The Virginia Tech Hokies lost their second game of the season on Saturday, falling to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 23-16.
It was a game where seemingly nothing went right for the Hokies.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker had the worst game of his career, while running back Khalil Herbert was held to just 64 yards on the ground.
Defensively, Virginia Tech’s defense proved it is still susceptible to the big play.
Here are our five takeaways from Saturday’s loss.
Hooker was bad
Everyone has a bad day. On Saturday, Hooker had a bad day. Not only did he throw three interceptions, he often missed high. On other occasions he put too much air under the ball. Two of his picks were especially troublesome, as they occurred inside Wake Forest’s 20-yard line.
Tech had a chance to score just before the half and Hooker threw a bit high and wide to wide receiver Kaleb Smith. The ball deflected off Smith’s hands into the waiting arms of a Wake Forest defender.
The interception at the end of the half was a critical error by Hooker. He cost his offense points.
Hooker did have a good day on the ground, leading the Hokies with 98 rushing yards.
Hooker is the right quarterback for this team. He had a rough day and offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen didn’t always help him. Cornelsen should’ve simplified things for his quarterback, giving him quicker reads for easy completions.
I expect Hooker to bounce back next week.
Not enough Khalil Herbert
Herbert entered the game second in rushing in college football. He carried the ball just 14 times for 64 yards and also caught two passes for 39 yards.
Not a bad day’s work.
However, for as well as Wake Forest’s defense played, they didn’t shut down Herbert. Cornelsen did.
On a day when his quarterback was struggling, Cornelsen needed to get Herbert more touches. While his 4.6 yards per attempt were certainly his worst of the season, almost five yards per rush is an outstanding number. Herbert has just set the bar too high in his brief Virginia Tech career.
More touches for Herbert could’ve certainly helped Hooker. It would’ve also worn down Wake Forest’s defense. Each time it appeared Herbert was getting going, Cornelsen would go away from him.
Where is Raheem Blackshear in the passing game?
All offseason, we heard how dynamic Rutgers transfer Raheem Blackshear would be in the passing game.
On Saturday, Blackshear caught one pass for 19 yards. His biggest play in the passing game in his five games for the Hokies.
So, in five games, Blackshear has caught five passes for 29 yards. Sure, he is getting opportunities in the running game, but those inside handoffs would be better served going to Herbert while Tech finds ways to Blackshear around the formation.
On a day when the offense was struggling, why not find ways to isolate Blackshear against a linebacker in the passing game? That’s a guaranteed win for the Hokies every time.
Moving forward, let’s find creative ways to get Blackshear going in the passing game.
Run defense remains a problem
Final stats can sometimes be deceptive. If you see Wake Forest had just 110 yards passing you would think Virginia Tech shut down the Demon Deacons through the air.
The Demon Deacons had 66 plays on offense, 49 of which were rushing attempts. The reason Wake Forest didn’t attack Virginia Tech more through the air was because it didn’t have to.
Wake Forest carried the ball 49 times for 206 yards and two scores. Christian Beal-Smith was especially effective, carrying the ball 13 times for 129 yards. Kenneth Walker wasn’t nearly as effective with 66 yards on 23 attempts.
In the first half, Wake Forest did what it wanted on the ground. In the second half, Virginia Tech’s defense was much better against the run. Unfortunately for the Hokies this season, when a team commits to the running game, it will be successful.
The Hokies need senior defensive tackle DaShawn Crawford back healthy. While he wouldn’t solve the run-defense issues, he would certainly help.
Mistakes, lack of discipline cost the Hokies
Virginia Tech struggled with turnovers, with Hooker being picked off three times. As we saw one week ago, usually the winner of the turnover battle wins the game.
Another area that hurt the Hokies was penalties. The Hokies were penalized 10 times for 112 yards in the loss. Some penalties were questionable, as this was one of the worst officiating games in the history of modern college football — and that’s saying something.
Jarrod Hewitt was called for targeting and ejected. While it was certainly a questionable call, Hewitt’s reaction is what really hurt the Hokies. Tech has just dropped quarterback Sam Hartman and was about to get off the field. Unfortunately, Hewitt was called for targeting.
He was angry and let the officials know. His reaction cost the Hokies a total of 30 yards and another Wake Forest possession.
In totality, Virginia Tech’s numerous mistakes cost the Hokies the game. They weren’t beaten soundly. Fortunately, many of the miscues are fixable.
The Hokies travel to Louisville next week to face a dangerous Cardinals’ team.