Photo Credit: ACC Media
Virginia Tech bounced back against Louisville with a 42-35 road victory led by a strong offensive performance. With that said, here are three of our offensive takeaways from the Hokies' strong offensive performance.
Hendon Hooker Reminds Us How Good He Actually Is
Anyone who somehow thought Hendon Hooker's play against Wake Forest was indicative of his actual quality in any way was made to look like a fool by Hooker's play Saturday.
Hooker went from the worst game of his career to potentially his best going a perfect 10-10 passing for 183 yards while also turning 19 carries into 68 yards and 3 first half touchdowns, 2 of which came during the first quarter. His performance rightfully earned him our Hokies of the Game honors as well.
Hooker was in great control of the offense throughout the day making plenty of accurate passes including down the field while also making plenty of smart decisions. The best part may have been the toughness he showed as he took some massive hits in this game yet showed great presence and poise even in collapsing pockets throughout the game.
Now will Hooker have another perfect passing game like this, probably not. But this game was a reminder that Hendon Hooker is one of the best QBs in the ACC and a playmaker that can make plays as a runner and a passer, and isn't some run-first QB but a true dual-threat playmaker.
Wide Receiver Depth Issues Remain
When Tre Turner briefly left the field in this game, there was likely a panic among many fans especially given how little wide receiver depth the Hokies have shown at that position. Beyond Turner and Tayvion Robinson, the only other true WR to have any receptions this season is Kaleb Smith.
Fortunately for Tech, Turner came back in almost immediately after and then caught a two-point conversion to make it a 14-point game at that time. However, that moment and game exposed Tech's continued issues with their wide receiver depth, or at least the number of receivers that Justin Fuente and his offensive staff trust with the first team offense.
Tech continues to have only had 3 wide receivers with receptions this season and Kaleb Smith only has 4 receptions, 3 of which came against Boston College during which Turner missed a significant portion of the game.
Tech's rushing attack had bailed out those depth issues at wide receiver in many ways along with the versatility of James Mitchell, but Tech has to have more formation versatility beyond their 12 package and that will require some of these backup receivers to come along more in earning the staff's trust.
Both Changa Hodge and Evan Fairs are the top candidates as grad transfers, but also have had limited time in the program after Fairs transferred in the early summer and Hodge did during August, missing much of the offseason.
While the transition time makes sense, it's reached the point where the Hokies need those two guys to start really coming along and provide the depth that Tech's receiving corps needs, or for Fuente and his staff to simply find ways to get them on the field with what they're comfortable with.
Feed Khalil Herbert Is Happening
For the first time this season, Khalil Herbert had 20+ offensive touches with 21 carries and unsurprisingly, he thrived with that volume running for 147 yards and a touchdown including at least 3 20+ yard carries.
Now Herbert has had three other games with at least 18 carries with his opener being the lone game during which he had fewer than 13 carries. Additionally, Tech has had some success getting Herbert involved in the passing game through screens and wheel routes while teams are now starting to try to avoid him on kickoffs with the short kicks not really working to prevent Tech from getting good field position with speedy Keshawn King back there.
In general, Tech should be making sure that Herbert gets at least 20 offensive touches per game whether that's via traditional carries or on screens and wheel routes that Tech has had plenty of success with. Herbert commands plenty of defensive attention and the threat of screens and wheel routes via Herbert should continue to open up more space down the field in the passing game with zone teams especially bringing more defenders up around the line of scrimmage to try to contain those things.
It's kind of incredible that it took 6 games for Virginia Tech to give Khalil Herbert 20+ offensive touches for the first time, but that hopefully won't be anywhere close to the last time either.