Slept On It: On Short Rest, Hokies Cruise to 62-17 Win Over William & Mary

Reflecting on Tech's drubbing of William & Mary after a good night's rest.

[Mark Umansky]

Forgive me if you'd heard this before: It's difficult to take too much away from games against FCS teams. There are teaching moments abound for the coaching staff, especially on a short week; however, for fans, the games exhibit an atypical blend of starters and reserve players executing a rather vanilla playbook against physically overmatched opponents. In many ways, these types of games become more about executing your reps and escaping without any major injuries. Oh, and whatever you do, don't lose. Sadly, Virginia Tech has learned this the hard way.

For the most part, Virginia Tech's game against William & Mary went according to plan. Aside from a Deshawn McClease fumble on the opening drive, the offense dismantled the Tribe defense with a comforting efficiency. On the opposite side of the football, the defense had a generally strong afternoon. There were, however, moments where the unit showed their relative lack of game experience, characterized by missed assignments and occasionally poor execution that led to 17 W&M points. Perhaps the greatest positive to arise from the game was the relative ease with which the Hokies cruised to victory (which is more than you can say for Tech's Week 1 opponent).

The coaching staff began sprinkling in second team players as early as the second drive, mixing and matching position groups to get players experience without disrupting either unit's rhythm. For the most part, there was no noticeable drop-off in performance prior to mass substitutions late in the second quarter. For a team fielding such a significant percentage of underclassmen, that is an incredible positive and speaks to the strengths of the recent recruiting classes.

Lest we forget, just five days prior this team was full of question marks. After a resounding road win over historic power Florida State, much of that uncertainty seems to have thinned out. The truth of the matter is that this team is far from a well-oiled machine. The three-game reprieve between ACC opponents is a critical stretch for the Hokies immediate and long term growth. Multiple position groups are still settling into their roles, both individually and collectively. Some units, such as the offensive line, are still competing for starting spots. As Bud Foster noted after the win, "You gain confidence when you have experience, that's the best teacher."

Despite fiddling around with personnel groups; despite the simplicity of the offensive and defensive looks; and despite the short week, the Hokies absolutely cruised to victory against the Tribe. Tech's 305 yards rushing were the most in a game under Justin Fuente (and most since 2014). They racked up 586 yards of total offense (10th most in program history), 401 of which came in the first half (3rd most since 1987). All three quarterbacks scored rushing touchdowns. It was the first time since the ill-fated short-rest loss to James Madison in 2010 that the Hokies didn't punt the football. Oh, and after their first drive fumble, the Hokies scored on ten consecutive drives before running out the clock to end the game. Not a bad day at the office, eh?

I feel like you can learn a lot about the potential of a team based off of how they play against each tier of opponents. Great teams get up for every game, regardless of venue or their opponent's record. Middle tier teams are the ones who struggle with consistency, getting up for the big games while lacking focus or assertiveness against less talented foes. Aside from the occasional shocker, lower tier teams are the ones driving the Struggle Bus all the way to Struggleville. While it remains to be seen what this team's ceiling is, they've certainly shown up for their first two games and exhibited a tremendous amount of potential.

In Justin Fuente's first two seasons in Blacksburg, the Hokies knocked off FCS Liberty and Delaware 36-13 and 27-0, respectively. Neither game, however, was a thing of beauty. The Liberty game, Fuente's first at Tech, was defined by a sluggish start and a plethora of fumbles. Last season's win over Delaware was considerably less sloppy, but noticeably lower octane. Tech managed only 303 yards of total offense and was forced to focus on the starting group's development rather than the reserves.

Saturday was quite different. I remarked pre-game that a good offense would find a way to score at least 55 points against the Tribe. Tech hit that mark with 2:28 to play in the third quarter.

Josh Jackson was an efficient 12-16 for 217 yards and a touchdown through the air, adding 21 yards and a touchdown with his feet. Coming off of a freshman season that began with a roar and ended with a whimper, Jackson is in an interesting position for a promising incumbent. He lacks the exciting 'it' factor that has been so common for Virginia Tech quarterbacks in the past, often relying on his ability to get the ball to his teammates in space and allowing them to make plays. "I won't get tired talking about the quality of experience and the playmaking ability of the team surrounding him," Fuente remarked after the win. "Josh needs to distribute the ball. He's almost like the point guard and the ability to distribute the ball to those guys in space is important." In essence, those much needed reps on Saturday were less about Jackson and more about guys like Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley and Tre Turner.

