LANDOVER, Md. — No. 20 West Virginia and No. 22 Virginia Tech met Sunday on the neutral ground of FedEx Field in the season opener for both teams. It was a back-and forth game for four quarters with both teams having their moments. The Hokies took the lead for good with 6:30 left and held on for a 31-24 victory.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s game:
1. Virginia Tech finds groove after slow start
Starting a freshman quarterback and minus two of its top three receivers, there were obvious questions about the Hokies' offense. Quarterback Josh Jackson unsurprisingly was shaky early. But the Hokies quarterback found his rhythm late in the second quarter. A pair of third-and-long conversations keyed a late touchdown drive that put Tech ahead at halftime. Most of his targets went to leading receiver Cam Phillips, but Jackson spread the ball around enough to keep the defense honest. His running also proved to be an added threat. A variety of running backs got carries with Deshawn McClease being the best of the group.
The bigger questions now seem to be on defense. With a veteran group, this was expected to again be the backbone for the Hokies. A lack of consistent pass pressure left the secondary covering for too long. No doubt longtime coordinator Bud Foster will address these concerns. With three expected wins before Clemson comes to town at the end of September, there's no reason to panic yet.
2. West Virginia headed for another successful season
The Mountaineers had concerns with both sides of the ball, a product of just eight starters returning. Another 10-win season may not be in the offing, but they won't be a pushover for anyone this season. Quarterback Will Grier looked calm running Dana Holgorsen's offense after nearly two years away from the field. The wide receiver combination of Gary Jennings, David Sills and Ka'Raun White were able to break free from a talented Virginia Tech secondary time and time again to make big plays. Mix in the running threat of Justin Crawford, and Big 12 defenses should be on notice. The defense held up for most of the game against Virginia Tech. They showed speed and played hard all night.
3.Virginia Tech and West Virginia need to play more often
With a packed house at FedEx Field the environment for the first game between the former Big East rivals since 2005 was electric. The parking lot three hours before the game was awash in maroon and orange of Hokies fans and the gold and blue of Mountaineers backers mingling with each other. A great game was icing on the cake. With the greater emphasis on non-conference scheduling, it would seem to make this an obvious regular showdown. There will be a home-and-home series between the schools in 2021 and 2022, but no other meetings are scheduled.
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