Virginia Tech’s game vs. William and Mary this Saturday is less about the result of the game, and more about the Hokies showing signs of improvement. Tech looked good vs. Florida State on Labor Day night but if the Hokies are to build off their surprising shutdown of the Seminoles, they need to get some things straight.
Here are five things I’m watching for this Saturday in Virginia Tech’s matchup vs. William and Mary.
Can quarterback Josh Jackson tighten things up in the passing game?
Josh Jackson’s stat line vs. Florida State was impressive — he completed 16-of-26 pass attempts for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Still, Jackson had too many missed opportunities vs. Florida State and should have been intercepted at least once.
Jackson must continue to avoid mistakes, but he must also make some plays. Virginia Tech’s defense provided Jackson and the offense fantastic field position several times on Monday night, yet the offense scored just 17 points.
Virginia Tech’s running game looked the part and if it continues to do so, Jackson will have plenty of chances to make plays with his arm. He needs to deliver on those consistently and build confidence before the Hokies enter a tougher part of their schedule.
Who will become Virginia Tech’s third running back?
Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples seem to have solidified themselves as the first and second options for Virginia Tech at running back. McClease ran for 77 yards on just 13 carries vs. the ‘Noles, while Peoples ran for 44 yards on 13 carries. Terius Wheatley and Jalen Holston combined for just four rushing attempts.
The battle for the No. 3 role will be between Wheatley and Holston. Wheatley did more with his two rushes on Monday night, gaining 22 yards on two outside runs. Holston, a much different style of runner, gained eight yards on two carries.
Wheatley gives Virginia Tech a speedier option that can bolt outside and bust big plays. Holston is much more of a bruiser, someone who can wear down the defense. Wheatley somewhat mimics McClease, while Holston mimics Peoples.
Whoever is the most reliable will likely be Tech’s third back. The Hokies have long valued an explosive runner but Tech’s offense is also built on a heavy dose of running between the tackles. Over the next three games, Wheatley and Holston will have ample opportunities to show they are deserving of more carries.
Can Virginia Tech’s special teams build off their dominance vs. Florida State?
One of the reasons the Hokies beat the ‘Noles by 21 points, despite being outgained in yardage, was their exceptional special teams play. And their performance was more than Chris Cunningham’s blocked punt.
For starters, punter Oscar Bradburn downed four of his punts inside Florida State’s 20-yard-line. Virginia Tech’s punt team didn’t allow a single punt return, prohibiting the ‘Noles from flipping the field.
Even the kickers played well. Four of Jordan Stout’s five kickoffs went for touchbacks and Brian Johnson converted the Hokies only field goal attempt.
William and Mary is a well-coached team, and their special teams unit should be a challenge for Virginia Tech. If the Hokies are able to continue to be sound on special teams, it’ll go a long way to make up for a sluggish offense or a young defense that’s bound to make mistakes.
Can Tech’s defensive backs shore up the backend of the defense?
Virginia Tech picked off Deondre Francois three times on Monday night, but the Hokies still made some mistakes in the secondary. Francois completed 63 percent of his passes and hit on passes of 24, 30, 32 and 37 yards.
All things considered, Virginia Tech’s defensive backs played well. Redshirt freshman Caleb Farley picked off two passes on his way to being named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week. Bryce Watts held his own on the other end in his first career start.
William and Mary’s offense isn’t scary. The Tribe scored just 14 points against Bucknell in Week 1 and shouldn’t pose much of a threat vs. Virginia Tech on Saturday. This is a prime opportunity for the Hokies’ secondary to build confidence against a lesser opponent.
Is this the week Quincy Patterson makes his collegiate debut?
The NCAA’s new redshirt rules allow players to play in up to four games and still take a redshirt for that season. It would be criminal if coaches don’t use this new rule to their advantage.
For example, if Virginia Tech weren’t to play Quincy Patterson against William and Mary, it would be extremely disappointing and a missed opportunity. The chances of this game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter are limited. The Hokies should win this game walking away.
If the result of the game is no longer in doubt, Patterson should see the field. He doesn’t even need to throw the ball. But getting him on the field and allowing him to start gaining experience will go a long way in his development. Patterson is destined to make mistakes, just like every other young quarterback. It would be best if he makes those mistakes now, so he has the chance to learn from them.
Hopefully we’ll get to see Patterson on the field this weekend. Yes, Ryan Willis and Hendon Hooker would also be worthy of playing time, but getting Patterson on the field now benefits the program in the long-term.