2021 Pinstripe Bowl: Three Thoughts After Virginia Tech's 54-10 Blowout Loss to Maryland

2021 Pinstripe Bowl: Three Thoughts After Virginia Tech's 54-10 Blowout Loss to Maryland
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Dec 29, 2021

Virginia Tech reached a bowl game after opting out last year after a 5-6 regular season and exhausting year dealing with COVID protocols, but the Hokies' gas tank was clearly empty after a UVA win plus a bunch of opt outs and transfers. Maryland took advantage on their way to a massive 54-10 blowout victory over Tech.

The loss means that the Hokies have their third losing season in the past four years after having no losing seasons since 1992. This is also the worst bowl loss in Virginia Tech football history.

Here are three initial thoughts after the remnants of the Justin Fuente era

1. Good Riddance to The Fuente-Cornelsen Era of VT Football

What seemed promising after two years ended with the worst run of Virginia Tech football since the early 1990s as the Hokies finished with 3 losing seasons over the past four years. As mentioned above, those were the first losing seasons since Tech went 2-8-1 in 1992.

This losing season came as Tech had a team with loads of veteran players, but the Development U that Justin Fuente sought to build VT into simply never happened and not even close.

Today showed those development issues as a Tech loss wasn't a surprise given the transfers and opt outs. However, the blowout loss was something no one saw coming as Tech's depth exposed the development failures of the Fuente regime along with the failure to retain depth long term.

QB was a great example of this as Tech only had 2 scholarship QBs today. One of them was a true freshman and the other who started who a transfer from Texas A&M who hadn't played QB in years prior to coming to VT to play QB after being quickly moved to TE/RB during his time in College Station.

Meanwhile, Tech's secondary, one of the units that still had some depth was picked apart while a VT defense without 2 DEs and 2 DTs showed that there depth was almost non-existent past the two-deep while the defense, the better-coached unit

We also saw the risk averse nature again with an offense that rarely took risks especially in the passing game. Yes, Connor Blumrick is a limited passer but for Brad Cornelsen to call three runs after a 42-yard pass to Jaden Payoute is asinine at best. It also exposes how Fuente's loyalty to Brad Cornelsen is a big reason why both of their tenures are officially over in Blacksburg.

On a side note, Payoute may not be that good, but we also hadn't seen much of him at all till he got that chance and proved to be the home run threat that most assumed his track speed could allow him to be.

That theme of fearing risk was a common theme throughout the Fuente era from playcalling, to a lack of aggressiveness late in halves, to fear of change that led to Fuente himself being the change. Thankfully J.C. Price was willing to go for a fake punt deep in his own territory before Cornelsen went back to the ways that brought about this end.

This team simply didn't play with the edge, toughness, and aggressiveness that VT football is to be about and hasn't consistently for a while and that was both physically and culturally. Combined with a lack of identity, development, and competent offensive coaching at the top spots; this VT era went from a great start with the talented Frank Beamer era players to disaster.

The good news is that there are at least some talented young players for Brent Pry to begin his massive rebuild that Virginia Tech needs to work.

But tonight, it's good riddance to a nightmare of a past four years of Virginia Tech football that had its good moments, but leaves a program that is a shell of what Frank Beamer built with one last embarrassment.

2. Defensive End Should be a Bigger Transfer Portal Priority

It may be time to update my transfer portal needs list and move defensive end up as the Hokies are going to need some help across from TyJuan Garbutt.

Garbutt was solid in this game with 3 tackles and 2 QB hurries and has proven to be a quality ACC starting DE over time, but he isn't a star and Tech lacks even someone ready to start at this level and receive a heavy share of snaps at the moment. Cole Nelson and Mattheus Carroll are promising but not ready just yet while Eli Adams isn't it and Jaylen Griffin has looked like a solid backup, but not starter worthy.

That showed today as Tech struggled to generate much of a pass rush with Tech not even being able to convert some golden coverage sack opportunities and Taulia Tagovailoa being able to scramble away for big gains. While once or twice might be credit to the QB, it happened way too much tonight.

Tech is going to have to find a defensive end that can start across from Garbutt next season and be a star if Garbutt can't take the next steps that he has seemed close taking at times in Blacksburg. While someone with two or three years of eligibility would be nice, even a grad transfer to pair with Garbutt would at least provide a short term boost for the DL room.

3. Pair of DBs Show Promise

We haven't seen a lot of Jalen Stroman this season and almost nothing of DJ Harvey who redshirted and had only played in less than 10 snaps over two games earlier this year. However, both received plenty of playing time in this game and showed that not only do they have bright futures, but that both should be ready to push for starting jobs next season and have a good chance at earning those.

Tech's secondary seemed to be at their best in coverage when Stroman was on the field with Taulia Tagovailoa having to scramble with no options a lot of times when Stroman was on the field. Stroman also made some good plays on the day and finished with 3 tackles, but his play made a difference with the results being better with him on it than not.

DJ Harvey had played under 10 snaps in 2 games entering tonight, but he looked more than comfortable playing some great coverage against a strong Maryland receiving corps while making a couple nice tackles and looking the part of a future big time ACC cornerback. Harvey only had 2 tackles, but he definitely passed the eye test and should be ready to battle Dorian Strong, Armani Chatman, Brion Murray, and whoever else jumps into the fray for Tech's starting cornerback jobs.

While there's plenty to be frustrated with for Hokie fans, Jalen Stroman and DJ Harvey showed some of the promise that Tech has with their youth.