Virginia Tech suffered a second-straight loss Saturday for the first time in the Justin Fuente era, losing 28-22 at Georgia Tech
. With that said, here are our takeaways from the Hokies' loss to Georgia Tech.
1. Risky Coaching Decisions and Play Calls Cost the Hokies.
As Justin Fuente said in his press conference Monday, it doesn't take long to go from "the penthouse to the outhouse." Fuente has proven to be one of the top 10-15 head coaches in America and Cornelsen's offense broke school records with his offense last year.
However, this past game showed that Fuente and Cornelsen aren't perfect.
The triple-option's ability to dominate the clock appeared to get in Fuente's head early as he went for it on 4th and 2 from the 8-yard line and then went for a 2-point conversion call, two somewhat out of character moves for Fuente that early in a game. The 2-point conversion decision call was a really weird move while the fourth down call could be argued for. However, the plays that were called were high risk calls including a back shoulder fade from three yards out on the 2-point conversion.
The fourth down play call may have been the weirdest as AJ Bush was brought in to run it. Immediately, Georgia Tech knew VT would be running it with Bush being in instead of Jackson, and the play was blown up so quickly that you never really knew what was called. The use of Bush here didn't make a lot of sense while these decisions were unnecessary risks that cost VT four points (and a fifth point when VT went for it to get a 3-point lead), and prevented VT from being able to go for a field goal to win at the end.
The weirdest play calls came at the end of the game. Even though there was only a minute left, Virginia Tech had three timeouts left going into 3rd and 1, making a run reasonable on at least one of the two plays or a quick pass that wasn't near the sidelines. On third down, the Hokies made a somewhat odd call to throw a back shoulder pass down the sidelines for Eric Kumah. The execution wasn't there and while it wasn't a great play call, it didn't seem too bad at the time given how the Hokies could run it up the middle or throw a higher percentage quick pass on fourth down.
Instead, Virginia Tech threw a deep, jump ball to Cam Phillips while not giving Josh Jackson some underneath or checkdown options to get the first down. Even if Cam would have caught the ball, it would have been mostly about Cam and not about the unnecessary play call that was way too risky given the situation.
These decisions were mistakes and shows that Fuente and Cornelsen are not perfect. That doesn't mean that Fuente and Cornelsen are all of a sudden not really good coaches because that would be inaccurate as well. All it means is that we know Fuente and Cornelsen aren't perfect which means we're finally in reality. That isn't a bad thing, that's just healthier for fans to know that their young coaches aren't perfect, and also have to learn and improve as any player would.
2. Eric Kumah has established himself as a reliable WR.
Eric Kumah struggled early this season, but he started to get going against Boston College and Clemson. Now, Kumah has established as a third, bigger target that Josh Jackson can rely on in addition to Cam Phillips and Sean Savoy.
Kumah led the Hokies with 6 receptions for 82 yards and received some recognition from Pro Football Focus for his big game.
Kumah has become a more consistent threat to make plays, and it showed on Saturday as Kumah received multiple targets down the stretch when Josh Jackson needed a big play. On most of those passes, Kumah got a first down conversion that the Hokies needed to keep their drives going.
Kumah gives the Hokies a big, physical receiver who can use his size to his advantage. While Cam Phillips is the Hokies' best receiver by far, Phillips doesn't have the size to consistently in 50-50 balls. Kumah does, and it's allowing Virginia Tech to add that wrinkle back into the offense some after they used that a lot last season with Bucky Hodges and Isaiah Ford.
Josh Jackson finally has a big, physical receiver he can trust in Eric Kumah who rewarded Jackson's trust in him time and time again on Saturday. Looking ahead to Pittsburgh, Kumah has another chance to have a big game and may get some more 50-50 balls against a Pitt defense that loves to run press man coverage.
3. Greg Stroman Could Be An All-American This Season.
Greg Stroman has been the ACC's cornerback this season, but wasn't receiving too much attention due to his low interception numbers. However, Stroman has added two interceptions in the past two weeks including a pick 6 Saturday that should finally have him on the All-American radar as he deserves to be.
Greg Stroman has been dominant this season with three interceptions and nine pass breakups. Stroman has been so effective in coverage that he rarely has needed to make a tackle, having nine tackles this season with only four being solo tackles.
Stroman made a pair of big plays on Saturday, returning an interception for a touchdown while breaking up a deep ball in what was a 14-point swing if those two plays don't happen. With the Hokies giving up a pair of big passing touchdowns when Stroman wasn't deep in coverage, it provided a great contrast to show how good Stroman has been in coverage this season.
Teams are finding ways to avoid Stroman rather than trying to find a way to get a completion against Stroman. That's a testament to how good the Hokies' senior cornerback has been throughout this season.
There should be no doubt that Stroman will be a First All-ACC cornerback this season, but Stroman should be receiving lots of consideration to be an All-American this year. Stroman is a nightmare for opposing quarterback and may end up having one of the best seasons ever for a Virginia Tech cornerback by the time this season is over.
Extra Point: Was This Jalen Holston's Breakthrough Game?
There was plenty of hype in August about Jalen Holston with the coaching staff being very excited about him. However, Holston struggled throughout the early part of the season. Justin Fuente blamed some of Holston's struggles on his transition from a wishbone-style offense in high school to a wide-open spread that is vastly different.
Saturday, Holston returned to his home state and was the Hokies' best runner for the first time in any game this season. Holston only had 32 yards on 10 carries but after a slow start, Holston got going and was consistently gaining 4-5 yards with some 7-8 yard gains as well. Holston hasn't had the big, breakout run for a huge gain or a touchdown, but he is starting to gain some solid gains consistently as a tough runner between the tackles and was VT's best runner against Georgia Tech.
While Holston hasn't done enough yet to become Virginia Tech's top tailback, there are signs that he might be ready to start making that push after some significant struggles early in the season for a multitude of reasons.
At the beginning of the season, I predicted that Holston would be the Hokies' starting RB by the end of the season. While his transition from a wishbone/option-style offense and an illness he dealt with for a couple of weeks will likely prevent that from happening this year, Holston is starting to look like the running back Hokie fans were excited about when he arrived in Blacksburg.
Holston has a bright future at Virginia Tech, and his performance against Georgia Tech may be the spark that he needs to run with more confidence and effectiveness on a consistent basis. Sometimes, going back to your home state can be exactly what you need to build up some confidence in showing off your skills to family and friends. For Holston, that might just be the case here.
Stay up with The Tech Lunch Pail for the latest on Virginia Tech. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our email updates.