The emotional first game for Virginia Tech since the shootings on campus last April wasn't pretty, and the Hokies were excused for getting caught up in the magnitude of the moment.
The first road game was worse. LSU played like the second-ranked team it was and Virginia Tech looked like a team assigned a lofty mantle before it had earned it in a 48-7 loss to LSU.
The Hokies fell nine spots to No. 18 and now return home to Blacksburg to play Ohio (2-0) on Saturday, they are starting over. The quarterback will be Tyrod Taylor, who draws comparisons to the Vick brothers for his multidimensional skills. The prospect of an unbeaten season to honor the victims of the shootings is gone, too.
But hopes for an Atlantic Coast Conference title remain well within the Hokies' reach, provided their offensive line gets the helps it sorely needs from the more mobile Taylor, the running game gets going and the defense starts playing better.
The key to it all, though, is the freshman Taylor.
He had four runs of 10 or more yards against the Tigers, including a 23-yarder, and engineered the lone scoring drive. Passing, he was 7-for-18 for 62 yards.
``Everybody likes his athleticism,'' Beamer said. ``We like the way this kid throws the football too. ... It's going to be a learning process, but he'll learn fast.''
Already, those assigned with protecting Taylor say they are impressed.
``It was definitely exciting watching him out there running on people and moving the ball,'' left guard Richard Graham said. ``We have to do a better job as an offensive line, but I definitely think it gives us more dimensions offensively.''
Beamer expects Taylor's running ability to force teams to pay more attention to him, and hopes that means Branden Ore will find more holes to run through. Ore ran for over 1,100 yards last season in 12 games, but has only 98 yards so far this season.
More puzzling, though, is the porous defense. Virginia Tech has led the nation in total defense the last two seasons, but has been outgained by East Carolina and the Tigers by a combined 859-427. It's allowing 220 yards per game rushing, 210 passing.
``The defense has to play the way they know how, the way they played before,'' Beamer said this week. ``Everyone on defense will tell you they can be better.''
The Hokies agree, and held a team meeting after the blowout loss.
``Everybody had something to say. I think the team got the message,'' linebacker Xavier Adibi said. ``We have to get everything out of the way from last week. It was a bad loss for us but at the same time we have to concentrate on what's important now.''
In recent seasons, when the Hokies offense has struggled early in the season, the defense and special teams always seemed ready to step in and fill the void. And this defense, perhaps more than any other, was expected to do the same.
After all, it had eight starters back, and a history of dominance.
Mary, and then an ACC opener against North Carolina.
Before playing on the road again, the Hokies could easily be 4-1 with a quarterback getting comfortable, a resurgent running game and a defense dominating again.
``We've got a whole season ahead. Everyone has pride on our team,'' Adibi said this week. ``We're not just going to lay down and just let the season go down the drain.
``We can still accomplish many goals and win the ACC championship.''

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