Tech fans have grown so accustomed to electric playmakers under center that patience is considerably thinner for a more traditional quarterback. Just ask Grant Noel and Sean Glennon.

Michael Vick was virtually unstoppable. As average as he was throwing the football, Bryan Randall limited turnovers and had knack for moving the sticks however possible. Marcus Vick was exciting as hell, albeit an imperfect leader. Tyrod Taylor was dynamic. Logan Thomas sported an inaccurate cannon for an arm, but he could run through a wall of defenders. And Jerod Evans was a single-read quarterback that used his dual threat ability to light the stat sheet on fire.

I'm not certain what Josh Jackson's defining characteristic is, but he strikes me as a high-ceiling 'game manager' type. Thus, Fuente's point guard analogy seems apt: Quarterback as facilitator, rather than quarterback as catalyst. Let's not take that as some kind of slight. In 15 starts for the Hokies, Jackson has flashed some serious arm talent and can make plays with his feet. He simply isn't explosive, and that's okay. As we've discussed since he took over, Fuente's system isn't predicated on a dynamic leader under center, but rather a collection of playmakers across the offense. Through two games, it appears that the 2018 season may be the first under Fuente where that truly is the case.

Nine players caught passes on Saturday, with Ball State transfer Damon Hazelton leading the way (4 catches for 107 yards and a TD). Hazelton has looked every bit the part of the guy coaches gushed about during fall camp. As Jackson noted, "He's what you want in a receiver. He's very strong, tall and fast."

Eight players ran for 10 or more yards against the Tribe, three of whom rushed for 50+ yards. Steven Peoples looked like the energetic bowling ball (*drink*) that we saw early last season (which might mean something), freshman Terius Wheatley was featured early and often, and Jalen Holston took advantage of some monster holes. Oh, and the ground game scored seven touchdowns on the day.

The true shining light, though, was the offensive line. As I'm sure French will touch on in his film review, the O-line was consistently getting to the second level and making opposing defenders pay for it. All of this despite a near-constant rotation along the line in an attempt to get players reps and evaluate different lineups. "I think there were like eight guys who rotated to be honest," noted Jackson. "The way that they just fit together, being versatile, and other guys being able to come in in other positions [is] very important." Snaps continue to be an issue for the Hokies, but — aside from those snafus — the mixing and matching of line groupings saw very little drop off in execution. Athleticism is the common thread, which is particularly remarkable considering the size of the linemen. Their ability to win at the initial point-of-attack and then get to the second level will be an important component to this offense's ability to move the football. And it is precisely that ability that will ease the burden on the less experienced defense.

So did Tech's performance categorize them as one of the aforementioned 'great' teams? Honestly, it remains to be seen. I'm trying not to draw too many conclusions — experience has taught me to take little stock in these games. There are just too many outstanding questions at this stage of the season. With that being said, you can't help but be encouraged by the way Tech has played over the first two weeks of the season.

Comments

I like it, we destroyed a lower tier team as we should. Lets do it again the next 4 weeks!

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

I like it, we destroyed a lower tier team as we should. Lets do it again the next 4 weeks!

I see what you did there:

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Looks at the next four weeks of inferior opponents.

...

Looks at UNC in five weeks, but not included under the "inferior teams".

If you're reading the above post and thinking, "is this guy serious?!?," you can safely assume I'm not.

$5 for PITT. Wow

$107 for ODU is what got me.

That's VA Beach people who want to go to a game and still be home for dinner.

Outspoken team cake advocate. Hates terrapins. Resident Macho Man Gif Poster. Distant cousin to Dork Magic. Frequently misspells words.

I mean, it makes sense. If you want to go to a VT game, it would be much cheaper to spend $110 on a ticket to a game in Norfolk than paying for 600+ miles of gas and a night or two in a hotel on top of the $50+ face value of a ticket to a game in Lane. It just caught me off guard since I hadn't really considered it all that much.

Their stadium only holds just over 20,000, so tickets may be hard to come by.

I'm aware of several Hokies (or Hokie fans) local to 757 who bought ODU season tickets or ticket packages

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Efficient. Nothing wowed me (outside of that W&M catch by that poor kid for no gain late in the game) but a meaningful outing for personnel and continued evaluation.

Here's to 1-0 next week.

