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Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Duke Blue Devils: Grades and Performances

Now that Bryan has gone over this five takeaways, let’s look at the grades and performances for the Tech v. Duke game 2020 edition. Lots of stuff to talk about, some really amazing, and other concerning.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Duke
Team Effort, emergency backstop everything. Saved by the run.
Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

So, we had Bryan’s 5 Takeaways, now we get to look at the grade sheet and standout performances for the Duke game.

The first thing to remember about Duke 2020 is that the Virginia Tech Hokies took the field missing four Cornerbacks, their starting Free Safety, and their faster Outside Linebacker. There is just no going about this differently, the grades must account for the fact that the Defense was operating on spare tires and patched innertubes. We start with the Defensive Grades, this time, because even though it looked a tad shaky late in the 3rd quarter and early in the 4th, it found a way to get critical stops, and limit damage.

The Defense Gets an overall grade of ‘B+’ with a ‘*’

The first half they were lights out. The second half struggles dragged a bit, but not as much as being down 5 starters and their backups.

Defensive Line – Run Game: ‘B+’ / Passing: ‘A-‘

The run stopping part of the defensive line’s effort was solid. Duke gained a total of 139 yards on 37 attempts for 3.8 yards per rush. That’s not holding them to 3 (which means no grinding by Duke’s offense) but given the circumstances, the defensive line kept the middle gummed up and left most of the run stops to the defensive midfield. The reality is that Duke gained 189 yards on the ground, and scored two important touchdowns on well blocked plays deep in the red zone. The 139 results in the fact that one thing Tech did do, is get some serious TFL yardage. Fifty is quite a lot of -negative yards to overcome. The Passing Game to the Defensive Line is all about pressure on the quarterback. Seven sacks were credited to the Hokies on Saturday. The “Sacksburg” label is beginning to pop up again, and that’s a great thing. But most of our sacks, in the past, were often efforts of ‘BugNutz Blitzes’ dreamt up by Bud Foster and well executed on the field. When your Defensive front four is generating most of the heavy pressure on the Quarterback on natural pressure and some solid line play, your linebackers are freed up to make life miserable elsewhere. You will note in the chart that 6 of the 7 sacks registered were by Defensive Linemen.

Defensive Backfield (Safeties, Cornerbacks) – Run Game: ‘B+’ / Passing ‘B-‘(with caveats)

It’s time to mention someone who is most indicative of the effort given by this defensive backfield. Tyler Metheny is an Academic Junior (Redshirt Sophomore) who was a preferred walk-on from Lake Braddock High School in Fairfax County. Metheny was a good defensive back in high school, but was a state championship wrestler with a scholarship offer to UVA. Tyler chose to pay for his own education at Virginia Tech to follow his dream of playing football. Under a normal year’s circumstance, a player like Tyler would relish the chance at getting to do a few Special Teams plays, and maybe hit the field in something akin to extreme garbage time. Well Saturday October 3rd, Tyler Metheny was suited up, and not facing a game of standing on the sidelines. He and several other Hokie players were pressed into service in a serious hurry. Metheny took the field in a divisional / conference contest with little prospect of being relieved, and a minimum of practice time. Metheny was joined by Keondre Banks, Nadir Thompson, Dorian Strong, and Chamarri Conner filling in as the experience. The effect should have been disaster. You could see hearts sink as the announcements went out that we were missing nearly everyone in #DBU… Not one Hokie fan would say a bad word about any one of the fine backup players who found themselves playing significant snaps at the Duke 2020 game. This effort should go into the Hokie great performances book. Not because they were great. They made some mistakes, there were some coverage tie ups, and they certainly were exhausted by the early 4th quarter. The effort was a solid overall ‘B’ effort when no one could have reasonably expected close to a passing grade. The chart below says it all. Metheny comes away with an interception and 7 (2 for a loss) tackles. Strong pulled down 5 total with 4 solos. Thompson and Banks totaled up 5. OUTSTANDING, GENTLEMEN! OUTSTANDING!

