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Virginia Tech football: 5 takeaways in Hokies’ loss to Notre Dame

This one hurt.

Braxton doing all he can to try and get the W Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies fell to 3-2 on the 2021 season after Saturday’s heartbreaking 32-29 loss to the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It was a difficult pill to swallow for Virginia Tech who thought the game was finished when hobbled quarterback Braxton Burmeister scampered 19 yards to give the Hokies a 29-21 lead with 3:55 remaining in the game.

Unfortunately, Virginia Tech’s defense couldn’t contain Notre Dame, allowing two scoring drives in just over three minutes, giving the Fighting Irish a hard-fought road win.

Here are five takeaways from Virginia Tech’s disappointing loss.

Braxton Burmeister is a gamer

Look, we’ve discussed his limitations over and over in this space. Burmeister is Virginia Tech’s quarterback by default after the transfers of Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson. While Burmeister does things well, he limits the ceiling of Virginia Tech’s passing game.

In the loss to the Fighting Irish, Burmeister showed his toughness and will to win. His numbers were ok, as he completed 15 of 30 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 49 yards and a score. But those numbers don’t tell the entire story.

Burmeister was beaten around in the loss. Yet, when he appeared knocked out with a shoulder injury, he re-entered the game in the second half after his replacement, Connor Blumrick, was injured. Burmeister stared down pressure on a huge third down, firing a bullet down the field to Tre Turner for a critical first down.

Three plays later, he would score to give the Hokies an eight-point lead.

What a performance from Burmeister. It’s unfortunate it didn’t result in a win.

Overall, I had no issues with play-calling

Believe it or not, I’m going to give Virginia Tech’s much-maligned offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen a pass this week. Overall, I didn’t have a ton of issues with play-calling. There was one sequence that did bother me, though.

The Hokies were leading 7-0 in the second quarter and after an impressive drive got then a 1st and goal at the Notre Dame one-yard line, Cornelsen brings in Blumrick. The first play was a handoff to Raheem Blackshear that went for no gain. The second play Tech had Blumrick attempt a pass that fell incomplete. On 3rd and goal, Burmeister re-entered the game and threw an incomplete pass on third down.

The Hokies ended up kicking a field goal. Those were four critical points in a game Virginia Tech lost by three.

Stop getting cute in goal-line situations. It cost the Hokies the game against West Virginia. Line up with the quarterback under center and play power football. If you can’t get that yard on three plays you probably didn’t deserve to win anyway.

Overall, I didn’t think Cornelsen called a bad game.

In-game coaching situations

Head coach Justin Fuente has taken a lot of heat for some of his coaching decisions in-game — and rightfully so. One such play stood out to me on Saturday night.

After Notre Dame tied the Hokies at 29 with 1:29 in the game, Tech’s offense faced a 4th and 1 from its own 27-yard line. Fuente chose to punt the football and allow his defense the chance to make the stop. Needless to say, the defense didn’t stop the Fighting Irish and they kicked the game-winning field goal.

This was a tough situation facing Fuente — but he is paid millions to make the right decision. Look, putting the football there seemed like a smart play, especially considering Virginia Tech’s struggles in short-yardage situations. But, again, this falls back on the coaching staff. Can you imagine if Fuente went for it and the Hokies converted? Lane Stadium would’ve went nuts.

There is no excuse at this point for the Hokies to not have ONE package where the quarterback lines up under center and hands the ball off to a power back. Marco Lee could be Tech’s answer to its short-yardage woes, but he’s rotting away on the bench. It’s inexcusable that the Hokies aren’t more prepared for these situations. Do not they not practice short-yardage situations?

There was also the decision to chase the points after Jermaine Waller’s touchdown to give the Hokies a 22-21 lead. Fuente wanted to make it a 24-21 game, which I agreed with. However, a false start penalty pushed the ball back to the eight-yard line, making the conversion next to impossible with Blumrick at quarterback. Once Tech was penalized, Fuente should’ve probably kicked the extra point, but I am not going to crush him on that one as others did.

Where was the pressure on Jack Coan late?

Notre Dame started Jack Coan and quarterback and he looked overmatched. The Hokies came at Coan hard early in the game, and he was sacked twice in the first quarter. His ineffectiveness paved the way for freshman Tyler Buchner.

Buchner gave the Irish a jolt of energy and got them back into the game. However, in the second half, Justin Hamilton’s group adjusted and Buchner was completely ineffective throwing the football. Then, he was injured and left the game in the fourth quarter, paving the way for Doan’s return.

Hokie fans had to be excited, right?

Not so much. In Coan’s final two drives, he was nearly perfect, leading Notre Dame to 10 points in just over three minutes of action. On those two drives, you saw no pressure on Coan. Why didn’t Hamilton dial up a blitz from Chamarri Conner?

I love Hamilton and he’s one of the more promising coaches on this staff, but I would like to hear why he didn’t bring any additional pressure to take Coan off his spot. It was too easy.

Another disappointing home loss

As expected, the Virgnia Tech faithful did its part. The crowd was amazing. Yes, there are bigger crowds in college football, but until you take part in the full Lane Stadium experience, you are missing out. Yes, we are biased, but there is nothing like a packed Lane Stadium on a crisp Autumn night.

It’s too bad the Hokies couldn’t pull out the win. The effort was outstanding. I thought each one of the Hokie played hard, they just fell short. It sadly comes back to this coaching staff. How many more disappointing home losses are we going to experience under this regime?

Now, with injuries to both Burmeister and Blumrick, Virginia Tech’s outlook could be bleak for the remainder of the season. We will await word from Fuente on the status of both quarterbacks, but early signs are not promising. That means Knox Kadum or true freshman Tahj Bullock could be under center soon for the Hokies. No knock to those young men, but they aren’t ready for this. This, again, is a complete failure by the staff to find, develop and keep quarterbacks.

The Pitt Panthers come to town on Saturday in a game that could very well determine who wins the ACC Coastal. This Pitt team is different. Its offense is outstanding, and the Hokies under Fuente have struggled to bounce back after an emotionally-draining performance such as Saturday’s loss.

This is shaping up to be a very important game for Fuente and the future of Virginia Tech.