Virginia Tech running back David Wilson watched only the first quarter of Virginia’s 14-13 upset over Florida State last Saturday. After that, he went to the movie theater to see “The Immortals,” all the while checking his phone to get updates on how the Cavaliers were doing.
“As soon as I found out they won, I got pumped up,” Wilson said this week. “Because the same time they won, they were giving the big speech in the movie, so it was kind of motivation.”
Wilson has plenty of fuel for this one. Against the Tar Heels last week, he was held under 100 yards for the first time in seven games and is no longer the nation’s leading rusher. The Danville, Va., native is now third in the country with 1,442 rushing yards, behind Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball.
More important as Virginia Tech gets ready for its pivotal matchup with Virginia is Wilson’s penchant for putting the ball on the ground this season. After fumbling in the Hokies’ past two games, the speedy tailback now has seven this year, four of which have been recovered by the opponent. But Wilson isn’t sweating about that just yet.
“I’m not going to think about it. Fumbles happen. If you think about it, it’s just going to get worse,” he said this week. “There’s no trend. It’s not like I’m holding the ball loose or anything. It’s just they punch it right out. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just hold the ball and run.”
Wilson’s demeanor about it is a reflection of what he has been hearing from his coaches. Both Coach Frank Beamer and running backs coach Shane Beamer agree that their talented tailback is not a fumbler. After reviewing film, they believe most of Wilson’s fumbles this year, including the past two, have happened when a defender outside his field of vision jarred the ball loose.
Shane Beamer thinks Wilson’s fumbles as more of a reflection on how much and how hard he has carried the ball this year, and that when Wilson is fighting to break tackles, it’s inevitable a defender will come in and try to strip the ball. He used the fumbling issues Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had in the past as an example.
“When you carry it as many times as David has — you hate to say it — but it’s gonna happen,” Beamer said. “It’s happened too much for our liking here this year in the last couple weeks.”
Instead of harping on Wilson’s issues, Shane Beamer said he has simply reinforced the fundamentals to all of his running backs, specifically holding the ball high and tight. Wilson and the rest of the Hokies tailbacks have a tendency to drop the ball low when they’re making cuts.
For Beamer, though, there’s a fine line, because the last thing he wants Wilson thinking when he’s on the field is ‘Don’t fumble. Don’t fumble.’
“It’s not like ‘The Program.’ He’s not walking around campus with a ball in his hands,” Beamer said. “He hates putting the ball on the ground as much as anybody.”