Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Win may not create national splash

BLACKSBURG -- This is what it's supposed to look like, sound like, feel like.

Rain. Mud. Chills. Roars from a disrespected fan base, dominance from a ticked-off team.

The smoke never showed up to Lane Stadium on Saturday. Mirrors were never necessary. This was utter sovereignty by Virginia Tech from opening kick to final play, the kind of complete performance we'd all been waiting for since camp opened in August, a 31-7 throttling of Miami that put all three phases on full display.

"The 'U' might be back," cornerback Rashad Carmichael said, "but we never left."

A killer quote, no doubt, but a flawed one. The Hokies had strayed enough from excellence to create serious, legitimate doubts, even amongst their own fans. Before Saturday, Tech's offense had given no indication that it was big-game ready. Tech's defense, while stingy with points, had fallen short of its own lofty standards. The Hokies were ranked No. 11 but held a tenuous foothold in the nation's consciousness, seemingly just a stinker away from being labeled a fraud.

Instead, this.

If you're a Tech fan, enjoy it, but don't turn on the TV today. Don't run to the radio. The validation you seek won't be found there. The national pundits -- the same ones who put Miami quarterback Jacory Harris in the Heisman discussion and the Hurricanes in the national-title mix after two weeks -- will run from this result.

It was the rain, they'll say.

Miami was paper tiger, they'll say.

There goes the ACC again, they'll say. Lousy again.

But you know better if you watched this game. This was a good team completely demoralizing another good team with sound strategy, filthy attitude and stellar execution.

The coaches used every motivational tool they could think of this week -- even pulling quotes off the Facebook and Twitter pages of Miami players -- to inject some venom in the Hokies. Then both coordinators orchestrated their best game plans of the season.

While offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring had Miami flailing at fakes, utilizing misdirection to pile up the rushing yards, defensive guru Bud Foster showed Harris more pressure than he'd seen in his first two games combined. The heat paid off just five plays into the Hurricanes' first possession, when Dorian Porch sacked the Miami QB, forced a fumble and set up Tech's first score.

But refreshingly, Tech's offense didn't simply swat at T-balls provided by the defense. The Hokies actually attacked.

An 89-yard touchdown drive midway through the first quarter -- capped by a 48-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor to Jarrett Boykin -- told fans all they needed to know: Saturday was going to be different.

Ryan Williams knew that even earlier than that. When he broke free for an 11-yard run on his first play from scrimmage, he could tell the blocking was better. The holes would be there. Tech would have its way.

"It made me very confident in what was going to going to happen, the outcome of the game," Williams said. "Very confident."

And finally, the fans could be, too. To their credit, most of them stuck around until the end, giving out one last final roar as Miami's Javarris James was planted into the mud by five maroon shirts to close the game.

Then they rushed the field for the second week in a row. Unlike last week, they could have planned this move at halftime.

Last week was fun. Unexpected. Yet to realists, the win seemed more fluky than fabulous.

But this? This is what it's supposed to look like, sound like, feel like: Thousands of happy Hokies with no reservations, hopping in the rain.

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