West Virginia captured its first win over the Virginia Tech Hokies since 2003 on Saturday. But, of course, it was only the fourth time the two programs had met in that time.
Nonetheless, it was a little surprising to see the fanbase so critical after a win. Most of the criticism was towards starting quarterback Jarrett Doege. Yes, the interception late in the game was terrible, but this same group said the Mountaineers had no chance of beating No. 15 Virginia if he started the game. Well, they won.
Let's start with a positive that was obvious, the offensive line. The group was challenged heading into the game to be more physical and they answered the call. They pushed around the Hokie front for most of the game. They got down and nasty and insured a career-high 161 yards for running back Leddie Brown, including an 80-yard dash to the endzone on the Mountaineers second play from the line of scrimmage. This is a huge piece moving forward, considering their performance in the season's first two games. There is still a lot of work to do, but that's a big building block.
Then, there is the West Virginia defense. They did have some letdowns, primarily some bad angles that led to big plays and touchdowns, but the final stand of the game is one of the great moments in Mountaineer history. Tech had a first and goal from the three-yard line and didn't give an inch. Incredible. Additionally, I should only have to utter the name Jarred Bartlett, and it will probably bring shivers down the spine of Virginia Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister. The kid was incredible in the fourth quarter and may owe some rent for all his time in the backfield.
Ok, now back to Doege. My only complaint, like so many others, is the interception deep in WVU territory. Neal Brown put that interception on himself. It was wide receiver tunnel screen, a play that worked all game, but Josh Fuga read the play, peeled off the line of scrimmage, and stepped in front of Esdale. You can also most see Doege realize it at the last second, hence why the ball sailed over the head of Esdale and into the arms of the Hokie defender. It was an uncharacteristic turnover from Doege. One of his best assets is taking care of the ball, and he damn near gave the game away.
Now, you can question the play call and the decision to throw it when the Hokies read the play but give credit to the Hokies recognizing it and making the play. Outside of the decision, Doege had a solid game. His stats don't suggest he did anything special - he didn't. However, he managed the game well. Again, credit the Hokie defense. That will be one of the better defenses they see all season.
I also like the way Neal Brown is integrating backup quarterback Garrett Green into the offense. He is slowly bringing him along and has produced along the way. Teams now have to take the time to prepare for two quarterbacks. It's not a matter of if he will get into the game, it's when. The key here is they will have to continue to build off his success, or it will become predictable.
I have, at times, thought Neal Brown was too conservative in the second half. I didn't see that against Tech. In fact, I thought he should have run the ball a few more times, but again give credit to the Hokies. Receivers were covering downfield and the linebackers were playing downhill which bring me to my final point (If I have any at all).
That was a good Virginia Tech team. They have improved each week and played better than I expected them to. Their offensive line came out with something to prove against that Mountaineer defensive line, but WVU won that battle.
Burmeister was better than advertised, and his speed, along with their skill position players, kept the Hokies in the game, exactly what you expect from a top 20 team.
They withstood the momentum of the opening quarter when it looked like they may get run out of Morgantown and had it within one score in the second quarter. The Hokies deserve more credit than they have been given. That's a team that will more than likely be in the ACC Championship game.
To sum it up, West Virginia won, the Black Diamond Trophy is now sitting comfortably in Morgantown after beating a good Hokie squad. Call it lucky, ugly, or whatever, but they found a way to win. Plenty still needs to be worked on but beating a good Tech team that thought they had the game won just before the defense ripped their hearts out and showed it to them was beautiful.
Beating former Big East foes has been an issue since West Virginia arrived in the Big 12 Conference and the lack of rivalry wins over the last decade was mounting pressure on the program. They found a way to win over a rival that had their number in the previous 13 meetings. Tech had won 10 of them. They had not beaten a rival since 2015 (Maryland) and the first win over an old Big East team since they left the conference after losing to Syracuse twice (2012, 2018), Miami (2016) and Virginia Tech (2017).
Next up, West Virginia travels to Norman, OK, for a conference opening matchup with the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners.
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