The Virginia Tech Hokies improved to 4-4 on the season after Thursday night’s 38-10 beatdown of the Syracuse Orange in Blacksburg. The win was Tech’s first over Syracuse as ACC foes. The two Big East rivals had only played twice since ‘Cuse entered the ACC in 2013.
It was a convincing and thorough performance from the Hokies that left many fans wondering if this could even be real. Remember the days when blowouts were the norm in Lane Stadium?
Virginia Tech dominated in all three phases from start to finish.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s win.
The offensive line was moving bodies
One of the biggest concerns from any Virginia Tech fan has been the offensive line. Whether it’s recruiting or development, the loss of Joe Rudolph, or bringing his replacement, it’s been a tumultuous year for Tech’s offensive line.
We've seen some improvement from the group in recent weeks. Offensive line coach Ron Crook has tinkered with the lineup, and it appears to be working. On Thursday, the Hokies had their best performance from the front five in years. VT ran for 318 yards against Syracuse. Bhayshul Tuten rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown. He could’ve had more. Tuten always gains positive yardage. Malachi Thomas looked great. He rushed for 87 yards and could’ve had more. QB Kyron Drones finished with 56 yards.
All of those players were excellent, but we need to give credit to Virginia Tech’s offensive line.
What a difference a competent quarterback makes. This is no shot at Grant Wells. I do believe offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen is running the style of offense he wants to run now with Drones under center. You see the potential in every game from Drones. He’s actually improving with every snap. The deep ball to Quan Felton was a beauty. When you have a receiver who is as big and fast as Felton and hit him in stride for a touchdown, that’s impressive.
Check it out.
What a throw from Drones.
You see the upside with Drones. He is an excellent runner. He has the speed and athleticism, but it’s his power that stands out. Would you want to tackle Drones in the open field?
But his continued progress as a passer is what gives VT a chance. The Hokies have turned things around, and Drones deserves plenty of credit.
The defense — wow
What was the most encouraging aspect of Thursday’s game? For me, it was the defense. Remember the last time Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader faced the Hokies? Remember Tech’s issues stopping mobile quarterbacks?
On Thursday, even if it was one night only, we saw some vintage Virginia Tech. Specifically, on the defensive side of the ball with legendary DC Bud Foster present. Well, Foster is always present, but you get the point. Foster had to be smiling seeing the Hokies allowing only 137 total yards and no rushing yards. Yes, Syracuse had ZERO rushing yards. A big reason for that was Tech’s eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss. This is two games in a row where we’ve seen VT’s defensive line whip the opposition’s offensive line.
It’s amazing what teams can accomplish when they are playing with confidence. Clearly, the Hokies are playing with confidence. They are swarming to the football; even with injuries, the next man up delivers.
Head coach Brent Pry is happy for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is how the defense is playing. That’s what Pry wants the Hokies to be known for again. Defensive end Antwaun Powell-Ryland had two more sacks Thursday — he has nine on the season. He will be Tech’s first double-digit sacker in 18 years — since Darryl Tapp in 2005.
Let’s talk about special teams, too. Punt returner Tucker Holloway is phenomenal. He averaged over 20 yards per return and was close to breaking three of them. Holloway may be the best punt returner in college football, but we are biased. It’s only a matter of time before he takes one to the house.
That game was a showcase
Remember when the Hokies rose to prominence in the 1990s? They embraced Thursday night football. It was the only show in town. There were no NFL games on Thursday back then. Frank Beamer used Thursday night as a way to showcase the university and the football program. The Hokies became a national brand.
Times have changed, sure. But it was comforting to see the Hokies are beginning to make Lane Stadium a true home-field advantage again. On Thursday, the Hokies had the opportunity to showcase Lane Stadium in prime time — always a treat for fans of any team — but this time, they put on a show between the lines. That’s what you want to see.
This was a momentum-changer for the Hokies. You create new energy with performances like this. It’s good for the morale of the team and the fan base and keeps recruits and potential transfers excited about coming to Blacksburg.
The Hokies have a chance — to win the ACC
Stop. I am not joking. With Thursday’s win, Virginia Tech improved to 3-1 in ACC play. Florida State is 5-0 and in first place, but Tech is in a three-way tie for second with Louisville and North Carolina. And guess what? The Hokies play Louisville next week.
Remember when even making a bowl game didn’t seem possible? This group has come a long way, and they aren’t finished. Winning at Louisville will be difficult. A few weeks ago, I would’ve laughed at saying the Hokies could win this game. I don’t feel that way anymore. Jeff Brohm has the Cardinals playing well, but they are beatable. Louisville lost to Pitt by 17 points, a team Virginia Tech dominated.
None of that matters when they play next week, but Tech enters the game with a lot of confidence.
Virginia Tech’s remaining schedule sets up well with how the Hokies are playing. Yes, we don’t like to play the schedule game, but it’s undeniable that if Tech can continue to play this well, there’s a shot to meet the Seminoles in the ACC championship.
But first, the focus should only be on Louisville. If you win that, things can start to get exciting. Whether it happens or not, the fact we are discussing this as the calendar flips to November is remarkable.
The times are indeed changing in Blacksburg.