After not winning an opening-game since 2007 and losing to a middle-of-the-road opponent (even for FCS standards) in JMU, Hokies fans were rightfully wary going up against the FCS' best program over the last decade in Appalachian State. However, the Hokies took the field and showed us one of the most complete games in recent memory, relaxing our jitters and starting our chatter. How good can this team be?
Well, I will table that question for the moment, but I'd like to look into what we saw this weekend and quantify our performance. Inside I share my observations. I'm impressed with this team, but to find out how much, YOU GOTTA CLICK THAT BUTTON!
- David Wilson to Rivals.com: IS THAT ESTABLISHED ENOUGH FOR YOU!?
- Michael Holmes did not make the dress squad for the first game despite a good fall practice. Many fans were speculating that Holmes would be playing as a freshman, but the fact that he wasn't on the dress squad for the most likely game he would feature in points to our staff's comfort in the options ON the dress squad. Maybe if there's an injury at the RB position they'll burn the shirt, but it's looking like Holmes will spend the season on the bench.
- This game was important in getting several young players and true freshman their first game action. Among the true freshman who played were Boye Aromire (1 solo tackle), Kyshoen Jarrett (2 tackles), Caleb Farris, Ryan Malleck, Luther Maddy (2 assisted tackles) and Corey Marshall (1 solo tackle and 1 QB hurry). A surprising omission from that list was Ronny Vandyke, who was expected by many to play as the backup free safety. However, his not playing Saturday may be a sign that the coaches are okay with James Hopper in that role.
- Kyshoen Jarrett was a little unlucky with the play where he lost the ball to the receiver. He was in position, jumped in the air and went for it at its highest point and just got it pulled away by a receiver. So all he needs to learn from that is get stronger hands and have a more concerted effort to pull that pigskin away.
- Mark Leal was impressive in his first college action. I certainly feel better about our chances with Leal if Thomas should go down than with Clayton (but then again, I would choose about anybody over JuJu at this point. No offense, but the kid is just not any kind of college QB). We can REALLY help ourselves if we continue to blow the teams out that are the cupcakes on our schedule before we hit what little meat we do. That way we can get freshmen (and most importantly) Leal time in games unlike last year where we didn't do enough against teams (like JMU...) to get Thomas into the game.
- The most disconcerting thing I saw from WR's, especially our experienced WR's was dropped passing. It's a small sample size, so maybe I'm making something out of nothing, but this isn't something that you want to become a trend. Especially with a green QB.
- As well as the running backs ran, much of that can be attributed to how the blocking was. It was AMAZING! And that's not just a reflection of the offensive line (more on that later), but all of the blockers: the o-line, tight ends, WIDE RECEIVERS and Logan Thomas even getting in there and mixing it up! I mean he IS the size of a tight end, so when he hands the ball off and needs to throw a block to help the play succeed it's like we have an extra blocker...just out of position. So this may only come into play when a player reverses field like Oglesby did on Saturday.
- The offensive line didn't look like the absolute mess we've come to expect to open the season. In fact they were quite the opposite. Granted we were playing App. State so it's something we should take with a grain of salt. BUT, with opponents of equal quality or less than the Mountaineers in the early games of the last few years we have struggled. So it's an encouraging sign no matter the opponent. In fact, every single lineman that played graded out at least 82%. And the holes David Wilson was working with were huge! Also Thomas was only sacked once. So it looks like we've made some progress. Don't know whether to thank Newsome, Stiney (with his re-claimed O-line duties) or the players themselves.
- Speaking of Thomas, I was VERY impressed with his performance Saturday. People being critical of his performance should consider these things. 1. His stats don't tell his story. He had several very catchable dropped, including one for a probably touchdown (although he also required some pretty incredible catches on some of his completions). 2. He didn't play the whole game and he wasn't asked to do a lot with his arm. It's hard to affect the game too much when that's the case. 3. He did what he was asked to do: Don't turn the ball over and make smart plays. 4. He may have missed open receivers on some plays, BUT how many of those situations led to a bad play or a receiver not getting the ball right in their gut? Not very many. In fact, for those who say that he missed open receivers keep in mind that as phenomenal as Tyrod Taylor's 2010 was, he missed open receivers on intermediate crossing routes left and right all year. So is he raw? Yes. But I came away entirely impressed in this guy's ability to run an offense and make smart decisions. He looks completely unfazed back there. This kid's a cool customer.
- Overall it was just the kind of game we were looking for. Certainly this is the best first game in a season since 2005 when we beat NC State behind Marcus Vick leading our team to a heroic comeback in his first game as a starter. We got on track, kept our eye on the ball and I was more comfortable with the way we were playing than I have been in a while. Our defense swarmed the ball and was tenacious in a way we haven't seen since 2007 (although our 2009 team came closest). We blocked a kick and almost another. Our return game was more than solid. Beamerball was abound. Our offensive line was formidable and our skill position players were allowed to run loose like stallions. Our first-year starting QB was a game manager and looked impressive in his first start. Again this is only one game, but I can only go off of what we HAVE seen. And I think it would be hard to argue with our results to this point (unless you're a head-case App. State QB who doesn't read scoreboards).