After losing back-to-back games on the road to go from top 13 team to unranked, Virginia Tech bounced back on Senior Day with a thrilling win over Pittsburgh. Here’s a look at some of our takeaways from Virginia Tech’s dramatic victory over the Panthers.
1. Josh Jackson is Struggling.
This may be obvious, but Josh Jackson has struggled this month with this game being the latest example. Jackson did get off to a great start in the first quarter, but then slowed down including a second quarter where he went a sluggish 4-for-12. In the end, Jackson finished 17-for-37 in what was the lowest single-game completion percentage for him this season.
Jackson had a strong start to the season, but has cooled off lately with four of his five lowest completion percentages coming in the past five games with the only time Jackson exceeded a 54% completion rate coming at Miami. While some may argue that Jackson’s arm strength and limited running ability is holding him back, Jackson showed in this game that those aren’t the reasons for his recent struggles as he made some solid throws and was relatively effective as a runner.
Instead, it appears that Jackson’s issues are ones that can be easier to control and fix in many ways, his confidence.
During his rough second quarter, you could just sense from a distance that Jackson didn’t have a lot of confidence for some reason. Part of that is likely due to the high number of hits that he has taken in the past few weeks against Miami and Georgia Tech due to a struggling offensive line.
Jackson may be a tough player that can physically handle those hits, but those hits can wear you down some mentally and lead a young quarterback to rushing his progressions to the point where it’s like he only makes one read due to his concern about the pocket collapsing. Those rushed decisions can lead to throws that either lack good technique and become incompletions when they should be completed, or lead to errant decisions and turnovers.
His passer rating shows these struggles as Jackson has his three lowest passer ratings of the seasons in his past three games with the Pitt game being the first time this season that Jackson has had a passer rating below 100.
Jackson is in the midst of a funk and faces a UVA front 7 that has plenty of guys who know how to get pressure on the QB. While Jackson has shown some mental toughness by taking hits, the fact that he’s a freshman has shown lately as the hits have caused him to wear down some mentally into rushing throws, causing bad decisions or inaccurate incompletions.
There is no good answer for how to rebuild the confidence of Josh Jackson, especially with an offensive line that may not see Yosuah Nijman return till the bowl game. However, this is definitely a time where Hokie fans should be quite happy to have one of the best QB whisperers in college football in Justin Fuente to help rebuild Jackson’s confidence.
2. Reggie Floyd Has Become a Playmaker.
Before fall camp started, most Hokie fans expected that five-star recruit Devon Hunter would be Virginia Tech’s starting rover with Terrell Edmunds replacing Chuck Clark at free safety. Hunter had plenty of hype around him, causing most to forget about sophomore Reggie Floyd, a former four-star athlete who was well-regarded in his own right.
While there’s no reason to think that Hunter won’t be as good as everybody thinks he can be, Floyd has proven that he’s better than everyone thought. Now, Floyd is going from just being a quality starter into becoming a defensive playmaker.
Floyd shined against Pitt leading Virginia Tech with 8 tackles, 1.5 tackles, and 1 interception including the game-saving tackle on Pitt’s 74-yard reception. Floyd made multiple big plays and played with the hustle that we’ve come to expect from any player on the lunch pail defense.
However, what showed most on Saturday is the fact that Floyd is developing into a more complete safety that is not only improving his ability in the box, but is also becoming better in coverage. Floyd’s improved coverage skills shined through on his interception where he tracked the ball down like a center fielder. That type of ball hawking skill is what you want from any safety even if they have a larger role in the box.
Floyd’s strong suit is still his work in the box as a very good run defender who does a great job of tracking down where the ball is going and putting himself in position to make a play. After Trevon Hill got the first hit on Darrin Hall, Floyd and Khalil Ladler blew through the line to be there to make the game-ending tackle as both players’ intelligence and hustle shined on the Hokies’ fourth down stop.
Reggie Floyd won’t be flying under the radar much longer as he continues to steadily improve both in the box and in coverage, and develop into a defensive playmaker. The future is bright in Virginia Tech’s secondary with Floyd ready to hold on to the starting rover job for the next two years and make a run at being an All-ACC First Teamer before he leaves Blacksburg.
3. Phil Patterson Begins to Emerge.
There has been plenty of excitement surrounding Phil Patterson over the past year, but up to this point, he hasn’t lived up to it. Instead, Patterson has buried on the depth chart and dealt with injuries that have kept him from receiving significant playing time.
However, that changed against Pittsburgh.
Patterson had two catches for 29 yards (the first two catches of his career), but could have easily had a third for a long gain or touchdown if Josh Jackson didn’t overthrow him when he was wide open. More than that, Patterson received a significant number of snaps throughout the game, a sign that Patterson is not only healthy, but that he has also earned the trust of Justin Fuente and Holmon Wiggins.
Patterson may not bring the same physicality that Kumah brings, but he does bring more speed and is more of a home run threat than Kumah is due to that speed. Patterson showed in high school that he had a knack for getting behind a defense and he did the same Saturday on the near touchdown that Jackson simply missed.
While Eric Kumah is ahead of him on the depth chart as the Hokies’ third receiver, Patterson showed Saturday that he may be the Hokies’ top backup receiver with guys like CJ Carroll banged up. Patterson’s increased playing time is the biggest signal that he’s starting to take his game to the next level and may be developing into the weapon that many believed he could be coming out of high school.
Saturday, we started to see Patterson get his shot and show off his home run potential on what should have been an easy touchdown pass for Josh Jackson. Going forward, don’t be surprised to see Patterson used more often as he brings some unique skills that no other Hokie WR can offer given his size and home run potential.