Three Cheers and Three Jeers for Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest
The Hokies came out flat once again on a road trip to North Carolina and yet again it cost them. Numerous penalties and empty trips into Wake Forest territory left Virginia Tech short 23-16.
For the first time this season Virginia Tech had all of its starters — apart from corner Jermaine Waller — available for the game. A handful of players remain unavailable due to injuries, but for the time being at least, Tech's Covid-19 issues seem under control. As we've seen across the country that can change quickly, but it's an encouraging sign for a program that has dealt with loads of adversity at the halfway point in the regular season.
Tech's special teams coach continues to be the most underrated member of this coaching staff. Every season during the Justin Fuente era he's had at least one trick play that has worked to perfection. The fake that yielded a first down run for punter Oscar Bradburn is the second such play this season — recall the perfectly executed onside kick against North Carolina. Special teams is an important part of Virginia Tech football and that unique tradition is in excellent hands with Shibest.
The Hokies still moved the ball against the Demon Deacons rolling up 433 total yards on 78 plays. Hendon Hooker ran for 98 yards and threw for 223 but uncharacteristic turnovers and penalties doomed Tech. There's still plenty to be optimistic about the offense, but the Hokies have to be more efficient on third down and in the red zone. You can't miss on this many opportunities and expect to win consistently.
The Hokie Defense
Tech got pressure, but was gashed for big plays in short yardage situations on multiple occasions and couldn't get a stop on fourth down. Wake converted on three consecutive fourth downs on a long scoring drive that devoured yards and most of the second quarter to take a 17-10 halftime lead. The most concerning thing is the Hokies just can't tackle. A number of plays saw defenders in position to make a stop and missing, often multiple times on the same down. The defense didn't lose this game, but tackling needs to get cleaned up for the long haul.
Inability to Convert
The Hokies had a number of drives go into Wake Forest territory and the offense failed time and again to have much to show for it.
That was the #Hokies' eight drive that got into Wake Forest territory.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) October 24, 2020
They have 16 points to show for it.
Brian Johnson missed a couple of field goals to compound things and Hendon Hooker threw a tough pass that was intercepted in the end zone to end the first half. Needless to say, Tech needs to be more efficient with possessions in plus territory.
The offense meanwhile has struggled on third down all season, converting on just 38% of chances entering this game. The situation got worse in this game with Tech finishing 5-of-16 on third down (31%). Tech managed 28 first downs to 18 for Wake, but they came on early downs and not when Tech was behind the sticks.
The Hokies were whistled 10 times for 112 yards including numerous personal fouls. This is bad in a vacuum but when you consider the situations, it's far worse. Defensive tackle Jarrod Hewitt got whistled for targeting — a bad call in this writer's opinion — but compounded the moment but blowing up and earning an additional personal foul. Tech also extended a Wake drive in the red zone when they had them off the field in the fourth quarter. That ended in a field goal but wasted precious time.