The Virginia Tech Hokies fell to the Boston College Eagles on Saturday to drop to 4-4 on the season and 3-2 in ACC play. It was Tech’s consecutive loss and the slate doesn’t get any easier with a trip to resurgent Pitt this weekend. As we all know, Heinz Field hasn’t exactly been kind to the Hokies over the years.
Entering last weekend’s game, there were a number of injuries facing the Hokies. Starting linebackers Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby both missed the game due to injuries suffered in the loss to Georgia Tech. That list grew after Saturday’s game.
So, what went right for the Hokies…….and what went wrong? Here are five takeaways from Virginia Tech’s 31-21 loss to Boston College.
No running game
As we’ve become accustomed to numerous times during the Justin Fuente era, the Hokies struggled to run the ball again in the loss to BC. Whether it’s scheme, blocking or an overall lack of talent, Tech could not get anything going on the ground. On the day, VT finished with 111 yards on 36 attempts, an average of 3.1 yards per attempt.
To put those numbers in perspective, quarterback Ryan Willis led the Hokies with 49 yards on nine attempts. Willis is not exactly going to remind anyone of Tyrod Taylor or Logan Thomas, but he’s done a solid job when his number is called in the running game this season.
Outside of Willis, the Hokies rushed for 62 yards on 27 attempts. That’s putrid. Boston College has a solid defensive front but it’s not like the Eagles are Clemson or Alabama up front. Steven Peoples once again paced the running backs with just 39 yards.
I’m not sure how or when this problem will be fixed. But it’s a theme and it’s easy to see why some of the nation’s top high school running backs, especially those from inside the state, are choosing to go elsewhere.
Quincy Patterson is the backup?
Willis got knocked out twice Saturday. In the first half, just before halftime, Willis went out and Hendon Hooker came in relief of him. On his first snap, the ball sailed over his head and the play resulted in fumble with Boston College recovering at midfield. It wasn’t a good snap—another recurring theme—but at the time it looks like maybe Hooker wasn’t ready for it.
Nonetheless, it stopped a potential scoring drive and put a halt to Virginia Tech’s momentum.
Later in the game when Willis went down, Fuente turned to true freshman Quincy Patterson. It was Patterson’s second game of the season and on the few plays he received he has the offense moving before Willis returned.
After the game, Fuente noted that offensive coordinator Brad Cornelson said to give him Quincy. I am not sure of this is an indictment on how the coaches feel about Hooker or they just want to give Patterson some time before they redshirt him. Getting him some action would be smart, but it’s not like Hooker doesn’t need reps, too.
The quarterback situation should be an intriguing one to follow this offseason.
Receivers continue to flash
If there is one thing we can take out of this disappointing season it’s that the future is bright at wide receiver and tight end. Redshirt sophomore Damon Hazelton caught another touchdown on Saturday. Hazelton is a serious contender for first-team All ACC. Tech finally got Dalton Keene multiple touches and he continues to take advantage of his opportunities. Keene isn’t just a reliable guy with good hands, he’s an impressive athlete who makes things happen after the catch, too.
Virginia Tech kicks off its drive with a 24-yard screen pass to Dalton Keene. pic.twitter.com/lDpEkmgLgl— Andy Backstrom (@AndyHeights) November 3, 2018
Tre Turner made a nice play on the ball in the end zone for Tech’s final score. Turner has the makings of a future star with his combination of size, speed and body control. It was his only catch of the day but it’s clear Willis likes going deep to him.
Hezekiah Grimsley led the Hokies with six catches and 53 yards. His one-handed catch going across the middle was a highlight-reel play. Grimsley is tough, talented, runs good routes and is ideal in the slot.
Eric Kumah has improved so much each year on campus. He is tough and catches everything. He uses his big body to wall off defenders and is a load to bring down.
There are three more games left in the regular season and this group will continue to be fun to watch down the stretch.
Young linebackers shine
With Ashby and Rivers out, both young linebackers themselves, that opened the door for true freshman Dax Hollifield and redshirt freshman Rico Kearney. And both players shined. Kearney finished his first career start with 18 total tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He was everywhere and brought a physicality this defense appeared to be lacking at times.
Fuente said they'll continue to evaluate Rico Kearney (18 tackles against Boston College) at middle linebacker. Starting middle linebacker Rayshard Ashby was out of the game with an injury. #Hokies— Norm Wood (@normwood) November 5, 2018
Hollifield, who has played a lot this season, was terrific as well. He finished with 10 tackles and was often the player in charge of getting everyone lined up. That’s a lot on the plate of a true freshman. No problem for Hollifield. He is a future star for the Hokies and shows us why every week.
Ashby has been very good this year. Rivers has had positive moments, too. This is as good of a group as Tech has had in a long time at linebacker.
The injuries continue to mount in this disappointing season. On Saturday, the Hokies lost starting cornerback Bryce Watts to a fractured forearm. He’s likely done for the season. Defensive tackle Xavier Burke went down with an Achilles’ injury. While Burke doesn’t play a lot, it is a position where Virginia Tech is already woefully thin at.
Watts is a tough loss as he has continued to get better as a first-year starter. This just opens the door for younger players to get important reps as the year winds down.
The Hokies are a battered group right now. And it doesn’t look like a lot of help is on the way. Young players must continue to take advantage of their opportunities if this team is going to keep the bowl streak alive.