The Virginia Tech Hokies won a bowl game on Wednesday for the first time since 2016, defeating the Tulane Green Wave 41-20 at the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md. The win moved the Hokies to 7-6 as they won five of their last seven games to end the 2023 campaign on a high note.
The weather was nasty in Annapolis, but Virginia Tech fans took over Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, and the crowd looked like something you’d see in Blacksburg.
Tech piled up 453 yards of total offense, including 362 rushing yards, averaging over seven yards per attempt. While the Green Wave lost a lot of talent due to opt-outs and the transfer portal, most of their starting defense played in the game. Tulane was solid against the run in 2023, ranking 22nd, and allowed just 3.55 yards per rush entering the Military Bowl.
Here are some takeaways from VT’s Military Bowl triumph over Tulane.
Kyron Drones is set for a huge 2024
Virginia Tech finally found its quarterback. This is nothing new; we’ve known that for a couple of months now. Kyron Drones gets better in every game he plays. He has a big arm and uses his legs to set up everything in the passing game. On his touchdown pass to tight end Benji Gosnell, Drones’ legs scared Tulane, and as the defenders converged on him, he flipped it to Gosnell for an easy touchdown.
Drones was unbelievable on Wednesday. He rushed for a career-high 176 yards. He didn’t need to pass for big numbers. The weather was nasty, and VT’s offensive line won at the line of scrimmage all day.
The way Drones improved in every game has Virginia Tech fans excited about the possibilities for next season. He’ll have the entire offensive line back, plus a couple of additions, Bhayshul Tuten, and essentially the entire wide receiver corps. Drones is the perfect dual-threat quarterback who fits Virginia Tech.
The Hokies won up front
As mentioned, Tech’s offensive line dominated. It’s much easier to win when your offensive line takes care of business. When you can run the ball, everything else comes much easier. The Hokies were creative in their run game early, and by the second half, they had worn down Tulane’s defense, and they could do anything they wanted.
The offensive line has been inconsistent this season but has played much better lately. The Hokies have already added transfer Montavious Cunningham to the 2023 roster and would like to add another, but are really counting on continued growth from some of their young offensive linemen already in the program.
The Hokies have a clear identity
Let’s be honest, if not for the turnovers, this game could’ve been over by halftime. However, in the second half, Virginia Tech rectified that by outscoring Tulane 24-10 after intermission. And that’s with the Hokies seemingly taking their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter.
How a team responds in the second half is often indicative of the coaching staff. The Hokies came out in the third quarter with a goal in mind: Continue to punch Tulane in the mouth on both sides of the ball. It’s been a recurring theme throughout the second half of the season. While the Hokies didn’t win every game in the second half of the season, they had an identity.
Brent Pry’s teams want to control the line of scrimmage with the running game and supplement that with big plays in the passing game. That’s easy to do when things are clicking, and you have the right players. The Hokies have a dual-threat QB, a stud running back and multiple playmakers on the outside who can take it to the house on any given play. That’s a recipe for success.
Defensively, the Hokies looked much better in the second half of the season, flying to the football. There are still issues, such as run fits, but if the Hokies hit on transfer LB Sam Brumfield, that area will be much better in 2024.
Positive vibes heading into the offseason
When was the last time a Virginia Tech fan could feel this good heading into the offseason? No one is saying the Hokies are a national title contender in 2024. However, with this schedule and expected roster next season, the Hokies should contend for an ACC title. That’s not being too optimistic. It’s a realistic possibility. Of course, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and predict big things eight months from now, but this roster is in much better shape than it’s been in years.
Pry deserves credit for what he’s done thus far. There were questions about Pry after last season, but that wasn’t even fair. He inherited a bad roster. Not only that, he and his staff had to work overtime to repair some of the broken relationships within the state. Pry’s work is paying off. The Hokies are landing players from Virginia again. And some of those who initially chose to go out of state entered the transfer portal and came back home. Even better, some of those who thought they were better than Virginia Tech before, don’t make it elsewhere and want to transfer into VT. But there’s no room for all of them. That’s a good problem to have.
The feeling about the Hokies right now is better than it has been in years. They need to pay it off with a big season on the field next fall.
Kudos to OC Tyler Bowen
The most unpopular man on every football team is the offensive coordinator. That’s unfair but mostly true. It’s especially true at Virginia Tech. For years, Bryan Stinespring was ridiculed, even though he was running the offense that Frank Beamer wanted.
However, Hokie fans saw six years of Brad Cornelsen, so they have a right to complain. Cornelsen should’ve never been an OC at this level. So, any complaint regarding Cornelsen is warranted.
That leads us to current offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen. Bowen took a lot of heat last season, from us included. It was his first year, and truth be known, he didn’t have the players he needed to run the offense he wanted. That’s why he heavily pursued Drones in the transfer portal. The problem was fans didn’t understand why Drones didn’t start at quarterback in the first game. Drones had some growing to do as a quarterback, but as we’ve seen this season, he improves each week by playing.
And, through Drones, we can see the type of offense Bowen wants to run, and it’s exciting. Bowen proved he can be extremely creative at times. With so many of Virginia Tech’s top players returning next fall, next season should be fun from an offensive standpoint.
Bowen did a good job this season.