True freshman running back Keshawn King is emerging as the top runner for Virginia Tech as the Hokies attempt to improve upon a struggling rushing attack. King started the game against Furman and tallied 119 yards on 12 carries. The freshman recorded his first career 100-yard game in only his third collegiate contest as the Hokies defeated the Furman Paladins 24–17.
“He’s competitive and he’s tough,” head coach Justin Fuente said after Tech’s win over Furman. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world but he runs hard. He’s elusive, and he’s really productive.”
The Hokies have had a weak rushing attack to start the season, with no clear front runner to lead the group. Tech running backs combined for 84 rushing yards in a week one loss to Boston College and 121 yards in a week two victory against Old Dominion. Against Furman, the Hokies totaled 227 yards on the ground as a team.
Despite an overall slow start for the Hokies against Furman, King had a breakout game and rejuvenated the Tech offense. The Hokies came back from a 14–3 deficit to win the game 24–17.
King’s 119-yard performance is the first 100-yard rushing performance by a Hokie this season and the highest total rushing yards by a single running back since Steven Peoples ran for 161 yards against Old Dominion last season.
With the Hokies down 14–3 early in the second half, King had two key runs that spurred Tech’s offense. On first down King rushed for 15 yards to the Tech 32-yard line, followed by an explosive 54-yard rush all the way to the Furman 14-yard line. The Hokies scored on the drive and began the comeback effort.
“He gave us a spark,” said quarterback Ryan Willis after the game. “I’m proud of how he works every day, and it really shows on the field.”
King was shaken up and taken out of the game due to a leg injury with minutes left in the third quarter. The Florida native returned to the sideline on the next drive but did not see any more game action out of caution. Fuente expects King to have no issue returning to the field in Virginia Tech’s next game against Duke.
“He’s fine,” Fuente said in the post-game press conference. “They looked at it and he’s okay; he’ll be sore.”
While the injury may hinder his progress, King could be the savior to the Virginia Tech rushing attack and ultimately the entire offense. The former four-star recruit has wasted no time in earning quality playing time and cementing himself as the most explosive back on the team.
“You have to be patient,” King told the press following his big game against Furman. “I feel like I was rushing things at times because I wanted it so bad. I learned that the game gets faster, but you have to be patient.”
Some of Tech’s rushing struggles can be credited to Jalen Holston’s week one injury, but the inefficient running effort has made the Hokies’ offense very one dimensional so far this season. Opening day starter Deshawn McClease has totaled 120 yards off 41 attempts so far this season, an underwhelming statistic.
With that being said, McClease could still be an integral part of the offense alongside King as the bell cow running back. The Chesapeake, Va. native brings speed and pass-catching that can balance King’s bruising running style. King credits the offensive line for his successful start to the season.
“Of course, I have to give my O-line all the credit,” King said. “They showed up to play and executed; they did all their assignments right and it led to a breakout for me.”
As Virginia Tech’s season progresses, King will be a crucial indicator of the offense’s success. The freshman has the running traits and potential to become Tech’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Travon McMillian did so in 2015.