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Inconsistency, Penalties Drive Virginia Tech to 24-17 Loss at Marshall

Kyron Drones 1 VT Marshall 2023 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

Virginia Tech once again looked good in spurts but had plenty of bad on what was another inconsistent afternoon for the Hokies. In the end, Tech's inconsistency and lots of penalties, whether borderline or not, drove Virginia Tech to their third-straight defeat, this time on the road at Marshall.

Virginia Tech fell to Marshall 24-17 to fall to 1-3 for the first time since the 1991 season. Meanwhile, the Thundering Herd improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2020 when current VT QB Grant Wells was Marshall's starting QB and current VT DL coach J.C. Price was the Thundering Herd's co-defensive coordinator.

Once again, this was a game of startling inconsistency for the Hokies just in a different order as they came out and started fast scoring a touchdown on their opening drive followed by an interception by Keli Lawson near midfield. However, started to slow down especially offensively as the first quarter progressed before sputtering in the middle 30 minutes of this game.

That was highlighted by an offensive nightmare during roughly the middle 30 minutes of this game as the Hokies had seven-straight drives with no more than one first down following the John Love 21-yard field goal with just over 11 minutes to go in the first half. During that stretch, the Hokies only gained 57 yards with loads of various issues popping up to stall the Hokies out during that stretch.

"We got stymied. I thought we moved the ball. We were kind of spreading the field, making them run sideline to sideline a little bit. We had a couple of dropped balls. We had a couple of passes I think Kyron would like back. They made a couple of plays. But we got stymied. And then all of a sudden we get it going in the fourth quarter. Again, like I said, we’ve got to be more consistent," Pry said.

Meanwhile, Tech's defense had their own ups and downs with the Thundering Herd breaking off three runs of 20+ yards including a 56-yard TD run from Rasheen Ali and a 61-yard gain from Ali that required a desperate effort from Mansoor Delane to prevent it from being a longer touchdown, which Marshall proceeded to get four plays later. Overall, the Thundering Herd only averaged 4.9 yards per carry despite those big plays including only 90 yards on the other 38 carries which excludes those 3 big 20+ yard runs, the 2 sacks that Tech had for a loss of 12 yards, and the three-yard loss on the kneel down.

Unfortunately for Tech, those big runs can't be excluded with this being the second-straight week of two 30+ yard runs igniting TD drives after Rutgers had a pair of 30+ yard touchdown runs last week. For Brent Pry, giving up those really long runs are of greatest concern.

"I think we’ve got some issues just controlling the run game. I think that’s our goal right now to get to a better place where we can manage it, our run defense. But the explosive runs are what’s killing us. We’ve got to make people drive the field. And you’ve got to keep the ball in front and inside. You may have an 8-, a 10-, a 12-, even a 15-yard explosive run, but we can’t let them go the distance. Just too much of that. It makes it too easy on teams when they can garner those. The big, explosive play through the run game," Pry said.

Additionally, Tech had penalty issues today with 9 for 70 yards including a Dorian Strong pass interference that ignited a 98-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter for Marshall plus three offsides penalties on third down, two of which either gave Marshall a first down or gave them an easier third down that they converted leading to 10 of their 24 points.

Tech did find some life late in the game with a defense that held Marshall to only 1 first down on their final four drives before the final kneel down. Eventually, the Hokies' offense got going with a nice touchdown drive to make it a one-score game midway through the fourth quarter and another nice drive late to try to it. Unfortunately, a false start from Bob Schick turned a 4th and 1 into a 4th and 6 that ended the Hokies' comeback hopes on a day where those type of mistakes were killer for Tech.

There were some positives for the Hokies especially on the ground as they had their five longest runs of the season all of which were over 15 yards. When Kyron Drones was able to roll out of the pocket, he did show some good composure finding space to make plays either with his legs or arms. However, there were also some throws that he'd likely want back on what was an up and down day for him during which he went 19-35 for 160 yards plus 102 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 11 non-sack carries.

Meanwhile, Bhayshul Tuten showed what he can do when he gets space to make things happen with 9 carries for 88 yards plus a team-high 5 catches for 45 yards. Tuten was mostly contained though in the second half as 82 of his rushing yards came in the first 30 minutes. Overall, Tech averaged 6.1 yards per carry (which includes sack losses) in what was a positive step forward for the Hokies' run blocking showing flashes of what they can be while also having plenty of problems especially on the offensive line pass block again this week.

Benji Gosnell had a solid day with four catches for a team-high 52 yards while his older brother Stephen Gosnell had 3 catches for 32 yards. Jaylin Lane only had 2 carries for 11 yards and a one-yard reception in his return for Tech after missing the Rutgers game while Da'Quan Felton was held to 3 catches for 10 yards.

Pheldarius Payne was one of the biggest positives of this game for the Hokies as the former DE turned DT shined on the interior with 4 tackles including 2.0 for loss with 1.5 sacks plus a QB hurry while being a constant force in the backfield. Going forward, Payne is a guy who should absolutely play more minutes given the success he had on the interior that no other VT DTs have had so far this year.

Keli Lawson continues to play at a high level with 12 tackles plus an interception while Keonta Jenkins had a strong game with 5 tackles including 1 for loss plus an interception. Derrick Canteen added 7 tackles including 0.5 for loss while Caleb Woodson had 3 tackles including 1.5 for loss.

Penalties were a new issue for the Hokies today but inconsistency once again riddled the Hokies on their path to defeat despite a decent comeback effort once the offensive found some rhythm in the fourth quarter. Brent Pry knows that this team has to get better and even willing to accurately say that the Hokies aren't a "good" team while also knowing that regardless of the improvement they need to make, the margin for error is going to be thin the rest of the way.

"I think you look at it and you evaluate it. It’s one thing to look at it live from the game. It’s another thing to look at the film. That is kind of our story right now. It’s a little bit of who we are. We’re not consistent enough to be a good team. We’re falling short in areas at different times in the game. Against teams that are a little better or fairly even, I mean, you can’t do those things. Again, I think we’ve played three pretty good teams that have played well against us. Our margin of error is just thin. We have to do a few things better. The guys understand that. They see it. We’re very transparent with the players about where we’re at. There’s in-game conversations, but then on Sunday, the conversations about where we can get better and how do we do that. We have to do a good job as coaches IDing that and they have to do a good job taking it and putting it into action," Pry said.

Yes, Virginia Tech is in a rebuild and there are some significant injury issues with Ali Jennings and Nasir Peoples out, but this team does not seem to be showing signs of on-field progress despite what appears to be a better roster. Tech continues to be wildly inconsistent on offense while veterans made some freshman mistakes from the Dorian Strong PI, the multiple offsides, the Bob Schick false start, and more.

We're also seeing the same issues again and again from the run defense giving up too many big runs to the offense being wildly inconsistent with a rushing attack that did have its best moments of the season but also went dormant after the first few drives

With their first 1-3 start since 1991, the competitive pressure should be and likely is rising on the Hokies to show that they can get back on track and show some progress from year 1 to year 2.

If not, you wonder what changes within Brent Pry's program could be looming on the horizon this offseason.

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