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Virginia Tech football: 5 takeaways in Hokies’ thrashing of UNC

Saturday was a good day for the Hokies

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech safety Reggie Floyd celebrating a pick-six.
Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies improved to 6-1 on the season Saturday with a 59-7 thrashing of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Tech moves to 2-1 in ACC play, tied with Virginia behind undefeated Miami and Georgia Tech.

Back to Saturday, this one was never close. The Hokies dominated in all phases, scoring on offense, defense and special teams. It was a throwback to how Virginia Tech rose to prominence in the 90s under Frank Beamer.

Here are five takeaways from VT’s decimation of North Carolina.

Josh Jackson got off to a slow start

The freshman quarterback didn’t have his best game Saturday, fortunately for the Hokies they didn’t him to be lights out. Jackson completed just 10 of 20 passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns. The best stat of all, of course, is he didn’t turn the ball over.

Early in the game, Jackson appeared uncomfortable and made some errant throws. He did settle down, though. Slow starts have plagued this offense and moving forward it is something to watch.

Defense is elite

It’s been said over the years how good Bud Foster’s defenses usually are. Sometimes, the group doesn’t live up to expectations. Outside of a shootout in Week 1 against West Virginia, this unit is outstanding. On Saturday, the Hokies held UNC to 172 total yards and if it wasn’t for a late touchdown primarily against backups, Foster would’ve had yet another shutout.

The defense sacked UNC quarterbacks six times, forced three turnovers and Ricky Walker picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

The Hokies rank No. 13 in total defense, No. 16 in run defense and No. 15 against the pass. There will certainly be more tests coming down the stretch, however, this defense will be ready.

Greg Stroman: All-American

Senior Greg Stroman is a good cornerback with NFL potential. He continues to improve on the defensive side of the ball and is surprisingly a very physical player for his size. But there’s another element to Stroman’s game where he’s arguably the best in the country.

Stroman returned his second punt of the season for a touchdown on Saturday and it was a thing of beauty. Literally, every time Stroman is back there you just feel like something big is about to happen.

There are still five games left in the regular season and there’s a good chance Stroman takes another one—or two—to the house. When the offense is scuffling, Stroman is an amazing weapon to have.

Fuente loves beating North Carolina

There’s no doubt this one was special for head coach Justin Fuente. The Hokies were still throwing the football late in the game, even if it was A.J. Bush in there instead of Jackson. And Tech was still coming after the punter. It was actually beautiful to see. Fuente puts his foot on the pedal and never lets up. That’s not something Beamer would’ve done.

After the game, Cam Phillips said Fuente really loves beating North Carolina and the postgame handshake between Fuente and UNC coach Larry Fedora appeared to be a little frosty.

On Monday, Fuente said he wished Cam had not made that statement and he doesn’t speak for the coach.

Cam was right and Hokie fans love it.

Big day for recruits

Saturday was a big day on the recruiting front for the Hokies. The day even ended with a commitment as Georgia athlete James Graham picked the Hokies. Graham is a versatile player who could play a number of positions for the Hokies at the next level. He had a pretty good offer list, too. This is quietly a big get for Fuente.

Players like Dax Hollifield and K.J. Henry, both huge priorities for the Hokies, were in town on official visits. Coincidentally enough, both players hail from North Carolina. Some of the Hokies’ top commitments were on hand with Henry and he liked what he saw. More on that later in the week.

It was a perfect day for Tech’s recruiting staff to set up some official visits with its top targets.