The Polls Weren’t Disasters
At least one fairly pleasant surprise for the poll watching crowd seems to have presented itself to disappointed Virginia Tech Hokie fans. Both polls have us at #23.
There was little doubt in my mind that we were going to drop, and I had thought that maybe completely out of the polls for the weekend. What you can’t argue with is another solid performance from the Hokie offense including the Offensive Line, Khalil Herbert, and newly returned Hendon Hooker. The old saw for every football conference except the BIG XII has always been “If you put up 45 points, you’re going to win the game”. Well, yesterday was an exception, and we’ll talk about the fall out from the total meltdown by the Hokie Defense, but there just isn’t too much to complain about on three very important fronts for the Hokie Offense (with a Hat Tip to the Special Teams guys).
So lets look at some positive things as BC Week starts tomorrow.
1- Khalil Herbert ran for his 3rd 100+ yard game with 138 total at a 7.7 yard per carry clip. He also came away with two touchdowns that kept putting pressure back on UNC. Braxton Burmeister actually gained 51 yards on 11 carries, and Raheem Blackshear went 8 carries for 33 yards. Virginia Tech was running on a defense supposedly known for stopping the run. A big part of that besides the legs of the backs was the vastly improved Offensive line. Tech is building something special on Offense, and that’s something unusual to say; isn’t it?
2- Hendon Hooker, after a sputtery first series, shook off the rust, and proved that he’s the starting Quarterback for the Hokies. He adds a dimension that sparked the offense and nearly brought the team back. Barring injury, we don’t expect to see Hendon on the sideline anymore this season. Burmeister is all heart, and will be a critical part of the offense for as long as he’s eligible to play; but this offense is Hendon’s and he runs it best. Having him back means another gear in the transmission.
3- The Offensive line was moving people, and keeping the quarterbacks on their feet. The Tar Heels only managed one sack and that was more of a coverage deal than a true grab of the QB in the backfield. Their run blocking was aggressive and positive, allowing the runners to find creases in the line, and get the ball upfield. Herbert’s 56 yarder was a thing of beauty from the runner’s perspective, but when the slow motion and freeze frames popped up, you saw how the Offensive line including Tight End James Mitchell... blocked it nearly perfectly.
4- James Mitchell had a day, regardless of the W/L outcome. He had 4 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. He was also cleaning up on critical blocks, and even ran the ball on an H-Back Jet Sweep that earned him a second TD on the ground. #82 needs to be more involved in every offensive game plan.
LAST but not least - Special Teams did everything nearly perfectly right. Special kudos have to be sent out to place kicker Brian Johnson for a 55 yard 3-point blast that had enough room to be from longer and then an absolutely golden onside kick to himself to allow us to score a 2nd touchdown that cut the lead to a score and a half. Johnson found the magic this season, that’s for sure. The second onside kick nearly bounced into the right hands. It just missed by a little bit.
It’s really hard to find big positives on the defense. There were some exhausted standout performances. Amare Barno sacked Sam Howell. Tyler Metheny led the team in tackles with 10 total, and never quit no matter how difficult it was to get out there. Dax Hollifield did some struggling, too, but also ended up with 9 tackles. Alan Tisdale and a returned Jermaine Waller were right behind Dax with 8 each. What was most concerning is the lower numbers registered from the defensive line, and we’ll talk about that in the future, too.
This is supposed to be a positive article, and frankly the biggest positive that we can state for this Sunday wrap-up is; there is no quit in this football team. How many teams (even past Hokie squads) would have just run up the white flag at the end of the 1st half, and not come out to put it all on the field for the 2nd? So, the best thing about the game was the reality that: