The Virginia Tech Hokies dropped to 2-7 on the season Saturday after a 28-27 loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It’s VT’s sixth consecutive loss and second straight game where the Hokies blew a second-half lead and lost by one point.
The Hokies had a prime opportunity in the fourth quarter to end the game. The defense stopped Georgia Tech on fourth down, taking over in Yellow Jackets’ territory. The Hokies drove the ball down inside the 10-yard line when running back Keshawn King fumbled. Georgia Tech immediately took the ball down the field and scored.
In addition to King’s fumble, Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Wells would turn the ball over twice in the fourth quarter, one of which was a fumble with around one minute remaining when the Hokies were driving with a chance to kick a game-winning field goal.
Here are five takeaways from another depressing Virginia Tech loss.
Pathetic, punchless, mistake-prone offense
Wide receiver Kaleb Smith gets a pass here. He’s tremendous. King has been really good, too, but you can’t fumble in the fourth quarter when your team is that close to winning the game.
The rest, well, it was another tough day at the office.
The turnovers and penalties are bad. But let’s talk about the coaching. Did anyone see Wells complete an absolute beauty to Connor Blumrick to set up a touchdown in the second quarter?
It was nice to see Blumrick, who we were told back in the spring, was one of Virginia Tech’s 22 best players. He seems to make plays when he gets a chance. Next up is freshman tight end Dae’Quan Wright. He didn’t catch a pass. Even worse, he received one target: a throw from Wells into double coverage that should have been picked off.
Why isn’t offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen using these players more? Bowen doesn’t have an offensive plan. There is no creativity. And there is certainly no scheming wide receivers open.
Bowen’s plan is for the strong-armed Wells to throw it deep to Smith and either hope he catches it or draw a flag. I’m joking — or am I?
Wells has issues, but he isn’t Virginia Tech’s biggest offensive problem. Right now, it’s coaching. The effort is there, but are these players being put in the best position to win?
Let’s close this with this: Virginia Tech’s second-half possessions ended with the following: punt, punt, missed field goal, fumble, interception, punt, fumble.
And can we please stop the procedural penalties?
Defense is almost as bad as the offense
Remember when Virginia Tech’s defense was padding stats against bad teams? We’ve learned recently that VT’s defense has almost as many problems as the offense. The Hokies played well for stretches on Saturday. At times, they made Georgia Tech freshman quarterback Zach Pyron look like, well, a freshman.
And then, when it mattered the most, Tech’s defense went soft and allowed Pyron to come up with big play after big play. His touchdown run to end the game was pathetic defense. How often do we see a quarterback drop back to pass, then take off and run for a big gain? It’s like the coaches aren’t prepared for it.
What about the 3rd and 19? With the Hokies leading 27-22, Virginia Tech defensive tackle Mario Kendricks sacks Pyron for a nine-yard loss. After an incomplete pass on the next play, the Hokies call a timeout with Georgia Tech facing a 3rd and 19.
How did they respond?
Pyron finds Nate McCollum for 20 yards and a first down. This was after a timeout, folks. Pathetic. That should never happen.
There was also the 56-yard touchdown pass to McCollum, where he was somehow matched up with middle linebacker Dax Hollifield. That’s an unfair matchup for your middle linebacker.
Another ugly collapse for the defense.
Brent Pry postgame
I really like Brent Pry. I really do. I want him to succeed for many reasons. And I think he is a good man. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. How many times have I used the Mike Elko example this season? Elko inherited a Duke team that went winless in ACC play last year. Have you seen the Blue Devils play this season? They are tough, competitive and well-coached. No worries, we will see them up close next week.
Back to Pry. He comes off well in his interviews. Off the field, he’s handled everything well. He says all the right things, and he’s trying. But at some point, you need to win. Fans are already tired of the “aw shucks, we are close” routine. That’s no disrespect to Pry. In his defense, facing the media after a game is a thankless exercise. What is he supposed to say? “My offensive coordinator isn’t good? My players stink?”
We know he can’t say those things, and it would reveal someone’s true character if they did. But he hired them. This could be his one shot as a head coach, and he surrounded himself with a lot of inexperience.
Here is one of his quotes, per Andy Bitter of The Athletic.
Brent Pry: "I know everyone's disappointed. I'm disappointed for our players. I'm disappointed for our fans. It starts with me. I've got to own it." #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) November 5, 2022
He reiterated that more than once. “I’ve got to own it.” Sure, Coach Pry, you do. But owning mistakes doesn’t turn into wins. Virginia Tech shouldn’t have blown the last two games. If you want to preach real progress, you need to win. Right now, that’s all that matters.
Holloway, Lawson stood out
True freshman wide receiver Tucker Holloway and redshirt freshman linebacker Keli Lawson had terrific games Saturday. Holloway set the school record punt-return yardage in a single game with seven returns for 188 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown.
Go back and watch Holloway. He was doing big things on every return. His speed is evident, but he makes decisions quickly and doesn’t hesitate. He’s always moving upfield. The Hokies have had nothing from the punt return game this season until Holloway took over.
We’ve heard nothing but good things about Holloway since he enrolled. Shouldn’t he be on the field more? You mean, Bowen couldn’t use Holloway at wide receiver? It could be fun watching Holloway run go balls with Wells’ strong arm.
Tucker Holloway takes it to the house with a 90-yard PUNT RETURN TD!@HokiesFB pic.twitter.com/SXCTwJ3VaV— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 5, 2022
Lawson moved to linebacker in the offseason. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the former staff had Lawson on offense as a wide receiver. The 6-foot-4 Lawson played extensively Saturday and had some big-time moments. Lawson batted one pass in the air, caught it, and returned it for a touchdown. That was vintage Virginia Tech.
Lawson was active against the run on ensuing possessions, chasing down ballcarriers from behind. He should start, or at least play significant minutes, in Virginia Tech’s final three games.
We have Lawson, Holloway, Mansoor Delane and Wright. These are four of the best players on Virginia Tech’s roster — all are first- or second-year players. We’ve begged all year: play the best players.
Officially eliminated from bowl contention
Imagine if the Hokies had won the last two games. They certainly should have, but complete collapses on offense and defense have them at 2-7. If the Hokies had won those two games, they’d be 4-5 and would only need to win two of their final three games to be bowl eligible.
Unfortunately, that’s now how things played out. With only three games left, the Hokies are already eliminated from bowl eligibility. Let that sink in for a minute. Five days into November and the Hokies are eliminated from ALL bowl possibilities.
We talk about 1992 a lot. The losing streaks, the year before the Hokies jumped on the national scene and became a relevant program. We have another one; the loss guarantees the Hokies can’t qualify for a bowl for the first time since 1992.
Another sad reminder about the current state of Virginia Tech football. Sure, bowl games are overrated these days, but it’s sad that the Hokies can’t even be eligible to play in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, GalleryFurniture.com Bowl, or the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl.