Returns to homepage

Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. Marshall

By Justin Cates | September 23
Screen Shot 2023 09 23 at 7 02 17 PM
Photo by Jackson Sirbaugh. Virginia Tech stumbled in another late comeback attempt and lost 24-17 Saturday at Marshall.
While I hope you, the reader, will continue to return to this space regardless of future outcomes I can understand your hesitance. It's especially fair if the Hokies continue to lose games in nearly identical fashion each week.

Tech changed the script a bit with an early touchdown but turnovers and another lengthy scoring drought forced yet another doomed rally late in the game that fell just a bit shy.

It was too little too late for a Hokies team about to head into the meat of their conference schedule. It could get pretty dire folks...but let's not get ahead of ourselves! There's plenty to consider from another non-conference road disappointment before we worry about all of that.


Kyron Drones

Drones was far from great in his second college start. He was inconsistent and struggled to make some of the "easier" throws on bubble screens and throws out of the backfield. As such, he again completed too few of his passes and to be fair he wasn't given much time to operate.

Once he started to run though things really opened up for the Tech offense. Drones accounted for essentially all of the Virginia Tech scoring with his two touchdown runs and made some plays in the passing game. His desperation throw to Bhaysul Tuten on fourth down late was pretty impressive despite fading away.

Clearly, Kyron is still a work in progress but he does give Tech a chance. His seeming reluctance to run early in the game makes sense as there is no one else to trot out there if he gets hurt. The way things are trending, how much longer can you expect anyone to stay healthy?

It's a tough balance because obviously, Drones scrambling makes Tech better and the ground game finally had some juice against Marshall (184 yards, 6.1 YPC). It's no surprise really. The Hokies have been masking over ineffective offensive lines and troubled offenses with mobile quarterbacks since the first Bush administration. Drones isn't a total fix as I stated last week, but he is fun. Hopefully, Tyler Bowen can find a balance that works.

Or just let Drones cook and take whatever comes. Personally, I like that plan. There's a Gosnell open down there somewhere...

Defensive Line

I actually really like the group up front. That was a big question mark in the offseason, but there's some solid depth here. Pheladrius Payne got to the quarterback a couple of times Saturday and guys like Norel Pollard and Mario Kendricks were active behind the line as well. I've liked plenty from former Marshall player CJ McCray and a couple of other guys have flashed as well.

Admittedly, I could do without the maddening habit of jumping offsides pre-snap. Particularly when it extends drives for your opponent.

Still, it seems like a lot of the issues are up the middle at the second and third levels. Some of this is due to injuries forcing a personnel shift or three. On other plays, it's clear Tech just isn't good enough at getting off blocks, or making the right reads, or being in the right position pre-snap.

Some of these things can and should improve with more snaps, but oh are there going to be some painful ones mixed in there along the way. If you think you've had your fill of nimble backs running free, untouched in the secondary have I got some unfortunate news for you.


Special Teams Is A Mess

There are plenty of things to pick apart when a team is 1-3. Special teams are an especially sore spot for many Tech fans still wistful for the long-gone days when that was a strength though.

Tech's return blocking has been pretty bad on kickoffs and punts alike. Tucker Holloway finally broke loose on a 29-yard return that was called back by a penalty. There was a near-turnover on one miscommunication and Tech's up men seem trained to fair catch anything despite open field in front of them.

Who knew the best strategy for opponents was to kick the ball directly at us.

Marshall From The Top Rope...Slowly

The Hokies got another predictably great punting day by Peter Moore. One of his more clutch kicks was knocked down at the two-yard line on some great punt coverage. The Thundering Herd then proceeded to drive 98 yards and scored to extend the lead to 24-10. I marked this in my notes as GAME OVER, and while the Hokies battled back this drive was a back-breaker. Tech had nine penalties for 70 yards and at least one or two kept drives going at critical moments.

The Dr. Pepper Commericals

This might seem like a trivial thing —it is— but do you really want more thoughts on the game? While I generally give a pass to the meta-satire of an ad campaign that largely hinges on a performance from Brian Bosworth, it's starting to get a bit too real.

There's a moment in one spot currently running in my head and on my screens where a couple is split up and a rivalry ruined because of the one school's new TV deal.

Ho Ho! It's a realignment joke, get it? The stuff ruining what you love? DRINK SUGAR WATER!!!

That's a little grim even for my somewhat dark tastes Dr. Pepper. I mean, it's essentially one step removed from a Brawndo ad, though that stuff of course at least has what plants crave.

Final Thoughts

I don't see a lack of fight. Teams don't keep clawing their way back into games when they're checked out. That might seem overly optimistic but I wouldn't question the effort. The Hokies just don't have enough healthy talent right now, and the guys they are running out there are largely brand-new. It was particularly evident on some big plays on defense.

There are too many preventable mistakes like penalties and turnovers, then there's an offense that spends most of the game in neutral gear revving the engine. 2-for-13 on third downs isn't going to accomplish much. I stopped counting three-and-outs once I filled up one hand's worth of fingers.

We've got to recalibrate a bit I'm afraid. The Hokies are no longer a bad ACC team. They are a middling Sun Belt squad. That's brutal but it's where we are. Things aren't going to get much better from here I but I'm interested to see how certain players progress. It's time to consider whatever personal rituals you might have for better health in the program. I'm partial to nighttime sacrifices involving fire or whiskey, but for legal reasons, I'm told we can't recommend that.

Hang in there and we'll try again next week tucked far away from the bright noon lights of ESPN2 on the ACC Network.


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.

Read More of Justin's Articles