Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Pregame prank motivates Hokies' offense in win

BLACKSBURG -- The fun actually started Friday night, at Hotel Roanoke.

Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring wrote a little note, then slipped it under the door of the room shared by wide receivers Dyrell Roberts and Danny Coale.

Only he didn't sign it as "Bryan" or "Coach Stinespring." He signed it as the Wake Forest defensive secondary.

The gist of the note: You know those blankets you're sleeping under tonight? Get used to them. Because we'll be on you just as snugly tomorrow.

About 10 minutes later, a written response from the players was shoved under Stinespring's door.

We can't print what it said. You'll have to use your imagination.

Or you can just read the jaw-dropping box score of Saturday's 52-21 Virginia Tech victory.

Look at the receiving-yardage totals next to Roberts (134) and Coale (103). Look at the rushing total next to David Wilson (105).

Most of all, look at the total yardage (605) for Tech's offense, tying the highest output of the Stinespring era.

And really, that total was smaller than it should have been. The Hokies gave up seven yards on the final three plays, as backup quarterback Logan Thomas took a knee to run out the clock deep in Wake territory.

"I'm telling Logan next time we take a knee to celebrate, he needs to back it up a half-yard and not two yards," Stinespring joked.

From start to finish, Tech's offense enjoyed this one. And that's really the biggest thing they've been missing. They've had previous spurts of production this season, but nothing like this: Seven touchdowns on their first eight possessions, 49 points in the first half, second-stringers diving into action early in the third quarter.

And just like in the Friday night note exchange, the Hokies deserve credit for the response.

Against Boston College, the red zone offense was the problem. Tech corrected it the following week at N.C. State with an aggressive array of passing plays.

Last week, the Hokies beat Central Michigan handily but performed woefully on third down, going 0-for-8 in such spots.

So what did they do Saturday? Converted 12 of 17, of course.

"After last week, I told them we have [two] options on third down," said Stinespring, who spent extra time on situational work in Monday's practice. "We can get better on third down, or we get worse and put a quick-kick in.

"I'm just glad we went to the former as opposed to the latter."

Afterward, the players talked about their confidence level spiking throughout the day, as the yards and touchdowns piled on top of each other. That's been missing, too. They never doubted their talent, per se, but they didn't have the results to validate much bravado. An 0-2 start can do that.

Given that it's October, Stinespring used a baseball analogy to explain it.

"As a pitcher, if your first couple pitches are not where they're supposed to be, you start to guide it a little bit," Stinespring said. "And I think if you're not careful, you start to press and try to do too much -- and not just your job."

Yes, you could see that in the Hokies earlier this year. They knew they should be much better than they were. They knew the holes should be opening, the passes should be connecting and the tailbacks should be running for huge chunks of yardage. There was too much skill in the huddle for that stuff not to happen.

And when it didn't -- at least not consistently -- those guys very well might have pressed.

No such problems Saturday.

Next week's important. Duke's in town, providing another opportunity for the Hokies to showcase their offensive talent and prove that they've grasped some consistency.

There are bigger games to play, greater challenges for this unit.

So far, though, the response has been admirable.

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