Simple Math Benefiting an Improved Virginia Tech Running Game

Who would have thought that changing quarterbacks would evolve Virginia Tech’s offense into one of the best in the ACC?

That’s exactly what has happened this season. After the offense reached a new low of 10 points vs. Duke in the now infamous blowout on Sep. 27, Virginia Tech finally pulled the ripcord. Hendon Hooker was inserted into the starting lineup and since he became the starter, Tech is 4-0 in games he has started.

Hooker isn’t the sole reason Virginia Tech’s offense has gotten on track, but it’s a greater emphasis on the running game and the impact of having a quarterback capable of making plays with their legs.

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Blacksburg Breeds Optimism as Virginia Tech Hits Their Stride

What if I told you that despite suffering one of the program’s worst losses just a few weeks ago, and despite underwhelming in consecutive weeks vs. very inferior opponents, that Virginia Tech would approach the stretch run of their schedule as the possible favorite to win the ACC Coastal?

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Handicapping the Wild and Wacky ACC Coastal Division

The Coastal Division of the ACC is the worst division in Power 5 football this season. None of the seven Coastal teams are ranked and whoever emerges from this collection of mediocrity will have at least two conference losses, likely more.

Despite this division’s deplorable on-field performance, it’s put Virginia Tech in an advantageous position. The Hokies, who still have a negative point differential vs. ACC opponents, control their own fate. If Virginia Tech wins out, the Hokies will travel to Charlotte as Coastal Division champions.


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Examining Rayshard Ashby’s Stellar Start to Virginia Tech’s 2019 Season

As a unit, Virginia Tech’s defense is inadequate. The Hokies rank 84th in scoring defense, 68th in total defense, 89th in third down defense and 90th in plays of 20 yards or more allowed. Tech has allowed an average of 39 points per game against their four ACC opponents this season.

But for all of the negativity surrounding this unit, linebacker Rayshard Ashby has been a strong and steady player in the middle of the unit. Ashby received some recognition on Monday, earning yet another ACC Linebacker of the Week award and maybe, Ashby is finally being seen as what he is — one of the best linebackers in the country.

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Improbable Win vs. North Carolina Gives Hokies Hope

Not all wins are created equal. They might count the same in the standings, but some victories ring hollow and meaningless. Other wins are joyful, while a rare few are so consequential that they have the ability to flip the narrative and turn a team’s fortune.

Virginia Tech’s six-overtime thriller vs. Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels is one of those wins. Saturday’s victory for the Hokies did more than just pull the Hokies back to .500 in the ACC — it might have galvanized a strained locker room and reversed the negative course that the Hokies have been on for over a year.

The Hokies are a flawed team and everyone knows it. You can go almost position by position and find something to criticize. Tech’s recent lack of competitiveness in the abysmal ACC Coastal Division and inability to fight adversity painted a scary picture — a program on the verge of bottoming out.

But Saturday’s win showed that Justin Fuente’s Hokies indeed have some grit, which has been a desired trait since Fuente arrived in Blacksburg.

“You can see by watching us play that we’re not perfect by any means,” Fuente said after the game. “But it would be hard to question our kids’ grit and toughness.”

Fuente is right. Virginia Tech had every reason to pack it in vs. North Carolina. The Hokies ran through three quarterbacks, losing rising star Hendon Hooker to injury and benching former starter Ryan Willis. Tech settled on redshirt freshman and hopeful prodigy Quincy Patterson. Tech’s best cornerback, Caleb Farley, left with an injury and never returned. The Hokies had several blunders, some of which came in overtime.

Instead of packing it in, the Hokies stuck it in and won on a two-point conversion attempt, the first game in history to end based on the new overtime rules.

Patterson’s game-winning keeper was the culmination of toughness and resiliency that we’ve not seen in quite some time. Tech rebounded from an early 10-0 deficit. Virginia Tech trailed by seven in the final period, tying the game on a 53-yard touchdown run by Patterson. Brian Johnson missed two field goals to win the game in overtime. And still, the Hokies prevailed.

Saturday’s historic win does not ensure the Hokies are headed in the right direction, nor does it guarantee this team will be in the thick of the Coastal race for the rest of the season. But it does show something Virginia Tech hasn’t shown — heart.

The Hokies haven’t quit yet. Even as pundits, bloggers, fans and more question Fuente’s ability to lead this program to the promised land, even as those who observe the team doubt the team’s skills and talents, these players haven’t quit yet. That stands for something.

I don’t know how the rest of the season is going to shake out. Virginia Tech has several important games remaining on the schedule, including their toughest test of the season vs. Notre Dame on Nov. 2. The Hokies need just two wins to secure another season of bowling and a date with destiny awaits vs. Virginia, who once again looks like the better team on paper.

What I do know is this — Fuente deserves praise for keeping this team together. The embattled coach has dealt with all sorts of criticism over the last year-and-a-half and much of that criticism is warranted. But with their backs against the wall, Fuente and his group of Hokies displayed resolve that few thought this team had. That alone makes this win bigger than any in recent memory.

Middling Performance vs. Rhode Island Highlights Alarming Pattern for Virginia Tech

With all due respect, Rhode Island is not a good football program. Head coach Jim Fleming authored the Rams’ first winning season since 2001 last year, finishing 6-5. The FCS team is struggling again this season, as their only win was against Brown, an Ivy League school.

Somehow, FCS Rhode Island found themselves down one score vs. Virginia Tech in the fourth quarter on Saturday. The Rams trailed 24-17 until a Deshawn McClease touchdown put Virginia Tech up 14 points.

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Game Balls and Challenge Flags: Hooker Elevates Hokies to Win at Miami

The Hokies won their first conference game on Saturday, defeating the Miami Hurricanes inside Hard Rock Stadium. Saturday’s affair was so frenetic that viewers on ESPN didn’t even get to see the final play, as referees added a second to the clock after the game seemingly ended. ESPN had already switched games, showing Georgia vs. Tennessee.

The game wasn’t pretty, but the Hokies are now back on the right side of .500. Tech entered the game as 14-point underdogs yet found a way to pick up a win and improve the program’s chances of extending the 26-year bowl streak.

Let’s run through Tech’s best performers, as well as some Hokies who need to shape up.

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Virginia Tech Holds on to Emotional Win at Miami

Virginia Tech earned an emotional victory on Saturday in Miami, knocking off the Hurricanes 42-35. It was a game full of errors and mistakes on both sides, but a win is a win.

Let’s be honest — Saturday’s win vs. Miami doesn’t instill a ton of confidence in the Hokies. Consider these notes…

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Disaster vs. Duke Depicts Virginia Tech’s Downward Spiral

The time comes in every unsuccessful relationship when you realize that things just aren’t going to work out. Part of you still thinks there’s a slim chance that things might turn the corner and all the heartbreak and struggle will be worth it. But deep down, you know that things have reached their breaking point. It’s just a matter of time before both sides head their separate ways.

Virginia Tech’s Friday night game vs. Duke served as that moment for me. The Hokies were taken to the woodshed by the Blue Devils, as Tech returned from a bye week to lose an embarrassing 45-10 contest in front of their home crowd on national television.

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The Hokie Hangover Podcast, Ep. 6: An ACC Reset as Virginia Tech Prepares for Duke

Welcome back, folks. The latest episode of the Hokie Hangover Podcast is live, available on all popular streaming platforms.

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