Ryan Willis: From the Penthouse to the Outhouse

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomas1996 | Sep 01, 2019

After a loss against Georgia Tech during the 2017 season, Justin Fuente had a quote that defines how quickly things can change in college football.

"It's a short trip in this business. It's a short trip from the penthouse to the outhouse."

That same quote could likely be used to defined Ryan Willis after his roller coaster of a performance on Saturday.

Yes, Willis did throw for 344 yards and 4 touchdowns while going 29-47 through the air but the thing Willis' performance will be remembered most for are the four turnovers that proved quite costly.

Yes, any turnover is costly and especially when you have a -4 as a team but some of the turnovers that Willis either took the Hokies out of position to turn things around or put Boston College in the catbird's seat.

The fumble stands out the most as that turnover set Boston College up in their red zone with the Eagles punching it in for a touchdown just a couple plays later. Yes, there can be a little grace shown because of how quickly the pressure got to Willis but as a QB, you have to know when you can't even throw the ball away and tuck it.

Also, before the snap, Willis misses the coming blitz up the middle in sending his back to the slot. Now, I'm not going to say that I'm some sort of savant who somehow wouldn't do the same thing, I probably would as well, but the fact that an experienced redshirt senior failed to notice or doesn't have the ability to override that if the decision came from offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen is a problem.

Meanwhile, two of Willis' three interceptions took away great opportunities for the Hokies with interceptions that happened near or in the BC endzone.

The first one was particularly frustrating after the Hokies' two-minute offense was running on all cylinders before Willis made a very wrong decision trying to throw a ball into triple coverage that was about as tight as you could imagine. Someone, likely Tayvion Robinson, was probably open somewhere else and Willis' failure to either progress off his reads or even decide to throw it away rather than try to make a throw that Peyton Manning probably couldn't even make was an unnecessary mistake.

The second interception near the endzone was an underthrow at a time when the Hokies had lots of momentum in the second half driving well to go tie the game up with that play halting the Hokies' momentum. Yes, an underthrow isn't exactly a decision issue, but Willis threw it into a situation where there was going to be double coverage given the distance down the field and the ball put the underneath DB in the prime position and really didn't get his receiver a chance to make any play, even one to break up a possible interception.

Change even one or two of these turnovers and instead of a 35-28 loss, you're likely talking about a victory even on a day when the Hokies didn't play great.

That's how you go from the penthouse to the outhouse, from being praised as one of the ACC's top 3 quarterbacks to making the type of major mistakes that overshadow a lot of good things and make a lot of fans want a QB change even when Willis still appears to be the best QB on the team (of course, how much do we really know about the other QBs since access is quite limited at VT).

Now, Willis has to go and fight to earn mostly the trust of Hokie fans (with players and coaches still being confident in their senior QB) after his mistakes proved extremely costly against Boston College.

Thing is, if there is one thing that Willis has shown, it's that he's a gamer and a fighter who doesn't fold easily if at all as he showed time and time again keeping the Hokies alive with a great drive to cut the lead to 7 even if clock management via playcalling wasn't exactly great.

So yes, Ryan Willis went from the penthouse to the outhouse with four costly turnovers and yes, Willis should probably face some pressure to get things right given the magnitude of how those decisions affected the Hokies.

But if there's one thing Willis has shown, it's never to count out his fight that will have him working to get back to the penthouse starting next weekend against Old Dominion.

Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

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