Virginia Tech may have played three uninspiring quarters of football against Miami last Saturday, but they roared back in a last ditch effort in the final period and in the process, gave Hokie fans some hope.
What about that fourth quarter breeds optimism that Tech’s current run of four straight losses will come to an end sooner rather than later? Allow me to dive a little deeper and separate the wheat from the chaff.
Wells’ Mobility Sparks The Offense
Hokies across the Commonwealth hoped that Malachi Thomas’ resurgent rushing performance against Pittsburgh would ignite an offense that’s been stagnant for much of the season. While that didn’t come to fruition, there’s reason to believe the Hokies can get a little better on that side of the ball.
Virginia Tech’s offense woke from their slumber on their first possession of the final period, with Grant Wells beginning by evading pass rushers en route to an 11-yard completion.
Just a couple plays later, Wells called his own number on a quarterback draw that netted the Hokies another first down.
Shortly thereafter, Wells evaded the pass rush once again and earned the Hokies a fresh set of downs with a 17-yard run. The Hokies punched it in just a couple plays later.
By my count, there were four more plays in which Wells effectively used his feet to move the football, either by leaving the pocket and throwing, or scrambling for the yards himself.
This is an element of Wells’ game we haven’t seen much of this season, but it needs to become a focal point for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ offensive line has struggled in a variety of ways in 2022 and against Miami, the unit allowed six sacks.
Wells leaving the pocket buys his linemen more time while also allowing his receivers to improvise. It puts Wells’ health at risk, but so does getting teed off on by opposing pass rushers. Against Miami, the Hokies would have benefited from more movement from their quarterback.
The Youths Have Arrived (At Corner)
I not so subtly criticized the play of two of Virginia Tech’s defensive veterans over the last two weeks — Armani Chatman and Brion Murray. Both struggled in Tech’s previous two contests, but with Dorian Strong still sidelined due to injury, Chatman and Murray started again against Miami.
Much like the previous two games, Chatman and Murray proved to be a liability in the secondary. Chatman’s Pro Football Focus grade of 61.4 matched up with the MOET (My Own Eye Test), and the same can be said for Murray’s abysmal 35 grade.
Mansoor Delane was much better, however, both according to PFF and MOET. Delane finished Saturday with a 73.8 defensive grade, while his counterparts Cam Johnson (55.4) and DJ Harvey (64.4) came further behind. For what it’s worth, Jalen Stroman wrapped up his weekend with an 80.3. Delane, Johnson, Harvey and Stroman were all on the field primarily in the fourth quarter as the Hokies bowed their necks.
In totality, Virginia Tech’s best players in coverage this season have been JR Walker (76.1), Stroman (73.8) and Delane (71.3). It’s time the depth chart and snap percentage reflect that.
Moving forward, there’s no conceivable reason why Delane shouldn’t be starting at cornerback. Given their struggles, I’d rather see Johnson and Harvey get snaps at corner over Chatman and Murray.
While Virginia Tech’s 14-0 fourth quarter looks amazing on paper, it’s important to note that Miami did themselves no favors down the stretch.
Virginia Tech’s opening possession in the fourth featured a Miami personal foul, gifting the Hokies 15 yards and a first down. Following Malachi Thomas’ touchdown, the ‘Canes next drive stalled after a holding penalty and a false start two plays later.
Nursing a 20-7 lead with 6:58 remaining, Miami called four straight passes before punting it back to the Hokies. On the ensuing drive, Miami committed a personal foul and a pass interference, assisting Virginia Tech in their comeback effort.
Miami made mistakes all day — the ‘Canes committed a whopping 17 penalties for 159 yards — but the flags in the fourth quarter brought Tech’s comeback bid closer to reality than it should have.
Still, there are reasons to be encouraged by Virginia Tech’s fourth quarter against Miami. It’s not enough to overshadow the Hokies’ four-game losing streak, but DullesDistrict Premier Dave Scarangella addressed that already.
That reminds me — when did I become the positive one on this site?