The Virginia Tech Hokies lost their first game of the Justin Fuente era on Saturday night in a 45-24 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers in the Battle at Bristol. The Hokies now look ahead to Saturday’s ACC opener against the Boston College Eagles as favorites that also have a couple issues that need to be fixed.
Arguably the biggest issue is the fumble problem that has plagued the Hokies in their first two games this season.
During the first two games of the 2016 season, the Virginia Tech Hokies have had 10 fumbles and lost 9 of them in what has been a nightmare of a start protecting the football. Virginia Tech’s nine fumbles lost are the most across the FBS level with Duke (7) being the only other team that has lost more than 4 fumbles.
Virginia Tech has also lost more fumbles this season than they did last season when they lost only 7 fumbles all season. The Hokies have also lost more fumbles in 2 games than 62 FBS teams lost last season.
Of course, the 90% fumble lost rate in bound to go down but the 10 fumbles in two games is also quite out of character for the Hokies over the past few years.
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The fumbles have come in a multitude of ways including a bad snap and a poor handoff causing the first fumble that seemed to completely change the Battle at Bristol. Jerod Evans and Cam Phillips have been two of the main culprits with Evans losing all 3 of his fumbles so far credited towards him and Phillips losing 2 of the 3 fumbles credited towards him.
While the fumble issue is a big problem, it is definitely an issue that can be solved and hopefully should be solved rather quickly.
Given that the Hokies only lost 7 fumbles last season, the jump in fumbles lost is rather startling this season but the Hokies also returned most of their offensive playmakers outside of the quarterback spot with Jerod Evans taking over. For a team that has returned as much offensive talent as the Hokies had, the numbers suggest that this is fixable given how it hasn’t always been an issue in the past.
Phillips in particular has had some fumble issues in the past and is one guy that will need to improve. However, Phillips’s ball security issues haven’t been this notable in the past and are definitely fixable. Some of Evans’s fumbles are due to poor handoffs and that is also something that can be fixed with more repetitions in practice.
The bad snap can also be solved if the Hokies stick with one center whether that be with going back to Eric Gallo or sticking with Kyle Chung as the first-team center.
The Hokies need to urgently solve this fumble issue with ACC play looming but the numbers show that this issue is not only solvable but the high rate of fumbles lost to total fumbles is something that should go down in the coming weeks. If this problem isn’t solved, the Hokies will be vulnerable to lose a couple games that they shouldn’t or can’t afford to.