Three Cheers and Three Jeers for Virginia Tech vs. Miami
Pressuring The Quarterback
This looked much more like the Tech defense we've come to expect up front at least. The Hokies finished with six sacks including 2.5 from Jarrod Hewitt who had a monster day while wearing Frank Beamer's number 25. Tech also did a nice job limiting the damage Miami quarterback D'Eriq King did in the running game. He gained 69 yards, but never gashed Tech as many feared he might. That's a massive improvement compared to past outings against mobile QBs.
Without question this was the best effort of the season from Tech's second level defenders as well. Dax Hollifield was all over the place and finished with a team-high 13 tackles, one sack, and a pass break up. He made plays on both of Miami's failed two-point conversion attempts which was huge though ultimately moot. Rayshard Ashby also looked more like himself with 11 tackles, seven of which were solo. The defensive staff has been heavily criticized but that group pulled their weight in this one.
Holston has been a big, "what if?" for the Hokies to this point in his career. He played in an option attack in high school which meant an adjustment phase to a more traditional offense. He's also struggled to stay healthy up until this season. In a conversation on Twitter last week with one of our other scribes, I advocated for Holston getting more of a look with Khalil Herbert injured. Despite scoring two touchdowns against the Canes, I'm still feeling that way. Holston had just four carries for 39 yards and made a nifty move to convert a third down in the passing game. He had a big day but it could have been bigger.
Second Half Offense
The Hokies played solid on that side of the ball in the first half, not relying too heavily on quarterback runs and finding success in the passing game. That balance disappeared in the third quarter when Tech failed to build on the lead.
Some credit goes to Miami's defensive front for adjusting and getting pressure, but there were plenty of chances for the Hokies to make something happen. Hendon Hooker took a number of uncharacteristic sacks and made some bad choices on the final two drives in particular. He's still unquestionably the best option at QB, but this was not a good outing for him on balance.
This has been an issue pretty much all season in Tech's secondary. Playing press coverage on the outside seems to help, but when the Hokies go to a zone look with a lot of cushion it's free yardage to competent passers. This strategy may be to help plaster over the lack of secondary depth and experience. It could also just be one of the new wrinkles employed by Justin Hamilton. Either way, the experiment has not gone particularly well so far. Getting pressure up front like they did in this game will certainly help, but it's something to keep an eye on.
Losing the Fanbase
I'm not jeering the rightfully upset fanbase here, just lamenting the fact that Justin Fuente has completely lost them. Tech was already long out of the hunt to play for a conference title, but a win over Miami would have settled things a bit in the criticism department. The team's effort was good enough to win and Miami is talented, but this game —like Wake Forest and Liberty— was there for the taking. Fuente is now 0-6 against top ten opponents continuing a long Tech trend of faring poorly against highly ranked foes. Worse is the 17-19 mark against FBS teams since 2017.
I suppose if Tech were to win out that might get folks back on board, but to say that's a tall order is a major understatement.