Quite simply, J.C. Coleman was not getting it done, and the scoreboard reflected it. Two red-zone stall-outs and a 20-6 lead to show for a pretty decent offensive effort and debut for Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer. The Field Goals having been from 20 and 27 yards out respectively indicate that the Hokies could smell the end zone chalk, yet came up empty handed as had been the case so much in recent campaigns.
Since Shane Beamer hadn't had the confidence to pick one back to name his workhorse in the place of Trey Edmunds, who had assumed the backfield's leading role last year, we had already expected a RB by committee situation. We knew McKenzie would get a series or two along with fellow freshman Marshawn Williams and junior Coleman. With an outside chance of seeing a little bit of Joel Caleb.
With Coleman unable to muster more than five yards on any single carry, and demonstrating his typical difficulty in finding running lanes between the giant linemen, it became imperative for the Hokies to see what the freshmen can do. While Williams was his typical grinding self, having worked himself back into shape after a pre-season hernia surgery, he didn't provide any breakaway burst. While he would have sufficed and worn an over-matched William & Mary front down over time, per the Hokie Constitution of Unwritten Rules that states we never run the same back three straight series no matter how well he's going, unless we have a David Wilson, or a Kevin Jones type talent.
McKenzie entered and on nine carries, amassed 106 yards, including his game-sealing 39 yard jaunt and leap for the TD that made the game insurmountable for the Tribe. As a result he was awarded the ACC Rookie of the Week for Week One of the 2014 season. His carries on the game are as follows:
- 4 yards
- 7 yards
Then he was replaced same series by JC? Why?
- 4 yards
- 15 yards
- 6 yards
- 39 yard (TD)
- 11 yards
- 14 yards
- 6 yards
As you can see, not a negative rush in the bunch. He did particularly well over the right side of the line. And got excellent downfield blocking from Sam Rogers on three of those plays.
By contrast, J.C. Coleman's attempts:
4 yards, 5 yards, 1 yard, 1 yard, 2 yards, 2 yards, no gain, no gain, fumble, 2 yard Mercy TD that Tom Coughlin would have never extended David Wilson after a fumble up in New York with the Giants. That should have been a carry by a freshman who had done the heavy lifting like McKenzie or Williams, you shouldn't reward fumbles.
No matter, each back had about the same number of opportunities, but J.C. had more of his in the red zone, and we came up short once on his watch, and the other on Williams (though to be fair Williams had run well and we called a dumb pass play on 3rd and medium and set ourselves up with poor play-calling).
One can imagine what Shai might do with closer to 20 carries, with Juice getting 15, and JC just a few spot touches. I happen to believe a more consistent run game would result. Empirical data appears to support that theory. And with Trey Edmunds out at RB once again this week as his leg is apparently still hampering him, it's yet another opportunity for the freshmen to make a name for themselves
Still doesn't sound like Trey Edmunds will have much of a role at RB this week. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) September 1, 2014
While I'd love Shai to repeat his performance, wouldn't it be great if Marshawn could join him? We'll need his bruising mentality to soften up the front four that Ohio State boasts. It'll definitely take a group effort to get it done vs a team like Ohio State, let's just hope the coaches are calling the right numbers, and right now if we're making that decision based on merit: Shai McKenzie deserves the first two series Saturday night.