The Virginia Tech Hokies got back to winning on Saturday by thrashing the Boston College Eagles, 49-0, to kick off ACC play in Blacksburg.
It was essentially a perfect performance for the Hokies in all phases. On offense, Tech finished with 476 total yards, including 253 through the air and 223 on the ground. Defensively, VT allowed 124 total yards. That’s right. The Hokies allowed just 124 total yards to an ACC opponent.
Head coach Justin Fuente couldn’t have asked for a better showing from his team after a disappointing defeat in the Battle at Bristol the week before.
All in all, Virginia Tech put on the kind of performance it’s lacked in recent years. Completely throttling an overmatched opponent and never letting up.
So, what are some takeaways from Tech’s win over Boston College?
The Juice is Loose
The Juice, as in sophomore running back Marshawn Williams, is back. Williams originally tore his ACL in a November 2014 win at Duke. When Williams went down he was second on the team in rushing as a true freshman with 475 yards and four touchdowns.
Williams tried to come back last fall, but re-injured the knee and redshirted.
Finally, last week against Boston College, Williams made his long-awaited return to the Hokies’ backfield and it couldn’t have gone much better. Williams carried the ball 15 times for 81 yards, leading the team in rushing.
On Monday, Williams reflected with reporters when he was told it had been 22 months since he last played in a game, per Norm Wood of The Daily Press.
There were a lot of early mornings involved. It was a lot of being with my team, and talking with them and talking with my family and trying to just keep me into it, because it's to a point where you came to college and to play football. When one of those is taken away, it's kind of hard to just keep it all together, so yeah, there were low points and there were high points, but that's with anything.
With Williams back, along with Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers and Shai McKenzie, the Hokies have a number of talented runners at their disposal and the running back position is as deep as any position on the team.
First Shutout Since 2012
The Hokies’ shutout win over Boston College was the first since 2012, when Tech defeated Bowling Green 37-0. That game also took place in Blacksburg.
A shutout win is big regardless of the opponent. However, if you would’ve asked fans before the season what game on the schedule looked like a shutout in favor of the Hokies most would’ve said Liberty.
Instead, Tech shut out Boston College. An old conference foe that has given Tech issues in recent years. Virginia Tech couldn’t have asked for a better start to conference play.
Hokies Took Care of the Ball
Yes, Virginia Tech turned the ball over once in the win over BC. However, it was more of a fluke than anything. The ball caromed off Isaiah Ford’s hands into a waiting defensive back. It was not due to an errant pass by quarterback Jerod Evans.
Surprisingly, after nine fumbles in the first two weeks, Tech did not fumble against the Eagles. Fuente’s focus on ball security last week in practice worked.
The Hokies, overall, looked much more focused and sharp on offense. The option and zone-read plays were much cleaner than against Tennessee and Liberty.
This week, Tech faces East Carolina and we know the issues they’ve had with the Pirates in recent years. Ball security, yet again, will be a major focus.
Jerod Evans Is Having a Historic Start
Through three games, the junior quarterback has completed 68 percent of his passes for 688 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. Keep in mind, two of those games came against teams with a pretty stout defense in Tennessee and Boston College.
In the opener against Liberty, Evans put up good numbers, but he looked shaky. He missed some throws deep down the field and looked hesitant in the pocket. He was better in those areas versus Tennessee.
#Hokies chose wisely at QB w/Jerod Evans. Leads #ACC w/10 TD passes. https://t.co/76ZS1drtRh pic.twitter.com/sXEEjM5UGG— David Teel (@DavidTeelatDP) September 18, 2016
As he’s getting more comfortable in the offense, Evans is trusting his talented receivers to make plays for him. That is allowing him to play looser and less mechanical. Sure, there are still areas where Evans isn’t perfect, but that’s OK. He’s getting better each week and that’s something Hokie fans haven’t seen in recent years.
The season record for touchdown passes is 24, set by Tyrod Taylor back in 2010. Evans has nine games to get 15 more TD passes. That’s a likely possibility.
It’s important to note that Fuente’s fast-paced spread offense is built to put up big passing numbers whereas former Hokie quarterbacks weren’t as fortunate to play in a pass-happy era.
Still, it’s fun and impressive, nonetheless.
The Defense is No. 2 in the Country
Through three weeks, Virginia Tech is ranked No. 2 in total defense. It’s an impressive number considering there were a number of questions concerning this side of the ball before the season.
Virginia Tech has the #2 ranked Defense in the Country #Hokies #LPD #Elite— Hokie Nation (@HokieCountry) September 18, 2016
Would Vinny Mihota replace Dadi Nicolas at one defensive end spot? Or would inside linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka improve enough to take this defense to another level?
So far, the answer is yes to both questions. Mihota, originally a defensive tackle, moved to defensive end last fall due to the lack of depth at end. While he isn’t the traditional Virginia Tech pass-rusher, meaning he’s a little bigger than the average Hokie defensive end at 6’5”, 264 lbs., he’s been playing lights out and is outstanding at stopping the run.
Motuapuaka, who stuggled mightily as a first-time starter last fall, has fared much better thus far. He had a couple of issues versus Tennessee, but overall has played well.
The secondary is back to playing at an extremely high level. The Hokies have terrific depth in the back end and Mook Reynolds has been, arguably, Tech’s defensive MVP through three weeks.
Foster’s unit will be tested in the next two games against ECU and North Carolina. If this group passes those tests, the Hokies will be in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division at 4-1, including 2-0 in ACC play with a in over the defending division champion.