Braxton Burmeister started the game off looking comfortable and efficient. He completed his first seven passing attempts and looked sharp despite the offense not being able to string many plays together. Burmeister passed for 223 yards and two touchdowns, both season highs for him. He also made impressive plays on the ground. Late in the fourth quarter on third down and 24, Burmeister scrambled for 25 yards to save the drive and set up an eventual Virginia Tech touchdown to keep hopes of a comeback alive.
Running Backs: C-
The Virginia Tech running backs struggled against West Virginia’s defensive line and had a dismal first half. They struggled to find holes and often didn’t make it past the line of scrimmage, with the longest rushing play by a running back in the first half being five yards. In the second half, the running backs finally started gaining some steam. Raheem Blackshear scored a 20-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make it a one possession game. Blackshear and Jalen Holston were able to break off a couple big runs late in the game, but for the first three quarters, the run game was pretty much nonexistent.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C+
Sophomore receiver Kaleb Smith had a breakout game with a career-high six receptions for 58 yards. Smith continuously found himself open on short routes and led the team in receptions. The Hokies missed the presence of tight end James Mitchell, who suffered a season-ending injury last week against Middle Tennessee. Virginia Tech’s receivers had a decent game overall but couldn’t convert on some bigger plays that would have opened up the offense more.
Offensive Line: F
The offensive line fell apart on Saturday against West Virginia. After allowing only one sack in each of the Hokies’ previous two games, they gave up six sacks to the Mountaineers. In particular, West Virginia linebacker Jared Bartlett could not be stopped as he put pressure on Burmeister all game and sacked him three times. Run blocking was also a major weakness for the Hokies, especially in the first half. In upcoming games the offensive line will need to perform more like they did against North Carolina and Middle Tennessee if the Hokies want to see success on the gridiron.
Defensive Line: C-
The Virginia Tech defensive line struggled to get penetration all day against West Virginia. WVU ran for 173 yards at a ludicrous 12.9 yard per carry rate on Saturday as the Virginia Tech defensive line routinely gave up truck-sized gaps to run through. Furthermore, only one sack and one hurry were generated by the Hokies’ defensive line. Penalties were also costly on behalf of the Hokies’ defensive line as an offside jump led to a free play and touchdown for WVU’s second score. However, not all was bad, as early in the fourth quarter defensive end TyJuan Garbutt dipped around the edge and forced a turnover with a strip sack. Nonetheless, this was a brief bright moment amid an overall abysmal performance by the VT defensive front four.
Saturday served as a one-man effort amongst the Virginia Tech linebacker corps as Dax Hollifield was all over the field with 10 total tackles, a sack, and a tackle for a loss. Hollifield is the only reason the Hokies don’t have a grade of an F in this department, however, as the Hokies’ linebackers as a whole routinely over pursued and missed tackles in the open field. Among the Hokies’ 55 tackles as a defense on Saturday, only one linebacker had five or more: Hollifield.
Defensive Backs: C+
The group of defensive backs for Virginia Tech was a bit of a mixed bag, but the brightest spot among an overall weak defensive effort. The Hokies’ secondary held West Virginia to under 200 yards passing and cornerback Jermaine Waller forced an interception latein the fourth quarter to put them in position for a game-winning score. Additionally, the Hokies’ secondary held the Mountaineers’ quarterback Jarret Doege to just a 59.2 QBR. However, they still gave up two different passes of 30-plus yards and a 29-yard touchdown pass early in the first.Missed tackles and pursuit angles were also an issue for the Virginia Tech safeties all day.