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I Guess The Answer To "Now Or Never" Is Never...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)
Tayvion Robinson Makes A Catch Over The Middle For Virginia Tech

I wrote after Virginia Tech’s defeat to Notre Dame that this week was a “now or never” moment for Justin Fuente. He needed to rally his team and help them compete against Pittsburgh in a de-facto Coastal Division title game.

I guess the answer is never.

The Hokies’ 28-7 loss can be described in a number of ways. Disappointing is surely one of them, but the predictability of Saturday’s performance might be the worst of them all. And the most damning.

We knew the Hokies’ offense would struggle. We’ve seen it all season. Once Pittsburgh hit the 21-point threshold, it felt like the rest of the game was a moot point.

Tech only has one conference loss, so they’re by no means eliminated from the Coastal race. But if you watched them against Pittsburgh, you know that this Virginia Tech team needs to worry more about bowl eligibility than winning a divisional title.

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For Hokies, Fuente This Week, It's Now Or Never...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

As is usual after a loss, the most important game is always the next one on the schedule.

For Virginia Tech, this is especially true.

The Hokies’ 32-29 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday served as a yet another heartbreaking loss. Tech’s defense battled exceptionally well for about 56 minutes and Braxton Burmeister gutted out a tough fourth quarter with one healthy shoulder.

But good teams find ways to win. Bad teams find ways to lose.

Notre Dame scored 11 points in the final four minutes, dashing the Hokies’ eight-point lead with 3:55 remaining. Burmeister had just loaded up the offense on his back and carried them 19 yards through a sea of defenders for a touchdown, giving Tech what should’ve been a cemented advantage.

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FCS Frustrations Return in Hokies' 21-10 Win Over Richmond

Like many times before, Virginia Tech was presented with an opportunity Saturday to polish its strengths and address its weaknesses against a lesser opponent.

And like many times before, the Hokies came up short in trying to do those things.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)
Virginia Tech's Amare Barno

Tech’s 21-10 win over Richmond isn’t maddening in the sense that the Hokies nearly lost the game. But it was frustrating that once again, Virginia Tech failed to do what they should do against an FCS team — run them into the ground.

For some reason, Justin Fuente’s teams in Blacksburg tend to play down to their competition, especially against FCS opponents. I can go through the list, in case you might’ve forgotten.

It started in 2017 with Tech’s 27-0 win over Delaware. Two years later, Tech went to the wire with Furman after trailing by two scores at halftime. Later that season, Tech slogged through three quarters of football vs. Rhode Island before winning 34-17.

Those instances are just against FCS teams. I didn’t even include the 2016 losses to Syracuse or Georgia Tech, the 2018 stunner against Old Dominion or the 2019 Duke Debacle.

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Loss To WVU Was Frustrating, But The Season Isn't Over

No. 15 Virginia Tech fell to West Virginia Saturday, losing 27-21 in an “upset”, though the degenerates in Las Vegas knew better as the Hokies were three-point road underdogs.

It was as demoralizing of a loss as a fan will ever see, and we’ll try into get into those reasons below.

Cornelsen’s Decision-Making Is Still In Question

As the play-caller, you really begin to shine in the red zone. How you score points when the field shrinks like that shows a lot about your ability to get players open.

Virginia Tech ran 12 plays from the 10-yard-line or closer against the Mountaineers and registered zero points from those plays.

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ACC Notebook: Coaches Are Already On The Hot Seat...

We’re two weeks through Virginia Tech’s 2021 season, a lot has happened already, and the same goes for the rest of the ACC, which has seen its fair share of ups and downs since the start of the season.

Through two weeks, here are the ACC storylines that I’m paying attention to:

New coach, Same Issues At Florida State

The Seminole faithful can Swag Surf all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that the ‘Noles lost on a walk-off touchdown pass to FCS Jacksonville State this past weekend.

It was an unexplicable defensive call, as Florida State’s defense lined up with a one-on-one matchup on the outside with six seconds on the clock. Down 17-14, Jacksonville State completed a desperation throw and scampered into the endzone to send Florida State fans home dumbfounded.

To Mike Norvell’s credit, he understands that the loss is unacceptable. It still happened, however, and people in Tallahassee aren’t happy. After a dismal 3-6 record in 2020, the ‘Noles are 0-2 to start Norvell’s second season.

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3 Takeaways On Hokies: Offense, Injuries and Identity

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

Virginia Tech had the chance to cement themselves as one of the better teams in the country Saturday with a resounding win over Middle Tennessee State, but while the Hokies’ covered the 20.5-point spread in a 35-14 victory, the first half presented a bit of a wake-up call for everyone around the program.

Here are three key observations from the Hokies’ win over Middle Tennessee that caught my eye:

Inconsistency Continues To Plague Offense

Fans rejoiced two weeks ago as Virginia Tech jumped out to a 14-0 lead over North Carolina in the first half. But for the rest of that game, the Hokies’ offense scored just three points and struggled to move the chains.

The Hokies’ second half against Carolina looked a lot like their first half vs. Middle Tennessee. Tech scored just 14 points against what should have been a lesser-regarded defense, and failed to generate much of a rhythm.

