Quarterback Hendon Hooker had an electric day again on the ground, rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown. He also had a good day passing, throwing for 217 yards and three touchdowns. All in all, it was a very efficient day for Hooker, as he had to carry the Hokie offense with running back Khalil Herbert getting injured early. The concern is that Hooker has very much regressed as a passer this season, and it showed in this game. Hooker wasn’t making mistakes, but the Virginia Tech passing game is becoming rather nonexistent, which could be a coaching issue. Seventy-eight of Hooker’s 217 yards came in the fourth quarter against soft zone coverage. It may not show in the box score, but against tougher competition, Hooker will have to improve as a passer.
Running backs: C
With Herbert out, Rutgers transfer Raheem Blackshear had to take on the ball carrying duties for the Hokies. He did alright, rushing nine times for 33 yards. However, it was clear Hooker would be the focus of the running game after Herbert was out. He got 20 carries on the game, while the running backs only got 10.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-
The receiving room had one of its better games of the season. Tré Turner led the way with six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. The passing game is still not a big part of the Virginia Tech offense, so the receivers as usual had a limited impact. Even so, outside of a bad drop by Turner, the pass catchers did their jobs, with both Turner and Kaleb Smith having some nice catches on the day.
Offensive Line: B-
The big guys up front struggled early giving up a couple of pressures in the first quarter. However, they turned it around and helped Hooker to a big game on the ground. They also didn’t give up a single sack on the day, which continues to be a theme for one of the Hokies’ strongest units. The line also held up well in pass protection during the fourth quarter, allowing Hendon Hooker to attempt a comeback. However, it would not prove to be enough.
Defensive Line: B+
Despite Virginia Tech allowing 249 rush yards from the Flames, the defensive line showed up. Norell Pollard, Amaré Barno and Jaylen Griffin all came away with forced fumbles and sacks of Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Willis lost a combined 15 yards from the three sacks. Justus Reed, who contributed some big defensive plays against Louisville, was nowhere to be seen. Reed only recorded one solo tackle throughout the game.
Virginia Tech’s linebackers did not show up big for the game at all. Liberty was able to weave all over the field due to weak and missed tackles from the Hokies. Willis often had several seconds in the pocket to make decisions. Divine Deablo led the linebackers with an underwhelming five solo tackles. Veterans Dax Hollifield and Rayshard Ashby recorded only three, and Alan Tisdale only two. Virginia Tech’s offensive did not show up enough to bail out the linebackers, either. However, the Hokies did keep Liberty running back Joshua Mack to under 100 rush yards.
Defensive Backs: B-
The defensive back unit did not display its best performance against the Flames either. Liberty receivers were often wide open, and it resulted in many 10-plus yard gains. Liberty receiver C.J. Yarbrough was able to put up a season-high 65 yards, and two other receivers recorded 30 yards or more. Intercepting the ball is somewhat of a strong suit for this group of defensive backs, but the defensive backs could not catch the ball against Liberty.