Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Cue up the “Friday Night Lights!”
For the first time since the season-opening win over North Carolina, Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2 ACC) is set to take center stage in the college football world – at least for the evening.
It’s a big matchup too for the trajectory of both the Hokies’ and Boston College’s (4-4, 0-4 ACC) 2021 campaigns. The Eagles have been on a downward spiral since losing star quarterback Phil Jurkovec early on in the season.
On a chilly Friday night inside Alumni Stadium, that’ll be far from the focus, however. Friday night marks Boston College’s annual “Red Bandana Game,” which honors the life of former lacrosse player, Welles Crowther. Crowther gave his life during the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Eagles will look to use that as motivation as both teams search for a key win to reach bowl eligibility.
Game Day Information
When: Friday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA
PXP: Jason Benetti
Analyst: Eric Mac Lain
Sideline Reporter: Paul Carcaterra
Forecast: 44 F, 0% Chance of Rain
Series History: Virginia Tech Leads 19-10
Last Meeting: Virginia Tech Won 40-14 on Oct. 17, 2020
Line: Virginia Tech -2.5
Last Time Out
Again, for the first time since the Week 1 upset of North Carolina, Virginia Tech finally put together a complete game.
Offensively, the Hokies were solid; defensively, they were great. Special teams was phenomenal in Virginia Tech’s 26-17 victory over Georgia Tech last week in Atlanta. What more could you possibly ask for if you’re head coach Justin Fuente?
It doesn’t necessarily take Fuente off the hot seat, but the victory snapped a three-game losing streak and allowed an exhale to stem from the Virginia Tech locker room.
The big question for this Hokie offense was whether it could build on the momentum gained the week prior. The answer? A resounding yes.
Virginia Tech put up nearly 500 yards in total offense. Freshman Malachi Thomas continued his breakout back half of the season, rushing for over 100 yards for the second consecutive game.
Ah, the beauty in running the football. Not only were the Hokies finally able to put together a threat on the ground, but it opened up the passing game for quarterback Braxton Burmeister and the weapons around him.
Star receiver Tre Tuner totaled a career-high with 187 yards receiving in Atlanta. Turner made two big plays, including a long, early touchdown. It’s refreshing for Virginia Tech, as the Hokies can now rely on multiple dimensions when trying to move the ball throughout the course of a contest.
Defensively, it was a strong bounce-back after allowing more than 500 yards the week prior. Now, can they put it all together for the second straight week and prove they’ve finally figured it out? That’s the big question.
What To Watch For – Virginia Tech
It goes without saying, but whoever runs the football better this evening will have the best chance in this one. The duo of both Thomas and Raheem Blackshear will need to continue to churn out big yardage on the ground for the Hokies.
Look for Thomas and company to try to establish the ground game early. If they can, expect offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen to try to take some deep shots throughout the night.
On the flip side, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton will look for a similar execution to what he saw last weekend. Dialing up the pressure, attacking the run, and making the Eagles throw the ball will be key on a frigid New England evening.
The Hokies will look to replicate a similar performance in which they subdued a pesky Yellow Jacket rushing attack all afternoon long.
Injury-wise, there are a lot of question marks. It’s unclear whether or not Luke Tenuta will be good to go after being absent from last week’s rotation. While the Virginia Tech offensive line held its own last weekend, losing Tenuta would be a tough blow to an inconsistent front.
It appears that defensive lineman Mario Kendricks won’t be able to go after leaving last week’s game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. There’s still no word on star nickel Chamarri Conner’s availability.
This is a huge opportunity for the Hokies to get a win, and they’ll need it to make something out of an already inconsistent 2021 season.
What To Watch For – Boston College
Now, this is what we could call a tail of two seasons.
With all the momentum that the Eagles had under second-year head coach Jeff Hafley, it seemed as if Boston College was destined for a solid 2021 campaign. Then Jurkovec got hurt.
The Notre Dame transfer was regarded as one of the best in the ACC as we trudged toward the season. But even with his absence after injuring his wrist in the 45-28 victory over Massachusetts, it seemed as if the Eagles would be OK.
Victories over Temple and Missouri would suggest so. Since then, Boston College has endured a four-game losing streak — all conference losses.
Backup quarterback Dennis Grosel hasn’t been as good as originally thought. His inability to throw the football downfield has been a huge problem. Wide receiver Zay Flowers is Boston College’s best offensive weapon.
It doesn’t seem like we’ll see Grosel on Friday. There have been some rumors that Jurkovec could be back this evening in the “Red Bandana” threads, but if not, we’ll likely see backup Emmett Morehead — a former Virginia high school prospect who has only thrown 15 career passes.
With names like Andre Williams and AJ Dillon, Boston College has had some powerful backs in recent memory, and this year is no exception with tailback Pat Garwo. The Pennsylvania native has put up nearly 700 yards on the ground this season and he’ll be a key stopping point for the Hokies to fly out with a victory.
That Boston College secondary has been soaring all season as well. It’ll be a challenge for Virginia Tech to throw the ball with guys like Josh DeBerry and Jaiden Woodbey covering up Turner and Robinson. That makes it all the more important for the Hokies to run the ball effectively.
Linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley will do all he can to quiet that Virginia Tech rushing attack. Graham-Mobley rounds out what is an overall solid Boston College defense.
Hokies’ Keys To The Game
Churn Out Yardage
If Virginia Tech is going to be victorious in Chestnut Hill, it’s going to be about continuing to run. Thomas and Raheem Blackshear will need to perform well on the ground.
With how strong the Eagles are in the secondary, the run game is going to be crucial for the Hokies to set up the pass. It’s all about how the backs perform.
Set A Tone
A quick start is a must in this one. Virginia Tech’s offense has got to find a rhythm during the early stages of Friday’s matchup.
That was the case last week as Virginia Tech scored touchdowns on two of its first three possessions. Playing from ahead would go a long way in Virginia Tech picking up a key road win.
All Eyes On The Stars
To mirror an earlier point, this Virginia Tech defense has to calm the run from this BC attack, as it did a week ago in Atlanta. The Eagles haven’t been able to effectively throw the ball all year. To continue that trend, the Hokies will need to keep Flowers in check.
Flowers is one of most electric receivers in Boston College history. He can make you pay in a heartbeat.
This just feels like a game Virginia Tech should win.
Of course, you never know with the overall inconsistencies. But if the Hokies continue to build on what they did last weekend, it should be a good day for Fuente’s team in suburban Boston.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 17