Most Virginia Tech fans had Saturday’s game against the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles circled on their calendars as a loss heading into the season. After the Hokies dropped three consecutive games in September, the only question was by how many touchdowns Virginia Tech would lose.
It certainly looked like it would be ugly early, as the ‘Noles jumped out to a 22-0 lead, and the VT looked shellshocked and overmatched. However, the Hokies slowly crawled back into the game, making it a one-score game in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, that was as close as it would get, and the more talented Seminoles pulled away for a 39-17 win.
Let’s look back at our five takeaways from the game.
The Hokies showed fight
What were you thinking when the Seminoles went up 22-0 on the Hokies? You were thinking FSU could win this game by 40 or 50 points. It certainly looked that way. But while the next couple of drives weren’t overly successful for the Hokies, you could see things opening up. Quarterback Kyron Drones’ 40-yard run in the second quarter paved the way for the Hokies’ first score, a field goal.
After the defense made another stop, Drones led another scoring drive before halftime when running back Bhayshul Tuten scored the first of his two touchdowns. Suddenly, this was a game again before halftime.
In the third quarter, Tuten returned the kickoff 99 yards, and the Hokies were down only one score. It wouldn’t last, but Tech showed incredible resilience in not rolling over in a hostile environment against a team that was way more talented.
Another good game from OC Tyler Bowen
The Hokies lost by three touchdowns and scored only 10 points on offense. Correct. However, they were facing a defensive line that will have multiple future NFL players. Through it all, I was encouraged by offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen. I thought Bowen did a nice job last week. This week presented another challenge, and it’s clear Bowen is calling an offense he prefers with Drones under center.
I need to rewatch the game, but I saw some Virginia Tech wide receivers free in the secondary, and Drones was hesitant to pull the trigger at times. Some of that is inexperience, while part of it is Drones not trusting his protection. But Bowen’s play design is working. We are about to find out if this carries over into future weeks as Drones and Bowen become more comfortable with one another.
Tough day for young Brody Meadows
Brody Meadows is a 6-foot-6, 314-pound redshirt freshman guard from nearby Graham High School in Bluefield, Va. Early this season, coaches are incorporating Meadows more in the rotation, which I approve of. Look, Virginia Tech’s offensive line is a work in progress with a new coach, so it may take all season before this unit is settled. So it makes sense to play some of the younger players, and Meadows is one of the better young linemen in the program.
Unfortunately for Meadows, in the first half, running back Malachi Thomas appeared to be headed for a huge play, perhaps even a touchdown, but while Meadows was in front of Thomas blocking for him, his foot tripped up Thomas.
In the fourth quarter, the Hokies faced a fourth-and-12. Drones dropped back under heavy pressure and heaved a miracle throw downfield to wide receiver Stephen Gosnell, who made an amazing catch. It didn’t count, as Meadows was called for holding. To his credit, Drones went up to Meadows and offered encouragement. An excellent sign of leadership.
The score was 32-17 at this point, and Tech would have been near the red zone with nine minutes to play. That’s essentially where the game ended.
That’s not Meadows’ fault. He played hard. He’s a young player who is improving each week. I want Meadows and some of Tech’s other young players on the field. That’s how they’ll get better. I think the offensive line is better with Meadows in the lineup, and he should continue to play. Days like Saturday make you better in the long run and we are all rooting for Brody.
Tech ultimately lost the game because it couldn’t stop the run.
The running game on both sides of the ball
Early in the season, it was clear the Hokies were going to have trouble stopping the run. Remember when ODU ran the football on VT? ODU is 69th in the nation in rushing. Tech is still having issues stopping the run, and against the Seminoles, the Hokies allowed 282 rushing yards. OK, that’s bad, but even worse, FSU averaged almost eight yards per attempt. Florida State running back Trey Benson carried the 11 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns — an average of 18.2 yards per attempt.
Is there an answer for the Hokies right now defensively? There’s nothing more deflating for a team than knowing you can’t stop the run. Head coach Brent Pry has spoken on the issue this season, and he’s tried to remain encouraging despite the frustration. Why would any team for the rest of the season do anything but make the Hokies stop the run?
Next week, the Hokies face Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have some issues of their own, but their RPO rushing attack could be a problem for the Hokies.
Offensively, the Hokies rushed for 209 yards, averaging six yards per rush. Drones rushed for 80 yards, while Malachi Thomas was outstanding, rushing for 58 yards on 10 carries. Tuten only had eight carries on offense but also caught four passes. I’d like to see Tuten get 18-20 touches per game while also keeping Thomas involved. The three-headed monster of Drones, Tuten and Thomas is intriguing if used properly.
No moral victories, but......
Yes, there are no moral victories in football. Everyone understands that. But the Hokies and Pry are in the middle of a major rebuilding project. These losses hurt — all of them. But for the first time this season, we saw some grit from this team. When the Hokies were behind in their other three losses against teams with lesser talent than Florida State, you didn’t see the same fight and grit you witnessed Saturday.
What does that mean? Right now, it means nothing. If that type of grit and fight carries over into this week and next week’s game against Wake Forest, we may be showing true signs of progress. When VT lost to Purdue, Rutgers and Marshall, there were some in the fan base talking about not watching again this season. Last week’s home sellout against Pitt proves that fans are still invested. The win helped, even against a bad Pittsburgh team. After the first quarter against the Seminoles, it would have been easy to turn it off and walk away. But the way the Hokies battled back was encouraging.
However, none of this matters if Wake Forest rolls them next Saturday. Fans want real progress each week. We witnessed progress last week and I believe, some incremental signs of progress on Saturday.
Next week is a big week for Virginia Tech.