Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Inconsistent Hokies may have found an identity

Friday, Nov 07, 2008 - 12:07 AM Updated: 10:10 AM


BLACKSBURG - Astrophysics is one of the many challenging majors offered at Virginia Tech.

In astrophysics, some extremely smart faculty members instruct some very smart stu dents in such topics as the influence of massive black holes on structure functions in the universe and observational studies of quasars.

Football is not astrophysics. Coaches sometimes want you to believe that it is, but it's not.

Success in football depends on a few simple principles: blocking and tackling, not giving up big plays, running the ball effectively and having a quarterback who is smart enough -- although he does not need to be astrophysicist smart -- not to get you beat.

For most of the season, the Virginia Tech Hokies have been looking for their identity. In the process, they switched quarterbacks, pointed out how young they are -- especially at wide receiver -- and tried to hold on in the highly competitive and less-than-stellar Atlantic Coast Conference.

Last night, they held on. They beat Maryland 23-13.

They might even have found an identity.

"Might" is the operative word because the Hokies still made some major mistakes. The defense gave up a 63-yard touchdown play that made the game closer than it should have been.

The special teams, whose excellence long has been a Tech trademark, had a punt blocked and had a turnover when a Maryland punt bounced off defensive back Kam Chancellor, who was trying to avoid making contact with the ball.

The Hokies fit in well in the ACC this season. They're an inconsistent team in an inconsistent league.

The Hokies are inconsistent in large part because they use so many young players. But this was the ninth game of the season, and those young players should have a little age on them by now.

An old hand, quarterback Sean Glennon, helped bail the Hokies out of a difficult situation last night.

After a 30-20 loss Oct. 25 at Florida State, the Hokies had two quarterbacks, Glennon and Tyrod Taylor, with sprained ankles. It wasn't clear that either would be able to play against Maryland.

Glennon, a fifth-year senior, had the less severe sprain and recovered enough to start against Maryland.

Glennon was benched after an opening-game loss to East Carolina. He went to the bench last night only when the Hokies went to their quasi-single-wing offense, with tight end Greg Boone, 6-3 280, at quarterback.

Glennon wasn't perfect, but he moved the chains. When things broke down, he threw the ball away or scrambled for a yard or two or took one for the team. Actually, Glennon took three sacks for the team.

He made no major mistakes.

"I thought he toughed it out pretty good," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said.

Glennon deserves more credit than that. He gave his team a chance. That's significant when the running game is working and the defense is hanging on.

The Virginia Tech running game rarely has worked so well. Darren Evans, a redshirt freshman who has aged nicely this season, ran for 253 yards, a school record.

Evans' performance was a perfect example of why football is not astrophysics.

Sometimes, a simple philosophy -- less is more -- is what is needed.

Earlier in the season, Evans shared time at running back with Kenny Lewis Jr.

With Lewis out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, running backs coach Billy Hite has little choice but to keep Evans in the game.

Evans showed why he belongs on the field for every snap possible. He had runs of 50, 45, 29, 25, 20, 17 and 15 yards. On Virginia Tech's final possession, when Maryland knew Evans was coming, he ripped off the 29-yard gain and essentially clinched the game.

"He got in there and kind of got hot," Beamer said. "We kept giving it to him.

"I'm so proud of this offense. I'm so proud of way they hung in and picked up yards. Give Bryan Stinespring and the whole offensive staff credit."

Stinespring, the offensive coordinator, has absorbed an excessive amount of criticism for the way the attack has struggled this season.

So, yes, give him credit for the 400 yards in offense last night.

But the players, Glennon and Evans in particular, deserve an equal amount of credit for all those yards.

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