Jerod Evans' early exit to the NFL from Virginia Tech cost the Hokies their status as the ACC Coastal Division favorite entering the season.
Can redshirt freshman Josh Jackson change that?
Time will tell, but for now, the Black Diamond Trophy is back in Blacksburg after a 12-year rivalry hiatus, and it's staying there after Jackson carried No. 21 Virginia Tech to a 31-24 win over No. 22 West Virginia at FedEx Field on Sunday night.
In his debut, which came after a call from Tom Brady, Jackson ran for 101 yards and a TD and completed 15 of 26 passes for 235 yards and a TD to kick off coach Justin Fuente's second season in charge of the Hokies after they won the ACC Coastal title in 2016.
Jackson's 46-yard scamper down to the two-yard line set up Travon McMillian's go-ahead touchdown run with 6:30 left. Second-half completions of 39 yards to Chris Cunningham and 32 yards to Cam Phillips helped the Hokies stay on top in the second half.
Best of all, Jackson navigated 60 minutes against West Virginia's often confusing 3-3-5 scheme without a turnover. All in his first start.
"Josh Jackson," junior safety Terrell Edmunds told reporters, "is big time."
With the help of Jackson, Phillips, the Hokies' star receiver, finished with a career-high 138 yards on seven catches.
He came down with that?! pic.twitter.com/SSeKAHDuD8- ESPN (@espn) September 4, 2017
After halftime, the Hokies never trailed their rival in a frenzied atmosphere that spent 60 minutes illustrating how badly the heated old Big East rivalry had been missed.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, a Florida transfer making his debut in a new uniform after sitting out a season and a half, finished with 371 passing yards and three scores. After a missed Virginia Tech field goal, Grier drove the Mountaineers 65 yards in the final two minutes to try to tie the game, but his final pass fell incomplete in the end zone as the Hokies fans serenaded their team with "Enter Sandman" to celebrate.
The 52nd meeting between the two rivals was a classic, and Virginia Tech is heading home with a trophy and a rising star quarterback. The Hokies will get to keep their freshman for a while and the trophy for even longer: The two sides won't renew their rivalry again until 2021.
The Hokies might not be a clear ACC Coastal favorite yet, but thanks to Jackson, they earned the division's best Week 1 win.