The Virginia Tech Hokies improved to 7-3 on the season with Saturday’s 45-0 win over Georgia Tech. The win moved the Hokies to 4-2 in ACC play and still in control of their own ACC Coastal destiny. Currently, VT is tied with Pitt at 4-2, just a half-game behind Coastal leader, Virginia, which sits at 5-2. Interestingly enough. Pitt and UVa are Virginia Tech’s two final opponents of the 2019 regular season.
The Hokies are playing their best football of the season right now and enter this weekend’s home finale against Pitt with plenty of momentum. But before we turn the page to the Panthers, let’s take a look back at Virginia Tech’s demolition of Georgia Tech on Saturday in Atlanta.
Hokies finally defeat Georgia Tech
Sure, a win over this Georgia Tech team is not the same as defeating Paul Johnson and his triple option. However, for defensive coordinator Bud Foster to extract a bit of revenge against the Yellow Jackets was nice.
Georgia Tech entered Saturday’s game playing much better football. The Jackets took Virginia down to the wire just a week before in Charlottesville and looked poised to at least give the Hokies some problems in the first half.
It never happened.
The Hokies jumped on the Yellow Jackets early and never let their foot off the gas. It was a complete performance from all phases as the defense and the offense were equally efficient and outstanding. When the coaches emptied the bench in the second half, the backups kept bringing the heat and preserved a shutout. It was beautiful and sweet revenge for the Hokies and Foster.
Defense continues dominant play
Continuing their outstanding effort from a week ago, VT’s defense was once again playing at an elite level. Georgia Tech could not do anything on offense. The Yellow Jackets were held to just 134 total yards for the game. They managed 53 yards on the ground at an average of 1.7 yards per attempt.
GT’s passing game wasn’t much better, mustering just 81 yards through the air. Anytime Georgia Tech quarterback James Graham dropped back to pass he either had to rush things or scramble for his life, resulting in an errant pass. One such play resulted in cornerback Caleb Farley picking off Graham and returning it for a touchdown.
Georgia Tech managed just eight first downs, two of which came via penalties.
This performance continued Virginia Tech’s dominant defensive play over the last several weeks. And, while you may chalk it up to the opponent, remember that Wake Forest had one of the top offensive units in the country until the Hokies shut them down. Bud Foster has this young group coming together at just the right time.
James Mitchell’s breakout
Sophomore tight end James Mitchell is a future star. Call me biased, but it’s hard to find a better duo at tight end than Dalton Keene and Mitchell. And for Mitchell, the Georgia Tech game could be his breakout game as a receiver. He led the Hokies with four receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown.
The James Mitchell of the last two weeks is the James Mitchell coaches and players raved about in spring and training camp. #Hokies— David Teel (@DavidTeelatDP) November 16, 2019
Since Hooker’s ascension into the starting lineup, we’ve seen offensive coordinator Brad Cornelson wisely use Keene and Mitchell more frequently. It makes this offense much more dynamic. It opens things up for Tre Turner, Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley and Tayvion Robinson.
Both tight ends can also make an impact in the running game. Keene is an outstanding blocker, while Mitchell has the speed and athleticism to run the jet sweep. For the Hokies to continue this streak of impressive play, they’ll need to keep featuring Mitchell and Keene.
Hendon Hooker keeps getting better
The Hokies are 5-0 with Hendon Hooker at quarterback. Hooker has completed 61 percent of his passes for 981 yards with eight touchdowns. Most importantly, Hooker has yet to throw an interception. Hooker also has four rushing touchdowns during that span. The only game Hooker missed during that span was the one-point loss to Notre Dame, which he missed with a knee injury. Had Hooker played, odds are the Hokies win that football game.
This is a different team with Hooker. His presence has made the running game better. He is playing point guard for the offense, making the correct reads and running the offense with precision. He takes shots and connects. But he also doesn’t force anything. He is growing into the position before our very eyes.
We can debate where this season would be right now if Hooker had came into the Boston College game to replace Ryan Willis. However, head coach Justin Fuente made the switch to Hooker for the Miami game and that’s when the season changed. Perhaps it was just the right time. Anyhow, Hooker is looking like a multi-year starter for the Hokies and a future All-ACC player under center.
The turnaround continues
It is still pretty remarkable where we are right now considering where we were at the end of September. Sure, there are still some issues out there that will not be answered until the Hokies start winning more of these recruiting battles. However, there is a positive vibe around the entire program right now and Fuente and Foster deserve a ton of credit.
At one point, we were searching the schedule to see where Tech’s wins would come. Now, the Hokies are bowl eligible and looking for an ACC Coastal title and a date with Clemson. Yes, that is a daunting task, but you don’t think this group will be excited for that opportunity?
First, the Hokies need to defeat Pitt. In a season full of low points in 2018, that embarrassing loss in the Steel City was one that really stood out. If the Hokies can take care of business this week, then they head to Charlottesville with everything on the line next week. And, if that matchup does happen to be for the Coastal, the Hokies will be the much hotter team on that Friday afternoon.
It’s great time to be a Hokie and let’s enjoy what remains of this 2019 season.