Did Andre Smith save the Hokies' season?
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring doesn't play favorites, but even he laughs at the nickname the rest of the Hokies have given tight end Andre Smith in light of his close relationship with the man calling the plays for Virginia Tech.
"They call him Jesus," Stinespring joked. "He can do no wrong."
Stinespring may have said that in jest, but that statement isn't all that ridiculous considering the role Smith has played in recent weeks. While Smith hasn't done anything superhuman, the Germantown native has emerged as an indispensable player for the Hokies.
He's become an offensive threat, catching two touchdown passes in the comeback victory over North Carolina State a week after setting a career high with four catches in a 19-0 shutout of Boston College. But perhaps most importantly, he's become the undisputed guiding force of a much maligned offensive line and a vocal leader for the entire team.
We all wondered what happened at halftime three weeks ago when the Hokies trailed East Carolina, 24-21, only to outscore the Pirates by 25 in the second half en route to a 49-27 victory. Turns out the dramatic improvement was more than just schematic adjustments. On Tuesday, guard Jaymes Brooks was discussing how Smith has become the player who "fusses at us a lot, tries to get our spirits up, tries to tell us not to get our heads down in certain situations" when he also alluded to a speech Smith gave at halftime of that East Carolina game.
Since then, the Hokies' season has been on an upward curve. It looked as if they might fall to 0-3 against the Pirates, but three weeks later, they appear on course to reach the ACC championship game. I asked Smith on Tuesday after practice about the speech, one he admitted was "fiery" and said with "a lot of emotion." Here's what he had to say.
"Again, we [had] made a lot of self-error mistakes," said Smith of the speech. "In past games, there were times where you could definitely say we beat ourselves. We weren’t executing things like they needed to be done. The most frustrating thing for us, is to realize it’s exciting to know how good can we can be. But at the same time, it was a matter of saying we’re a better team than this, we all know that we’re a better team than this and we’re just not gonna have another upset in this home stadium. That was pretty much what the gist of the ECU speech."
I'm sure it sounded a lot better in person, but regardless, it accomplished something. The second half of that East Carolina game sure looks like the turning point of this season right now, and it's Smith who many on the team credit as inspiration.
“I think Andre is a guy who really cares about winning," offensive line coach Curt Newsome said. "I don’t think any of us enjoyed being 0-2 and he’s a guy who speaks his feelings and he did it in that situation.”
| October 6, 2010; 10:20 AM ET
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Posted by: mscurves | October 6, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse