I believe tonight’s Virginia Tech win over Wake Forest was a big one for head coach Brent Pry.
Not in the sense of leading to a championship of some kind this season. But since he’s become head coach, there’s been a number of us waiting for him to put his stamp on the team. To establish an identity. To finish a game and have everyone thinking the program is going in the right direction.
Up until tonight, if you asked me (and thousands of others, I might add) is Brent Pry the right guy to be head coach, I would have had to answer “I hope so.”
But I couldn’t say for sure.
Tonight’s win over Wake eases that doubt. While Wake Forest is far from a great team, Virginia Tech held the Deacons without an offensive touchdown. They scored 30 points. Quarterback Kyrone Drones threw for over 300 yards and nary an interception. When Wake did score on a kickoff return or a field goal, Virginia Tech answered every time. Down the stretch, the silly mistakes of games and seasons’ past didn’t happen.
It felt good to watch.
It wasn’t a perfect game by any means. But in tight situations, I saw the defensive line give a push that kept third and short Wake Forest plays from becoming first downs. The defense would bend at times, but there were no 60-yard big running plays from Wake that in the past completely took the wind out of Virginia Tech’s sails.
In key situations, the defense even resembled the ghost of Bud Foster, as late in the game the Hokies put every defensive back on an island and rushed everyone else including the kitchen sink at the opposing quarterback. The secondary maintained its coverage on Wake receivers and batted passes down in the end zone.
Equally as impressive was the offense and the play of Drones. This team started its season as if it had no clue who to play at quarterback, and it appeared as if the Almighty himself made that decision for Pry, with injury to Grant Wells forcing the Hokies to play Drones. That didn’t solve the problem at first, as it seemed offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen was calling plays for a dropback pocket passer, while Drones’ strength is a running, rollout QB. The result at times was analog play calling for a digital QB.
The two have been better about that the last two games, but tonight’s game was the first I’ve seen where Bowen seemed comfortable calling plays to Drones’ strengths, and Drones felt comfortable executing them. That doesn’t mean there still weren’t plays called stubbornly that were never going to work (handing the ball off to Bhasyshul Tuten to run right up the middle is like calling a play where you hit yourself in the face with a hammer, for example) but Drones created a lot of yardage on plays where he had to make quick reads tonight, and in almost every case he made the right choice.
That happens when QB and OC work together, QB is well prepared, and the two are on the same page.
Drones even took the next step in the development of a new QB, as he found a chemistry with a key receiver. You watch the Kansas City Chiefs play and you see a trust between Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce that makes you believe if both were in a dark tunnel with not a ray of light, Mahomes would somehow find Kelce. Drones and Stephen Gosnell seemed to have that tonight as Gosnell caught 6 passes for 75 yards.
He showed similar trust in Jaylin Lane, finding him 3 times on deep passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Plus when the passing game becomes a legitimate threat, defenses have to respect it and it opens up the run, allowing the Hokies to pick up 154 yards on the ground.
But statistics aside, there was also a confidence – and dare I say cockiness – on the sidelines tonight I haven’t seen in a while. It’s like the Hokies believed these plays were going to work and the defense was going to make the stops. On 4th and long, Pry even channeled his inner Frank Beamer, going with a fake punt so well executed it fooled most of the crowd and easily got a first down.
Pry also seemed well amped throughout the game, adding just one more positive factor to an electric night in Blacksburg.
I’m not saying this team in any way is going to break out on a long winning streak. But for a year and a half, I haven’t seen this kind of confidence and success. For a team some constantly warned that everyone needed to be patient about because they didn’t have a lot of talent, it now looks like a team with playmakers at running back, wide receiver and QB, and a defense that can be stout when it needs to with some really good defensive backs. Which is what everyone has been waiting for.
The team is now 3-4 and would have to win 3 of its last 5 to be bowl eligible. But three weeks ago if you asked me if that could happen, I’d have said no way. Now I think it’s possible, as things look like they’re coming together and moving in the right direction.
Of course three weeks ago if you asked me is Pry the right guy to be head coach, I’d have said “I hope so.”
Based on tonight, the answer is a definite yes.