Linebackers (Including Chamarri Conner) - Running Game B+ / Passing Game – C+

When you are missing your fast, outside linebacker something has to give, and pass coverage ended up taking a hit for the effort. Normally, the LB’s take care of the coverage under the zone, and with the lack of any big experience in the deep backfield, Dax Hollifield played more coverage, and Chamarri Conner played more Outside Linebacker than Safety. That left Rayshard Ashby in the middle to do run cleanup. Ashby and Conner lead the team in tackles with 10 and 8 respectively. Dax managed 4 but remained in mid coverage most of the game. There is little to complain about, here. Sometimes having to split up players’ normal duties to help cover other functions will result in some swaps in stats. The Tech Linebackers did what they had to do when it counted.

Virginia Tech Defensive Tackling Chart - Duke 2020

Player Solo Ast Tot TFL/Yds Sack/Yds
Player Solo Ast Tot TFL/Yds Sack/Yds
Rayshard Ashby 7 3 10 1.5/5 1.0/4
Chamarri Conner 7 1 8 -/- -/-
Tyler Matheny 6 1 7 2.0/2 -/-
Jarrod Hewitt 1 4 5 1.5/3 -/-
Dorian Strong 4 1 5 -/- -/-
Dax Hollifield 2 2 4 -/- -/-
Amare Barno 3 1 4 2.0/18 2.0/18
Norell Pollard 2 2 4 1.5/4 1.0/4
Emmanuel Belmar 3 0 3 3.0/17 3.0/17
Nadir Thompson 2 1 3 -/- -/-
Justus Reed 1 1 2 0.5/1 -/-
Keondre Banks 1 1 2 -/- -/-
Looking at the tackling numbers Hokie Sports

The Offense Gets a ‘B’ Overall

Yes, you saw that right... a ‘B’ because, well, you’ll see, keep reading.

The Offensive Line – Pass Blocking A- / Run Blocking A

This was the second absolutely solid performance from the Offensive Line. There are no two ways about it. This unit is the best that we’ve put on the field since 2007/2008, and then again in 2011. It’s hard to figure out who is actually not Excellent. If Lecitus Smith is the least productive of your O-Line and he’s grading out as excellent (Smith is a team leader, a student of the game, and a sterling Guard so it’s probably not fair to mention just him), then there is no room for rational complaint. Anything more than that is really picking nits. This is 11 complete starting quality players with no perceivable drop-offs in performance from either the first or second units. There will be more kudos coming for Darrisaw, Smith, Hoffman, Nester, and Tenuta. They have been named the “Vice Squad” by popular vote.

Receivers – Pass Receiving C / Other duties B+

Look there were just too many drops and missed opportunities. Some of that was on the quarterback’s shoulders and we will talk about that in the next grade review, but it seemed that there was a fair amount of distraction and functional issues between the receivers and the QB. James Mitchell had a couple of uncharacteristic drops, and Tayvion Robinson could have had a monster day if he’d kept his eye and hands on that opening deep ball. Mitchell did make a nice TD grab, and Tayvion did end up with a critical 56 yarder. Suffice it to say that 9 receptions for 163 yards, total was not a huge passing game. Though the TD was the difference in the score.

Quarterback Play – Passing – C / Running B

Braxton Burmeister was just not on any sort of ‘A’ game level. Any ‘coachtalk’ to the contrary Burmeister was struggling to get the ball to receivers, in the 1st half, and his accuracy was just not there. Several throws were either wildly off (for reasons?) which resulted in an interception, or his timing was off – the fumble on the exchange near the Duke goal line. There are times when Burmeister, being a running QB, seems to think that he can outrun a defender about to sack him, instead of getting rid of the ball. There are also the low velocity slightly misplaced balls that create serious drop or potential pick situations. Either way, there was a serious case to be made to put Quincy Patterson II in for the 3rd Quarter for no other reason than to give Burmeister a break and see if someone could get over to him to dope out what his issues were. Burmeister did have a really good day running the ball with two emphatic touchdowns, and 64 yards running. Unfortunately, his tendency to hold the ball too long resulted in a loss of 21 yards which dumped his attempt average to 3.1 yards. That sort of performance isn’t going to cut it with opponents in the UNC class. The Heels are way overrated, but Sam Howell is for real, and our offense better be able to answer his challenge. Burmeister managed the game, and seemed to rally a bit in the 2nd half, so his performance was adequate to net the win.

