Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
It was an uneven performance for the Virginia Tech Hokies once again in Week 2 against Old Dominion, but the Hokies exacted revenge with their two-touchdown victory to improve to 1-1 in 2019. As Furman comes to Blacksburg this Saturday at Lane Stadium, the Hokies will once again look to put together a complete game against the Paladins before kicking-off the main portion of ACC play.
Here are the three keys to victory on Saturday against Furman:
Containing Furman QB Darren Grainger
Boston College QB Anthony Brown may like to have a word, but Darren Grainger is the best QB that Virginia Tech has faced so far this season. Through two games in 2019, Grainger is 30-45 for 441 yards and five touchdowns on the young season. He has yet to throw an interception.
Grainger isn’t a bona-fide runner, but can use his legs when necessary. Where he has been very proficient is keeping his eyes downfield and making throws downfield when flushed from the pocket.
He has been very solid throughout the season, and the Hokies’ pass rush will need to make him uncomfortable on Saturday afternoon to keep him from getting into a rhythm whether that's with simply their front 4 or Bud Foster getting creative with his blitzes.
Establishing the Running Game
Virginia Tech still cannot seem to figure out how to run the football. We’ve documented this ad nauseum this week, but the Hokies’ struggles in 2019 on the ground are quite alarming. Virginia Tech is 107th nationally entering Saturday’s game in rushing yards, averaging 114.5 yards per game. In addition, the Hokies come into Week 3 ranked 115th out of 130 FBS teams in yards per carry at a poor 2.8.
These are very troubling statistics in the running game which is confining the offense to a one-dimensional passing attack. Furman presents an opportunity for the Hokies to get back on track entering the bye week before beginning ACC play against Duke in a couple of weeks.
If the Hokies can’t get something going in Week 3, it’s officially time to sound the alarms for the offense as a whole.
Ryan Willis, The Good Version, Needs to Show Up
Much like the team as a whole, Ryan Willis has been a mixed bag of production in 2019. In Week 1, his four turnovers were crucial in sinking the Hokies against Boston College in Chesnut Hill. In Week 2, Willis took a pretty good hit in the 4th quarter and lost a fumble, but did a much better job at taking care of the football, and made some big time throws in the process.
Willis finished last Saturday 16-for-28 for 272 yards and two touchdowns. His 4th quarter touchdown pass to Phil Patterson in the corner of the end zone put the game away for Virginia Tech, sealing up the 31-17 victory.
Willis will once again need to take care of the football against Furman on Saturday and take another step in the right direction heading into conference play. Given the struggles in the running game, Willis’ consistency will be crucial to the Hokies’ offensive success throughout the rest of the season.