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The Fan Base Deserves More

By Mike McDaniel | October 12
The Fan Base Deserves More
Courtesy: The Daily Press

Notre Dame 32 Virginia Tech 29.

It was another primetime night game at Lane Stadium, and save for the North Carolina opener to start this season, a result that's become all too common for Virginia Tech in nationally televised "big" home games under the Justin Fuente regime.

When Hokies' quarterback Braxton Burmeister and his brutalized body found his way into the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown run with 3:55 to play, it felt like Virginia Tech would get over the hump at home against the Irish. After all, Tech had an 8-point lead after a questionable extra point decision, rendering it difficult, but not impossible, for the Irish to close the gap in the late stages of the contest.

Instead, the defense, which has largely been good over the course of four-plus games in 2021, faltered late. Notre Dame marched right up the field after the Burmeister touchdown, with Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan coming off the bench to engineer a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive, that concluded with a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Avery Davis and an unbelievable catch by receiver Kevin Austin Jr. on the ensuing two-point conversion.

The following possession? Game tied with 2:26 to play?

Three-and-out - with Virginia Tech wide receiver Tre Turner's second down drop/slight overthrow by Braxton Burmeister looming large in Tech's debacle late.

We know what happens from here.

Tech punts, Notre Dame puts together a seven-play, 45-yard drive to put kicker Jonathan Doerer in field goal range, which he made from 48 yards with 17 seconds to go.

Notre Dame 32 Virginia Tech 29.

There's continued frustration across the fan base regarding Tech's struggles in recent years. Certainly, the frustration is warranted, as Virginia Tech failed to deliver once again in a big game under Justin Fuente. Failure to deliver has become all too common in the last decade for the Hokies, a decade that has been cruel more often than kind for this storied football program.

And in the latest installment of Virginia Tech football this past Saturday in Lane Stadium, there were certainly some decisions that could be nitpicked, and some execution to be less-than-thrilled with.

The inability to score a touchdown on three consecutive plays from the Notre Dame one-yard line at the start of the second quarter, eventually leading to a 19-yard field goal, was disappointing on all fronts - from decision making to execution. It was a good start for Tech and a 10-0 lead in the early stages of the second quarter, but it should have been 14-0 - no question about it.

There was also the two-point conversion decision in the third quarter, after Tech defensive back Jermaine Waller ran back an interception for a touchdown to make it 22-21 Hokies. Initially, that was a fine move to try to make it a 24-21 lead by going for two, but the call was rendered questionable after Tech committed a false start penalty and was operating the offense with backup quarterback Connor Blumrick from the eight-yard-line instead of the three on the conversion attempt.

This low percentage decision by the coaching staff, coupled with a low-percentage passing play with a quarterback who - at least to this point - hasn't shown an ability to pass, came back to bite the Hokies. The conversion was unsuccessful and the Hokies instead grasped desperately to a 22-21 lead.

Justin Fuente said in his Monday press conference that he would have liked to have that decision back, but that his "pride and pissed-offishness" got in the way.

OK...

Then there was the decision to NOT go for two when Virginia Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister ran it in with 3:55 to play to make it 28-21 Hokies. A successful two-point conversion here would have made it 30-21 in favor of Tech with less than four minutes to play - a two-possession game.

I understand Notre Dame scored 11 points in the final four minutes of regulation, and that in theory, this decision would not have mattered on the final scoreboard. However, a nine-point game would have drastically changed the game script and play-calling for Notre Dame with less than four minutes to go. More pressure would have been put on a turnover-happy Irish offense to make something happen down two scores late instead of one. It changes the calculus for Notre Dame offensively, no question about it.

Sure, the final score could have still been Notre Dame 32, Virginia Tech 30 in this scenario, but it would have impacted the way the final four minutes were called from a coaching standpoint for Brian Kelly and Tommy Rees' Irish offense.

Instead, Tech kicked the extra point to make it 29-21 Hokies, and the defense couldn't get stops on consecutive possessions when they needed it most.

Notre Dame 32 Virginia Tech 29.

Yes, it was yet another disappointment in this particular game for Virginia Tech fans.

It was disappointing that plays couldn't be made down the stretch. It was disappointing that some of the tough situational calls by the coaching staff didn't work out. It was disappointing that Virginia Tech lost AGAIN in a big game against a reputable opponent that was winnable at home.

But for me, it's not about the micro-view. It's about the macro-view.

With this team under this regime, it's always going to come down to a few well-executed (or poorly-executed) plays here and there, and a few situational calls here and there, that will determine the outcome of football games for Justin Fuente's Hokies.

It will come down to whether or not the team will stay healthy enough in key positions on the field to give Tech the best chance to be successful in any single game remaining on the schedule.

Why?

Because the team hasn't recruited enough playable depth across the roster. Because Virginia Tech trusts a mediocre-passing quarterback with a badly-hurt arm over any of the other options in the room. Because Virginia Tech can't consistently win in key situational areas throughout a tightly-contested football game.

Justin Fuente has said in the past that Virginia Tech football games would frequently be a "four-hour stomach-ache".

In year six, the fan base deserves more.

Mike McDaniel

Mike McDaniel

As a first generation Hokie, I can't say that Virginia Tech has always been in my blood, but I can say unequivocally that I bleed maroon and orange now. I graduated from the Pamplin College of Business in 2015 with a double major in accounting and finance, and have parlayed that into a five-year career in government compliance consulting in the Washington D.C. metro area where I grew up. At Tech, I enjoyed going to as many sporting events as I could, playing four years for the Club Golf team, and realizing my passion for writing and creating content.


I have previously written for Gobbler Country on the SB Nation network, Fighting Gobbler for Fansided, InsideTheACC.com, The Tech Lunch Pail, and most recently for Sports Illustrated's All Hokies, where I was the lead publisher.


In addition to writing, I am also co-host of Basketball Conference: The ACC Football Podcast and the Hokie Hangover Podcast covering Virginia Tech athletics.


I'm passionate about Virginia Tech, but also hope to bring an objective and journalistic background to enhance the already fantastic athletic coverage here at Sons of Saturday.



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