Friday, November 05, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: It's simply a joy to watch Hokies' Wilson play

BLACKSBURG -- David Wilson will leave here as one of the five most beloved Virginia Tech players ever. Mark it down.

The sheer joy with which Wilson plays this game is undeniable. The talent he owns is unmistakable.

His timing? Well, on Thursday night, it was impeccable.

Wilson's 90-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter turned a silent Lane Stadium into a rollicking nightclub, a struggle into a celebration, a potential loss into a 28-21 victory over Georgia Tech.

How Wilson got there was special, bursting through the middle and then dashing down the left sideline, widening the gap between himself and his pursuers as he went. The crowd could sense the outcome as soon as Wilson hit the Hokies' 20-yard line, and he didn't let them down.

But did you see what Wilson did once he crossed the goal line? He didn't showboat or taunt. He just leapt several feet in the air, like a kid who'd been told he'd just won a new bike.

And that's Wilson. The stories of snaring rabbits with his bare hands, performing back flips during media day and "rewinding" his runs during down time at practice are all true, and they're all entertaining. But what truly makes Wilson endearing is his special blend of extraordinary skill and ebullient personality.

Players that good don't have to smile all day. He does.

Players that good don't have to worry about their appearance on campus. He wears a tie every day.

Wilson is only a sophomore, and he will only get better. That seems to be a theme around here these days. There's a momentum with this Tech team right now, a wind at their backs that's helping them overcome their flaws.

The Hokies fell behind again in this one, 14-0. It was the fifth time this season their opponents had scored first. What's worse, they looked lousy doing it. The defense gave up a 71-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 run by the quarterback, for Pete's sake. Where was all that preparation?

Still, there was a strong sense that they would overcome this. Those lessons learned against East Carolina and N.C. State -- that college football games are long events, with plenty of opportunities -- came in handy.

So the Hokies came back. They did it with some big plays from Tyrod Taylor (again), who completed a huge fourth-down pass to Jarrett Boykin early in the final quarter. They did it with some powerful running from Darren Evans, who spearheaded the drive that gave the Hokies their first lead. They did it with some defensive adjustments, which got an assist from the injury to Jackets quarterback Josh Nesbitt just before halftime.

And they did it with Wilson, who followed up a 15-yard touchdown run with that decisive kick return -- perhaps the biggest play of the season to date.

It's all pretty simple for the Hokies now, really. Just win two of the last three, and they're guaranteed a spot in the ACC title game. There are plenty of scenarios that would allow them to lose twice and still capture the Coastal Division, too. It seems like a foregone conclusion that they'll be in Charlotte in December.

But had they lost this one, who knows? Things change quickly in college football --particularly when you've got players like Wilson.

When it was over, Wilson was asked about his return. He talked about how Georgia Tech had been kicking it away from him all game. He talked about how he was excited to get an opportunity to bring one back.

And he talked about how he avoided the kicker -- the only player who really had a shot at him. Wilson said he knew the guy had been a high school track champion in Georgia, so he wasn't going to take anything for granted.

And that's Wilson, too. Takes nothing for granted.

And while we're lucky enough to watch him play, neither should we.

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