Last Thursday, the Virginia Tech Hokies took care of business on the road with a 39-36 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers that bumped them up from 25th to 23rd in the AP Poll. The Hokies were able to step up and do enough to get the job done with what wasn’t a great defensive performance but a standout passing attack with Jerod Evans showing off great toughness.
With that said, here are three takeaways from the Hokies’ win over Pittsburgh.
1. Jerod Evans showed grit, toughness, and leadership.
Jerod Evans suffered an ankle injury during the third quarter of Virginia Tech’s win against Pittsburgh at a time when the Hokies had just lost the lead and were unable to get a touchdown once again while being in the red zone. Many fans became very nervous about what the status of Evans may be but throughout the rest of that game, Evans showed great grit, toughness, and leadership.
Evans showed his grit and toughness by coming back into what was a physical football game and leading the Hokies to victory. Evans didn’t just come in and hand the ball off a lot or throw a bunch of quick passes but instead went in and attacked the one-on-one matchups that Pittsburgh gave the Hokies on the outside. Evans didn’t check out of those throws that Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen wanted but instead stepped up and made them.
Evans also stepped up and led whether he was on and off the field from being in the huddle on the edge of the field before the Hokies’ offense took the field for a couple drives with Brenden Motley. Evans constantly put himself in leadership and while he was eager to get in and play, he never tried to force the issue when the Hokies went with Motley including on the final drive to run out the clock.
Evans showed he was a leader with great character, grit, and toughness on what was a great night for the Hokies.
2. Virginia Tech can win games without a good defensive performance.
One thing that had been an issue for the Hokies for years is that if Bud Foster’s defense had an off day, that almost certainly meant that the Hokies were bound to lose the game. There were plenty of times when the offensive struggles meant the Hokies needed a great defensive performance to win the football game.
The hope was that Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen could change that. After Thursday night’s win in Heinz Field, it’s safe to say that the Hokies are getting what they wanted.
This game proved that the Hokies can afford to have a bad defensive night and still find a way to beat a good football team on the road thanks to 39 points and over 500 yards of offense including over 400 passing yards from Jerod Evans. Virginia Tech’s defense could not keep Pittsburgh out of the end zone a few times with James Conner doing plenty of damage but the Hokies’ offense was able to step up and get the win.
Bud Foster was quite relieved to have that game be over with on a night where his defense struggled but unlike many games in the past, Foster had an offense to pick up the slack for his defense and keep the Hokies rolling with a big win.
Oh, how the times have changed in Blacksburg.
3. Bucky Hodges is playing the best football of his collegiate career.
Over the past few weeks, Bucky Hodges has been making some big plays and is currently the best run of his collegiate career as he has been the difference maker that many believed he has had the potential to be. In particular, Hodges has been at his best over these past three games putting up numbers that will likely have NFL scouts giving him a lot of attention in the coming weeks.
Over the past three weeks, Hodges has had 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown against Syracuse, 7 catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns against Miami, and 6 catches for 145 yards against Pittsburgh. Hodges is well on his way to putting up the best numbers of his career and has turned the corner this season with his outstanding performances over the past few weeks.
There have been plenty of times when Hodges’s on-field effort has been rightfully questioned but the redshirt junior has alleviated those concerns in the past few weeks. Hodges also has had issues with drops in the past but his hands have been a lot more sure in the past three games, allowing him to become more dangerous and forcing defenses to focus more on Hodges and give Isaiah Ford more space.
Virginia Tech’s passing game is continuing to get better and that is largely due to how Bucky Hodges is playing the best he has in his Virginia Tech career.