This was the year the Virginia Cavaliers were going to beat the Virginia Tech Hokies and take back possession of the Commonwealth Cup. After all, the Hokies had struggled down the stretch and were dealing with major injuries on both sides of the ball. And, the Hoos were a much-improved team.
Well, it didn’t happen. Virginia Tech took down its rivals from Charlottesville 10-0 to extend its winning streak to 14 games in the series.
With the win, the Hokies finish the regular season with a 9-3 record, including a 5-3 mark in ACC play. Now that we’ve had a few days to think about it, here are five takeaways from VT’s impressive shutout over UVA.
Passing game struggles
Once again, Virginia Tech’s offense had its share of issues. The Hokies were without left tackle Yosuah Nijman once again and freshman receiver Sean Savoy also missed the game. Quarterback Josh Jackson missed Savoy. Virginia did do a good job of defending Cam Phillips as the All-ACC receiver caught just three passes for 46 yards.
Jackson again struggled with accuracy. It’s plain to see he’s battling some injuries and it’s hampered his play over the last month. That’s not to say he hasn’t made his share of mistakes because he has, but the injuries have factored into Jackson’ recent tailspin.
Running game was outstanding
If you had told head coach Justin Fuente beforehand his team would rush for over 200 yards and the Hokies would win the game, he’d take that deal every time. Fuente loves throwing the football, but a big part of his offense is establishing the run, too. On Friday night, the Hokies were as strong running the football as they have been all season long.
Steven Peoples finally returned to the lineup and looked fresh. Peoples ran the ball a season-high 22 times for 71 yards. It’s not always pretty with Peoples, but he gets the tough yardage some of the other backs can’t struggle with.
Deshawn McClease also had 71 yards. McClease is outstanding at making defenders miss and is surprisingly a good inside runner. The Hokies would love to see McClease perform like this on a weekly basis, but for some reason, he doesn’t always get the opportunity. McClease needs more touches moving forward.
This was a good night for Virginia Tech’s ground game.
Hezekiah Grimsley stepped up
With Savoy down, the Hokies needed someone else to step up. And it just happened to be another true freshman. Hezekiah Grimsley, a 6’0”, 175-pound freshman from Williamsburg, had the best game of his young career. In his first extensive playing time, Grimsley caught five balls for 56 yards, both of which led the team.
Grimsley had an outstanding grab which led to the game’s only touchdown.
WR @Talented_hezy had 5 catches for 56 yards vs UVA (both career highs)#HardSmartTough pic.twitter.com/fGvCpY9ciI— HokiesFB (@HokiesFB) November 27, 2017
This is great news for the Hokies. With Phillips set to depart after the season, Fuente needs some young receivers to step up. Savoy has done just that. Dalton Keene has performed well when given opportunities. Grimsley can line up on the outside or in the slot and has impressed coaches all season long. He just needed to take advantage of his opportunity in a game. He did that.
It looks like the Hokies have another future playmaker.
How about that run defense?
Bud Foster’s group did it again. Not only did the Hokies pitch another shutout—their third of season—they held Virginia to just five yards rushing. Yes, five yards rushing on 20 attempts.
This is with some key injuries on the defensive side of the ball like Vinny Mihota and Terrell Edmunds.
This was as dominant of a defensive performance as you’ll see at the college level. The Hokies got to Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert four times and UVa was unable to sustain a drive all night long. Even when Tech didn’t get to Benkert, it forced him to throw early, which resulted in numerous inaccurate throws.
Hats off to Foster and the Hokies’ defense. If North Carolina didn’t get score late in one game, the Hokies would have four shutouts on the season. Quietly, this is one of the best units Foster has ever coached at Virginia Tech.
14 in a row
You won’t find many heated rivalries in college football as one-sided as the battle for the Commonwealth Cup. That’s what makes this streak even more impressive. Some years, the Hokies have throttled the ‘Hoos, other years, it comes down to the wire. Yet the end result is always the same.
Will Virginia ever be able to defeat Virginia Tech on the gridiron again in our lifetime? Believe it or not, it’s actually a legitimate question.