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Virginia Tech football: Mistake prone Hokies back to square one

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Troubles on both sides of the ball coupled with mental errors have the Hokies back to .500 on the season.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

A season that was brimming with optimism just two weeks ago is now unraveling like a cheap suit for the Hokies. Virginia Tech dropped its second consecutive game Saturday after starting the season 2-0, including a signature win on the road over Ohio State. This weekends loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets started the Hokies' ACC play on a sour note, and dropped the team back to .500 on the season. More alarming is the way the Hokies dropped the last two games; poor decision making at quarterback, defensive breakdowns, and inexplicable mistakes have doomed the team.

Junior quarterback Michael Brewer started the season effectively, completing a combined 47-of-67 passes with four touchdowns in the Hokies victories against William & Mary and Ohio State. In the teams' last two games, Brewer has added three passing touchdowns, but has also thrown five interceptions, for a total of eight picks on the season. Three of those interceptions came against the Yellow Jackets Saturday, a result of poor decision making by Brewer, who repeatedly tried forcing passes into tight coverage.

The picks proved costly for the Hokies as one was returned for a 41-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and another sparked the game winning Yellow Jackets drive, punctuated by the game winning field goal as time expired. Brewer is likely to remain the team's signal caller going forward, but a vocal minority in support of senior Mark Leal can be expected should Brewer continue to ineffectively guide the team.

Typical stalwarts of any Frank Beamer coached team, defense and special teams, have also not been immune to mistake-laden football recently. A week ago against East Carolina, the Hokies secondary struggled immensely against quarterback Shane Carden, surrendering three touchdowns through the air in the first quarter. The burden on the secondary was eased this week; Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas only attempted 18 passes, completing seven of them, for 125 passing yards.

Instead, this week it was the Virginia Tech front line who struggled to contain the quarterback, allowing Thomas to run for 165 yards on 22 rushing attempts. The front seven allowed 250 ground yards on 44 attempts against the Yellow Jackets, well above their average of 86.3 yards against prior to Saturdays game. The defensive unit has struggled to play well in unison the past two games, evident in their 27.5 points against in those contests.

The Hokies special teams unit struggled mightily in 2013 after kicker Cody Journell was released from the team. Freshman kicker Joey Slye won a preseason battle over Michael Santamaria, and was tasked with helping the kicking game find its footing.

After beginning his career at Virginia Tech two-for-two on field goal attempts, Slye's missed three of his ensuing six kicks, including having an attempt blocked against Georgia Tech Saturday. Last week against ECU ,Slye missed his only field goal attempt, and sent a late kickoff against the Pirates out of bounds. The errant kickoff allowed ECU to begin their final drive at the 35-yard line before marching down the field for the winning score with 16 seconds left.

The 2014 Virginia Tech season is taking the path of a team playing to the level of their competition. The Hokies' upset win over Ohio State in Columbus was complete team effort, whereas the following two weeks have come in stark contrast.

Leaks are springing up in different areas, and mistakes have been plentiful in the team's fall from the ranks of the undefeated. After the loss to Georgia Tech, Coach Beamer said "We need to get back to playing Virginia Tech football." Truer words were never spoken if the Hokies have intentions of staying in the race for Charlotte this season.