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Virginia Tech football: 5 takeaways from Hokies’ win over Georgia Tech

The Hokies prove they can close one.

NCAA Football: Richmond at Virginia Tech Ryan Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies improved to 4-4 on the season after Saturday’s 26-17 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Hokies.

Here are five takeaways from Virginia Tech’s win over the Yellow Jackets.

Malachi Thomas has changed the offense

Two straight weeks, two consecutive 100-yard performances by freshman running back Malachi Thomas. Thomas is the first true freshman running back since Kevin Jones back in 2001 to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games. Thomas’ success has naturally made many wonder why it took so long for him to get into the lineup.

Head coach Justin Fuente was asked about that on Monday and said a lot more goes into a freshman playing immediately, including at running back. He’s right. There are different elements of the game that some young backs struggle with, but Thomas is clearly the most talented back on Virginia Tech’s roster.

It’s no coincidence Virginia Tech’s offense is much better the last two weeks with Thomas in the backfield. He takes some pressure off Raheem Blackshear, who should be used more in a pass-catching role.

This staff deserves credit for hitting a home run in the evaluation of Thomas.

Big Play Tre

Tre Turner went off on Saturday. The fourth-year wideout caught seven passes for 187 yards and one touchdown. It was nice to see Turner remind everyone of his ability. Virginia Tech has a pair of outstanding wide receivers in Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Still, we don’t always get to see that because of a poor offensive scheme that doesn’t use the middle of the field and all the shuffling at quarterback over the years.

I would love to see Turner in another offensive scheme before he heads to the NFL. It would help his draft stock. I believe Turner is an NFL player, but he will be impacted by things out of his control for the most part. We don’t know what will happen to the coaching staff after the season, but if there is a change, I would love to see Turner come back to play in more of a pass-oriented scheme he was promised.

Turner and James Mitchell are two examples of ‘what-ifs.’ Both have been good players for the Hokies but had the potential to be stars. The best is yet to come for both Turner and Mitchell.

And I will always respect Turner for toughing it out in Blacksburg. Nothing has been smooth sailing for him, yet he stayed and competed. That is to be commended in the current era where players transfer at the first hint of adversity. Hokie fans should love and appreciate Turner.

Defense did enough

After epic defensive breakdowns in two of the last three weeks, it looked like the Hokies were going to have another on Saturday. Yet, when Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs shot through Virginia Tech’s defense for a 61-yard run deep into VT territory, the Hokies finished on defense. It looked scary for a bit, and recent events would indicate Virginia Tech fans were probably changing their channel. Justin Hamilton’s group, especially the defensive line, rose to the occasion.

Linebacker Alan Tisdale had a good game with 12 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Safety Ny’Quee Hawkins received his first extended playing time in place of the injured Chamarri Conner and looked capable. It’s always good to see how young players respond when they receive their first extensive playing time.

Offense shut the door

In the losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse, the Virginia Tech offense had an opportunity to end the game each time by getting a first down or two on offense. Each time, the Hokies punted. Which allowed the opposing offense to drive the field for two scores in each game to come from behind and win.

The Hokies were aggressive on Saturday, ensuring that didn’t happen a third time. Thomas picked up 38 yards, including a pair of first downs late to ensure the Hokies wouldn’t give the ball back to Georgia Tech. It was good to see the offense run out the clock. That should boost the confidence of the offense.

A win makes everyone feel better

Yes, the Hokies beat a bad Georgia Tech team on Saturday. But, coming off three consecutive losses, turmoil regarding Fuente’s future, and some wondering if the players would continue to play hard, a win made everyone feel good — for a few days.

You could see it on the faces of the players and coaches. They were relieved. We can talk about the offensive ineptitude all we want, and how Fuente and offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen should go, but there is no questioning the amount of work these guys put in each week — players and coaches. To pick up a win finally, it felt good for everyone.

So, before the comments section is inundated with “fire Fuente,” just remember no one is saying there doesn’t need to be changes. Trust me, we’ve advocated for changes for some time, but be happy with a win. Football is a grind, and we all want the same thing in the end.