainly explain the rumblings persisting for months about Hill's status for the opener, and why he was barred from speaking to reporters in the weeks immediately before the season.
Instead, Fuente attributed it to other players practicing better, and dodged the question.
Fuente talks about Trevon Hill coming off bench. ESPN mentioned Hill had to clear up academic issue. Fuente said that didn't come from him. Other guys practiced more there and got the start. Hill played a bunch anyway. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) September 5, 2018
Saying it "didn't come from me" is very plainly not saying it isn't true. Perhaps something got garbled from ESPN's source on the matter, but it seems highly unlikely to me that there's nothing to this, given the rumors this offseason too. ESPN may not be perfect, but they wouldn't just make this up.
It would also be quite the surprise indeed if other DEs were truly outplaying Hill in practice, the most experienced player at the position.
Look, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter all that much, the lack of clarity is just frustrating. Hill played great, with two sacks on the night. If he didn't get the starting nod because of some sort of disciplinary or academic matter, but still is sticking with the team, it's all fine.
I hope this isn't problem to watch for the rest of the season. But it'd be nice to know, either way.
Darrisaw v. Dzansi
Another surprise start on the line Monday: Christian Darrisaw in for Silas Dzansi at left tackle.
Fuente explained that Dzansi, the top man on the depth chart dating back to the spring, was set to start until the heat started getting to him before the game.
Fuente said both Christian Darrisaw and Silas Dzansi have done really well. Said Dzansi in the weeks leading up to the game was dealing with cramping issues, missed some time. Darrisaw filled in well and got start in opener. Anticipates both to play going forward. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) September 5, 2018
And as, Fuente notes, it hardly went poorly.
"Candidly, the fact we played a true freshman at left tackle and we are not answering questions about why we gave up 25 sacks, I think he did a pretty darn good job against that defensive line," Fuente said, per Mike Niziolek of the Roanoke Times. "Are there things for him to improve on? Absolutely, but he certainly didn't look out of place. The moment wasn't too big for him."
It sure shows a lot of the coaches' confidence in Darrisaw to have Dzansi go down suddenly and not simply move over Yosh Nijman, who certainly has plenty of experience on the blind side. When combined with his performance there, it makes me wonder if this will indeed become a legitimate competition, rather than just a rare case of an injury replacement.
Luckily, Tech has the next three weeks to really give both guys some burn. Since Dzansi didn't really get to show his stuff at all in live game action, it certainly seems helpful that he'll have a few weeks to do so (barring further injury).
When Dzansi first emerged as a candidate to start at LT, I was struck by just how promising it is for the staff to have such a young guy ready to take over the line's toughest position. If Darrisaw is equal to him or better, that goes double.
I'll leave you today with Khalil Ladler's reminder of exactly what position he is, and a RTer you might recognize.