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Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. Duke

By Justin Cates | November 14
Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. Duke
My wife and I were traveling home from a week on the frontier Saturday so I missed the Duke game live. I largely avoided all college football to avoid seeing the score which was fairly torturous. That also meant staying off social media which is always a good thing. This was all in an effort to preserve an authentic late night watch free from external noise. Just me and the game. There's something pure and nostalgic about all of that. I highly recommend it from time to time.

My watch and the game went extremely well. As a result, there are far more cheers than jeers this week which is always a good thing.

Jeers

Undisciplined Play

I'll start with the caveat that Saturday evening's officiating was largely a joke. The officials felt the need to insert themselves on seemingly every play—particularly during a stretch in the second half. That said, the Hokies have also gone from being one of the least penalized teams in the ACC to playing fairly undisciplined football. Tech was penalized seven times against both Georgia Tech and Boston College, and a whopping 12 times for 106 yards against Duke.

The last two games have seen some particularly concerning moments from veteran players. Dax Hollifield could have easily been tossed—and might well have been by the whistle happy refs this week—for a sideline tussle at BC that ended with him bumping into Eagles' head coach Jeff Hafley. Against Duke Chamarri Conner similarly lucked out with just an unsportsmanlike call after throwing a punch at a Duke defender. This isn't veteran behavior and the overall trend is concerning if Tech wants to rally and make a bowl game.

The Public Address

It's come to my attention that the public address announcer managed to botch the names of both Xavier Adibi and Jamon Gordon during their moment in the sun at halftime. Two of the highest profile athletes of the last 20 years should not be welcomed home with that for their Hall of Fame Day in Lane Stadium.

I served as a PA announcer for baseball, soccer, and one volleyball game during my time in Blacksburg. I'm still salty that despite calling the majority of baseball games, I wasn't permitted to announce the exhibition game with the New York Yankees. The athletic department decided to have someone else do it, and they mispronounced the name of one of our own players.

That was small potatoes compared to this. I'm embarrassed and angry for those distinguished alumni and I hope a formal apology is issued at bare minimum.

The football team is 5-5 in November. The least we can expect at this point is a well-produced game atmosphere.

Cheers

Points and Yards in Bunches

For the first time since the 2018 loss to Old Dominion the Hokies finally amassed over 500 yards in a game. To say the lengthy stretch is 'bad' or 'an indictment of the offensive scheme' doesn't really begin to touch on how wild a stat that is. Thankfully on this night Tech put together 48 points, 573 total yards, and did what they ought to do to teams like Duke. Certainly, the Blue Devils are a very bad football team but the quality of the opponent hasn't necessarily been the determining factor in Tech's offensive success during that streak.

Against Duke Tech mixed it up with a nice balance of running and passing. Some different personnel got in on the action and made some plays—though it was mostly due to injuries—including a breakout performance for Keshawn King who ran for 90 yards with a score and had a blazing fast 47-yard touchdown reception. There was even a delightful trick play out of the wildcat package which yielded a touchdown. Plus there was a late defensive touchdown when TyJuan Garbutt had a scoop and score.

You aren't going to lose many games with this kind of overall performance and that it came on senior day was pretty sweet.

Braxton Burmeister

The Hokies quarterback will never be free from comparisons to the other QBs who have left the program, but he does the best he can with his skill set. It's a shame that he's so injury-prone because when he's actually on the field he's quite capable of giving defenses fits. His touch passes continue to be an issue, but he had some of his best throws of the season against Duke. His downfield passing still left something to be desired, but he had more zip on his throws than one might expect a week after getting knocked out of a game and after briefly leaving this one. His speed sets him apart from most quarterbacks and he used it to run for 71 yards in this one. Tech also used the run threat to set up some RPOs which have proven effective at times. Burmeister finished with 215 yards and three scores on just nine completions and for the season has a solid 11 to 4 touchdown to interception ratio with just over 1,700 passing yards.

Underwhelming numbers to be sure and not at all what was promised in preseason, but the dude leaves it all out there and is tough as nails. He has firmly crossed into Michael Brewer territory in terms of the pantheon of Hokie quarterbacks. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on who you ask, but you can't ask for much tougher.

Aggressive Defense

While Bud Foster was making the rounds on the tailgating scene Justin Hamilton dialed up one of Bud's old game plans for freshman quarterbacks. Tech brought all kinds of pressure and did a nice job of mixing the looks they gave Riley Leonard in his first start. For the day the Hokies racked up four sacks and seven tackles for loss plus an interception and numerous pass deflections. There was more trouble once Duke put in Jordan Moore who ran for 113 yards with a touchdown and passed for another, but by then it was too late.

Despite the offensive struggles for most of this season, the defense has shown considerable improvement over the previous year. Tech ranks 32nd in scoring defense compared to 82nd in 2020. That's an 11-point difference. They haven't been perfect but the defense has clearly moved in the right direction.

Lane Stadium Shows Out

According to our Al Jones, attendance in Lane Stadium on Saturday was 56,730. That seemed pretty accurate on TV and the students were out in force. In a completely random comparison with no ill intent, Al also pointed out that Virginia had 48,584 in house to witness a top ten Notre Dame club in prime time. Do with that information what you will.

While the scene in Lane for the North Carolina opener was a thing of beauty, this performance by the fans in support of a 4-5 team was more impressive on balance. Kudos to everyone who showed up in the cold to send the seniors out the right way.

It's been a real rock-bottom kind of season but it was wonderful to see the guys rewarded for their efforts in the season finale at home. Tae Daley—who recorded his first interception for the Hokies—put it best.

Justin Cates

Justin Cates

My Dad graduated from Tech in 1981 and I’ve been attending Virginia Tech sporting events since I first moved to Blacksburg in 1988. I myself graduated in 2008 with a Communication degree. During my time as a student I was the Sports Director for WUVT and helped establish and run Planet Blacksburg, an independent student-run news website. I’ve since written for numerous publications including SBNation, Inside The ACC, and Sports Illustrated's AllHokies. Currently, I host The Justin Cates Show in addition to other contributions here at Sons of Saturday and various other sites as the need arises. I now live in a fortified compound in upstate New York with my wife and numerous animals. The smell of popcorn makes me think of Cassell.

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