Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Cupcake could be just what the Hokies need

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by Bowling Green week: a lot more important than most of us anticipated.

Q: Oh, come on. Virginia Tech is a 17-point favorite over a team that just lost to Toledo. Are you actually trying to sell us on this being a big game?

A: Not in the traditional sense, no. The big game's in Tallahassee today. But for the Hokies, it's a crucial opportunity.

Q: To do what? Lick the frosting off another cupcake?

A: To figure out some things about themselves, with no agenda item more important than establishing a running game. Not only have the Hokies failed to do that, but they've also struggled to identify who they want to run the ball.

Four tailbacks are too many. The coaches know that. The fans know that. It's well past the time Tech picked two and made a vow to live with the results.

Q: How was Tech supposed to run the ball last week after falling behind by three touchdowns?

A: That's a fair point. Nothing's really gone according to the script so far this season. The known-quantity quarterback is struggling. The defense is coming off an uncharacteristically woeful performance.

Merely looking competent in all phases today would be huge, regardless of the opponent.

Q: You mentioned the big game in Tallahassee. Any chance Clemson goes in there as a two-touchdown underdog and beats the fourth-ranked Seminoles?

A: Sure, there's a chance. I don't see it, though. Sammy Watkins might find the end zone once or twice to keep it close - he's that good - but FSU has looked too good to be doubted at home.

Q: Former Tech running back David Wilson got one carry for minus-2 yards for the Giants in their Thursday night victory over Carolina. How deep in Tom Coughlin's doghouse must Wilson be for that fumble in the opener?

A: Darn deep, considering Ahmad Bradshaw didn't play against the Panthers. Pretty surprised to see Wilson not getting a little more action. I can think of a team in Blacksburg that would love to have him right about now.

Q: The Nationals clinched a playoff spot Thursday. Have we gotten your stance on the whole shutting-down-Stephen-Strasburg thing?

A: Not yet, and I'm glad. Because it's changed over time.

Q: How so?

A: When the debate raged hottest during the summer, I was OK with the shutdown. Not in love with it, but OK with it.

The Nats were well-positioned to make the playoffs, but the postseason still felt somewhat abstract. It was easier to think big picture, to consider the long-term health of an ace to be of greater importance than one attempt at glory.

Besides, I always sort of figured the Nats would change their minds if autumn dawned and they looked like they were going to win the division.

Q: And now?

A: Now the postseason is nearly upon us - you can feel it as the pennant race crowds grow larger and louder - and I think the whole thing is 100 percent nuts. You've got to fire all the arrows in the quiver. If they were steadfast on limiting his innings, fine. Then start his season in May.

Q: Comment of the week on the blog?

A: Very lively week on the blog as you might imagine. But with all the negativity lately, let's go with a little humor from Tim, regarding the return of the missing letter "T" from the Lane Stadium facade.

Writes Tim: "Thank God the 'T' has been returned to Lane Stadium (Sadium). Now would someone please return the 'D' and the 'O'???"

Q: Isn't that still kind of negative?

A: Perhaps a little. The best kind of negative, though.

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