The Hokies beat out the Cardinals 42-35 in Saturday's matchup in Louisville for their 4th win of the season. Tech dominated for most of the game but the Cardinals put up a fight, scoring 21 points in the final quarter. Here are what each position for the Hokies received on their report cards following this win over the Cardinals:
Hooker completed every pass attempt of his 10 attempts to gain 183 yards for the Hokies. Hooker rushed for three touchdowns which put the Hokies up 21-0; a lead they held for the rest of the game. This was a personal record setting match for Hooker as he had a career-high 19 rushing attempts that went for 68 yards. Hooker was expected to step up after last week's upsetting loss to Wake Forest and he brought his A game. I would have liked to see more attempts, but I feel it was one of the best performances we’ve seen from him this season.
Running Backs: B-
Javian Hawkins kept the momentum going right before halftime with a 90-yard touchdown, which was the longest rushing play since 1971. Kahlil Herbert ran a 24-yard touchdown as the game came to an end. The running game was decent for this game, but they will need to move the ball even more when they play undefeated Liberty next week.
Wide Receiver/Tight Ends: B+
The most instrumental play of the game came from Hooker passing to tight end James Mitchell to complete a 24-yard gain in the second half. This play resulted in a first down and placed the Hokies in a scoring opportunity which wide receiver Tré Turner capitalized on. This move gave the Hokies a 14-point advantage, which proved to be important in maintaining the upper hand. This group showed that when called upon they have the tools to make important plays.
Offensive Line: B
Overall, the offense is what won this game for the Hokies; they were able to score for seven out of 11 possessions. The Hokies had 283 running yards for this one, never turned the ball over, and scored all five times they entered the red zone. Tech rushed the ball 51 times, the most they have all season. The Hokies never trailed for this game, which is reflective of the offensive line that showed up for Saturday's matchup.
Defensive Line: B
On the first play of the game, Virginia Tech defensive lineman Justus Reed blew by Louisville’s right guard and wrapped up Malik Cunningham for a 13 yard sack. This play highlighted not only the athleticism of Reed, but also the strength of the defensive line. Reed would get another sack on the next drive for the Hokies, but the unit was quiet from that point on. For the second week in a row, Virginia Tech’s opponent had a 100+ yard rusher. As Louisville settled into the game, their offensive line was able to carve holes for running back Jayvion Hawkins, highlighted on Hawkins’ 90 yard touchdown run with three seconds remaining in the first half. The defensive line doesn’t deserve the entirety of the blame for the poor rush defense, but Virginia Tech would like to see more consistent production out of players such as Amare Barno and Josh Fuga, who recorded a sack of his own on Saturday.
It seems as if linebacker Alan Tisdale will be starting alongside Rayshard Ashby instead of Dax Hollifield for the foreseeable future, as Tisdale played for a majority of the game after a nice play on fourth down in the second quarter. Ashby and Tisdale were solid, but I would like to see more plays in the run game being made from the linebackers with the lack of a true run-stopper on the defensive line. A key example of this was with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter, as Louisville running back Maurice Burkley and Virginia Tech’s Rayshard Ashby were one-on-one at the line of scrimmage, and Ashby missed the tackle leading to a 13 yard touchdown. Plays like that are holding the linebackers back this season.
Defensive Backs: A-
The defensive backs have been one of the most consistent groups on this team in recent weeks, and they played solid against a high powered offensive attack from Louisville. Cornerbacks Chamarri Conner, Devin Taylor, and safety Divine Deablo all recorded interceptions, which were monumental based on how Louisville came back in the second half. Louisville star wide receiver Chatarius Atwell was contained, but wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick had a monster day. Fitzpatrick had 158 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches, so there were big plays to be made. Brion Murray struggled and it seemed as if Louisville was targeting his side of the field throughout the game. The defensive backs still forced three turnovers and led the team in tackles, which is a solid performance in my book.