The Virginia Tech Hokies suffered a shocking 31-17 upset loss at Syracuse yesterday that will have them crashing out of the top 25 this week. However, the Hokies are still in control of their own destiny in the ACC Coastal and the road back to the top 25 is there with back-to-back Thursday night games on ESPN against Miami and Pittsburgh.
While the loss was very disappointing, here are three takeaways from a loss that fans would like to forget quickly.
1. This football team is still almost as good as we thought.
Alright, this one may be the one that confuses many people but before you turn away from this, let me explain for a second why I still think this is at least very accurate.
Virginia Tech did not lose that game yesterday because they were the worse team. The Hokies clearly lost to Syracuse because they overlooked the Orange and brought very little energy to the game while Syracuse was fired up ready and desperate to get a big win in what has been a very tough season for a rebuilding Syracuse team.
There’s not much that you can learn from a game in which you don’t have the type of energy necessary to avoid losing to a desperate football team looking to get at least one big win. When the Hokies did pick up the energy a little, you saw some good things happen from the Hokies tying the game back up to Virginia Tech getting the big fourth down stop on the goal-line.
Here’s probably the most accurate quote on the situation of the Hokies.
The great Frank Beamer always said – "It's not as good as it seems and it's not as bad as it seems."
Now let's focus on Thursday. #Hokies
— Clark Ruhland (@Hokie20) October 16, 2016
That couldn’t be more accurate about this football team than it is right now. Virginia Tech is still a good football team that can absolutely win out and end the regular season at 10-2 playing in the ACC Championship. You can already expect that Justin Fuente, his staff, and the player leaders on this team will make sure that the Hokies are ready to come out and try and get a big win against Miami on national television.
Right now, this team still should be called the favorite in the ACC Coastal given what we’ve seen from the Hokies so far this season despite the lack of energy that caused the Hokies’ loss to Syracuse.
2. Sam Rogers is not being used well.
Sam Rogers is a good, hard-working football player that can do a lot of things but one thing that this game showed is that he is not a guy who can be used as a normal running back getting the second-most carries of all tailbacks in a game. Rogers had 8 carries for 21 rushing yards while Travon McMillian had 9 carries for 39 yards and Marshawn Williams had 5 carries for 23 yards.
Sam Rogers is a good football player that just isn’t being used as well as he could be by Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen.
In this offense, Rogers is a running back since there really is no fullback spot but Rogers has two roles where he fits best: a passing down back and a short-yardage power guy. Rogers brings some strength and a whole lot of toughness but running him in situations where a run is expected is not the best fit for Rogers.
Going forward, the Hokies would be smart to give more traditional carries to guys like McMillian and Williams while letting Rogers make more plays in the passing game and mixing in the occasional run to keep the defense guessing. Having Rogers be a primary ball carrier for the Hokies just isn’t a good use of his skill set.
3. Jerod Evans Must Improve His Deep Pass Accuracy
Time and time again on Saturday, the Hokies had some big play opportunities that Jerod Evans missed because he overthrew a ball whether it was out of reach for the player or forced the Hokies to try and make an incredible catch. There were multiple times this happened including a couple times to Isaiah Ford with specifically the one that could have been a fairly easy touchdown catch if Evans would have just put a little less on the pass.
Virginia Tech’s receiving corps once again showed how talented they are in this game but Evans missed too many deep balls that could have helped the Hokies escape with a win on a day in which they were lacking the energy.
Now part of the issue could be the fact that Evans doesn’t necessarily have the chemistry and timing fully developed with the Hokies’ receiving corps. On one overthrown pass intended for Steven Peoples, you can guess that Peoples and Evans just haven’t worked together that often in practice and the chemistry and timing just might not be there for Evans in terms of judging the speed of Peoples.
However, this shouldn’t be as big of an issue with guys like Ford who Evans has gotten plenty of reps with throughout the season. His deep pass accuracy is the one thing that has separated Evans from going from a very good quarterback to one of the top 10 or so in the country. If Evans can start hitting a few of these home run deep balls, Virginia Tech’s offense will become a lot more open and a lot more dangerous in all facets including the running game.