"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

Nothing wowed you? You need to hop over to the Giftory thread and see Chung taking on 5-6 opposing players almost by himself.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used."
- The BoD

Fair enough. But I must say I was wowed by the acceleration and maximum velocity of Hooker - not that he's the complete package, but still, he showed me something I hadn't seen in some time on the field with that run.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

A maximum velocity Hooker gave the crowd more than they expected. Sounds internet-ready to me.

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

I thought wheatley looked pretty good. Jackson made an adequate throw down field which is a good sign (But didn't hit the receiver in stride). Willis flashed a great arm and threw an absolute dime. Ladler continues to be very impressive.

As I recall Willis also threw two uncatchable passes to open receivers.

I like how JJ is getting the job done so far. I don't see anything to suggest he shouldn't continue to start for us.

Well I think there is a reason Willis isn't starting (looks like accuracy can waver a bit) but his arm is strong. His potential is there with his arm and the way he steps up in the pocket. If he can be consistent (iron out those misses then he could be something. That sideline pass he threw was PERFECT. At any rate, I think he is a good backup to have. I liked the long completion by JJ but the receiver had to slow up to wait for it. Against better teams that would have jeopardized the completion. Also, JJ seems to miss some throws in short yardage and intermediate passing situations as well.

He also didn't look like a deer in headlights - that said, it was WandM.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

1st incomplete pass, 7:11 1st quarter: low ball where only the receiver could make a play on it and the defender did a good job of keeping Kumah from retaining control of the ball for a touchdown.

2nd incomplete pass, next play: To my untrained eye it looks like that one is on Jackson. He threw it a bit too far in front of the receiver (Peoples)

3rd incomplete pass, next play: If anything, I thought he was throwing the ball away to avoid a sack and Grimsley tried to make a play. Had the ball not been about to leave the end zone, Grimsley's tip could have been disastrous (pick-touchback)

I don't remember the 4th incompletion at all.

His 4th incompletion was the first throw of the second half where it was deflected by the dropping DE. Didn't see him, bad decision. Otherwise a solid day.

I thought Wheately showed some speed, but he kept running into his blockers. I'd like to see him exercise a bit more patience and vision.

Is it football season yet?

Thankfully no major injuries (Ricky should be fine), lots of reps for the O-line and entire defensive depth chart. Shutouts are nice, but so is +50 points and meaningful reps that'll pay dividends later

VB born, class of '14

I am not sure if this O-line can maul teams, but boy can they move. Watching the opening drive live, I was struck by how we pulled linemen on almost every play. And they moved quickly and efficiently and made their blocks. Combo that with WR and H-back blocking and it was giving the skill players a LOT of room to make plays. It was impressive to see.

Gotta get those snaps right! Every time we have one it kills the momentum of the drive.

"Take care of the little things and the big things will come."

Agreed. For some unknown reason, Mega Jesus keeps trying to send the football back into the heavens. He did have his hand taped up during the game, but he needs to get over the yips. I'm sure he'll get there.

I heard dislocated finger from FSU, and was having trouble gripping and snapping the ball due to the splint and tape. But who knows.

Josh Jackson looked great catching some really bad snaps. Makes me think it would be a good idea to throw the ball to him sometime like the Eagles did in the Super Bowl.

It's nice to actually blow out the bad FCS teams you play and make it look easy. However, there was about a 10 snap stretch where I was in full on lamenting mode as Ricky Walker and Darrisaw went down injured.

Not too much to learn from this, but on my "hot take/overreaction" of the weekend I just want to say that if our offense is ever seriously sputtering/JJ is hobbled, it wouldn't be the worst idea to bring in Hendon and run it almost every play with the occasional play action pass. It would definitely catch the opposition off guard and he certainly flashed that his feet are a real weapon.

Also, want to mention that I saw Plantin get in later in the game, assuming that means they are working him back from his rumored injury in the final scrimmage. Hopefully he comes back fully healthy soon to play guard and we can move Chung back to C permanently and not worry about Hoyt airmailing more snaps.

Shuffling the o-line with little to no drop off is encouraging. The fresher we can keep the big guys the better we will be in the 4th quarter. Time to crush ECU!

1-0 every week

O line experience is crucial - great point that in years past we haven't seemed to dominate enough to get early meaningful reps for our 2s and 3s.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

Thanks for this well-thought thought out piece Pierson. I like the way you nuanced JJ's role in CoachFu's offense. I think I have been clamoring for Hooker to play more because he is the only game-ready QB on the roster (maybe Quincy down the road) that has that "it" factor like past Tech QB's. JJ as a game-manager type QB who doesn't make many mistakes but also rarely makes "wow" plays can still lead us to an ACC Championship. I just want us to beat Clemson/get to the playoff so bad and Alabama is the only team so far that I found with a game-manager QB who made the playoffs (mainly due to their talent being that of a Pro team).

