The Good, Bad, and Ugly From Virginia Tech's 20-17 Loss to Old Dominion

The Good, Bad, and Ugly From Virginia Tech's 20-17 Loss to Old Dominion
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics

Will Locklin | @@locklin_will

TLP: Writer
Sep 02, 2022

It wasn’t the start Brent Pry and Virginia Tech football were hoping for on Friday evening when the Hokies fell to Old Dominion by a score of 20-17. Tech got off to a solid start with a touchdown drive and stops on defense. However, a slew of costly errors every which way turned the Hokies sideways and allowed the Monarchs to gain a come from behind victory over Virginia Tech. It’s Old Dominion’s second win over a Power 5 team in program history and both have come from wins over the Hokies.

Nevertheless, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from Tech’s 2022 season opener.

The Good:

Stifling Hokie Defense Stands Tall

Although two sides of the ball may have faltered for much of the night for Tech, the defense held their own and battled until the bitter end. All game long, Old Dominion QB Hayden Wolff was under duress and threw to an aimless grass spot instead of an intended receiver. His completion percentage came in at 40% for the game, a result of Tech’s powering pressure up front.

Dax Hollifield and Nasir Peoples often led the charge in the middle, stuffing the Monarchs' run game. Hollifield finished with 11 tackles and a forced fumble plus 2 fumble recoveries while Peoples registered 10 tackles, 1.5 of them for loss. Old Dominion finished with 83 rushing yards but just on a mere 2.5 yards per carry.

Keshawn King Rumbles His Way To a Big Day

Perhaps the best performance in a white jersey belonged to that of Keshawn King. The junior tailback racked up 111 yards on the ground while adding 18 yards on three receptions including one touchdown in the passing game.

King carried the ball 19 times for the game, which was good for 5.8 yards per carry. He gracefully cut through gaps and showed big time patience and burst into the second level of the Old Dominion defense. King’s standout showing was the brightest highlight of the Tech offense in Norfolk.

Nick Gallo Gives Tight End Room Some Juice

After James Mitchell went down in week two of last season, Tech couldn’t rely on much in their tight end room. So far, that may look to be a different story as senior tight end Nick Gallo was Tech’s leading receiver against Old Dominion.

Gallo finished with a team-leading seven catches for 49 yards. He wasn’t eye-catching but the catches were productive nonetheless. Gallo gifted Tech chain moving first downs with crisp routes and soft hands over the middle of the field. He was the well that QB Grant Wells consistently went to when nothing else was open. That connection will prove to become more valuable as the year goes on.

Some Dynamic Flashes From Grant Wells

Speaking of the Hokies starting signal caller, Grant Wells certainly had his struggles (we’ll get to that). However, to say it was all bad for Wells would be spitting out nasty hyperbole. Wells in fact made several dynamic plays with his legs as many Tech fans expected he would.

One included the Hokies' first touchdown of the game which was a read option play that Wells kept for himself, following the entire Monarch defense and scoring in style. Wells picked up 45 yards on the ground for the game. He also made a few nice throws. Wells had a deep shot to Kaleb Smith that was right on target. Other throws to Stephen Gosnell and Da'Wain Lofton later in the game were in stride throws and showed some flashes of what Wells is capable of.

The Bad:

Grant Wells Pocket Presence/Accuracy

Now look, I just praised Wells for what he did well but it would be a lie to say he played one of his better games overall. Sure he threw four picks, but at least half of them weren’t squarely on Wells. He did get happy feet in the pocket a bit too easily and this caused inaccurate throws since he was hurling the ball off a weak base. Footwork is a key area for Wells to improve in moving forward as it affects every QBs accuracy and ball placement.

Two of Wells’ picks can be placed on him. The first applies to what was previously stated. Wells was pressured and made a bad decision and throw leading to the Hokies first turnover. The second pick was a great play by the cornerback but Wells didn’t place the ball in the best area for only his receiver to make a play. Wells threw the pass too inside on an out breaking sideline route which caused the pick.

O-Line Gave Wells No Favors

Some of the issues with Wells’ performance can be chalked up to unclean pockets from which Wells had to deal with. Indeed, the pocket collapsed on Wells more times than he would've liked in his Tech debut. The offensive line shined in run blocking but were far less impressive in pass blocking. A weak offensive line will always make life hard on a quarterback and they had their part to play on Wells and Tech’s offensive struggles against Old Dominion.

Coverage Breakdowns in the Secondary

Tech’s defense played admirably but that doesn’t mean they were perfect. Some issues in particular came from the back end as Tech’s secondary allowed plenty of leeway to Monarch pass catchers as the game went on. Old Dominion’s leading receiver, Ali Jennings III racked up 122 yards on the Hokies from just five catches. One of Jennings catches, a 24 yard gainer to kickstart the Monarch’s game winning touchdown drive, was a complete busted coverage.

A few plays later, Dorian Strong was unable to stop a 38 yard pass play from Wolff to Jennings which set up Old Dominion for the go ahead score.

Questionable Late Clock Management

Just following that major pass play came an odd decision from new head coach Brent Pry and his staff. With the ball inside the five yard line, Tech didn’t call a timeout to try and preserve more time to respond after Old Dominion’s inevitable touchdown. Pry let 28 precious seconds fall off the clock. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered but we’ll never know.

Part of the issue that may have caused some of that time to run off may have been the refs not noticing his efforts to call a timeout for a few extra seconds. Regardless, the late decision to call a timeout was a questionable one.

The Ugly:

Five Turnovers Will Bite You

It’s tough to win a football game when a team turns the ball over five times over the course of the game. Two of Wells' interceptions were covered above in the bad decision. I believe two of Wells' picks were mainly on him but the latter two weren’t his fault.

The backbreaking pick came when Tech held the 17-13 lead and were trying to ice the game with a final scoring drive. That failed to happen after Wells 3rd & 13 pass went right through the hands of senior running back Jalen Holston. No excuse can be made on a play like that, he just had to catch it. That would’ve set the Hokies up to pin the Monarchs deep and not give them the excellent field position they had. Wells' final interception was on a deep hail mary pass right on the line of field goal range. The most embarrassing turnover belongs in a whole separate category.

So Will 15 Penalties

Maybe some sloppy play was to be expected under a brand new coach with a new staff as well. However, 15 penalties is simply inexcusable from a football team in a game opener. Over half of the 15 penalties were procedural in nature which reflects poorly on the coaching staff rather than the players.

Four false starts, two delays of game, an illegal motion and an illegal formation were all called on Virginia Tech. That comes down to a lack of discipline and unprepared football which were common themes for Tech against Old Dominion.

One Big Special Teams Mishap

In one extremely bizarre sequence, Virginia Tech special teams certainly didn’t play Beamer Ball and let Old Dominion flip the game on its head. Tech led 7-3 late in the first quarter and went for a field goal to extend the lead. However, long snapper Enzo Anthony threw one way over the head of the holder Peter Moore and the kicker Will Ross. Neither Moore or Ross could fall on the ball before Robert Kennedy of Old Dominion scooped the ball up and took it in for the game changing score. Not Beamer Ball in the slightest from the Hokies in game one.

And a Nonfunctioning Elevator at S.B. Ballard Stadium

As if the game wasn’t wacky enough, the oddest story may have come at halftime. Several Virginia Tech coaches were unable to make their way from the locker room back up to the press box to observe from above. They were stuck in an elevator for an extended period of time and this delayed the game from resuming after the normal halftime break. Cue the jokes and memes but if that wasn’t an omen for the quirky opener of a game for Virginia Tech, then I don’t know what was.