The Hokies weren't necessarily pretty, but they put together some great numbers in the first half to get a 20-7 halftime lead and for once they were the unit on the field to ice a big win. Braxton Burmeister and Tre Turner had the best games of their careers and honestly you could say that after just the first half. Burmeister passed for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the first period with almost all of it going to Turner. The receiver opened the scoring on a 69-yard catch where he made several strong moves to finish the play. Turner ended the half with a career-high 168 yards and his play continued into the second half to finish with 187 yards.
For his part, Burmeister passed for 254 and ran for another 46. He avoided mistakes and made some heady plays but paid the price physically as he always seems to. Without question Tech's offensive improvements are due largely to the resurgence of a ground attack, but Burmeister and Tre were ready to take advantage of that added dynamic.
Run, Run, Run
It's not exactly last season's dominant Khalil Herbet-led effort but there's a definite spark in the Tech backfield of late. That's thanks mostly to Malachi Thomas who turned in his second consecutive 100+ yard game. His play also seems to have fired up Raheem Blackshear who ran for 83 yards and a team-high 5.9 yards per carry. Thomas still appears to miss blocks and that cost Tech including when an unblocked defender hit Burmeister untouched. On balance however, the importance of his play cannot be understated. If the Hokies can sustain this rushing it could prove to be the key to a strong finish this season.
The Return of Amare Barno
Tech's incredibly talented defensive end has been quiet for a number of reasons. He draws most of the offense's attention with frequent double teams and plays run away from his area on the field. The Tech coaches also use him in lots of ways apart from just rushing the passer. He's seen time as a spy and he lines up inside as a tackle on occasion among other wrinkles.
That's a long way to say Barno isn't at fault for going quiet, but man is it good to hear him make some noise again.
He finished with four total tackles which included a critical sack in the closing minutes to help the Hokies seal the deal. His presence doesn't always show up in the stat sheet but he always makes the team better. It was nice to see him back in the stat column in a big way.
This applies to both sides of the football as this game highlighted what has been a season-long issue on fourth down. The Hokies got some rare defensive stops late to slightly improve the season numbers but overall its an ugly picture. I'll admit I lost track of the numbers but HokieSports currently states that opponents have converted on 12-of-15 fourth down tries (80%) while on offense Tech is just 2-of-8. These are brutal numbers and while the stops on D and conversion on a TD at the goal line for the offense are great, it's an obvious sign that things are out of whack.
Perhaps the Georgia Tech outing was a sign that things are improving slightly, but honestly they're a really rough team so one would hope the Hokies could pull it together in this one.
Jekyll and Hyde
First six games for VT: 311.8 yards per game and 21.7 points per game.
Last two games: 464 yards per game and 31 points per game.
With Fuente more involved in the offense the last two weeks, this is a damning indictment of Brad Cornelsen. No other way to paint it.
After a strong first half on offense which yielded 329 total yards Brad Cornelsen once again went into full turtle mode and Tech managed to score just six points in the second half. The team tallied fewer than 40 total yards in the third quarter highlighted by one scoring drive which went four plays for no yards and ended with a field goal. This has happened so many times at this point that it's hard to blame folks who roll their eyes when Tech gets an early lead. The idea to play good defense and control the clock after getting a lead is as old as football and the formula worked very well for a certain Franklin Beamer. It has been less productive for his successor.
As Mr. Stewart referenced above, the shift in the offense has been just as dramatic in the last few weeks as it often is half to half. That difference is largely thanks to a true freshman running back with star potential, but if it takes half a season and the head coach to help you figure it out perhaps it's time you got a change of scenery?
Not Pretty, but Take The Money and Run
It's clearly going to be ugly from here on out. Just like in August, Tech could easily win or lose every game in front of them on the schedule. This is sub-optimal but the potential remains for a strong end to the season.
It says a lot about the team that they won in just the second road game of the year on the heels of a big losing streak.
There are some big issues still looming particularly on offense, but given the number of bowl games the Hokies are absolutely good enough to be in one.
Of course whether that says more about the Hokies or the bloated college football postseason is likely in the eyes of the beholder. Still, there's fight in this team and that's a start.
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.