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Cheers and Jeers: Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia

By Justin Cates | September 23
Wofford Hokie Bird
Photo by Jackson Sirbaugh


Back in the Penalty Box

The Hokies appeared to clean up the self-inflicted wounds after a sloppy opener, but it was more mess Thursday. Tech rolled up nine penalties in the first half and missed loads of tackles. These were strengths in games two and three. Game four was another matter entirely.

West Virginia's up-tempo offense played into some of the poor tackling. The Hokie offense also failed to sustain any real drives to give the defense a rest. That proved to be a lethal combination.

The procedural penalties demonstrate a concerning lack of discipline. So did a critical —though hotly debated— roughing the passer penalty on Dax Hollifield at what was then a critical moment before things got out of hand. There were just plenty of instances where the Hokies needlessly harmed themselves. Tech finished the night with 15 penalties for 132 yards.

This is just pure coaching. It's another correctable thing that can be cleaned up, but it's puzzling to see the same issues crop up again in such a crippling way.

You just aren't going to win a game when you commit that many penalties. Even teams loaded with talent can't afford to make those kinds of mistakes and the Hokies are decidedly not one of those teams. Tech extended Mountaineer drives and cut short their own several times each.

Through four games Tech has been penalized 40 times for 323 yards. That's literally double opponents with 20 whistles for 189 yards. Improvement in this are is an absolute must if Tech expects not only to win some games but to look even remotely competent.

Offensive Line Woes

Tech can't create any push up front. The Hokies were on the wrong end of the battles on both lines of scrimmage evening, but it was the offense's complete inability to create any running room that drew most of the attention.

1.9 yards per carry. That's all the Hokies could muster on 18 carries. That includes a 15-yard Jalen Holston run that happened after the game was decided. When top rushing option to this point Keshawn King finishes with six carries for four yards, you know no holes are coming open up front.

Bold Choices

A poorly managed clock at the end of the first half gave the Mountaineers an opportunity which yielded a game-swinging touchdown just before the break. Even larger was a 4th and 1 deep in WVU territory.

Rather than taking the points, the Hokies went for it but chose to run Grant Wells out of a shotgun formation. They did not convert.

This was another example of trouble up front. The line got destroyed and the play was dead before it had a chance to live. Brent Pry mentioned in the postgame that he wants his team to be the kind of group that can get a yard in this situation. That's the right goal, unfortunately it simply doesn't seem to be the case at this point.

The coaches need to adjust accordingly.


Flickers of Goodness

Despite the final score the defense played pretty darn well. The lack of sustained drives on offense put the D in quite a few bad spots. They came through time and time again and held the explosive West Virginia offense to just six points in the first half before the late touchdown. Even after things got away from Tech late, the Hokies only gave up 33 points. Only Pittsburgh has slowed West Virginia down more (31 points allowed).

There were some tantalizing moments on offense as well. Kaleb Smith continues to be a serious threat and Tech's top receiver. He leads the way with 200 yards and two scores. His knack for making tough catches included a nice adjustment in the end zone on Tech's lone touchdown.

Keshawn King got involved in the passing game as well. He had three catches for 38 yards and was close to breaking a long one more than once. These feels like an area Tech should continue to explore.

Final Thoughts

It's back to the drawing board for coach Pry and company. TheHokies now face a potentially brutal stretch of ACC games with North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami, and NC State on the docket. If mistakes continue to be the dominant theme this season, things could get ugly quick.

Thursday night was awful at the end of the day. That's really all that needs to be said. There remain correctable mistakes, but will they get corrected and stay fixed?

There's lots of football to be played so the journey continues. Just don't expect it to be a smooth ride.


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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