Virginia Tech Hokies Run Effort for Duke 2020

Player Att. Gain Loss Net TD Lg. Avg.
Player Att. Gain Loss Net TD Lg. Avg.
Khalil Herbert 19 211 4 207 2 60 10.9
Raheem Blackshear 15 61 2 59 0 13 3.9
Braxton Burmeister 14 64 21 43 2 14 3.1
Tayvion Robinson 1 10 0 10 0 10 10
Tre Turner 1 5 0 5 0 5 5
TOTALS 50 351 27 324 4 60 6.5
Hokies Ran the ball on Duke Hokie Sports

Running Backs – A

The name Khalil Herbert, if he keeps doing this, will go down with the likes of the great stretch of Hokie RB’s from Lee Suggs to David Wilson. We have not had a feature back with this much output in both potential and result in a very long time. This is the second game over 100 yards, and this time by over 100 yards! Not only that but if it wasn’t for a blade of grass leaning the wrong way on that Kickoff runback for 99 yards, Herbert’s kick returns were consequential. Herbert also scored on two absolutely scorching break away bounce outs. Herbert wasn’t the only runner, though. Raheem Blackshear carried the ball 15 times for 61 yards (and a loss of two on one run for a net of 59). We already mentioned Burmeister and both Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson got in some jet sweepage. All in all, the Hokie Running game was the driving force of the Hokie Offense. There are many folks out there who think that is just the way that it should be, too. The Hokies’ 28 points on the ground is nothing to sniff at.

Special Teams – B+

Ok, Brian Johnson was 1 for 1, and put every PAT through the uprights so that is an excellent thing. But Special Teams was also the cause of a huge lost touchdown to a muffed punt when Tayvion Robinson forgot the old punt return rule #1… If it’s over your head, let it go… Yell PETER!!! At the top of your lungs and head back to the bench. Duke’s punter was seriously good. Hey you have to give credit where it’s due, and he had a cannon for a leg, and was accurate to go with it. Tayvion made a huge mistake in his eagerness to flip the field back, and Tech paid for it. Robinson would redeem himself with that beautiful 56-yard reception, but he wasn’t back returning punts the remainder of the game, either. After the game. Oscar Bradburn saved us a few times with 2 big kicks inside the 15, and except for a goofy looking rugby style kick – that I think might have been completely on purpose… his foot remains gold. Fuente admitted that his Special Teams unit was really hit hard with the personnel losses, and he was really nervous about it. A ‘B+’ is probably way more than he expected from his ST Units at kickoff.

Coaching: ‘A-‘ ‘A’ for most, ‘D’ for one

The entire coaching staff gets a solid ‘A’ for adjusting to the COVID related issues. Tracy Claeys and Jack Tyler were working the Defensive play calling with Darryl Tapp wearing headphones and gloves on the sideline doing the field work. It was an amazing Defensive coaching effort when you’re down both Defensive backs coaches – (Hamilton does Safeties besides being DC) and Smith was out this time. The adjustments, the calls, the figuring out how to slow things down and keep it simple without getting run over deserves real mention in the media. What doesn’t is the reality that the Virginia Tech Offense is still frightfully inconsistent with respect to play calling and sequence construction. We are lucky that we finally have a quality offensive line and a couple of feature backs who can ease the pressure of having to rely too heavily on the passing game, but eventually that strategic and tactical inflexibility is going to come back to haunt the offense. The consistent problems remain; follow-ups on big plays (someone burn the page with the dive play), Boundary side bias (ignoring the wide side of the field and aiding the defense in coverage), and very limited pass pattern development. We’ll go over these in detail in another article that we are working on, but for now the reality remains. Virginia Tech’s offensive game planning, in game play calling, and tactical adjustments, are just not good. The better run game will help, but someone needs to park their pride, and go find an answer.

Poll

So, it was Khalil Herbert for standout player of the Game. Who is next?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Amare Barno, Norell Pollard, Emmanuel Belmar on the D-Line for Sacksburg
    (14 votes)
  • 36%
    The Hokie Offensive Line
    (62 votes)
  • 35%
    Tyler Metheny and the Patchwork Quilt Secondary
    (60 votes)
  • 20%
    Justin Fuente for nothing short of amazing in keeping this moving and winning.
    (35 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now

That wraps the grades and standouts for the Duke game. Revenge might be sweet, but circumstances made this both sweeter, and more nerve wracking.

This week is going to be intensive. UNC is a much better team than either Duke or NC State. That preview cycle starts Wednesday.

GO HOKIES!!!