The Virginia Tech Hokies fell to 2-6 after Thursday’s heartbreaking 22-21 loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack Thursday. After an ugly first half for both teams, things picked up quickly on Virginia Tech’s first drive of the second half.
Quarterback Grant Wells took the Hokies down the field on the back of two completions to freshman tight end Dae’Quan Wright before calling his own number from four yards out to put the Hokies in front, 7-3.
Virginia Tech’s defense continued to play well, getting the ball back for Wells to find wide receiver Kaleb Smith for an 85-yard touchdown and it was 14-3, Hokies. Yet another defensive stand gave Virginia Tech its third touchdown of the third quarter and a seemingly comfortable 21-3 lead.
However, it wasn’t meant to be as Virginia Tech’s defense and special teams melted away, and the offense reverted to form, allowing the Wolfpack to dominate from late in the third quarter throughout the final quarter.
It’s the first time since 1992 that the Hokies have lost five games in a row and the first since the early 1950s that Virginia Tech had a winless October.
Here are some takeaways from the latest loss.
I am honestly sick of writing of about penalties. When does it stop? Joe Rudolph came to Virginia Tech with a big-time reputation — and deservedly so. But 10 false start penalties is something you’d see coaching eight-years olds. How does that happen? And to be fair to Rudolph, all of those false starts weren’t against his offensive linemen. Wide receivers and tight end also got in on the fun.
What about Brent Pry punishing the ones who commit the penalties? The only way you truly punish penalties is by taking away playing time. No one is saying to never play a kid again, but make them sit a quarter. This is a coaching issue — not a talent issue. We are eight games in and still talking about committing double-digit penalties in a game. Social media had its share of fun at VT’s expense on Thursday and it was deserved.
Delane and Wright are prime-time players
You want to talk about success stories in a lost season. Look no further than freshman cornerback Mansoor Delane and Wright. These two kids should’ve been playing from the jump. Wright is a matchup nightmare. He’s a dude. He’s big, fast, catches everything and once he gets rolling, he’s tough to bring down. He caught two passes for 48 yards, both of which were on the same drive. Why did offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen not find more ways to get Wright the football? More on Bowen later.
Delane made his first career start and while he was beaten on one play, he made a ton of plays and was always around the football. He’s a special talent. When you talk about what the Hokies have been missing on defense, Delane is exactly the type of player who could’ve played at Virginia Tech in the 1990s and 2000s. He excels in coverage and is one of the team’s best tacklers as a true freshman. It’s been a joy watching Delane and Wright.
Perhaps some of the other first-year players could make a similar impact if they had the opportunity. Let’s find out.
The offense is the worst in college football
Ok, maybe they aren’t the worst. But, they aren’t far from it. In the first half, it looked like the Hokies were playing to keep the game scoreless because the defense was doing the same. Seriously. It was like Tech was trying to protect a lead late in the game, ala the 1980s. The Hokies weren’t even trying to score. Run up the middle on first down. Errant pass on second down and throw short of the sticks on third down.
That’s Virginia Tech’s offense. Don’t blame the players. Help them. Scheme them up. Find every skill player’s best trait and create opportunities for them to succeed. Smith is thriving but it’s because he is a veteran player. He’s really good and finally has the chance to prove it.
I say this again, but where is Connor Blumrick? I am under no illusion that Blumrick is some type of star, but remember in April when we were told he was one of Virginia Tech’s best 11 offensive players? He rarely plays. Even if you don’t plan on using him, use him as a decoy with an occasional target in the passing game. You need to try something.
Again, I go back to Wright. Why wasn’t he used more?
People love to beat up on quarterback Grant Wells. It’s not always fair. The kid is a competitor and can make all of the throws. He is also a dangerous runner. Let’s give him more opportunities to run with the football. We are desperate here. And I will never understand having a quarterback play conservative because you are scared of a mistake. If that’s how you feel, move onto the next guy. Wells get comfortable once he is turned loose. The accuracy issues are real, but give him some easy throws in the short passing — preferably on first and second down. Wells isn’t perfect, but he is far from this team’s primary issue.
I look at those three scoring drives, they were fun, but not sustainable. Notice every other drive? Mostly three and outs. Losing Malachi Thomas is a difficult blow. It didn’t look good and he is clearly Virginia Tech’s top back.
There are so many ways you can be creative on offense when you lack talent. It’s up to Bowen to be better. Outside of those touchdown drives, no other Virginia Tech drive lasted more than 23 yards. Ridiculous. And you wonder why the defense was tired late in the game?
Special teams are a disaster
Just like penalties, why do we need to continue talking about special teams? Chance Black fumbled back-to-back kickoffs. They didn’t lose the ball, but it continued N.C. State’s momentum after back-to-back touchdowns. The Hokies and their anemic offense started inside the 10-yard line on one possession, which is disastrous. One time, the Hokies were bailed out by a questionable penalty, the other time, not so much.
Peter Moore’s best punts actually came when he was backed up close to his end zone, but it was another uneven night for him.
Special teams are a problem each week. We are looking at you, Stu Holt. Bad teams cannot afford to struggle on special teams. It’s difficult to see Virginia Tech struggling so badly on special teams considering the Hokies were known for over two decades for their excellence on special teams.
No more moral victories
Each week, we come on here to find the positives. And there positives on Thursday night. We’ve went over some. But you still lost. And you lost after leading 21-3 late in the third quarter. That should never happen. Forget the defense allowing three scores for a minute, imagine if Virginia Tech had an offense capable of stringing together multiple first downs, even if it ended with a punt. You know why N.C. State scored so quickly? It’s easy when the Hokies have the ball for two minutes and give it right back.
Pry said the Hokies are close. Close to what? I like Pry. I believe in Pry. But at some point, these moral victories must turn into real victories. Pry subtly called out Bowen after last week’s loss. Yet, for the most part, Virginia Tech’s offense was “vanilla” once again. Pry needs to hold his coaches accountable. Can we say the players are being put in the best position to succeed?
About the talent deficit, let me discuss the Duke Blue Devils. Remember how bad Duke was last year? And for as bad as Virginia Tech recruiting has been recently, the Hokies still had more talent than Duke. The Devils also have a defensive-minded first-year coach in Mike Elko. Duke is 5-3 and almost beat UNC last week. In fact, the Blue Devils should have beat North Carolina.
Elko has his players believing, putting them in a good position. That’s all Virginia Tech fans want to see from Pry and this staff. We can blame talent all we want, and yes it is a major issue, but coaching matters. The Hokies have four games left. Fans need to see real progress, in the terms of some wins, over the final month.