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Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. Syracuse

By Justin Cates | October 27
Screenshot 2023 10 24 at 12 10 01 AM

There was powerful Big East energy in the air Thursday night in Blacksburg. There was some here in Upstate New York too. I'll admit that a late run to the neighborhood liquor store yielded not only bourbon, but some Syracuse chatter with the store owners. We waxed about Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, then I raced back up the hill for the game. Not a bad start and you know it's a good night when the commentators mention TOTS multiple times during the broadcast. It was a full-on throwback with the Hokies taking the Orange behind the woodshed under the lights in Lane in a 38-10 win.


Return to Thursday Night Dominance

What an incredible result and overall boost for Hokie nation. That's now three home wins in a row and while a few more touchdowns would have been nice, they were hardly necessary. It was shades of the 1999 rout early and truly the defense is beginning to look like a late nineties vintage itself. Chris Marve dialed up a whale of a ball game and rolled up eight sacks as a group.

There will be a more detailed offensive chat below, but how about that fast start? While there were a few too many drives that ended with field goals, the Hokies moved the ball right away and started putting points on the board. That's a refreshing change and another sign of program growth.

I'm sure the ratings weren't that great for two teams that now sit at 4-4, but it was nice to put on a near-perfect showing with at least some of the country watching. It's been far too long since that's been the result.

Take a Bow Tyler Bowen

On a night like this many stats demonstrate dominance but perhaps none more than the fact that Virginia Tech outrushed Syracuse 318-0. Those oranges had families! Bhayshul Tuten ran for 118 yards and a score plus Malachi Thomas added an impressive 87 yards himself. Thomas also threw a smooth red zone touchdown pass on a first-quarter halfback pass. This has quickly become an old-school Hokies running back rotation worthy of the ancient "Stallions" moniker. Tech has quite a lot in the stable right now.

In other fun stats, the Hokies racked up 28 first downs, converted on half of their third downs, and had the ball for 41 minutes and 42 seconds. The night ended with 528 total yards for Tech and a ton of creative, new plays on tape for opposing coaches to obsess over. Perhaps most importantly, there were zero turnovers. It was just an absolutely remarkable night of offensive playcalling and execution.

We all know the importance of finding a quarterback and the Hokies have done that, but the supporting cast has been stepping up across the board. Including the offensive line. We've all been justifiably critical of that unit but they completely manhandled the Orange all night. You don't rush for that many yards without imposing your will and they really did. They also cut way down on penalties which have wiped out plenty of chunk plays this season.

Tyler Bowen deserves tons of credit for Tech's impressive ability to use pre-snap motion to create opportunities. It was fully evident on the Thomas touchdown pass which ESPN spent time breaking down. There are plenty of other examples too, but I'll leave that to my more analytical colleagues.

Love Is All You Need

While you don't want to settle for field goals, you at least want to make them and John Love was perfect Thursday. He nailed all five of his kicks with a long of 43 yards and they were all right down the middle. John was the leader of a special teams unit that showed out across the board. Kyle Lowe had eight touchbacks, Peter Moore did his usual thing though he wasn't needed much, plus Tucker Holloway had some nifty punt returns.

It was a great night for some old-fashioned Beamerball and while I'm not going to come up with a Brent Pry pun of a similar sort, it's tempting after this game.


Rough Night Out There

Football is a brutal game and the week-to-week grind takes a tremendous toll on the body. It seemed like it was particularly harsh Thursday night, however. Countless plays ended with players slow to get up. Quite a few guys left the game — including Dae'Quan Wright on a cart though he would incredibly return — and Syracuse seemed particularly hard hit. It's tough to get much of a flow with that many injury stoppages plus the frequent procedure penalties on the Orange. It was bad enough that the Bills game on the other television, which started 45 minutes after Tech, eventually caught up. Thankfully it didn't seem to affect the Hokies that much.

There were some bad throws and penalties on Tech's side too but the physical toll was the primary concern of the evening. Thankfully the Hokies have plenty of time to rest up and create another innovative gameplan, this time for a top 25 opponent.

Final Thoughts

This isn't really important but I desperately want to know what was in Otto's backpack. He was carrying one on his way past the Hokies cheerleaders, before he stopped, spun his citrus torso around, then wandered off into the night. Truly, Tech-Syracuse is a top-tier mascot match-up between two absolute freaks. You've got to love it.

Virginia Tech remains remarkably positioned to make lots of trouble in the ACC. With ten days to prepare for the toughest remaining game on paper against Louisville, the Hokies have an excellent shot to qualify for a bowl game. And man, wouldn't you love another crack at the outstanding Seminoles now that the Hokies are stacking wins and confidence? It might be a similar result but the team knows it can hang with anybody including the 'Noles once they got past that first quarter.

The most encouraging thing right now as I alluded to earlier is we can see clear signs of growth. That was a bit of a question mark after Pry's first season as the team floundered fairly consistently. That continued at the beginning of this season but now we're seeing clear signs of progress. Light bulbs are flickering on across the roster as things start to click for guys. The star players are starting to believe they can't be stopped while the role guys are playing their roles to perfection.

There's still a long way to go this season. Still, it's a tall order to be upset about a program that suddenly appears to be in a better spot in the rebuild than we all thought. Hopefully, some forward progress remains for the coming weeks.

Just keep playing 'complimentary ball', remain creative, and continue getting plenty of vitamin C and things will get very exciting down the stretch.


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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