Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
At long last, Commonwealth Cup week has arrived with the Coastal title on the line as well. If the Hokies want to extend their winning streak over the Cavaliers to sixteen games, these three matchups will be important ones to watch.
Virginia Tech Wide Receivers vs. Virginia Cornerbacks
All season, Virginia Tech’s athletic wide receivers have been hugely important to the Hokies’ success. Last week against Pittsburgh, both Damon Hazelton and Tre Turner scored touchdowns on fade routes over the Panthers’ cornerbacks.
In addition to Tech’s two outside receivers, Tayvion Robinson had a productive day in the slot. Robinson finished the game with 74 receiving yards and 32 rushing yards.
Both Turner and Robinson were forced to leave the game early after being shaken up. Their statuses will be something to keep an eye on, but Fuente seemed optimistic earlier in the week.
For UVA, they have had plenty of injury issues themselves at cornerback. First, presumed starter Darrius Bratton went down with a knee injury before the season even began.
About halfway through the year, things got much worse for the Cavaliers. All-American CB Bryce Hall injured his leg against Miami, which ended his UVA career.
Virginia has allowed 204 passing yards per game for the season, which is pretty average. However, since Hall’s injury, they have surrendered an average of 229 yards through the air.
Virginia Tech’s receivers have been a strength all year when healthy. If they can get back close to 100 percent, the Hokies should try and take advantage of UVA in the passing game.
Oscar Bradburn vs. Billy Kemp IV
Virginia Tech punter Oscar Bradburn has been one of the best in the country in 2019. He has consistently ranked inside the top ten in average punt distance, where he currently sits eighth with 46.8 yards per punt.
However, it is not just the distance that has set Bradburn apart. He has been able to get a great amount of hang time on his punts, which allows the Virginia Tech coverage team to get down the field and force mostly fair catches.
On the season, Virginia Tech has allowed 9 yards per return, which puts them right around the middle of all FBS teams. However, they have only allowed 14 punts to be returned at all, which speaks to Bradburn’s ability to give the coverage team ample time.
On the other hand, Billy Kemp IV has been rather active in returning punts. He has returned 20 punts for a total of 120 yards on the season.
Despite the high volume of returns for Kemp, the success has been minimal. He has only returned three punts for 10 or more yards on the season, and his high of 22 yards came in the first game against William and Mary.
Since the Cavaliers offense will be one of the most dangerous that the Hokies have faced, Tech can not afford to give them great field position. Bradburn and the Hokies’ punt team will need to continue covering punts well against Virginia.
Bryce Perkins vs. Virginia Tech Cornerbacks
This preseason, UVA fans were adamant that Bryce Perkins would prove to be the best quarterback in the ACC. While that may have been a bit of an overstatement, Perkins has undoubtedly had a great season.
Perkins has been successful both in the air and on the ground. He has thrown for 2,630 yards and 15 touchdowns, as well as rushed for 523 yards and nine touchdowns. Over the last our games alone, Perkins has thrown for 1,068 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception.
Clearly, the Hokies will have their hands full trying to stop him. However, Virginia Tech’s cornerbacks have been almost as impressive lately in their own right.
Caleb Farley’s transformation this season has been well documented. Chris Coleman of Tech Sideline reports that Farley has the highest coverage grade of any Power 5 cornerback according to Pro Football Focus.
Caleb Farley has the No. 1 coverage grade of any Power 5 cornerback in the country per PFF, minimum 300 snaps. All-American level this year.— Chris Coleman (@ChrisColemanTSL) November 27, 2019
In addition to Farley, Jermaine Waller has been developing quickly at the other corner spot. Waller tied a career high with three pass breakups against Pittsburgh last weekend.
It seems that Waller and Farley are pushing each other to be better, and they are both benefiting from the challenge. If the Hokies want to stop Perkins, they will both have to be on their A game once again.