Three Cheers and Three Jeers for Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina
For the second year in a row Tech-UNC was a track meet, but this time the Hokies fell short 56-45. The Virginia Tech defense was gouged for 656 total yards and got behind big early. There are big questions on defense, but the offense once again did some big things.
Like any game there was plenty of good and bad to go around.
Players Getting Healthy
The most encouraging thing about this game was the return of all of the full-time assistant coaches as well as a handful of players including Hendon Hooker and Jermaine Waller. Tech was only missing 15 players for this game which means things are trending in the right direction on that front.
The kicker continued his strong performance thus far by nailing a career long 55-yard field goal when the Hokies desperately needed points. He's always had a big leg but this year he's shown improved accuracy and become a huge weapon for the Hokies. He also executed a textbook onside kick which he himself recovered late in the third quarter to swing momentum and jumpstart a Tech rally.
I've mentioned it before but this team has some serious resilience. They haven't caught any breaks on player availability or scheduling, yet they continue to do their thing and figure it out as they go. The attempted comeback after getting blasted in the first half tells you a lot about this group and bodes well for the rest of the season.
I’ve been trying to stay off Twitter for this game because it’s a roller coaster. But I can’t emphasize this enough..— Mike McDaniel (@MikeMcDanielVT) October 10, 2020
Hooker is QB1. This team is resilient as hell.
Bonus Cheer: A Real Broadcast Team
While the result was disappointing, it was nice to watch a Tech game via a competent telecast. Bob Wischusen does a nice job with play-by-play, Dan Orlovsky had some great insights and was complimentary of both teams when earned, and of course Dr. Jerry Punch is a legend in multiple sports. Hopefully you all enjoyed it as it's back to the ACC Network next week.
Each season during the Justin Fuente era there has been one notable game where the Hokies came out and appeared completely shell-shocked by their opponents. This one is 2020's early candidate to continue that trend, with a twist.
The Hokies looked confused and overmatched on defense, particularly early in the game when the Tar Heels raced out to a 21-0 lead. The first handful of offensive drives were listless and the team didn't seem to react well, though they rallied in a massive way in the third quarter. That's a major difference from past instances of poor starts and a credit to the coaching staff. It's something to build on from an otherwise distasteful loss.
The Hokies missed quite a few tackles on the day and Carolina capitalized in a big way. A few of the misses came on scoring plays, and a handful of other whiffs led to chunk yardage for the Tar Heels. Some of this may be a reflection of altered practices. I'm not sure how much live contact has been reduced, but this is also just youth showing on defense. A lot of less developed guys have been forced into duty and it shows. But it's not limited to new starters and that's concerning. There's a lot to clean up on defense starting up front where Tech was dominated all day against the Tar Heels.
The Quarterback Rotation
Braxton Burmeister is a gamer and is a valuable part of the team, but he's shown his limitations. He lags behind Hendon Hooker in arm strength, accuracy, and decision-making. The Hokies will undoubtedly need him again this season and he's proven he can win games, but Hendon Hooker needs to see every down when he's healthy. Hooker quickly shook off the rust and reminded everyone why he was named the starter in the preseason with a strong performance. Hooker has that elusive 'it' factor and with him at the helm this offense has a chance to be special.