After having an impromptu bye week due to Hurricane Florence, the 13th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies return to the field as they head on the road to Norfolk to face an 0-3 Old Dominion team looking to rescue their season. The Hokies enter the game as 27+ point favorites, but still have to be careful to not look to far ahead with a potential top 25 road matchup looming next week at Duke followed by an expected primetime marquee home showdown with Notre Dame the week after.
With that said, here’s our By The Numbers Breakdown for this week’s matchup.
32: Number of Years Since Virginia Tech Has Played in the 757
Virginia Tech last played a regular season football game in the 757 in Norfolk in 1986, losing to Temple 29-13. This time, the Hokies will be looking to have a lot more success against a struggling ODU team looking for a breakout performance against their best opponent of the season.
Our own Grant Atkinson took a look at the Hokies’ excitement to play in the 757 with the focus of that excitement being on the fact that many of the Hokies’ players get to play in front of families and friends along with the reward it is for VT fans who usually travel a long ways to see games in Blacksburg.
However, this game will also be a great chance for the Hokies to put on a show in one of the most talented recruiting regions in the country, the 757. In addition, the location of this game will likely allow the Hokies’ coaching staff to be all over the 757 Friday night, a nice recruiting benefit with the location of this game.
Though the Hokies lost their last trip to Norfolk, don’t expect VT to come up short this time.
8.9: Yards Per Carry for Terius Wheatley
Terius Wheatley has been one of Virginia Tech’s biggest surprises offensively during the first weeks showing lots of explosiveness on his way to running for 80 yards on 9 carries including a touchdown. After starting the season in the second tier of backs behind the duo of Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease, Wheatley has forced himself into the Hokies’ main RB stable as a third change-of-pace back behind McClease and Peoples.
Though Wheatley may have been a surprise during the first two games of the season, any coach will know the threat that Wheatley brings to the table with great speed, agility, and acceleration that makes him a big play threat whenever he gets space outside of the tackles.
The question for Wheatley now is can be build some consistency coming off a two-week gap between games. If Wheatley can put togehter another strong performance, it will make it even harder for the Hokies to stick with simply a two-man backfield and may open the door for Wheatley to even climb higher on the RB depth chart.
21.2: Yards Per Reception for ODU WR Jonathan Duhart
Old Dominion has had plenty of struggles, but Jonathan Duhart has emerged as one of Conference USA’s top offensive playmakers. The senior WR from Midlothian, VA is having an impressive senior season with 17 receptions for 360 yards and 3 touchdowns through 3 games, an impressive 120 yards per game average. Nationally, Duhart is 11th in the country in receiving yards and tenth in yards per reception among those with at least 10 catches.
Caleb Farley and Bryce Watts faced some highly-talented recruits in the Hokies’ opener, but they’ll both get to test their skills against one of the best Group of 5 wide receivers in the country. Meanwhile, Duhart knows that this will be a great opportunity for himself to impress NFL scouts facing his toughest opponent of the season.
Duhart is Old Dominion’s primary playmaker, and Bud Foster will likely look to try to give Farley and Watts some additional safety help at times with Divine Deablo likely to be used largely in the deep safety role where he has thrived in the past including last year when he had his first and only interception against ODU.
40 and 19: Number of Career Games and Starts for Captain Ricky Walker
There may not be a Hokie more excited to play in the 757 than VT captain and star DT Ricky Walker. Earlier this week, Walker mentioned his excitement to breathe the “Tidewater air” and get to return home to play on his home turf in what should be a crowd full of family, friends, and a mix of ODU and VT fans.
Of course, there have been plenty of concerns about the status of Ricky Walker, but Bud Foster put many of those worries to rest earlier this week.
“The bye week for us came at a good time for us physically, particularly for Ricky [Walker]. Ricky is so important for us, with his plays on Saturdays and his approach during the week. I’ve labeled him the Bell Cow because you know what you’re going to get every day. You know what he’s going to demand from his teammates. It was awesome for him. The first game with him limping off was him being dinged up from playing extremely hard and the other game was him being clipped inside, which is going to happen from time to time. I know he’s excited to play back at home in front of his family and friends, too,” Bud Foster said.
While this game is exciting for all of the Hokies’ 757 natives, there won’t be a player more excited to show off on his home turf than star DT Ricky Walker especially since he seems close to 100% if he’s not there.
7: Hezekiah Grimsley’s Receptions Through 2 Games
757 native Hezekiah Grimsley leads the Hokies in receptions so far with 7 in addition to having 96 yards and averaging 13.7 yards per reception. Tomorrow, Grimsley appears likely to have a large role as one of Josh Jackson’s favorite targets alongside fellow new starting WR Damon Hazelton, the Hokies’ leader in receiving yards.
Grimsley has taken large strides over the past year going from being the Hokies’ fifth or sixth receiver to being one of their top two targets alongside Hazelton. Grimsley has proven to be a more than adept slot receiver being especially effective on slant routes against William & Mary and being a playmaker both over the middle and on the edge.
While Grimsley should feature largely on the offensive side of the ball, the Hokies have also mentioned that Grimsley could receive some opportunities at punt returner this week after C.J. Carroll’s two muffed punts in the first two games that opened the door for Damon Hazelton. Receivers seem to fit well in the punt returner role and Grimsley fits that profile as a speedy, agile receiver with great acceleration.
The Hokies will feature plenty of 757 players tomorrow with Hezekiah Grimsley being right at the top of the list.