I have been warning my Virginia Tech friends that they need to watch out for Virginia, because this year they have a good quarterback in Bryce Perkins, a fast receiver in Olamide Zaccheaus and a couple of good defensive backs in Juan Thornhill and Joey Blount.
But secondary to that is what I’m seeing every week. The team in Charlottesville is buying into what Coach Bronco Mendenhall is selling, and with each win, their confidence is growing.
Last week it was No. 16 Miami. Today it was Duke in Durham.
I’m not sure how much credit to give for the win because the Blue Devils could arguably be the worst 5-1 team to walk this earth. Pro scouts seem to like quarterback Daniel Jones, but all he showed today is that he has a strong arm that allows him to throw interceptions into double coverage much farther down the field.
Duke’s offensive line didn’t help him any either, as they protected their quarterback the way I exercise: Not very well and not very often.
But it was a win. The Cavaliers are 5-2, they play their next three games at home, and will probably be even more confident by the time they come to Blacksburg at the end of the season. For 14 years, the Wahoos have had a tendency to get late into games with Virginia Tech and start thinking “how are we going to lose THIS year.”
That’s not going to happen this year. They have some balance. They believe. And no matter what the most hard-core of Hokies wants to believe, they have a good football team.
They do have weaknesses. The biggest has been in the kicking game, but they seem to have found one in Brian Delaney. He was their kickoff man until last week, when they used him as the placekicker against Miami. He responded with three field goals, including a 46-yarder, and the Chantilly kicker was the toast of the media circuit this week because of it.
Delaney was going to miss one, and he did as expected early in today’s game. “Here we go again” the Cavalier faithful rushed to Twitter to proclaim, as the ball was on the right hashmark, it was raining, and he pushed it to the right. Not a huge surprise for such a relatively new kicker.
Virginia then sent him in to try to 51-yarder at the end of the half. It was still raining, and if you’ve never kicked, the degree of difficulty in this situation is right up there with hitting a one-iron into a green with the wind in your face on a narrow fairway.
Of course he missed. Only the guys who will eventually play on Sundays would have even come close.
Cries of “when are we going to find a kicker” rang out again on Twitter. Pipe down, I may have answered to a few. Give the young man a chance. Given the opportunity, he calmly hit 37 and 42-yard field goals.
Note to Virginia fans: Try not to EAT YOUR OWN when they make a mistake. The guy has now booted 5 field goals in two games for you. Which is a lot better than the previous cast of characters.
Honestly, it’s very possible Virginia could win its next four games. What the NCAA did not punish for the shenanigans with make-believe classes in Chapel Hill, Karma is taking care of for the UNC football team. If there’s a way to lose a game in the final minutes, North Carolina has shown this year they will find it. They did it last week against Virginia Tech. They did it today against Syracuse.
They will do it next week against Virginia.
Virginia Tech may be 3-0 and in first place in the Coastal, but they have a tougher slate of games since Boston College is in the mix. Like Virginia, they have weaknesses, yet have shown flashes of really good football. Both could run the table before the meet at Lane Stadium after Thanksgiving.
Both could also go 2-2 in that same mix of games.
But I have to say, it’s been fun to watch. The rivalry between Virginia Tech and Virginia was at its most enjoyable when each team was winning every other year. I, for example, follow a UVA broadcaster named Ahmad Hawkins on Twitter, and I will know that name until my final breath. I sat in Lane Stadium back in 1998, enjoyed a 29-7 Hokie lead, then later watched in horror as Hawkins slipped down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave UVA a 36-32 win.
That night I went over to a neighbor’s house who was a huge Hokie fan, and we drained an entire bottle of 12-year-old single malt scotch over the span of a couple of hours. The only words we said during that time were “Ahmad, F-ing Hawkins.”
That’s what rivalries are about.
Looks like we’re about to have one again.