Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Stage is set today for Hokies' David Wilson

Maybe I'm reading too much into this. They're just two little thoughts, after all. They're not even complete sentences.

He didn't place them in context. He didn't attach any predictions. Any bold promises David Wilson may or may not have intended to make on his Twitter account Tuesday had to be inferred.

Still, the bigger the game, the more the little things matter. And something tells me the following two statements made by Wilson on Tuesday matter a lot.

The first: "Doubt me = foolishness"

And the second: "November 26, 2011"

Virginia Tech fans can be forgiven if those posts make them want to do back flips - not unlike the ones performed in practice by the star running back they adore. Nov. 26, 2011, is here, and Wilson's Hokies are headed to Charlottesville to face Virginia in a one-game showdown for a spot in the ACC title game.

And Wilson seems more determined than ever to be the difference-maker.

Wilson never has lacked determination. He's a prolific goal-setter, a tireless worker, a big dreamer with the skills to back it up. This is the closest he'll get to trash-talking -which is to say, not very close at all. The person he appears to be calling out most here is himself.

After all, who really doubts Wilson? Nobody who's seen him rush for 1,442 yards already this year. The increase in fumbles this season has been a topic worth exploring, but it's not like anyone's pointing at Wilson and saying, "There's a guy who can't get it done."

No, Wilson seems to be pulling from the Michael Jordan book of motivation: Manufacture insults where they don't exist and use them to elevate his own game.

Hey, whatever works.

Conventional wisdom does say that Wilson won't have a huge day today. Rushing defense has been one of UVa's greatest strengths. Tech's offensive onus seems to lie with quarterback Logan Thomas, who can attack a pass defense that's been in the middle of the pack in the national rankings. Wilson's carries could be limited if the Hokies craft their game plan with the probabilities in mind.

But then again, conventional wisdom says a lot of things. It said the Hokies were going to blow out Duke; instead, Tech escaped with a four-point win. It said the Cavaliers were going to get pounded in Tallahassee; instead, UVa rallied to beat Florida State and set up today's winner-take-all tussle.

Perhaps it would be fitting, then, if Wilson's biggest day came when we didn't expect it. Despite his steady production and gaudy rushing total, he's yet to have a 200-yard game. He's produced more than one touchdown in a game just once - in the opener against Appalachian State.

But he's right: To doubt him would be foolishness.

In 2009, the week Wilson was preparing to play in his first college game, I interviewed his former coach at George Washington High School, Dan Newell. The Hokies were about to enter the season with two talented but untested running backs in Wilson and Ryan Williams, and I wanted to get a sense for how both might respond to the test.

Williams' high school coach wasn't sure how the immediate transition would go.

Newell had no question about Wilson.

"It's hard to explain to people who have never seen him play on a big stage," Newell said then, "but he always seems to find a way in the biggest moments to play his best.

"He feeds off the energy of the crowd and the enormity of the moment. He always seems to pull off some of the most amazing plays when you really have to have it."

Newell - unlike Wilson this week - did make a prediction: "I think he's going to play lights out."

Well, he has. And you know what? It's more than two years later - Nov. 26, 2011 -- and I tend to think he will again today.

Weather Journal

News tips, photos and feedback?
Sign up for free daily news by email