What’s left of the Justin Fuente era ends on Wednesday when the Virginia Tech Hokies play the Maryland Terrapins in the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl. The Hokies will wear a unique helmet/uniform combo for the game played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
As you know, Virginia Tech and the Yankees have had a special relationship dating back to 2007. Some people will not like the helmets, that’s your opinion, but for a one-off, I think they are pretty sweet.
In appreciation to the @Yankees for their longstanding relationship with the #Hokies, as well as the many gestures of compassion that they have extended to @virginia_tech over the years, we are proud to announce a special addition to our helmets for the @PinstripeBowl pic.twitter.com/grEl7DPbgX— Virginia Tech Football (@HokiesFB) December 28, 2021
Ok, as for the game, it represents the end of the Justin Fuente era. J.C. Price will coach his final game as interim coach before assuming his role as defensive line coach on Brent Pry’s new coaching staff.
As you know, the Hokies have lost a lot of talent before this game. Players such as Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson, Amare Barno, Jordan Williams, Braxton Burmeister and Lecitus Smith are gone. All were impactful starters, and Burmeister leaving means the Hokies only have Connor Blumrick and Tahj Bullock at quarterback.
So, who wins? Here are our staff predictions.
Do you know how much I want to pick the Hokies? Do you know how much I want the young Hokies to show out? However, I have legitimate concerns. Losing Smith at LG is a big loss. The Hokies had been running the ball well and he was a big part of that success. Fortunately, Luke Tenuta and Brock Hoffman will play for the Hokies, so that’s good news.
While I will miss Turner and Robinson, I am excited to see some of these young wide receivers. But that excitement must be measured with Blumrick under center. He can’t throw the ball. That’s scary. There are things Brad Cornelsen can do to create a passing game, such as involving Raheem Blackshear and the tight ends but he’s proven in six years he’s incapable of putting talented players in positions to succeed.
And I worry about the defensive depth.
Virginia Tech is a better program than Maryland. Even in these down years. However, I think the Terps get one over the Hokies Wednesday. Not because they are better, but because of what the Hokies have lost. The coach with a career record of 14-49 will have his moment Wednesday.
Maryland 34, Hokies 20
I would like this to be a serious game for a serious time with a serious attitude; but I just can’t manage it. I know this is JC Price’s last game as Head Coach, at least for a while (assuming that the enthusiasm level for the new coaching staff remains north of “meh”). I realize that the defensive depth in many positions on the line and secondary is something around parking lot puddle. There is little doubt that even though JC Price is saying that Connor Blumrick is going to throw the ball a surprising number of times - connecting with the right jerseys might be an issue. And a NY Yankees sticker on the side of Tech’s helmets? I realize that the out-of-state student population for Tech is pretty high from New York and New Jersey. So maybe that fits. The Yankees organization does have some roots in Pulaski, and they were great to us after the tragedy of April 16, 2007. We all deeply appreciate the support they gave to Tech. So, maybe it all makes sense in some way. So, for an afternoon, the young men in Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange can be the New York Hokies. Oh? My prediction for the game?
The Hokies have a few surprises in the Great Wagon Road Poke Sack. Connor Blumrick has taken more than a few snaps and scored more than a couple of touchdowns. We have an intact backfield, and a sound offensive line. The offense might actually work better with big, one-read-and-go Blumrick. The defense might just rally up and put Taulia Tagovailoa in a position to make some poor throws. He’s good but can be rattled. The wise guys have given the Terps 3.5 and set the O/U at 55, meaning they are not too sure that there is going to be a whole lot of scoring from either team. I think they might be right about the over/under but I am seeing some light at the end of a season long tunnel. This Hokie team might be skying just enough to play a touch above their heads to set the table for 2022.
The Maryland Terrapins’ starting quarterback, Taulia Tagovailoa, will be playing during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl while both the starting and second-string passers, for the Virginia Tech Hokies, have entered the transfer portal. Tagovailoa broke Maryland’s single season completion record (308 of 450, 68.4% completion rating) and single season passing yards (3,595). Both records have stood since 1992 and 1993 respectively. The Terps average 307.1 yards passing per game and 437.4 yards per game. VT, when it had Burmeister, Robinson, and Turner on the field, averaged only 370.5 yards per game. Suffice to say, the already anemic Hokie offense, which finds itself just 0.2 YPG ahead of the New Mexico State Aggies, will struggle, particularly in the air. That means that the Hokies will need to find their yards on the ground. The Terrapins have allowed 157.5 rushing yards per game. Blackshear declared for the 2022 NFL draft but will be playing in the bowl. It will be up to him and Thomas to keep the Virginia Tech offense effective, but they will have to do it without one of the team’s best offensive linemen, Lecitus Smith. On the defensive line, Barno and Williams will not be present. VT’s best DB, Waller, will also not be playing. On the season the Hokies have only allowed a respectable 219.5 YPG in the air but have also been scorched by strong passers like Tagovailoa. In the last two games of the season UVA’s Armstrong hung 400 yards on VT while Miami’s Van Dyke put up 357 yards. The Hokies have also had inexplicable poor passing defensive outings against struggling QBs like Syracuse’s Shrader who had his season’s best performance of 236 yards against VT. For perspective, Shrader failed to throw for more than 65-yards in his three games after the Orange’s win over the Hokies. Today the VT passing attack will be missing key playmakers and the defense will be lacking three of its primary playmakers in defending the pass. The Hokies’ only hope is to establish and maintain a rushing attack that keeps the Maryland offense off the field. I would love to see VT defeat their old ACC rivals, but there is too much to overcome with the Hokies’ gutted roster. Virginia Tech will suffer their third losing season in four years.