Virginia Tech took care of business Saturday night with a 23-10 victory over Boston College. The Hokies were dominant in the first half, but struggled in the second half as Virginia Tech turned down their intensity.
There were definitely some positives from Saturday night’s victory while one position group struggled.
1. Travon McMillian made a strong push for the primary RB job.
After a fumble that put him in the dog house last week, Travon McMillian responded in a big way this week with 17 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. McMillian ran the ball well early, and the Hokies kept giving him the ball with no other running back having more than 5 carries in this game.
Travon McMillian took advantage of some of the holes he received including his 23-yard TD run where he had plenty of room to work with. However, McMillian had to grind out yards multiple times and was consistently to gain at least 1 or 2 tough yards that helped keep the Hokies moving at times.
Travon McMillian has averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry in his past four games, and seems to be finding his feet in Justin Fuente’s offense for the first time. McMillian has struggled to be consistent in this offense, but his past four games suggest that he is starting to become comfortable in this offense, and develop some consistency.
Going forward, McMillian appears to be the guy in the Hokies’ backfield for now with Deshawn McClease as a change-of-pace guy. However, this likely will change some once Steven Peoples is healthy and likely takes some short-yardage carries away.
Travon McMillian is playing more like the running back who had a breakout season in 2015 and less like the tailback who struggled last season. If McMillian can keep this up, the Hokies will have the running game that they’ve been looking for.
2. Virginia Tech’s WR depth is improving.
With Cam Phillips suffering a foot sprain in the first quarter and CJ Carroll being out, concerns immediately rose about the youth of the Hokies’ receivers. However, those young receivers alleviated those concerns Saturday night.
Sean Savoy shined with 9 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, and stepped up to show that he could be a primary target. Savoy has been the one consistent receiver throughout the first six games, and this game solidified even more that he is Virginia Tech’s #2 wide receiver.
However, Savoy isn’t the only receiver on the rise for the Hokies.
Eric Kumah started to breakthrough against Clemson with 3 receptions for 17 yards, but stepped his game up Saturday night with 4 receptions for 53 yards. Kumah looked like that big receiver that the Hokies have been looking for, using his size to his advantage and breaking a couple of tackles to show his physicality and toughness.
Henri Murphy has been a major surprise recently, and continued to emerge as a reliable option with 3 receptions for 40 yards this past week. Murphy is another one of the Hokies’ speedy receivers that can get separation quickly and give opposing cornerbacks plenty of problems due to his speed.
Wide receiver depth is still a concern for the Hokies, but that concern has shrunk recently as Sean Savoy, Eric Kumah, and Henri Murphy have all stepped up and are giving the Hokies a few more reliable options alongside Cam Phillips and CJ Carroll. Justin Fuente’s goal is to have six to eight receivers he can rotate in and out; and for the first time, he’s close to achieving that goal.
3. Houshun Gaines, Jarrod Hewitt have the trust of Bud Foster.
Defensive line depth is an issue for Virginia Tech with Vinny Mihota receiving some time as a backup DT in addition to being a starting DE. However, Houshun Gaines and Jarrod Hewitt have earned Bud Foster’s trust to earn some first team reps to give some of the Hokies’ starting defensive linemen some rest.
Gaines has been the top backup defensive lineman for the Hokies and has shown that he can put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks fairly consistently. Gaines’s solid play has allowed for Bud Foster to use Vinny Mihota as a backup DT, something that has improved the consistency of the defensive line when a Hokie starter has needed rest.
Virginia Tech has used Mihota a lot as the third defensive tackle, but Jarrod Hewitt also has the trust of Bud Foster and is the one true backup DT to earn playing time this season. Once again, Hewitt earned some reps this past week as he continues to be a solid run defender with 1.5 tackles for loss this season along with being an adequate pass rusher who continues to improve in that area.
After trying to rotate in the backup defensive line as a unit, Foster has adapted to a shorter rotation with a pair of backups he trusts in Gaines and Hewitt. Since the change, the Hokies haven’t had any issues with a significant drop-off in pressure or production even when one or two starters need a break.
Extra Point: VT’s offensive line struggled Saturday night, now what?
Virginia Tech’s offensive line struggled Saturday night as the Hokies allowed 5 sacks while Travon McMillian had to earn lots of tough yards against the BC defense. Now a couple of those sacks could be blamed on Josh Jackson, but the Hokies’ offensive line struggled Saturday night and will need to bounce back in two weeks.
Kyle Chung probably had the worst night as Harold Landry dominated Chung on his way to having 7 tackles and 3 sacks. Chung was facing one of college football’s best defensive ends, but this type of struggle is definitely a concern. So far, Chung has had a solid season but if his struggles continue against weaker defensive ends, don’t be surprised to see Tyrell Smith gain some more playing time.
This week presents a fantastic opportunity for the Hokies’ offensive line to gain some rest and get back to the basics after facing the elite Clemson DL and struggling against Boston College.
Overall, this offensive line has been the best the Hokies have had in years even with their bad night against Boston College. However, the offensive line can’t afford to struggle like this against tougher opponents like Miami and Georgia Tech, and they know it.