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A Week Ago, Hokies Looked Promising. Now, Not So Much...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech Athletics)
Nasir Peoples Makes A Stop In 17-3 Loss To Boston College

Following Virginia Tech’s win over Georgia Tech last weekend, I came away thinking the Hokies’ coaches and players hadn’t given up, and were close to playing competitive football for the remainder of the season.

Following last night’s loss to Boston College, I have now come away thinking just the opposite.

I spent the remainder of Friday night and early portions of Saturday morning wondering if I was exaggerating. How can a team go from borderline competence to borderline craziness in the span of six days?

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt convinced the situation in Blacksburg is getting out of hand. Allow me to explain.

Preparation

An offense shouldn’t be completely beheaded when the starting quarterback goes out with an injury. Nobody was expecting the Hokies’ offense to light up the scoreboard when Braxton Burmeister left in the first quarter with a suspected rib injury, but the Hokies’ offense should have at least looked like a college offense.

It didn’t.

Instead, Virginia Tech refused to try and develop any sort of passing attack. Knox Kadum became the starting "hand off the ball"-back, and with the threat of a pass completely removed from the equation, Boston College stifled Tech’s running game.

Kadum eventually completed one pass before halftime, a three-yard throw to Raheem Blackshear, who was immediately rocked by an Eagles’ defender.

Virginia Tech finished Saturday night’s game with just 73 passing yards, the second-lowest in the Justin Fuente era. Kadum looked over his head, with throws usually inaccurate or dropped.

I understand that Kadum is limited as a passer, but he didn't look prepared for Power 5 football on Friday night. And that falls almost entirely on Fuente and Brad Cornelsen.

Discipline

Dax Hollifield finished tied for first in tackles, but he didn't play a great football game. Hollifield was often out of position or caught flat-footed when trying to make a tackle, and he whiffed on several occasions, when he didn’t run himself out of the play.

But Hollifield’s biggest error was a 15-yard penalty he picked up for hitting Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec out of bounds. Hollifield gave him a good shove when Jurkovec was already out of bounds, and it was obvious.

To compound his mistake, Hollifield then ran into Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley, giving him a push before barking at the Boston College sideline.

Hollifield is lucky he wasn’t ejected for physical contact with a coach. He was rightfully frustrated, but the answer cannot be to lash out like that. It was an inexcusable lack of judgment, especially from a team captain.

Dorian Strong’s mistake wasn’t nearly as blameworthy, though it had a much bigger impact in the game. Strong made a great read and intercepted Jurkovec, ending a promising Eagles drive. But as Strong began his return, he fumbled and Boston College recovered.

Jurkovec scored a few plays later.

Teaching players the importance of ball security is among the most important things a coaching staff can do. Strong is young, and I applaud him for trying to make a play, but he’s got to be more disciplined in future situations.

Finally, Virginia Tech committed seven penalties for 55 yards. After avoiding dirty laundry for most of the season, the Hokies have now committed 14 penalties in two weeks.

Frustrating Issues

Facing a third-and-two, the Hokies lined up Kadum in an empty shotgun set and ran a quarterback power.

Predictably, Kadum was stopped for a loss.

How do you justify a quarterback run on third and short with a backup quarterback who’s an average athlete? Furthermore, why is this even a thought, considering how much success Virginia Tech has had running the football the last two weeks?

Malachi Thomas or Raheem Blackshear would’ve been fine options to try and convert there. But Kadum? In an empty set? No.

Maybe the cringiest part of the game was Fuente’s decision to punt on fourth-and-six facing a two-score deficit with just a few minutes remaining in the game. Fuente quite literally punted on his team’s slim chances to win.

After the game, Jalen Holston continued his regular complaining on Twitter, claiming that he’s been black-balled by this coaching staff (the tweet has since been deleted). Holston also complained about his usage on Twitter after the Hokies’ defeat to Notre Dame earlier this year before later deleting his tweet. He’s done this in the past, but doing so when your team is mired in a stretch of losing is not a good look.

What Lies Ahead

Burmeister’s injury will determine how the rest of this season looks. The Hokies clearly have little confidence in Kadum throwing the football and as long as he’s starting, the Hokies’ offense is extremely limited.

Defensively, Virginia Tech has got to stop the run better. Jurkovec was not that effective throwing the football Friday night, and his offense still scored 17 points. That’s because the Eagles racked up 234 yards on the ground so the Hokies’ front six have to find ways to fit their runs better, or else it won’t matter how good they are on the backend.

Next Saturday vs. Duke is Senior Day, always an emotional day for those in their last year with the program. No matter how bad this team gets, I encourage those with tickets to attend the game. It’ll be several months before any of us get to do this again, so enjoy the opportunity while it's available.

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Thursday, 02 December 2021
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