It may have been a lethargic, pedestrian first half that had Hokie fans worried, but #19 Virginia Tech rallied at halftime especially on offense and comfortably took care of business in the end.
The #19 Hokies beat Middle Tennessee 35-14 to improve to 2-0 on the season ahead of next week's trip to West Virginia while the Blue Raiders fell to 1-1.
Virginia Tech struggled offensively with 2 3 and outs but found their rhythm somewhat in the first half with back-to-back touchdowns. However, Tech found another gear in the second half with touchdowns on their first 3 possessions of the final 30 minutes to seize a 35-7 lead early in the fourth quarter to ease the worries of Tech fans in a big way.
Tech's offense also got it done when opportunities were right there going 4-4 in the red zone with 4 touchdowns in this game. Tech's first team offense also was effective on third down going 5-9 plus 1-1 on fourth down. The rushing attack had a strong day as a whole 224 yards on the ground while averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per carry.
Defensively, Tech got off to a fast start forcing a pair of 3 and outs, but then struggled some in pass coverage giving up a few long balls and plenty underneath. Tech increased their press man coverage in the second half which took out those underneath balls and significantly slowed the MTSU offense.
The Hokies only outgained MTSU 375-349 in the end, but Tech once again had a bend don't break mentality on defense that stuffed MTSU a few times just outside of field goal range. Tech also outgained MTSU 5.7 to 4.6 yards per play while forcing the lone turnover of the game. Tech's special teams also made a big difference as the Hokies had a pair of 50+ yard returns, but only turned one of those into a touchdown.
Braxton Burmeister did have a couple misses due to inaccuracy, but consistently made good decisions and played well going 14-24 for 142 yards and 1 touchdown while running for 52 yards on 8 carries.
Raheem Blackshear was one of Tech's biggest offensive stars today with 10 carries for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead Tech's rushers. Tre Turner played well also with 4 catches for 67 yards plus a 10-yard carry while Tayvion Robinson had a few big plays with 4-catches for 41 yards and a touchdown plus 2 punt returns for 60 yards including a 59-yarder.
Connor Blumrick made his Hokie debut in a package that was similar to what we've seen in the past from Quincy Patterson and made plays finishing off a pair of drives at QB while running for 38 yards and a touchdown on 3 carries. Jalen Holston was efficient and effective when called upon with 5 carries for 31 yards and a touchdown.
James Mitchell had 2 catches for 6 yards and a one-yard carry but also missed much of the game including the second half due to injury. However, Justin Fuente said that Mitchell is "fine" and that "he'll be ready to go" next week.
Tech's linebackers were all over the field leading the charge for a dominant rush defense as Dax Hollifield was impressive with 8 tackles including 2 for loss with 0.5 sacks and a QB hurry. Alan Tisdale also played quite well with 8 tackles and a QB hurry.
Nasir Peoples led the Hokies with 11 tackles while Chamarri Conner had the best game among the nickelbacks and safeties with 4 tackles including 2 for loss with 1 being a sack plus a forced fumble. Jermaine Waller continues to play like one of the best cornerbacks in the ACC with 5 tackles plus an impressive interception.
Bailey Hockman's trip to Lane Stadium went better than last year, but it wasn't nearly enough as he was 19-32 for 207 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT while running for a net of -14 yards due to a pair of sacks. Tech had problems containing Jimmy Marshall who had 8 catches for 111 yards while MTSU's defense was led by DQ Thomas who had 11 tackles including a sack.
There's no doubt that Tech was caught sleepwalking some in the second half, but the Hokies were able to wake themselves up at halftime and play like the #19 team in the country should with a dominant offensive second half as the first team offense had 3 touchdowns in 3 possessions. While it wasn't as good of a performance as maybe hoped, Tech also was able to get their backups plenty of reps with the second team offense and defense taking over with just over 11 minutes to go in the game.
Now, the Hokies can shift their full attention to next Saturday and their big Black Diamond Trophy showdown with West Virginia in Morgantown.