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August 31, 2014
Final Grades: William & Mary
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For most of the first half, the score was a bit too close for comfort, before Virginia Tech kicked it in gear and pulled away for a 34-9 win over William & Mary. Having seen replays and thought it over, here's publisher Jason Stamm's exam of Virginia Tech's win:
Call it a compromise. For nearly all of fall camp, there's been a question of how Texas Tech junior transfer Michael Brewer would adapt to offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. For one, Brewer comes from systems in high school and at Texas Tech where he was in the shotgun and in a spread offense. One of the largest concerns was Brewer moving under center. It seems like Brewer and Loeffler met in the middle and it couldn't have been much of a better first showing. The Hokies ran their offense no huddle and hurry up, playing to Brewer's strengths. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns. He did have one interception, that came off a tipped pass, but he and the offense also had a few snags, including struggling at the two yard-line in the second quarter.
Junior J.C. Coleman might have won the starting job going into the season-opener, but he might not stay there for long. While Coleman struggled, with 20 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, his freshman counterparts had a big opening showing. Shai McKenzie was the most impressive, with 106 yards on nine carries. His best showing, though, came on a nifty 39-yard touchdown run in which he dove towards the pylon. Marshawn Williams wasn't shabby, either, with 41 yards on 12 carries. But he was stuffed twice from the two yard-line. Williams' and Coleman's struggles are the reason the grade isn't an A-plus. Coleman added a fumble as well.
Talk about backing up your top receiver billing. Freshman Isaiah Ford scored his first collegiate touchdown on the Hokies' opening drive of the game. Of course, he couldn't have been much more wide open on his 13-yard touchdown catch in the end zone. And at tight end, redshirt freshman Bucky Hodges created mismatches all day. He hauled in a touchdown and drew a pass interference call that led to his score. No, the yardage wasn't high for any one individual, but 10 total players had at least one reception, adding up to 266 total yards passing. The biggest thing is this year, there will be a lot more options as far as receivers go.
The most impressive aspect here is that the line moved the way for 222 total yards rushing. Brewer also kept his jersey clean, not getting sacked on the day. The biggest problem here were the three false start penalties. Plus, it didn't look great that the line couldn't pave the way for Williams to get in the end zone from the two yard-line--twice.
At the end of the season, we could very well be talking about junior end Dadi Nicolas leaving a year early for the NFL. Nicolas was constantly a disrupter all game and finished with four tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. The rest of the line didn't really do much to stand out individually, but played a huge role in the Tribe being virtually non-existent on offense in the second half.
Easily the most valuable position of the game. Senior Chase Williams came up with two of the biggest plays in the game. He sacked quarterback Steve Cluley and forced a fumble in the second quarter and sacked Cluley again in the fourth quarter that led to a missed field goal. And senior Derek DiNardo recovered that fumble and returned it to the two yard-line to set up a touchdown. And sophomore Deon Clarke had three tackles and a tackle for loss.
Picking up where he left off last season, sophomore cornerback Kendall Fuller hasn't missed a beat. He finished with five tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss, but also skied high in the right corner of the end zone in the first half to knock away what looked like a touchdown pass for William & Mary. Senior Kyshoen Jarrett and junior Donovan Riley also stepped up and looked sharp, with four tackles apiece.
Return-wise, Virginia Tech was just ho-hum. But freshman kicker Joey Slye rewarded his coaches' choice in making him the starter last week over freshman Michael Santamaria, nailing 20 and 27-yard field goals. Still, he might not be safe for next week, given the position battle here. And senior punter A.J. Hughes was again sharp, with a 46.3-yard average on three punts, including a long of 48 yards. But return-wise, the Hokies need to improve.
First off, though nothing was indicated this would come during fall camp, kudos to offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler for moving his offense to a no huddle, hurry up style. That style works perfectly with Brewer's history, plus Virginia Tech's weaponry this season. And on defense, whatever coordinator Bud Foster did at halftime, it worked. William & Mary did have a big run and a big pass in the first half, but that was about it. After halftime, the Tribe totaled just 65 yards of offense.
A great turnout for the season-opener against an FCS team. It's always a good sign when the south end zone is nearly full. The 62,722 in attendance were loud and raucous throughout and definitely played a big role. And that was a good thing with a few high-profile recruits in attendance on unofficial visits.
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