Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
The Virginia Tech Hokies took a frustrating loss last week against North Carolina, 56-45.
The Hokies now will try to bounce back this weekend at home against Boston College. Watching the loss last week in Chapel Hill, there was plenty to take away if you’re a Virginia Tech fan.
Now, it’s Friday; you’re busy; we get it. So how can we fill you in on what to take away heading into this week’s game against the Eagles?
Give us 60 seconds. We start a new segment “Six Takeaways in 60 Seconds”, to give you your quick Friday fix of Hokies football.
After Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister started his third straight game at quarterback last Saturday in Chapel Hill, head coach Justin Fuente felt the team needed a spark. Then came the long-awaited return of Hendon Hooker, who proceeded to go 7-for-13, throwing for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Virginia Tech’s offense was nearly unstoppable when Hooker came in behind center. He allows the Hokies to become more 2-dimensional, expanding the offense to throw the ball as well.
Fuente did say the Greensboro, NC native will get his first start of the year on Saturday night against the Eagles. With Hooker at quarterback, the Hokies’ offense can put up points on anyone.
Where Was The Defense?
Well, that says it all.
North Carolina’s offense absolutely exposed the Hokies’ defense last Saturday afternoon. With no Divine Deablo in the secondary, no one answered the call when it came to stepping up and stopping North Carolina running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. The duo ran for a combined 383 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Sam Howell also had a big day for the Tar Heels.
The Hokies are expected to get Deablo back this weekend against the Eagles. This would be huge for Virginia Tech, as it was searching for answers last week against UNC.
A public service announcement to all Virginia Tech fans: Brian Johsnon is 16 for his last 16 in field goal attempts. This last weekend was no exception. Johnson set a career-long with his 55-yard field goal at Kenan Stadium last Saturday, besting his previous career-long from last year’s Belk Bowl by a yard.
Johnson also executed one of the purest onside kick attempts you’ll ever see, getting a perfect hop right into his hands to give the Hokies new life down three scores at the time.
Herbert For Heisman
Eh, maybe a little early. But why not? Khalil Herbert is a freak of nature. The Hokies’ most dominant running back since David Wilson took over in the second half last week, accounting for 136 yards and two touchdowns, including a magical 52-yard touchdown run to pull the Hokies within 42-31.
Herbert has been dominant this season after transferring from Kansas. Virginia Tech hasn’t had a back who can take it to the house on any play in quite some time. But with the start Herbert has gotten off to, Fuente might have found that man.
It still is baffling that Herbert didn’t get the ball on 4th-and-3 when the Hokies’ tried to convert at the end of the half. Oh well, you live, you learn. Herbert, however, makes offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen regret that decision more and more with every run he takes.
Taking the defense a little further, one thing that continues to concern is the play of star linebackers Dax Hollifield, Rayshard Ashby, and Alan Tisdale. It’s not even as much as from an execution level, but from a football shape standpoint. Fuente even expressed his concern after the game about how badly conditioned these guys are due to time in quarantine the past few weeks.
Tisdale for example, finds himself down 10 pounds from last year, and even had to play safety at one point last week. Hollifield and Ashby seem slower to the ball as well, constantly trailing backs in the open field.
As the weeks and weeks go on however, hopefully this talented group will continue to get back in shape. Virginia Tech will need this to happen in order for success down the stretch. The talented trio is just too important to the football team.
Justin Hamilton Returns
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton can finally say he has run the defense on the sidelines at Virginia Tech. After testing positive for COVID-19 the day prior to the NC State game, Hamilton spent the last two weeks in quarantine, isolated from his team. While it may be a game he would like to forget, it is certainly encouraging to see Hamilton back on the sideline.
Not only does this look good health-wise, but by getting their coordinator back on defense, guys may continue to get more comfortable and more in a rhythm moving forward. This could be key to Hokie success, especially in such a weird season. Nevertheless, Saturday wasn’t Hamilton’s fault, and getting him back should certainly get fans excited.