Virginia Tech’s back-to-back losses to West Virginia and North Carolina were humbling defeats. The two geographical rivals outclassed the Hokies on both sides of the ball defeating Virginia Tech by a combined score of 74-20.
If you didn’t know before, it was clear the Hokies were in the early stages of a teardown. The lack of talent against two teams that Virginia Tech has had plenty of success against throughout the years was evident. The Hokies have dominated UNC since entering the ACC in 2004, but now, North Carolina looks like an elite program compared to Virginia Tech.
Against the Tar Heels, we got to see what a big-time quarterback looks like. Sam Howell was terrific for the Heels over the last three years; Drake Maye will be even better. That’s scary. And having that type of quarterback, a salesman like Mack Brown in charge and the Jordan Brand behind them, North Carolina will further separate themselves from Virginia Tech.
But as of now, that is ok. It’s not ok, but the Hokies have an uphill climb back to respectability. The previous coaching staff tore down this program more than most realized. Talent, relationships, etc, you name it; the Hokies are far worse off than they have been in over 30 years.
So now, each week, what we need to see is players getting better, the team playing smarter and committing fewer penalties and the coaches putting these players in a position to succeed. Those things may not be good enough to earn a bowl trip, but it’s what fans need to see. You want Lane Stadium to remain packed on Saturdays, give the fan base a reason to believe.
Last week’s loss to Pitt was ugly in some ways. Allowing Pittsburgh running back Israel Abanikanda to rush for 320 yards and six touchdowns was sickening and embarrassing. There is nothing more dishearting to have an opponent run down your throat knowing you can’t stop them. That’s the predicament the Hokies were in last week against the Panthers.
We all know the Steel City has been a house of horrors for VT in recent years. Remember 2018? Bud Foster does. And the Hokies bounced back to shut out Pittsburgh the following season. Yes, times were different, but we can look to that as a reason for hope.
So, what went right in Saturday’s 45-29 loss to Pittsburgh?
For one, running back Malachi Thomas was back. Thomas made everyone around him better, rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown in his return. Thomas’ return allowed Keshawn King to play more of a dual-threat role, which should open up Virginia Tech’s offense in the second half of the season.
Another positive was the play of quarterback Grant Wells. Wells completed 25 of 47 passes for 277 yards. In an ideal world, we don’t want Wells throwing 47 passes in a game. Not because he can’t but because it’s not the recipe for success for this Virginia Tech team. Wells’ decision-making was better last week. He looks more comfortable in the offense and seems to be developing a rapport with others on offense.
That leads us to freshman tight end Daequan Wright. This kid is a stud. Feed him. At this point, there shouldn’t be packages for Wright; he should be the team’s No. 1 tight end. Fans are excited about Wright. He can play. As we said before, let’s see other youngsters such as Christian Moss, Tucker Holloway and more of Bryce Duke.
While it would be nice to see Tech play close to a penalty-free game, the offensive line seems to be improving weekly. You shouldn’t be surprised. Joe Rudolph is legit. If Rudolph is around long enough, the offensive line will be among the best around. Rudolph can recruit, but more importantly, he can coach.
Each week is a reminder that this is not an overnight process. There is no No. 1 draft pick at quarterback coming to save the Hokies. This will have to be done the hard way. And head coach Brent Pry is working hard. Will he be the guy? Who knows. But it will not be for lack of trying.
Fans should remain supportive of Pry over the next couple of years. The rest of the season could be difficult, but if the Hokies can improve in one or two areas in each game, that’s encouraging.
In saying that, Pry needs to do his part. He must find a way to eliminate the penalties, play the best guys and not repeat the same mistakes. What the Hokies showed us in last week’s loss to Pitt is perhaps the second half of the season may not be as unwatchable as we previously thought.
Unfortunately, this is where we are. We are grading everything on a curve, searching for positives in the ugliest of losses. If the Hokies can pick up a couple of unexpected wins, that will get fans excited. Just keep your expectations in check.