Once again, Virginia Tech found a way to blow a double-digit fourth quarter lead, this time at home to a Georgia Tech team that may be the least talented in the ACC as the Yellow Jackets outscored the Hokies 12-0 in the fourth quarter to win 28-27.
This may be the biggest head scratcher of what has been a disappointing first year of the Brent Pry era even for the low expectations that surrounded this VT team entering the season.
The loss guarantees a losing season for the Hokies with their most losses (7) in a single season since 1992 when the Hokies went 2-8-1 in year 6 of the Frank Beamer era. The Hokies have also lost six-straight games for the first time since 1987 though the 1992 season had a tie as third of an eight game winless streak in that season.
So with that said, here are my postgame thoughts after VT's 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech.
1. An Inexcusable Collapse
Look, Georgia Tech has been a surprise over the past few weeks with Brent Key breathing life into a complete dumpster fire following the dismissal of Geoff Collins. However, this is the least talented team in the ACC starting a true freshman QB on the road in Lane Stadium that's down 27-16 entering the fourth quarter.
This isn't a game that should require a closer's mentality to win, just sound competence and an understanding that one mistake isn't the end of the world.
Instead, we saw another Tech collapse of incredible proportions with Tech having a pair of fumbles including one on a first and goal at the 10 up 11, and a defense allowing a 3rd and 19 conversion and giving up a pair of touchdowns on drives that went for 90 and 73 yards respectively. Those are just the things that stick out the most from this latest collapse from the Hokies against a GT team that has less talent than the Hokies.
There's no way around it, this is a completely inexcusable loss for the Hokies in year 1 of the Brent Pry era.
This is also the third loss that either given the opponent or the context of the game, is inexcusable and the second consecutive after the Hokies were up 21-3 against N.C. State late in the third quarter last week. Add that in to the loss to ODU where the Hokies did everything they could to hand that game to the Monarchs and there's 3 games that could easily and reasonably be different.
Yes, there's a lot of issues with this Virginia Tech team that meant a rough season might be incoming. Yes, Pry and company are doing a lot of good in terms of modernizing the operations of Tech football, rebuilding the in-state recruiting ties, and bringing Tech back to what it should be in many ways to be able to get back to its best. Yes, Pry and company have done a great job building up lots of excitement for the future even with the struggles with hundreds of recruits having visited this fall including so many important 2024 in-state recruits.
However, this first year has now had 3 inexcusable losses that can't be denied as such and fall at the feet of Brent Pry, and everybody inside the Merryman Center. At some point, it's early on but you have to ask around and consider making changes at places of underperformance.
2. Turnover-Fueled Loss
There's no easier way to swing a game than turnovers which clearly was the case in this game in a game that was many ways a deja vu of the opener against Old Dominion.
Virginia Tech was -3 in turnover margin with 3 fumbles plus an interception with the timing of these turnovers being killer along with what Georgia Tech did right after them.
- 1st quarter, Grant Wells fumble at the GT 24 (GT scores field goal)
- 4th quarter, Keshawn King fumble inside the GT 10 (GT scores TD on 90-yd drive)
- 4th quarter, Grant Wells INT in GT territory (GT scores TD on 73-yd drive)
- 4th quarter, Grant Wells fumble (GT runs out the clock)
So you have the first two drives that seemed certain to be points, the third which seemed likely, and the fourth which ended this game. Meanwhile, Tech once again failed to handle adversity well at all allowing 15 points off of turnovers.
So let's say the conservative number of 6 points in terms of lost VT points and you basically have a minimum 21-point swing caused by VT turnovers in this game. Of course, Tech's lone second half points came off a Keli Lawson pick 6 but the fact is that turnovers fueled this loss for the Hokies.
In many ways, this is a repeat of the ODU game where the Hokies were generally the dominant team and yet turnovers truly handed that game to the Monarchs. Of course, GT had 456 yards of offense to an offense led by a true freshman QB so the issues go beyond just turnovers, but the turnovers and failure to respond to adversity off of those has become a familiar tune in losses to weaker competition like ODU and GT.
And to have that happen in game 9 especially given the current state of Georgia Tech is terrible.
3. More Promising Young Talent Emerges
On the positive side of things, we've seen more promising young talent emerge as this season has continued on with Keli Lawson and Tucker Holloway both having their coming out parties this afternoon.
After being a mess returning punts all season, Holloway provided steady hands with his fair catches against N.C. State last week before getting his chance to make some plays this week against a Georgia Tech team known for punts that give return men the opportunity to make plays.
And man did Holloway take advantage with a 90-yard punt return TD highlight his day. However, Holloway was consistent throughout this game getting double-digit yard returns again and again on his way to having 7 returns for 188 yards, setting a school record for most punt return yards in a single game in the process.
For further understanding of how good Holloway was today, only 4 players in FBS football across America had more than 188 punt return yards entering this week over the course of the entire season. What's clear is Tech has found their punt returner in Holloway who you would also love to see get some opportunities on offense given the skills he showed today returning punts.
Meanwhile, Keli Lawson has had plenty of hype given his size and athletic tools showing flashes to date but not putting it all together yet.
That changed today in the second half as Lawson was arguably Tech's best player in the second half with all of his production coming in the final 30 minutes. Yes, the pick 6 off a leaping pass deflection was quite impressive, but he also made plenty of good, open-field tackles plus a heads up play that you would expect from a veteran on a pass breakup he had while blitzing Zach Pyron.
There is an intriguing young corps that is emerging and growing with Mansoor Delane, Dae'Quan Wright, Cam Johnson, Jalen Stroman, Holloway, and Lawson. That's an encouraging sign even with the other numerous frustrations of this season.