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Here's A To-Do List For Virginia Tech Against MTSU

Virginia Tech welcomes a lesser-regarded team to Lane Stadium Saturday in Middle Tennessee State. The Hokies have done this regularly in the early part of past seasons but lately, those games haven’t always gone as well as they’d hoped.

It happened twice in 2019, when the Hokies knocked off Old Dominion by 15 points and Furman by just 10 points the very next week. When the Hokies hit the road to face Old Dominion team in 2018, Tech lost by two scores after opening the season with a big win over Florida State. Back in 2017, Virginia Tech scored just 27 points against Delaware.

The Hokies have an opportunity to reverse that trend Saturday. While Middle Tennessee State opened its season with a 50-15 win over Monmouth, it would not appear MTSU has the depth that would allow them to compete with Virginia Tech on the field for a full 60 minutes.

Because of that, rather than break down the Hokies’ specific matchups against the Blue Raiders, I’d instead like to create a to-do list for Virginia Tech on Saturday.

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UNC-VT Game Recap: The Justins Get Their Revenge...

After enjoying the emotional roller coaster that was Virginia Tech’s 17-10 victory over No. 10 North Carolina, I intentionally waited a while before I sat down and collected my thoughts. I wanted this to be as emotion-free of an assessment as one can make after such a dramatic win.

Now that I’ve taken some time, I think there are three logical conclusions to draw from the Hokies’ upset win on Friday night.

The Justins Get Their Revenge

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton took it on the chin for the majority of the 2020 season. Fuente has been used to it, but Hamilton’s first season as coordinator unleashed a whopping amount of criticism that was mostly valid.

Friday night, those two men exacted some revenge.

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What Does Success Look Like In 2021 For Hokie Football?

A wise man once told me — actually, he tells me this all the time — that the only way you can accomplish your goals in an efficient manner is to have a plan.

In making that plan, you’ve got to outline what success looks like. What outcome could be considered a success?

That’s the spot I’m in right now with Virginia Tech football. What does success look like for this program this season?

Is it a specific win number? Is it passing the eye test? Is it competing for the Coastal title? What does competing for the Coastal even look like?

For starters, success probably includes eight-plus wins. For a program that has been flirting with .500 for three straight seasons — and falling short of that number twice — reaching the eight-win plateau seems like a reasonable goal for a team with as many questions as the Hokies.

Tech will have plenty of chances to win games. Even their toughest matchups — Friday vs. North Carolina, Oct. 9 vs. Notre Dame and Nov. 20 vs. Miami are winnable, even if unlikely.

But as we all know, all eight-win seasons are not created equal. This is where the eye test comes in. How does Virginia Tech play in their losses? Who are those losses against? Getting run off the field is way worse than losing a one-score game.

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UNC Game Will Be Excellent Test For Virginia Tech Secondary

For Virginia Tech’s secondary, Sept. 3rd's game with North Carolina is more than just a chance to start the season on a winning note.

It’s also a chance to shut down one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

North Carolina’s Sam Howell is really good, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. His 68-14 career touchdown-to-interception ratio is also really good, but you probably didn't need me to tell you that either.

What might be of interest, however, is that while Howell is a great college quarterback, the weapons around him aren’t what they used to be.

Of Carolina’s top five receivers from 2020, four of them are no longer suiting up for the Tar Heels. Carolina’s leading returning receiver, Khafre Brown, caught just 15 passes last season. Beau Corrales and Garrett Walston are also back, but neither played a large role in the Tar Heel offense in 2020.

So, while Sam Howell’s mettle has been tested, those around him are far less proven. Thus, Virginia Tech’s defensive backs are presented with maybe their best opportunity of the season.

The talent is there, at least in the starting lineup. Jermaine Waller seems to have put his injury issues behind him and will anchor the unit opposite of 2020 Freshman All-American Dorian Strong. Waller was one of the best cornerbacks in the country two years ago and pairing him with a seasoned Strong gives the Hokies one of the better cornerback duos in the nation.

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Fans Who Gave Up Are Missing Mullins' Magical Season

As the Baltimore Orioles continue to lose an unholy number of baseball games, I find it more and more difficult to follow the team.

I gave up on watching the team on a nightly basis a while ago. I simply can’t handle the constant losing. And it’s a shame really, because those who are watching on a regular basis are witnessing one of the greatest seasons in Orioles history by Cedric Mullins.

The numbers don’t tell the entire story, but they sure do provide a lot of useful information. Mullins currently leads the American League in hits and leads the O’s in doubles, triples, home runs, stolen bases, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. Mullins’ fWAR is 4.7, which is fifth-best in the entirety of Major League Baseball.

Mullins’ ability to produce like this while being stuck in the middle of one of the worst baseball teams in this century make his feat more impressive. Mullins has played in 117 of the Orioles’ 120 games so far and has stayed as steady as possible while the team limps to the finish line in September.

Consider this — after his incredible start to the season in April, Mullins slumped mightily in May. He rebounded with an OPS of 1.172 in June and over the last two months, his OPS has remained over .800. Despite the team floundering around him on a nightly basis, Mullins continues to perform.

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