Small Pleasures: Rutgers
by Kevin Cuddihy, 10/6/03
Welcome back to this week's Small Pleasures for this past Saturday's game against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University. If you're just joining us, Small Pleasures aims to look past the big plays in each Hokie game and celebrate the smaller plays, the minor things that contribute to victory. Lots of stuff to cover so let's get right to it.
As always, we start with a Small Pleasure for the opponent to keep with the Hokies Respect theme. I was extremely impressed with Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard and thought he had a great game with limited touches (12 carries, 76 yards; 4 catches, 30 yards). ESPN+ showed a statistic that Rutgers had seven or eight players on the roster that had rushed for 100 yards or more. To me, that demonstrates that they flit from player to player as their featured back much too quickly. Leonard got good chunks of yardage whenever he touched the ball, and Rutgers should definitely get him the ball more often.
Now let's go to the Hokies! My first Small Pleasure occurred on the very first series of the game, as the Hokie defense was on the field. On both of the first two plays, you could see Mikal Baaqee literally skipping back to the huddle. There's nothing better than seeing a player who's absolutely overjoyed to be out on the field, and Baaqee showed his joy on that first series. He's got the love of the game for sure.
Similarly, I want to single out the entire wide receiver corps. After Chris Shreve's second TD reception, Ernest Wilford immediately came over to congratulate him, and as Shreve came to the sideline Richard Johnson and Justin Hamilton were the first two in line to celebrate with him. This is a tight, tight group of players. Wilford could easily pout for not being featured as much as many thought he would be, and Richard Johnson could easily see Shreve's two touchdowns as a challenge to his starting job. Instead, they were both happy for him and there to congratulate him, and that bodes well for the continued performance of the entire corps.
Within that group, though, I want to highlight DeAngelo Hall specifically. He seems to be not yet able to live up to the immense hype surrounding him, but he showed Saturday that he's learning the flanker position well. At the start of the second quarter Bryan Randall called Hall's number for a deep route. However, Rutgers had a defensive lineman in Randall's face and he was forced to scramble. Seeing this Hall cut short his route and came back to the quarterback, allowing Randall to find him for a nice gainer. Textbook play.
Highlighting the strong play of the wide receivers, another starter draws a Small Pleasure this week. Ernest Wilford continues to demonstrate the complete player he is, with outstanding downfield blocking. Early in Tech's first touchdown drive, Wilford hit a block that allowed Shreve to spring free for a nine yard gain when it originally looked like he'd be caught for no gain. Watch Wilford next game on running plays as well, and see how far downfield he gets his man. He's worked on all aspects of the game, and it shows.
Okay, enough of the wide receivers! We don't want them getting a big head before the Syracuse game. Let's move on to the defense, and Vegas Robinson. His interception was a great, great play--a one-handed grab reaching far over his head. Even with just that it's a great play, but the Small Pleasure is in noticing just how big a play it was. In watching replays, you can just barely see that the defender on the play stumbled and fell behind the wide receiver. Yep, if Vegas doesn't catch that ball it's a 28-14 game, the cannon guys are excited, and who knows where things head from there.
Lastly, I wanted to throw a Small Pleasure at the color guy for ESPN+, for giving us perhaps the quote of the year in regards to Bryan Randall. After a 16-yard run where he slid past the defensive line, Randall was brought down by Rutgers strong safety Jarvis Johnson. Said the color guy, "Tackling quarterbacks is NOT what you want to do as a defensive back." Truer words were never spoken, and if Randall continues to be tackled by defensive backs it can only be good news for the Hokies.
Got some Small Pleasures of your own from the Rutgers game? Talk about them on the board, and we'll see you next week after the Hokies take on the Syracuse Orangemen!