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.
The same issues arose — Tech’s offensive line couldn’t hold blocks long enough to create running lanes, while the passing attack broke down in multiple areas. Braxton Burmeister looked a bit off in his downfield reads, and was temporarily knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. His receivers didn’t create the separation necessary to give Burmeister easier throws.
The switch for the offense seemed to be flipped to the on position in the third quarter on Tre Turner’s 47-yard catch. The Hokies’ then rattled off three straight touchdown drives and cruised past the Blue Raiders.
Virginia Tech’s second half offense eventually kicked it into gear, but the Hokies aren’t going to be able to get away with playing like this in very many games. We’ve seen flashes of an efficient and productive offense, but that efficiency and productivity must last for more than a half.
Injuries Are A Concern
The Hokies confirmed many fans’ worst fears on Monday morning, announcing that team captain and NFL prospect James Mitchell will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury vs. Middle Tennessee.
Mitchell’s injury clearly affects the offense — he’s been one of the most productive players on that side of the football and serves as a team captain. His skill set creates mismatches downfield for an offense that needs all the help it can get. Replacing him will not be easy.
Other Hokies battled injuries on Saturday. Burmeister took a hard shot to the shoulder and came out of the game before returning a few snaps later. Both Knox Kadum and Connor Blumrick took snaps at quarterback vs. Middle Tennessee, though Kadum was the only one of the two to attempt a pass.
Defensively, Dorian Strong was banged up and his status is unknown. Keonta Jenkins missed Saturday’s game in its entirety, though he’s expected to return vs. West Virginia.
There’s Much To Learn About This Team
Through two games, I think it’s fair to say that Virginia Tech still has questions they need to answer.
Can Burmeister engineer enough scoring drives to support his seemingly good defense? How he develops over the course of the season will play a large role in determining the Hokies’ win-loss record.
Defensively, can they retain the energy and intensity we saw vs. North Carolina and use that to dominate the line of scrimmage? The Hokies’ pass rush took a step backwards against Middle Tennessee — can Justin Hamilton adjust to the changes he sees from opposing offenses?
And lastly, how will the Hokies respond in hostile environments? Playing in Morgantown is no joke, just ask any fan older than 35. The Black Diamond Trophy is up for grabs and this is a huge contest for fans in the region. Virginia Tech’s game vs. West Virginia is arguably as important as any game on the schedule.