Not all wins are created equal. They might count the same in the standings, but some victories ring hollow and meaningless. Other wins are joyful, while a rare few are so consequential that they have the ability to flip the narrative and turn a team’s fortune.
Virginia Tech’s six-overtime thriller vs. Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels is one of those wins. Saturday’s victory for the Hokies did more than just pull the Hokies back to .500 in the ACC — it might have galvanized a strained locker room and reversed the negative course that the Hokies have been on for over a year.
The Hokies are a flawed team and everyone knows it. You can go almost position by position and find something to criticize. Tech’s recent lack of competitiveness in the abysmal ACC Coastal Division and inability to fight adversity painted a scary picture — a program on the verge of bottoming out.
But Saturday’s win showed that Justin Fuente’s Hokies indeed have some grit, which has been a desired trait since Fuente arrived in Blacksburg.
“You can see by watching us play that we’re not perfect by any means,” Fuente said after the game. “But it would be hard to question our kids’ grit and toughness.”
Fuente is right. Virginia Tech had every reason to pack it in vs. North Carolina. The Hokies ran through three quarterbacks, losing rising star Hendon Hooker to injury and benching former starter Ryan Willis. Tech settled on redshirt freshman and hopeful prodigy Quincy Patterson. Tech’s best cornerback, Caleb Farley, left with an injury and never returned. The Hokies had several blunders, some of which came in overtime.
Instead of packing it in, the Hokies stuck it in and won on a two-point conversion attempt, the first game in history to end based on the new overtime rules.
Patterson’s game-winning keeper was the culmination of toughness and resiliency that we’ve not seen in quite some time. Tech rebounded from an early 10-0 deficit. Virginia Tech trailed by seven in the final period, tying the game on a 53-yard touchdown run by Patterson. Brian Johnson missed two field goals to win the game in overtime. And still, the Hokies prevailed.
Saturday’s historic win does not ensure the Hokies are headed in the right direction, nor does it guarantee this team will be in the thick of the Coastal race for the rest of the season. But it does show something Virginia Tech hasn’t shown — heart.
The Hokies haven’t quit yet. Even as pundits, bloggers, fans and more question Fuente’s ability to lead this program to the promised land, even as those who observe the team doubt the team’s skills and talents, these players haven’t quit yet. That stands for something.
I don’t know how the rest of the season is going to shake out. Virginia Tech has several important games remaining on the schedule, including their toughest test of the season vs. Notre Dame on Nov. 2. The Hokies need just two wins to secure another season of bowling and a date with destiny awaits vs. Virginia, who once again looks like the better team on paper.
What I do know is this — Fuente deserves praise for keeping this team together. The embattled coach has dealt with all sorts of criticism over the last year-and-a-half and much of that criticism is warranted. But with their backs against the wall, Fuente and his group of Hokies displayed resolve that few thought this team had. That alone makes this win bigger than any in recent memory.