Takeaways from Tech's season-opening win over WVU

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Minutes after a heart-stopping victory over No. 22 West Virginia – one in which Virginia Tech’s defense made a stand with its back to the wall in the waning moments – the Hokies loaded on buses and spent the next five hours absorbing all the wonderful moments that transpired over the course of the previous four hours.

At the crux of the evening’s events, Tech started 2017 off in the right manner with a 31-24 win over the Mountaineers. It notched a win over its border neighbors and made sure the Black Diamond Trophy stayed in Blacksburg at least until 2021 when the two programs meet again. That figures to appease diehard Tech fans who long have held a dislike toward the Mountaineers. Today’s players and coaches never really understood this, considering the rivalry had been dormant since 2005.

So what was learned about this team Sunday night? A lot. Here are some observations from the Hokies’ win at FedExField:

Strong debut for Jackson – This actually comes as no surprise to the coaching staff. They expected quarterback Josh Jackson to play well, though they probably didn’t expect 200-plus yards passing and 100-plus yards rushing – and more importantly, no turnovers. Jackson’s poise, however, really stood out more than his production. The drive before halftime, the touchdown pass to Cam Phillips after WVU tied the game at 17 and the drive that enabled Tech to take the lead for good really stood out. Jackson certainly didn’t let the moment, the stage, the ABC cameras or West Virginia’s defense overwhelm him.

Still searching for depth – Tech’s staff figures to continue impressing upon its backups the importance of their development. The Hokies need to find more depth, particularly on the defensive line. Tech’s defense managed to hold on in the end, but WVU ran 89 plays at a withering tempo against that group. Head coach Justin Fuente blamed part of the issue on the Hokies’ offense, which stands as a good point – Tech went three-and-out on six possessions. Still, expect more people to play this weekend when the Hokies figure to be heavily favored against Delaware. Those backups need to gain experience before Tech gets into the meat (read: ACC games) of its schedule.

Young receivers hold up well – Were there any drops by the Hokies’ receivers in this game? Don’t think so. Cam Phillips played up to his usual fantastic level, and Sean Savoy, a true freshman, embraced the moment. C.J. Carroll made a nice 10-yard catch on third down to keep a drive alive, and James Clark’s kickoff return set up a score. Tech still needs for Eric Kumah and Phil Patterson to earn more playing time, but overall, this was a strong beginning for this group.

Inside the numbers – There was a little chatter on Twitter throughout the game about the Hokies not running the ball enough, and it ramped up after pass attempts on third-and-1 and third-and-2 in the second quarter fell incomplete.

But Tech offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen actually did commit to running the football against the Mountaineers. The Hokies ran the ball 45 times compared to just 27 pass attempts, and they ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns. They averaged more than 5 yards per carry.

Going forward, Tech fans should keep in mind the number “150.” When the Hokies rushed for at least 150 yards in 2016, they went 10-2 (they also went 5-0 when rushing for at least 200). Their running game got off to a solid start Sunday.

A happy ABC – ABC annoyed many Tech fans when it decided to move the game to Sunday night after many already had made travel arrangements for an originally scheduled Saturday game. Yet the fans forgave and made a strong impression, and things certainly worked well for ABC, which got to broadcast a riveting game in prime time. The telecast drew a 2.9 overnight rating, which bested the Texas A&M-UCLA game on Fox by 32 percent.

Things worked out well for Tech, too. The program showcased its young and exciting players to a national audience. It’s nearly impossible to quantify the impact of that type of exposure.

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