Out with the Old
So, at some time at about 2:15 or so, if nothing COVID related happens between then and now, the Fuente Era remnant Virginia Tech Hokies will take to the converted field of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York City to play their last game. I make that statement that way because it’s a reality. Nearly the entire coaching staff that has accumulated and/or survived the last six seasons will be gone by the end of the week. As Bryan has pointed out in his preview, the Hokies are short a ton of players. The most critical loss is the dismissal of Braxton Burmeister’s offer to play one last game (his timing for hitting the portal eject button was certainly poor, that’s for sure). The team that flew to New York City, and practiced at Columbia University is a mere shadow of the triumphant squad that upset the favored Wahoos and closed out a pretty miserable 2-year stretch with a bowl bid and the retention of the Commonwealth Cup.
There is some serious credit due to newly promoted Associate Head Coach JC Price for holding the team together for the last two games and bringing a close to the 2021 season on as positive a note as was possible, BUT this game is not going to be for the casual sort of sunshine Hokie fan. It’s like watching the last few green shoots of a garden perennial struggling to stay verdant as the frost and dark of winter approaches. You root for the plant and know that eventually it will lose the short-term battle against the cold. You also know that the plant will be back in the Spring, with new growth, and maybe with some better care you can coax it into being larger and healthier looking.
Impressions on What We Might See: Offense
Connor Blumrick is finally “the guy”. Oddly, it’s like JC Price, he’s coming back but probably not “the guy”, again. We have seen the physical abilities of Blumrick. His playing style reminds you of Jerod Evans, but he’s never demonstrated a real talent for throwing all of the passes Evans managed with his one-read and go style. This is probably due to a distinct lack of intermediate route packages and the presence of a solid motioning H-Back to the mix under the zone. However, there is still a miniscule number of quality pass plays in his quiver with which to offer an improved judgement. The passing game will remain very secondary in this bowl game.
Raheem Blackshear is going to be a very critical player, yes, but I expect that Malachi Thomas, Keshawn King, and Jalen Holston will make important appearances and contributions as well. If this is going to be a running offense, keeping fresh backs in will be important. In the case of Blackshear, the added benefit of being a reliable release receiver will add to that.
I expect to see a pretty good depth flash for several wide receivers. Kaleb Smith has excellent experience, Da’Wain Lofton, and Jaden Payoute round out the receivers with 2021 game experience. Smith and Lofton have receptions, touchdowns, and been in tough situations. Something tells me that where the position is expected to have little impact due to offensive limitations, they’ll have an impact in a critical situation. There might be some surprises. Who knows?
What We Will See: Defense
No one is fooling anyone, here. The Hokies go to New York with one major chance to win this exhibition, and that is a dominating, basically intact, defense. The special note is that the bowl roster still includes defensive captain Mike LB Dax Hollifield and Backers Keshon Artis, and Alan Tisdale. The defensive backfield is a bit spare, but the Maryland pass offense isn’t fabulous, and the players likely to rotate in the critical positions have game experience.
Needless to say, the defensive line will have to step up. Stopping Maryland from doing damage and containing any offense that they do generate will be the good old stop the run/pressure the quarterback into making mistakes combination. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more bend but not break defense. Defense was not the Hokies’ weakness this season, so I am not as concerned about the ‘D’ side of the ball.
Special Teams will Remain Both Critical and Should be Good
Drake DeIuliis will be wearing the #25 (Will that continue into the Pry Era?) John Parker Romo will be kicking for one last time, and Oscar Shadley is still long snapping. That part of the game is looking like it will remain largely intact, and Parker might just get a shot at making a final hero of himself with a clutch kick. Special Teams managed to make itself relevant again, in 2021. Here is hoping it closes the season on a positive note as only one of its key specialists are replaced. Punter Peter Moore is a rising Sophomore, and Long Snapper Oscar Shadley is eligible to play as a Senior next season if he wishes to remain.
The Action and Ending
The crystal ball is very hazy on the entirety of the game. It could be fun or a fiasco. Maryland isn’t a better team that the Commonwealth Cup game Hokies, but it’s probably a marginal match for this version of the Fighting Gobblers. The wise guys are giving the Turtles 3.5 and an O/U of 55. That’s sort of a run of the mill prediction. It seems to be more of a push, with no real advantage going to either crippled team, but the Turtles have a more intact offense. That’s where I think the 3.5 points are coming from. Their QB, when pressured, tends to cough up the ball so, look for JC Price to take advantage of that situation.
If we want the Hokies to win, we’d be much better off making that O/U bet on the “under” side of things. I wouldn’t bet the spread, no matter what. (Note, I don’t bet, so go the way your own scalp itches, because that’s the only reliable predicter in this match-up.)
The only thing that we can be assured of, is that by roughly 6:00 PM EST, the Fuente Era of Virginia Tech Football will be completely over.
As I promised this past Spring when I had to take a hiatus, I wouldn’t be far, and if I could work it out, I’d be back. My first articles were going to be the January launch of my articles on where I think Virginia Tech football is headed in the Pry Era, and where I am seeing college football head as we barrel toward realignment, playoff expansion, and massive upheavals in organization. The pleasant surprise of the bowl eligibility event (Who doesn’t love beating the Wahoos?) gave me the opportunity to check in, officially, a bit early. The game will be occurring during my work hours so I won’t be able to run a game thread, but I will be watching and taking notes. My prediction is that once it’s over all bets are off, and we won’t know anything until April and the Spring Game.
So, You Tell Us How You are Feeling About This Game
How do you think the game will go - or not considering the shaky scheduling of the booger bowls this year?
This poll is closed
Someone, grab the lever labeled "PULL IN CASE OF COVID" and end this before we lose.
Who cares? It’s over... Thank goodness IT IS JUST SO OVER!
The leftover Hokies pull it out, and beat the spread, but better bet the under.
The leftover Hokies and the not-very-good Terps play an entertaining game, but the Terps get the better of it. Still bet the under.
It’s nice to be back with Bryan, Jay, and Joe. We’ll be seeing you for the relaunch of Talking Turkey, basketball is happening, and we’ll be working to get the women’s team in the mix as well as the men’s team. Baseball and Softball are both going to be starting in February and we are determined to cover both.