The Virginia Tech Hokies improved to 8-3 and 5-2 in the ACC on Saturday with a dominant 28-0 win over Pitt. It was the second straight shutout for the Hokies and the first time Tech has shut out back-to-back opponents since 2005.
As we do a day or two after most games, let’s take a look back at five takeaways from the game. We would’ve put this out yesterday but we wanted to let the light shine on the basketball team for a bit after last night’s 71-66 win over Michigan State.
Hendon Hooker did just enough
This game was all about defense and taking care of the football. Head coach Justin Fuente knew Pitt had an outstanding pass rush and was going to try and help his young quarterback by getting the ball out of Hooker’s hands pretty quickly and stay consistent with the ground game.
Hooker was efficient. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He carried the ball 20 times for 56 yards with a net of 27 after sacks. He did just enough in the running game to keep Pitt’s defense honest. He made some big plays in the passing game, including to Tayvion Robinson, Dalton Keene and James Mitchell.
Passer ratings since Oct. 1— David+ (@ADavidHaleJoint) November 26, 2019
1. Trevor Lawrence, 198.6
2. Tyler Huntley, 195.7
3. Joe Burrow, 192.5
4. Justin Fields, 186.7
5. Jalen Hurts, 181.6
6. Hendon Hooker, 181.1
10. Kedon Slovis, 167.3*
11. Jayden Daniels, 166.2*
14. Sam Howell, 157.2*
* = true freshman
Hooker’s ascent into the starting lineup changed this football team. He had another good game on Saturday, minus the dropped snap which gave Pitt the football around midfield. I look for him to have a big game on Friday.
Pitt’s defense is legit
We talked all week last week about how good this unit was. From leading the nation in sacks to a dominant run defense, Pitt is a physical, hard-hitting team that is coached well on defense. Overall, Tech’s young offensive line did a good job in pass protection, as the Hokies allowed just three sacks.
Virginia Tech’s running game never truly got going, but a big 32-yard run by Robinson on a jet sweep opened things up. But as a unit, the Hokies still managed just 110 yards on the ground and averaged only 2.3 yards per attempt. Robinson’s lone 32-yard run made him the leading rusher.
The Panthers are noted for that defensive line, but the secondary is pretty good, too. Safety Paris Ford, who was ejected for targeting late, is a future NFL player at safety and a tone-setter on that back end.
This was easily the best defense the Hokies have faced all season.
But the Hokies’ D was better
While the Hokies managed just 263 total yards of offense, Pitt was much worse, finishing with a grand total of 177 yards. Quarterback Kenny Pickett, one of the ACC’s leading passers, was not good. Pickett completed just 10 of 26 passes for 103 yards. He struggled with pressure all day and the Hokies kept moving him off his spot.
Pitt’s ground game finished with just 60 yards, averaging 2.2 yards per attempt. Remember 2018? Well, that was not going to happen again regardless of who the Panthers lined up in the backfield. Bud Foster had this game circled for a year and his players remembered that performance, too.
This is the third straight outstanding performance from Foster’s group. And while the players want to honor him with outstanding effort, this is more than just that. This is a team full of young and athletic defenders coming together at absolutely the right time.
I would imagine this will be a fired-up bunch in Charlottesville on Friday afternoon.
Oscar Bradburn has tweet of the week
Before the game, a Pitt player was seen in the end zone displaying some colorful footwork to the ‘O” in Hokies. Well, Tech’s punter and preeminent trash-talker had the ideal response.
He's just outlining how many points they were gonna put up... don't see the big deal https://t.co/kUjadNxjqb— Oscar Bradburn (@oscbradburn) November 24, 2019
Rayshard Ashby once again ACC linebacker of the week
For the fifth time this season, Tech junior linebacker Rayshard Ashby was named ACC linebacker of the week. Ashby recorded seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble. The fumble he forced led to freshman defensive tackle Norell Pollard picking up the football and rumbling into the end zone to give the Hokies an insurmountable 14-0 lead. That is the play where the Hokies put their stamp on this game.
There should be no doubt about Ashby’s candidacy for first-team All-ACC at linebacker. Not only has he dominated the weekly award, but he has been consistent all season, even when the entire defense was struggling early. He is an intelligent player, hits hard, can rush the passer and is highly respected among his coaches and teammates.
This defense has always worked best when there was a mike like Ashby. It is difficult to look around the ACC and find a more deserving linebacker than Ashby outside of Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons.