In every game there are going to be grades, and as you get to each of the position groups, the grades go from the unit to individual standout effort. Let’s take a look at each unit and highlight a the total effort and mention one or two individuals who helped make a difference.
The Offensive Line - Grade A- for the run / B+ for Passing
The first item, and what is the most improved and suddenly impressive unit on the field. The Hokies fielded an Offensive Line with 5 starting quality players in the two deep. The unit produced truck sized holes on running plays, and managed to keep the heat off both quarterbacks for most of the game. The two sacks of Braxton Burmeister were obvious breakdowns, but overall the effort was outstanding. There is always room to improve. There was an important 3rd and 1 that died at the line of scrimmage on a rather unimaginative dive play. The two sacks didn’t help, and a couple of short passes were so bogged down that they gained no yards. Overall, though, the Offensive line put up a better performance across all positions than has been seen in quite a while. The standout players from that group are Center Brock Hoffman - who was nearly unbeatable the entire game, and Luke Tenuta who stepped in at starting Right Tackle and dominated players with quick strike hard pulls and more that a few knockdowns. PFF put him in their Line of the Week as their highest graded Lineman:
National Offensive Line of the Week pic.twitter.com/QxbN7crGPE— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 28, 2020
Meanwhile, Brock Hoffman was awarded the ACC Offensive Lineman of the week for his efforts:
Defensive Line - B+ for the Running Game and B+ for Passing
This one isn’t so easy because the Defensive line, as a unit managed to glue up the line enough that the Wolfpack running game - supposedly really high powered and possessed of heavy load hard to bring down running backs was held to 3.3 yards a carry. The line worked well as a unit, and was responsible for 5 solo tackles and a pile of assists. The D-Line wasn’t a solo unit for the game, it’s tackling numbers came from a pile of assists. The standout player for the Defensive line was Graduate Transfer Defensive End Justus Reed who held contain grabbed five total tackles of which 2 were sacks for a total loss of 15 yards. The Reed pickup invigorated a unit that was hurting from last season, and down a player when TyJuan Garbutt opted out of the season with family issues. Reed’s two sacks are lightning quick, overpowering, and left no doubt that he’s going to be an impact player this season.
The only issue that was observed became something of a conditioning problem on a couple of NC State drives, principally their final drive of the game. We understand that the point per minute chase had pushed the game out of reach for the Wolfpack if they didn’t score quickly, and they didn’t but a little bit better pressure on the 2nd QB for NC State would have pushed the grades into A level. As it was the score was inconsequential and the unit did the garbage time job of slowing the other guy down and keeping the drive in front of them.
Defensive Backs - Pass Coverage A- Run Coverage A-
What can you say about a unit with a first year coach - who is suddenly calling the defensive signals due to the Defensive Coordinator’s quarantine issue. It was a really special performance for all of the Safeties and Cornerbacks. This was a team effort, and with the exception of that long TD drive, this sort of effort was just not expected. What we did sort of expect is that Divine Deablo would figure out a way to ball hawk for an important pick. He did, and it sealed a short field touchdown series. Brion Murray’s pick and return largely slammed the door on any hopes that the Wolfpack had of mounting a comeback. It also ended up benching their starting QB. Chamarri Conner ended up pulling in a total of 6 tackles, and was all over the field in coverage.
Linebackers - Pass Coverage B Run Coverage A
The Linebackers all played. Rayshard Ashby racked up six total tackles including assists, but in this game Alan Tisdale and Dax Hollifield nabbed a total of 7 each. Ashby is credited with a full sack and Hollifield with a partial. Overall it was an absolutely solid performance from the linebacking corps. Their pass defense grade only dropped because they covered, but were rarely challenged. That actually allowed acting DC Ryan Smith to dial-up some interesting blitzes and some odd looks that confused NC State’s Bailey Hockman, there was a bit less confusion with his replacement Devin Leary who ended up mounting a fair bit of offense for the Wolfpack. It was too late in the game to make a difference; however. There were no real individual standouts for the Linebackers because all three of them put up a great effort, and were principally responsible for cleaning up the NC State running attack.
Receivers - B
This isn’t a hit on the receiver corps (including the Tight Ends). Two receivers scored, James Mitchell and Tayvion Robinson both ran 20 yardish left side back shoulder fades into the front corner of the South End Zone. Both won what were essentially jump ball situation. Overall the remainder of the pass catchers Khalil Herbert, Tre Turner, and Kaleb Smith accounted for a scattering of catches. The big issue is that the passing game was pretty limited, though well executed when needed most. Both Mitchell and Robinson were definitely noticed and made critical contributions. The B grade is completely based on a reality that the Hokies won this game on the ground.
Running Backs (including the Quarterbacks) - A-
Take a look at the chart (Courtesy of Hokie Sports), before we get into the actual grades:
|Quincy Patterson II||10||47||0||47||1||9||4.7|
The undisputed running star of the game is Khalil Herbert, who is just one of the outstanding transfer players picked up by the Hokies in the offseason. The man from Kansas was dealing. Herbert started off with a huge run, and just kept hitting seams for steady yardage, along with a few bursts that set the NC State defense back on its heels. There haven’t been many 100+ yard single back performances for the Hokies in quite a few years. It’s really special to see the return of the ground game. The other facts pop up are that both Braxton Burmeister and Quincy Patterson II were also tearing up the turf on Worsham Field. And we had to see a Jet Sweep Pop for Tre Turner, who just has to get more touches of the football. Magic happens when he does. This football game was won on the ground and it’s a combination of that powerful new Offensive Line and some seriously good running back talent in the backfield. We even saw a healthy Jalen Holston (sporting the #0) get five solid carries for an average of 8.4 yards each.
Quarterbacks - A- (Braxton Burmeister - A-) (Quincy Patterson - A)
It was nearly a solid A for both backup Quarterbacks. Braxton Burmeister’s appearance was puzzling to some of the uninformed but we were alerted through back channels that Hendon Hooker might be benched for health issues, and alerted everyone that Braxton’s fielding of questions in the pregame pressers was telling us something. Hendon was not re-instated to the roster until too late to practice for the game. So the job went to the very close #2. Burmeister started out solid, and maintained that pace until a major cramp in his right forearm folded up his hand in the 2nd quarter. He was sacked twice doing the ‘Roethlisberger’ (holding on to the ball too long). Some motherly supplied packets of mustard and other electrolytes eventually eased the cramp; but suddenly after a great start, the Hokies were faced with having to put their #3 QB on the field. Except that our #3 Quarterback is the massive, fast, and very smart Quincy Patterson II. And then QPII promptly showed everyone that not only could he run, and run the running game, he could put a competent passing game into effect. Two touchdowns in the air, and one on the ground was not what most teams would expect to face when the third string hits the field.
Coaches - A
Normally we aren’t mentioning the coaching staff, but this time it’s really critical. Justin Fuente was handed a 23 player net loss, but also a mess with 4 field coaches not eligible to work, including J-Ham at DC. Well, Ryan Smith was pulled down to the field to call the defensive signals, and several other support and management level assistant coaches like Pierson Prioleau were enlisted to fill in and did so with professional aplomb. We won’t even complain about some of the more leaden play calling from Brad Cornelsen. This time the Hokie coaches deserve a serious round of applause.
This game was fun to watch. Next week, the team, hopefully healthier and more complete heads down to Duke to visit some revenge on the Blue Devils.