It was apparent early in Saturday’s game that the Hokies weren’t going to
have their best day at the office. Racking up penalties, turning the ball over
and struggling in the passing game, the Hokies gutted it out. Frank Beamer did
one of the things he does best: nurse an underperforming team to an ugly win. It
helps when you can smash-mouth the other team, and it’s also a lot easier when
your defense is playing lights-out.
This game will be remembered as a game in which the Hokies leaned on their
running game and their defense to get a hard-fought road win, and fans will
remember the 13-play, 89-yard touchdown drive to open the fourth quarter that
took nearly seven minutes off the clock and staked the Hokies to the 17-10
victory. Our memories paint things with broad strokes.
But this game had more texture to it than that. Sometimes, when reviewing a
game on film and in the box score, things jump out at you. This game wasn’t won
with a single fourth quarter drive. It was won midway through the second
quarter, when the Hokie coaches made a sudden, definite shift in their offensive
game plan, the defense went on lockdown, and the Hokies ground it out.
Sometimes I break Monday Thoughts up into separate discussions of the offense
and defense, but what this game really deserves is a discussion of the two
distinct parts of the game: the first 22:15, in which the Hokies committed a
slew of penalties, turned it over, and fell behind 7-0; and the final 37:45,
which the Hokies dominated with the running game and outscored the Pirates 17-3.
The First 22:15
I expected a game plan similar to the 2002 Texas A&M road game (Bryan
Randall’s first road start) and the 2006 North Carolina game (Sean Glennon’s
first road start). In those two games, the Hokie coaches nursed young QBs
through their first true road games by running the ball 78 times and passing it
just 29 times. The passes that were thrown were short, safe passes. Randall and
Glennon combined for 21 completions for 226 yards, about 10.8 yards per catch.
And those guys didn’t have David Wilson at their disposal. You had to figure
this trip to ECU was going to be (as I said in the preview) David Wilson left,
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