The only thing more frustrating than wrapping that oddly-shaped gift for Christmas might just be Virginia Tech football.
Virginia Tech entered the warmth of their locker room at halftime on Saturday night within one score of the No. 3 Clemson Tigers. Down just seven points, the Hokies had life.
It didn’t last, as Clemson asserted their dominance to win a 45-10 laugher that became quite embarrassing in the later stages of the game. Virginia Tech had their chances and they squandered almost all of them.
So come, sit by the fire as I tell you a Christmas tale of Virginia Tech’s failed attempt to dethrone Clemson.
You can’t do that
Virginia Tech had real chances to win this game, but the Hokies made an abundance of mistakes. By the end of the night, it was almost comical. Here’s the naughty list of Virginia Tech’s “You can’t do that!” moments.
- With Virginia Tech driving in Clemson territory in the second quarter, Brock Hoffman moronically dove onto a Clemson player after the whistle. The 15-yard personal foul pushed the Hokies out of field goal range, costing Tech three points. Hoffman later committed an illegal chop block, as well.
- Armani Chatman dropped what would have been the biggest interception of his life midway through the second quarter.
- Fresh off a third-quarter Divine Deablo interception in the endzone that kept Clemson from extending their lead, Braxton Burmeister fumbled on a quarterback keeper. Clemson recovered at the Hokies’ 12-yard-line and promptly scored a touchdown.
- Hendon Hooker re-entered the game late in the third quarter and immediately fumbled a snap, which was scooped up by Clemson’s Derion Kendrick for a touchdown.
By this point, Virginia Tech’s chances to win had evaporated. Clemson ran away with the game in the second half, scoring four touchdowns. The Hokies had kept the game within reason, but bad teams find ways to lose games.
There’s plenty of blame to go around
It’s easy to pin losses on specific people or groups of people, but Virginia Tech lost this game as a team. That includes coaches and players.
Virginia Tech’s coaching staff gave themselves a brief chance to win this game. Justin Fuente smartly tried to shorten the game, giving Clemson fewer possessions to score. It worked in the first half.
But the offensive playcalling got worse as the night went on. Brad Cornelsen got less and less creative, going away from things that stressed Clemson’s defense earlier on. The Hokies all but abandoned the play-action, which netted them their biggest play of the night — Tayvion Robinson caught a 48-yard pass on a deep crossing route.
Tech’s defense also waned, eventually opening the gates and allowing Clemson to do just about whatever they wanted. Justin Hamilton failed to make the adjustments necessary to slow down Clemson’s run game, which cost the Hokies multiple times.
With all that said, the coaches didn’t fumble four times, commit boneheaded penalties or drop what would have been a critical interception. The coaches didn’t allow touchdowns of 65 yards and 50 yards as the game slipped away.
The weight of this frustrating defeat can be felt by all who took the field on Saturday night. The coaches and players share this.
More of the same
In the grand scheme of things, Saturday night’s loss did little to move the needle in regards to Fuente’s standing with the director of athletics Whit Babcock. The Hokies were supposed to get blown out in this game and they did.
Virginia Tech’s battle with Virginia this coming weekend will matter far more. Hokies across the country cherished their win streak over the hapless ‘Hoos for over a decade. No matter what you think of Fuente, chances are you’re rooting for him to get the job done on Saturday night vs. Virginia.
A win may not save Fuente’s job, but it would go a long way towards cooling off a heated and restless fanbase sick of turning off the television after three quarters. If Virginia Tech wins this game, Fuente could more easily sell Babcock on the future of the program, dismissing 2020 as a one-off thanks to COVID-19 and everything associated with it. Whether Babcock buys that pitch or not is a different discussion.
A clash for the cup
Virginia will arrive in Blacksburg winners of four straight — the four-game losing streak that preceded this heater seems like a distant memory. The ‘Hoos have beaten some decent teams, including North Carolina and Boston College.
Beating Virginia is the last accomplishment available to the Hokies. All of the other ones are gone — a winning record, beating Clemson or North Carolina, making the ACC Championship Game. Regaining the Commonwealth Cup is the last and only thing that would prevent the 2020 season from being a nuclear explosion wrapped inside a Category 5 hurricane in the middle of a plague.
The 2020 season has sucked. Every single Tech fan would agree with that statement. It’s been a year of division, disappointment and frustration. But a win vs. Virginia can alleviate all of those problems, even if only temporarily. The hatred between these two fanbases is real. A win might unite Virginia Tech fans for the first time in a while, even if it lasts just a little while.