Virginia Tech’s flaws are well known. The Hokies still deal with many of the problems they dealt with at the beginning of the season and thanks to injury, Tech has faced all sorts of adversity.
But the Hokies have also embodied their program motto for the last month or so, playing “Hard, Smart, Tough” football. Tech turned into another resilient and gritty performance on Saturday, despite falling to Notre Dame 21-20.
The Irish are generally the more talented team. But Virginia Tech hung tough for four quarters and showed exactly what they’re made of. Their composition is encouraging.
When you take a step back and look from afar, Virginia Tech basically played this game with one arm behind their back. Redshirt freshman Quincy Patterson made his first start at quarterback. The Hokies were forced to play Dalton Keene at running back. Jermaine Waller was disqualified in the second half after a targeting penalty. Caleb Farley went out on Virginia Tech’s final defensive possession, one which resulted in a game-winning touchdown run by Ian Book.
All of these severely damaged Tech’s chances of upsetting the 16th-ranked Irish. Patterson failed to impact the game through the air consistently, allowing Notre Dame to load the box with defenders and slow down the running game. Keene’s athletic enough to play tight end, but doesn’t offer much as a running back. Waller and Farley’s absence forced Virginia Tech to play backups at both cornerback spots on the final possession, when Tech allowed an 18-play, 87-yard scoring drive.
Virginia Tech didn’t play well enough to win on Saturday, but they were damn close and given where this team stood on Sep. 27 after being throttled by Duke, the Hokies should be proud of how they played on Saturday.
There’s plenty to grumble about. After engineering an impressive defense for most of the day, Bud Foster’s insistence on rushing just three and dropping eight into coverage seemed to allow Notre Dame to march down the field with little resistance. There were some legitimate gripes with the referees and Brad Cornelsen failed to get his redshirt freshman quarterback enough comfortable passing opportunities.
All in all, Virginia Tech has to hold their head high. Few people believed Tech could compete with Notre Dame for four quarters and they did. Saturday’s loss means absolutely nothing towards the Hokies’ hopes of winning the ACC Coastal. Virginia Tech controls their own destiny in their remaining four games and needs just two wins to clinch another season of bowl eligibility.
Instead of focusing on Virginia Tech’s problems, which I’ve been known to do, I’m going to focus on the positives. Virginia Tech overperformed on the road vs. a ranked opponent and outside of victory, that means more than anything to a team as young and beat-up as the Hokies are.