For as frustrated as I get when his feet look stuck in cement getting out of pocket or throwing ball away, his main role is to facilitate to are ever-increasing talent of offensive weapons. I'm just hoping he will continue to develop as a passer and have a better ability to escape the pocket when it breaks down.

I disagree on the serious arm talent. However, Jackson has consistently been getting the offense into the right play call against different fronts and coverages.

This isn't advocating for Hooker or Willis either. I didn't see enough of a sample size for either one to say their performance teased a need for a switch. If W&M had defended that split veer better, I would get more excited about Hookers run. The edge guy took himself out of the play. Willis threw some pretty balls, but the great throw to Hazelton was a TERRIBLE decision (tight man with a bracket coming) while Savoy is wide open for a TD on the other side.

Big challenge this week. I don't buy ECU's defense being good. But they are going to keep VTs WRs in front of them and force Jackson to execute and get the team down the field. And ECU's passing game is good enough that if the offense has a bad day, it could get more anxious than most expect. Brown and Ferrier can stretch the field and Proehl (if they can get him away from Ladler) will be a match up nightmare for VT's safeties and LBs.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

How do you think things change if we get into a waterlogged run-fest on Saturday?

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

Depends a ton on the QBs ability to throw a wet ball. If he can, short passing games can be tough to handle

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Depends a ton on the QBs ability to throw a wet ball.

If you're reading the above post and thinking, "is this guy serious?!?," you can safely assume I'm not.

You know, most gifs only go up to ten. But you...

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

Love you French, I'm calling a blow out though.

Outspoken team cake advocate. Hates terrapins. Resident Macho Man Gif Poster. Distant cousin to Dork Magic. Frequently misspells words.

I believe Ladler is playing at a High level almost like cornerback/DB; my only issue is that they might thrown in their high end receivers.

Hokies, Local Soccer, AFC Ajax, Ravens

— aside from those snafus —

I believe you mean "snapfus"
.
.
.
I'll see myself out

You might even call them "snap-Fus".

If you're reading the above post and thinking, "is this guy serious?!?," you can safely assume I'm not.

^this is an underrated comment

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

GD it. Here's a leg but I'm not happy about it

I'm not certain what Josh Jackson's defining characteristic is, but he strikes me as a high-ceiling 'game manager' type. Thus, Fuente's point guard analogy seems apt: Quarterback as facilitator, rather than quarterback as catalyst.

Great points regarding JJ. These last two games, he's reminded me a little bit of my favorite Hokie, Bryan Randall. I still think there's plenty of room for improvement, especially in the speed of his release at times, but overall I think he really has done a nice job managing the game and letting it come to him. Looking forward to see how he progresses this year.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

So should we expect Devon Hunter to just play 15 snaps a game or what?

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Ladler has been awesome so I'm not exactly clammoring for him to be wedged into the lineup. That said, I'm definitely worried that he was hyped up a lot two offseasons in a row now only to be pretty much invisible when the games actually start.

Michael Vick was virtually unstoppable. As average as he was throwing the football, Bryan Randall limited turnovers and had knack for moving the sticks however possible. Marcus Vick was exciting as hell, albeit an imperfect leader. Tyrod Taylor was dynamic. Logan Thomas sported an inaccurate cannon for an arm, but he could run through a wall of defenders. And Jerod Evans was a single-read quarterback that used his dual threat ability to light the stat sheet on fire

You forgot Michael Brewer and his balls of brass

That team sure did suck last night. They just plain sucked! I've seen teams suck before, but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.

BREWDOG

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

So VT is currently at 9th in rushing defense, 2.25 yds/att. If you remove the 85 yard rush by Akers, we would be 1st having only allowed 0.77 yards/att. Last year Alabama finished the best in this category allowing 2.72 yds/att. Can we keep these numbers up? Unlikely. Can we challenge Alabama's number form last season? Perhaps. Last year we allowed 3.36 yds/att. Aside from a few missed tackles and busted assignments, the defense is off to a great start.

--
"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

I'm suddenly curious how GT would do against Bama

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

One of their more dominant years they struggled a little bit (relative to how good their defense had been that season) against Georgia Southern or the likes triple option, but my guess is that GT would fare how they usually fair against incredibly large, athletic defensive fronts with fast linebackers in the past like Iowa and Clemson, and that is.... not so well.

