Not many people saw it, but those in attendance at yesterday's 49-0 ass-whupping of VMI laid witness.
Daniel Hamm, true freshman running back, walk-on from Fort Chiswell, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, 21 carries for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Keydets.
"Yeah, but it was against VMI," you'll say, with an arrogant skeptical tone. While that's true, if you were there to see #22 run, you saw exactly what I saw: nice speed, good balance, deceptive power, the ability to find the hole and hit it hard... and best of all, devastating cutback ability.
My friends, I think we have found ourselves a player here. Yesterday, Hamm was everything I hoped Smoke Mizzell would be. With Smoke (and also Khalek Shepherd) missing the game with "mild ankle sprains," it was Hamm who answered the bell as Kevin Parks' understudy, and Hamm was the man who handled the workload once the score of the game got out of hand for VMI.
The newsbeat has taken notice.
Maybe this was the best game of his career, and maybe we never hear from this kid again. But Hamm passed the eyeball test, and then some. He got carries over [scholarship running back] Kye Morgan, and frankly, looked much better than Morgan out there on the field.
At the very least, Hamm has earned futrure considerations. And this morning, if I'm Kye Morgan, I might just be thinking about transferring.
Meanwhile, about a week ago I offered up a list of things I wanted to see against VMI. Let's revisit that list.
-- A win by 40+ points. CHECK. 49-0 final score.
-- 250+ yards rushing. CHECK. We finished with 357 rushing yards, and looked good getting there.
-- 500+ yards of total offense. CHECK. 580 total.
-- A competent-looking David Watford, playing loose and fast (and turnover-free) in a confidence-building performance. And I'm not talking about his confidence, I'm talking about our confidence. If the fans turn on him, bad news. Nope. I think Watford looked fairly bad against lesser competition. 18-for-25 for 206 yards (8.2 avg per completion) and two touchdowns is a fine stat line. But two interceptions is horrendous. The first one he threw, by trying to force the ball to Miles Gooch, was especially unnecessary. Jury's still out on Watford, but I've got a bad feeling growing in the pit of my stomach.
-- Smoke looking like the Smoke we expected. He didn't play. But Hamm fit the bill.
-- Less than 50 rushing yards for VMI. CHECK. We held them to 41. Exxxxxcellent.
-- Less than 175 yards of total offense for the Keydets. Our D needs to dominate this game. CHECK. The Orange Crush absolutely dominated this game, holding them to 79 total yards and zero points.
-- Zero turnovers for us, 3+ turnovers for VMI. Show me we can generate those big, game-changing plays on D while protecting the ball on offense. That's our only recipe for success this season. Nope. Two turnovers for each team. Not good enough, guys. We need to protect the ball, and we need more takeaways.
-- More tackles for Harris and Romero. I'm greedy. 8 tackles for Harris, just 2 for Romero. But to be fair, the first team defense wasn't needed for the second half of the game.
-- Sacks for Eli Harold. Sacks. Plural. Just one.
-- KP up over 100 yards rushing, and up over 5 ypc. CHECK. 135 yards on 17 carries, 7.9 ypc. But if you take away his 61-yard breakaway, it's 74 yards on 16 carries, 4.6 ypc. We'll still take it!
-- Darius Jennings asserting himself as our best wideout and go-to guy in the deep/intermediate passing game. The deep/intermediate passing game wasn't used and wasn't needed. DJ finished with 2 catches for 17 yards.
-- A deep/intermediate passing game, period. Nope.
-- A completely and totally empty student section, so we can just go ahead and drop the facade and quit pretending we actually have student fans. UVA students suck at football. (Those 500 kids at the Godwin game were better than our student fans, no shit.) CHECK. Our student fans are pathetic.
-- Jake McGee dominance, and some obvious chemistry with Watford ('specially on rollouts). 3 catches for 19 yards and a touchdown. We're still criminally under-utilizing this weapon in our offense.
-- Pick six for Brandon Phelps, see above. I'm holding you to this, 21. Nope. Bring on Quin Blanding.
-- A win. A big, glorious, magnificent, blowout win. CHECK.