Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker delivered another inconsistent performance against Miami. Despite throwing for more than 200 passing yards and rushing 21 times for 59 yards and a touchdown, Hooker was unable to get Virginia Tech into field goal range when it needed a score late in the game. Here were Virginia Tech’s last five drive results after going up 24-13 with six minutes left in the third quarter: punt, punt, interception, punt, turnover on downs.
Hooker was able to make tight window throws down field and used his feet for big plays throughout the game, but his inability to move the offense when the Hokies needed him to and the late interception are what Virginia Tech fans will remember from Saturday.
Running Backs: B
With Khalil Herbert's limitations due to a hamstring injury, Virginia Tech was spreading the ball around in the run game. Herbert still rushed eight times for 49 yards, but the Hokies should be encouraged by what they saw from running back Jalen Holston. Holston carried the ball only four times, but rushed for an average of 9 yards per carry and had two crucial touchdowns. Raheem Blackshear showed his ability to catch the ball against Miami, but it is clear that Holston is a more elusive option at running back going forward. Outside of Hooker, the Virginia Tech rushing attack has been nonexistent in recent weeks, something it has to fix down the stretch of the season.
Offensive Line: C+
You could argue the Virginia Tech offensive line played as poorly as it has all year against the Hurricanes, which speaks to how well this unit has been in 2020. This was the first game where there were glaring issues in pass protection, and the constant pressure led to sloppy play from Hooker. You could credit some of the sacks to Hooker’s inability to throw the ball away on late downs, but Miami was getting to Hooker throughout the game. For example, on the final drive of the game, Hooker was sacked on second down from the Virginia Tech 40-yard line. Hooker was gearing up to throw, but the pocket collapsed quickly and he was smothered by Miami defensive back Gilbert Frierson, ending the Hokies’ hope.
Wide Receivers: B+
Without James Mitchell, Virginia Tech leaned on contributions from wide receivers Tré Turner and Tayvion Robinson, who put up solid numbers in a losing effort. Turner and Robinson tallied a total of 10 catches for 128 yards, and seemed to be in a rhythm in the first half. One area where the Hokies seem to have success in the passing game is on play action rollouts and boot legs. Plays designed to get Hooker moving while Turner and Robinson get separation across the field seem to be working for Virginia Tech. As Mitchell and Herbert get healthy, I expect Virginia Tech’s passing attack to improve in the coming weeks.
Defensive Line: A-
The Virginia Tech defensive line produced a dominant performance against one of the premier offenses in the ACC. Led by Jarrod Hewitt, the line got to quarterback D’Eriq King on multiple occasions limiting him to only a fraction of the box score that he posted last week against NC State. King is as shifty as they get, utilizing his mobility as well as his arm to lead the Hurricanes to victory. While this is so, the Hokie D-line acted as the puppet masters, garnering sacks on multiple third down occasions and tossing King like a rag doll. One such drive featured Miami driving down the field threatening to respond to a Virginia Tech touchdown with one of its own, but defensive end Mario Kendricks would not be denied, getting to King and throwing him to the ground nonchalantly to force a field goal. The Hokie defensive line kept Tech in the game, producing stops whenever necessary to give the offense another shot at a score.
The linebacker corps for Virginia Tech was a bit quiet in the first quarter as the secondary and the defensive line held it down on defense. They were not to be overlooked though as Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield made their presence known on multiple occasions. Hollifield, in coalition with the line, kept the Hokies in the game as he made two beautiful plays in open space to deny Miami an opportunity at a two-point conversion. One such tackle came following a Hurricane drive in which it seized the lead by a point and attempted to expand the deficit to three points for Virginia Tech. It appeared as though King had a man open, but the opportunity quickly vanished as Hollifield made a dazzling defensive effort to deny the pass and force an incompletion. Hollifield saw the field much more today than he has previously this season, making every snap count. Following an ugly Hooker interception, Hollifield came up with another key play to sack King and force another quick three-and-out despite the offense’s lackluster execution and spoilage of the drive.
Brion Murray and Amari Chatman stepped up Saturday afternoon, containing the Hurricane’s talented receivers. Justin Hamilton’s game plan paid off as it appeared that Miami had no clue how to overcome the multitude of looks that they were confronted with by the defensive secondary. The Hokie corners would deny more than 50% of King’s downfield efforts. A perfect example came at the hands of Murray in which he was additionally beat on the route, losing a step to the Hurricane receiver Dee Wiggins but recovered enough to interject with the right hand and save a touchdown. Chatman made a similar play early on toward the sideline as King lofted the ball downfield and Chatman stuck a hand out just in time to bat the ball down. Much of the credit on defense should be afforded to the secondary as the Miami quarterback had nearly nowhere to go with the ball and was sacked recurrently as a result. The statistics back up the stellar defensive performance by the Hokies as the Miami offense had -7 yards in the beginning half of the third quarter alone and had to resort to the RPO game for some alleviation.