With Tom Brady's encouragement, Hokies QB Josh Jackson shines in debut

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With Tom Brady's encouragement, Hokies QB Josh Jackson shines in debut

The last time Virginia Tech started a redshirt freshman in the season opener, that quarterback led a 47-0 rout over James Madison.

Neither coaches or player for either No. 21 Virginia Tech or No. 22 West Virginia would admit, but following the results from Saturday's opening season slate of contest the two former-Big East rivals were going to be playing for more than just the Black Diamond Trophy when they met for the first time since 2005 at FedExField Sunday night.

On Sunday night, Will Grier and Josh Jackson answered that question emphatically in the affirmative, as Jackson led the Hokies through four quarters of recurring gut-checks to a 31-24 win over Grier's Mountaineers at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

In the second half, both teams got their offenses in gear, setting up the dramatic finish.

Junior receiver Gary Jennings was Grier's leading receiving, hauling in 13 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver David Sills had the chance to catch the tying touchdown but it was too low and he could not come up with it. Florida transfer Will Grier, who left Gainesville after being suspended by the NCAA for failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2015, pass for 371 yards and three touchdowns.

"Yeah I think there was a little bit of rust", Grier said after making his first start in almost two years. "I see him walking around, and I'm wondering, 'Who is that?' I don't know how he got on the field".

Brady played quarterback at MI before becoming the first quarterback in National Football League history to win five Super Bowls, all with the New England Patriots.

Jackson tallied 235 passing yards, and also picked up 106 on the ground, including a 46-yard run that set up another Hokies go-ahead score in the fourth a few plays later on a touchdown run by Trevon McMillian.

The Mountaineers ran eight more plays on the drive, which was capped Grier's 11-yard scoring pass to Sills to the left sideline in the front of the end zone.

Jackson said he planned to use Monday - a day with no classes at Tech - to immerse himself in DE film, studying its defensive schemes, personnel and tendencies. "Everything that we thought he was he is".

West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the third quarter that helped push the Mountaineers out field-goal range. Head coach Justin Fuente blamed part of the issue on the Hokies' offense, which stands as a good point - Tech went three-and-out on six possessions.

Virginia Tech went into intermission ahead 10-7 on the heels of Jackson's five-yard run with 27 seconds to play.

WEST VIRGINIA (2016: 10-3): Holgorsen told reporters he likes where his team is, and the seventh-year coach must be especially pleased with the Mountaineers' depth at running back as sophomores Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway also will play big roles. Sitting at home with his wife and dog, Rocco said he took note of Jackson's play. OK, so that's not exactly the biggest compliment I could serve up, but I think it is what we learned.

That said, West Virginia had 24 plays that gained at least 10 yards. The Hokies did miss a couple of makeable field goals which kept the game within reach. The senior instead broke free up the middle for 42 yards to the Virginia Tech 41 for the longest gain for either team in the first half.

Best of all, Jackson navigated 60 minutes against West Virginia's often confusing 3-3-5 scheme without a turnover.

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