Senior Ryan Willis completed all but four passes Saturday afternoon. Willis went 17/21 with 123 yards, one touchdown and an interception. But, his lone interception was an ugly one, overthrowing his intended receiver on the first play of the drive. Willis and the offense in general seemed to stall throughout the game. It was unable to finish scoring opportunities and, as a result, fell behind in the first half and had to claw its way back. Expectations were higher on Saturday afternoon for the Hokies offense, and for Ryan Willis in particular. We expect to see improvement as the schedule gets tougher as the season wears on.
Running Backs: B+
This group as a whole ran very well Saturday afternoon. The Hokies as a team rushed for 227 yards and scored twice. Freshman Keshawn King had an incredible game, rushing for 119 yards and averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. King also busted off an impressive 54-yard run that set up a Tech touchdown. Offensive Coordinator Brad Cornelsen relied heavily on the sweep during the win. Sophomore Tré Turner benefited heavily from this scheme. Turner rushed for 68 yards and added a touchdown off a 29-yard run. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Cornelsen continues to use the sweep extensively. Overall, the running game was executed well. The concern moving forward is the offensive play-calling that has put the offense in many holes early in drives.
Receivers/Tight Ends: C+
The receivers and tight ends were a mixed bag against Furman. Seven different receivers caught passes, showing that Willis is willing to spread the ball around. Freshman Tayvion Robinson again led all Hokies in receiving. He had four catches for 31 yards. Tré Turner added four catches for 29 yards and the lone touchdown for the Tech receivers. Turner had a costly mistake, though, fumbling on the Hokies’ second possession and giving Furman ample field position. Furman scored on the ensuing possession, taking the lead. Overall, the Hokies’ receivers played average Saturday afternoon. They played well enough to win but certainly did not have the big day that many expected against FCS opponent Furman. Hopefully, Virginia Tech can develop better passing schemes to give the receivers more opportunities to make big plays.
Offensive Line: C+
The offensive line was able to open holes for the running game and allowed Willis decent time to make the necessary throws. One particular concern was that Ryan Willis was sacked four times and took some big hits on passing plays. The big guys up front must continue to improve or it could be a long season when Tech attempts to pass. The run blocking is solid but the pass blocking must improve, and quickly.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line played much better against Furman than it played a week ago against ODU. The Hokies came up with a season-high of four sacks, led by Emmanuel Belmar with 1.5 sacks. The defensive linemen were able to effectively penetrate into the backfield on many plays. Dual-threat quarterback Darren Grainger was pressured in the pocket for two quarterback hurries and ended up losing 32 yards on the day. Grainger was able to rush 15 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, but the defense limited the Paladins to one field goal the remainder of regulation. Grainger, or any Paladins for that matter, were not able to consistently breakaway for long runs and stun the defense. Furman only managed 163 rushing yards the entire game.
Dax Hollifield ended up having one of his best career games; he racked up 10 total tackles and seemed to be all over the field. Missed tackles, which plagued the Hokies’ 2018 season, was not evidently an issue against the Paladins. The linebackers helped hold Furman to just 5/14 on third-down efficiency. However, penalties became a concern for the Hokies, and they often gave the Paladins automatic first downs.
Defensive Backs: A-
Chamarri Conner and Caleb Farley proved to be breakout defensive backs against Furman. Both put Tech in position to score at crucial points in the second half. One of Conner’s stops resulted in a lost fumble for Furman and gave the Hokies the ball with favorable field position. In the fourth quarter, Farley was able to catch an overthrown pass from Grainger to give the offense a chance to extend its lead. Overall, coverage on receivers was tight and the defensive backs helped hold Grainger to eight completed passes, and the Paladins to only 68 total passing yards.