Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans had an exceptional debut for the Hokies in last week’s 36-13 season-opening triumph over Liberty. Evans completed 63 percent of his passes for 221 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The 6’4”, 235-pound Evans also led the Hokies with 46 rushing yards.
While the numbers looked good and the Hokies won the game, it wasn’t exactly a perfect debut for Evans. And he knows it.
“Some good, some bad,” said Evans, per David Hale of ESPN.
Virginia Tech fans were restless in the second quarter when Liberty—an FCS school—took a 13-10 lead early in the second frame, due to an Evans fumble. On the day, Evans fumbled twice, including a sloppy option pitch that didn’t please head coach Justin Fuente, according to Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Some good, some bad, would be my first impression. We’ve got to take care of the football, for one. I didn’t like the option pitch at all. Primary or first responsibly is, we’ve got to value the football. But he made some good plays in the passing game. My gut reaction is just that. Some good, some bad.
Evans was critical of himself after the game, too. He wasn’t quick to give himself praise and took responsibilities for the slow start and the turnovers.
"I know I shouldn't make those mistakes because I know I'm better than that," Evans said.
It’s good Evans hit the film room after the game to go over his miscues. But, most importantly, the Hokies walked away with a convincing victory.
Now, comes the hard part as the Hokies face Tennessee in the Battle at Bristol this Saturday under the lights in the biggest college football game ever. If Evans was nervous in playing in front of the loving faithful at Lane Stadium last week, he may need a few doses of Pepto before taking the field in Bristol.
TIME-LAPSE: Watch the third @PilotFlyingJ #BattleAtBristol time-lapse presented by @Goodyear. #Hokies #Vols pic.twitter.com/ZmwaXkenb5— Battle At Bristol (@BattleAtBristol) September 8, 2016
Bristol Motor Speedway is expected to have 150,000 fans on hand for this weekend’s clash between Tech and the Vols. To this date, the largest attendance ever recorded for a college football game is 115,109, set back in 2013 when Notre Dame visited Michigan.
Will Evans be ready for this type of pressure?
Forget where the game is being played for a moment and realize Tennessee is a very good football team. And the Volunteers will be angry coming off last week’s narrow win over Appalachian State. UT returns eight starters on defense from a year ago and its two-deep is loaded with upper-tier talent.
For Evans, he’ll need a strong running game to get off to a fast start. Last week, VT rushed for 206 yards on 48 attempts, good for over four yards per carry. The Hokies will need a more consistent performance from their running backs in order to beat the Volunteers.
Evans isn’t capable of beating a team like UT by himself. Last week, Fuente didn’t completely open the playbook in the win over Liberty. Expect to see a lot more trickery and deception this weekend. Evans will need to make the most of his downfield shots. He looked a bit rattled throwing downfield early last week, but did settle down as the game wore on.
If the junior-college transfer can help lead the Hokies to a win over Tennessee, Virginia Tech fans will forget Evans barely won the starting quarterback job just a few short weeks ago.
In the long history of Hokie football, Evans is the first quarterback to ever throw for four touchdowns in his debut. His four touchdowns are the most since Bryan Randall’s performance against Florida A&M back in 2004.
On Saturday, Evans has a chance to stake his claim as the next great Virginia Tech quarterback. If the Hokies win, Evans will likely be a major reason why.
So, while Evans had a terrific debut, it was against Liberty. Now, the stakes are much higher and we are going to find out what type of quarterback Jerod Evans truly is.