In what has been a quarterback carousel for Virginia Tech, Hendon Hooker carried the Hokies to an extraordinary 36-17 victory over the No. 22 Wake Forest Demon Deacons. He accounted for 311 yards of offense, while also scampering for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to ultimately put the nail in the coffin. He completed 15 of his 23 pass attempts for 242 yards, while also gaining another 69 yards. The Hokies have seemingly begun to rally around Hooker as he has provided to be an enormous bright spot for a team that struggled a bit out of the gate. While this is so, he did lose a fumble late in the first half with an opportunity to respond after trailing, but this ultimately proved insignificant in the final outcome.
Running Backs: B+
One thing coach Justin Fuente loves to do is pound the ball on the ground, and this is just what he did as the Hokies tacked on a monumental 228 rushing yards on the visiting team. Deshawn McClease had a career day rushing, as he was responsible for two of Virginia Tech’s touchdowns. He fought into the end zone to earn his first 6 points, and waltzed into the end zone once more on the next possession to put his team up 20-17 late in the third quarter. Wild card Tre Turner would also tack on 73 rushing yards on four carries capped by a massive 57-yard run. What has been an abysmal running attack for the Hokies was quite the opposite Saturday afternoon.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A-
Who knew a tight end could be utilized as a running back in a critical red zone situation late in the game? This would be the case, though, as Dalton Keene and James Mitchell are two of the most relied upon players in Justin Fuente’s system, and he would use them as such. Mitchell would virtually seal the game for his team when he converted on a 1-yard run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to widen the margin of victory. Wide receiver Damon Hazelton, one of the most consistent players on the team, would put together another solid stat line with 86 yards receiving on seven catches.
Offensive Line: A
The explosion that was Virginia Tech’s offense could not have occurred if it wasn't for the impressive effort of the offensive line. With holes to run through and time for Hooker to go through his progressions, the offensive line was the silent MVP of the Hokie offensive effort Saturday. In a run-first offense that features both the quarterback and the running backs, and surprisingly the tight ends, an enormous element that must come to play at its highest level every game is the offensive line and many must not overlook its value to this team’s recent success.
Defensive Line: A
The defensive line lead the Lunch Pail Defense on Saturday evening. The d-line was able to lead the surge and apply pressure most of the day on Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman. The Hokies had Newman frustrated and scrambling out of the pocket; Newman was never able to get comfortable in the pocket. DaShawn Crawford had a monstrous game for the d-line. He finished with four tackles and a momentum-shifting interception that set the Tech’s offense up nicely. Emmanuel Belmar also played well, ending with two tackles and a sack. The defensive line seemed to silence any talk that said they couldn’t apply pressure, and as a result helped the backline of the defense play better. Overall, the defensive line set the precedent for the Lunch Pail Defense mentality and led the charge to fluster Wake Forest’s hot offense.
The linebackers did their job well and played their guts out to honor defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Dax Hollifield had an incredible game and led the linebackers at full force. Hollifield was all over the field and chased and pressured Newman all game. He finished with six total tackles and helped on a tackle-for-loss. Hollifield also had an incredible interception when the ball was popped up in the air. The interception ended any chances the Demon Deacons had of making a comeback, and Tech scored one play later to seal the deal. The key coming into the game, especially at the linebacker position, was if the Hokies could pursue and get pressure on an offense that had been red-hot. The linebacking corps did just that as a great tip of the cap to its legendary defensive coordinator.
Defensive Backs: A-
Prior to the start of the game, it appeared that the defensive backs had the toughest assignment defensively. They had to cover Wake Forest’s top receivers Kendall Hinton and Sage Surratt. Besides a few big plays early on in the game, they did their job well. Hinton had eight catches for 162 yards and Sage Surratt finished with four catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Both were kept quiet in the first half, as the Tech defense shut down the Wake offense, only allowing one score in the second half. Divine Deablo and Reggie Floyd had standout games for the secondary. They finished with 17 total combined tackles and swarmed the Demon Deacons’ offense from every angle. Caleb Farley also played well and stepped up big time in man-to-man coverage. It’s no surprise that the defense played well from front to back; they were playing for the legacy of Foster.