Ahem. Alabama didn't just struggle with them. Georgia Southern "ran through [their] ass like shit through a tin horn" 😂😂😂

how exactly does shit run through a tin horn? Nevermind, I don't wanna know.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Two things.

First, we don't need our QB1 to be Jesus in cleats anymore, because we have a competent offensive staff with a viable system. The reason we're so brainwashed to think we have to have a razzle dazzle QB is because that was our only chance for offensive success under the old regime.

Second, Vance Vice is the hero we need, but not the hero we deserve.

"I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you you were terrible." -Justin Fuente

If you think all these gray hairs came from age alone, I vehemently disagree. I blame O'cainspring and Newsome for at least some of them.

I deserve all the Vice I can get.

If we want to just be a good team I agree, but to be a great team I disagree. My bar is contending for a playoff spot and competing at that level. And unless you're a stacked SEC team it appears you need a "jesus" qb. It took the likes of Winston and Watson to basically going "god" mode to win out of the ACC. One step down to Kelly Bryant and Clemson looks outmatched. I think our supporting cast (minus the running backs) are about as good as we're going to get and with the addition of a "jesus" QB (and a solid RB ) I think we'd be knocking on playoff doors by 2020.

sol-a-rex

I grudgingly agree with this comment. Football may be the "ultimate team sport," in the sense that one bad gap fit or one missed tackle can ruin a Bud Foster defense, and one bad route or one missed block can cause the offense to bog down. But somehow that "team sport" thing doesn't apply to QB play. Good teams have good QBs and great teams have great QBs. You cannot build a great team with a good QB.

"Our job as coaches is to influence young people's lives for the better in terms of fundamental skills, work ethic, and doing the right thing. Every now and again, a player actually has that effect on the coaching staff." Justin Fuente on Sam Rogers

How many former Alabama championship winning quarterbacks are starting in the NFL? Just wondering.

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I agree with you in general, though I would argue AJ McCarron was damn close to a great college QB (finished 3rd for the Heisman his senior year).

However, Alabama has the best defense almost every year, the best players, and the best coach in college football history which is growing less debatable with each dominant team he rolls out each year. I think Alabama as a counter example is not a great choice because they are certainly the outlier in this regard.

I'm not disagreeing with anything you've said. However, to say

You can't build a great team with a good QB

is clearly erroneous. Saban has proven as much. Is it easy? No. Should that be the standard or even the goal? No, probably not. I generally agree with the idea that great teams have great QBs and ultimately I want VT to find the next great QB. I just like to point out the flaws with blanket statements.

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Yeah I agree with you on that, there have been plenty of great teams who have won without great QB's over the years. I would say it is usually the case for a team of Virginia Tech's level or similar to win a national championship to have an amazing QB or at least a QB who plays amazing in the right games at the right time.

I think the point is that any argument that uses Bama as an example is automatically moot. They play by a different set of rules, so using them as a datapoint is useless

Lol... speaking of missing the point...

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Good point, but don't forget the rest of the story. How many #1 recruiting classes has Alabama had in the past 10 years? With that long-term depth, level of talent and player development, Alabama has such a variety of weapons that a game manager is all you need to win it all. A QB that is anything more than that is simply gravy. When you rely on years of development to coach up a lower level of talent to a higher level of play, a single injury can knock down the entire house of cards. That's why it has been so refreshing to see Coach Fu and Bud reloading, rather than recovering from a nightmarish offseason.

HTHokie93

The rest of the story is irrelevant. Is it possible to have a great team without a great QB? Yes. End of point.

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

Ravens superbowl early 2000s. Guy got fired the next year I believe.

"I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising..." - KP

On the contrary, its very relevant, given the context of what is the team's ceiling without a great QB. It is possible to have a great team without a great QB, but ONLY if you have a great supporting cast. That supporting cast is intrinsic to what that team can accomplish. Hence my comment about the Alabama example.

HTHokie93

Unless you think we have an elite qb on the roster (who is elite right now), the argument doesn't matter. Yes, we will need to strike gold with an elite quarterback to contend for a playoff, and no, JJ's probably not that guy (but maybe! he's still young). That's OK though. He can win us a lot of games and set the program up to take a big step. It's not like Fuente is out there purposely avoiding elite QBs in favor of game managers, that's just what we have right now.

I'm glad Wheatley got a lot of burn, but Coleman Fox 0 carries?? Wonder what's going on there 🤔