Sunday, September 19, 2004
It's only Duke, but win reveals answers
Commentary by Aaron McFarling
Virginia Tech stories
- Hokies start fresh at offense
- Hokies' athletic director requested 'night off'
- Virginia Tech fans need new tailgate tradition
Blog: Andy Bitter
- Western Carolina kickoff set for 1:30 p.m. on ESPN3
- Hokies’ Russell Athletic Bowl trip cost $1.6 million
- A few links: Gayle’s a freak, an Arians conversation and a potential ACC bowl lineup
- Join the Hokie football conversation on Andy's blog
Twitter: Andy Bitter
The empty seats along the upper rim of Lane Stadium on Saturday told you all you needed to know about the true magnitude of this game. For all the hype about Virginia Tech's first game in the ACC, for all the talk about the wait being over, there's no changing the fact that Duke is Duke and the big conference games start this coming weekend. But even if it's hard to get excited about the opponent, it's easy to get excited about the way Tech has played in its first three games. Many of the questions that this team had as it entered the season look a lot less pressing after Saturday's 41-17 victory over the Blue Devils.
Among the highlights:
Bryan Randall. The senior quarterback still makes the occasional poor decision, but overall he's been a solid engine for Tech's offense. Randall is about a dozen routine completions away from becoming the program's all-time career leader in total offense. He's typically throwing the ball when he should, tucking the ball when he should and running the ball like a star tailback. The physical tools are there - his overthrowing one receiver on a deep route Saturday should remove any lingering doubts about his arm strength.
Josh Hyman. Tech coach Frank Beamer even threw in a "Whoa!" when talking about this freshman receiver's performance on Saturday. Duke's defensive backs were probably thinking the same thing after Hyman got loose in the secondary and made a leaping touchdown grab in the second quarter. The more the Hokies see of this guy, the less they miss Ernest Wilford.
Vince Hall. Don't let the smile fool you. This redshirt freshman has the perfect mentality to play middle linebacker - somewhere between a disciplined student's and a vicious headhunter's. His crunching hit on Duke quarterback Mike Schneider knocked the signal-caller out for the rest of the game. Hall also anchored a run defense that yielded only 2.6 yards a carry.
The kicking game. When you make a routine kickoff an exciting event, you've done something. Freshman Jared Develli did just that with his booming (albeit wind-aided) boots, two of which sailed through the uprights. He'd be a candidate for the place-kicking job if it weren't for redshirt sophomore Brandon Pace, who hasn't missed a field goal yet in four tries. Meanwhile, Vinnie Burns continues to help Tech win the field-position battle - his angled, 60-yard punt in the second quarter was a thing of beauty.
The secondary. Duke likes to throw about as much as Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen likes to diet, but the Blue Devils' receivers seemed to have little trouble getting open. Duke only completed five passes, but you can bet the rest of the ACC will exploit the blown coverages that have plagued Tech.
The running game. Cedric Humes and Justin Hamilton continue to share carries at tailback, and while both have been steady, neither has broken the big plays Tech is used to seeing from that position. With his bruising style, Humes appears best suited to short-yardage situations. Hamilton, a converted receiver, clearly knows how to identify a hole and make cuts, but he needs to develop some tackle-shedding ability once he gets in the secondary. Randall has led Tech in rushing twice, which leads us to...
Sean Glennon. The freshman backup quarterback looked great against Western Michigan, but Beamer didn't get him in until late on against Duke. He didn't attempt a pass. The Hokies would like to know more about this rookie in case something happens to Randall.
In all, the answers outweigh the questions. A charged-up Tech team looks about as ready as it could be for N.C. State's visit next Saturday.
So the Duke no-shows can be excused. With the future looking brighter each week, who needs history?