VT vs Rhode Island

Hokie quarterback Hendon Hooker (2) catches snap, Oct. 12, 2019.

In the second start of his collegiate career, his first at Lane Stadium, Hendon Hooker came out with something to prove in front of the home crowd.

After last week’s impressive performance on the road against Miami where he threw for 180 yards and scored four total touchdowns in a 42–35 shootout, Hooker had an even better performance this week against Rhode Island. 

While he played a safer brand of football in his debut, he made it a point to show off his arm this week, completing five passes of 20 yards or more and testing the Rams' secondary all afternoon.

His 261-yard performance topped off by three touchdowns was enough to prove that Hooker’s arrival has given life to a Tech offense that for much of the season was all hype and little production.

While it’s easy to point to the competition he was up against as a way to make his performance feel insignificant, it was the way he played against Rhode Island that makes it feel like this Tech offense is playing up to the high expectations that surrounded them at the beginning of the season.

The fact of the matter is the game was close for the majority of the second half, with Tech’s lead going as low as just three points in the third quarter. Hooker responded with a 10-play, 93-yard drive capped off by an easy red zone score to Dalton Keene that gave Tech a two-score lead. This wasn’t the only extended drive for the offense. The offense scored on six of its nine drives in the game, with only two drives fewer than six plays long. It was the kind of outing that makes it feel like this offense is finally hitting its stride just as the team faces five more division rivals to close out the season.

From a technical standpoint, Hooker showed poise with clean pocket and consistently hit receivers in stride, especially on the deep ball. His mobility was also on display, mostly in the form of designed runs, as he finished the game with 43 yards on the ground off 15 rushing attempts.

The most important aspect of his first two starts is the lack of turnovers. Hooker has yet to throw an interception, and that alone has been crucial for the Hokies, who hadn’t had a game without an interception since their victory over Old Dominion on Sept. 7. This is a far cry from incumbent starter Ryan Willis, who had five interceptions in four starts this season, something coach Fuente made sure to point out after the game.

“The biggest thing is that he’s taking care of the football,” Fuente said. “He continues to understand what we’re asking him to do and continue to put the ball where we’d like to, and then he obviously is at times a weapon with the ball in his hands.”

Hooker mentioned after the game that the game plan was relatively the same from last week, which helps him not force any throws that aren’t there.

“We come out with the same mindset every week, and whatever [the defense] is giving us we’re going to take,” Hooker said.

By protecting the football, Hooker never gave Rhode Island a chance at a short field or an easy score, and that might be the most important reason to believe in Hooker.

With a tough matchup against North Carolina coming up next Saturday, the last thing this team needed was a lack of identity at the most important position on the offense. Hooker’s performance the last two games has erased those worries, and the season feels alive again because of it, especially with the Coastal Division in complete disarray.

Recommended Stories