Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 20-17 Loss to Old Dominion

Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 20-17 Loss to Old Dominion
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Sep 02, 2022

The Brent Pry era started on a sour note as Virginia Tech was upset on the road by Old Dominion 20-17 on a night where Tech's defense was solid overall while the offense was somewhat of a roller coaster with some high highs and low lows that were more common then those highs.

With that said, here are my 3 offensive takeaways from Tech's 20-17 loss at ODU.

1. Turnovers, Penalties Help Hokies Hand Game To ODU

It's rare when the team that has significantly more turnovers and penalties wins with Tech getting a strong reminder of this during their loss to ODU.

5 turnovers plus 15 penalties is almost never going to win you to state the obvious and unsurprisingly, Tech wasn't able to overcome the litany of mistakes. There's no such thing as a good mistake but many of these turnovers and penalties came at extremely bad times and moments that magnified the impact they had.

The most notable one is the bad long snap late in the first half that went over the head of holder Peter Moore and was eventually picked up and returned by ODU for a touchdown. That play on its own proved to not only be a 7-to-10 point swing but also gave the Monarchs a massive momentum boost going into halftime.

Two plays before that field goal was also an iffy offensive pass interference that seemed like somewhat of a stretch but not crazy given how William Kakavitsas extended his arms in a blocking type way that would open up some room for interpretation. Without that penalty and Tech is still driving but instead, the wheels came off after that.

Earlier in that second quarter, Tech had a strong drive going with a pair of double-digit yard gains through the air to Da'Wain Lofton and Stephen Gosnell. However, just as Tech was on the edge of the red zone, Wells made a bad decision on a well-covered out route where the angle was perfect for ODU's Tobias Harris to undercut the ball and intercept it, ending a drive that was very likely to result in at least 3 points. This was a drive that could have turned this into a two-score game with a touchdown relieving some potential pressure.

Tech's first possession of the second half also was spoiled by penalties with Tech getting to the ODU 31 for a first down with relative ease before a 2nd and 6 illegal shift and 3rd and 11 delay of game derailed a strong drive to only produce a field goal.

The fourth quarter saw a pair of false starts turn a 3rd and 4 into a 3rd and 9 which Tech failed to convert followed by a 2nd and 5 into a 2nd and 10 which led to a 3rd and long, and a third interception on that 3rd and long that went right through the hands of Jalen Holston. Those false starts stalled out one drive and then shot Tech's significant clock-draining drive in the foot giving ODU all the time they needed to go down the field and win the game.

Tech's offense flashed a good amount of potential, but also had way, way too many mistakes from turnovers to penalties that cost the Hokies dearly and have to be cleaned up ASAP. If not, Brent Pry's first home game may not go any better than tonight's game in Norfolk.

2. The Highs and Lows of Grant Wells

It was a roller coaster of a night for Grant Wells who had plenty of highs and lows showing his massive potential but also his turnover and inaccuracy at times.

We saw Wells at his best on Tech's first touchdown drive from a gutsy throw with a defender coming right at him for a long gain to Kaleb Smith followed by a great decision to keep a read option with ODU way overcommitting to Keshawn King, and Wells cruising into the endzone.

There were other times where Wells managed the game fairly well after some interceptions making smart plays including good decisions to check it down to Nick Gallo who played his checkdown, safety valve role well in this game.

However, there were the litany of mistakes as well with the interception issues he had at Marshall re-emerging tonight with 4 interceptions. Now 2 of them don't fall on Wells' shoulders with the drop by Holston and then the late, desperate deep balls inside 30 seconds trying to find a miraculous way into field goal range.

The other 2 though fall largely or fully on Wells especially his bad decision to throw an underneath out route to the far side with the ball being easy for the ODU DB to undercut. He also had a miscommunication with Kaleb Smith on a route that led to an easy interception though even if Smith ran the right route, I still think that it likely would have been an overthrow.

There were also some overthrows from Wells that did show his arm strength but also some accuracy issues that QBs coach Brad Glenn will have some work ahead to resolve.

Overall, it was a roller coaster ride for Grant Wells in his debut where we got to see his massive potential, but also some of the plaguing issues that Tech will need to try to help him overcome going forward to maximize this offense.

3. Keshawn King Shows His Potential

There were a couple bright spots on this disappointing night for the Hokies' offense with Keshawn King being the brightest one.

Without Malachi Thomas, there were plenty of questions about Tech's rushing attack and if they had a running back capable of getting the job done at a high level. On this night, Tech turned to Keshawn King who has shown the potential but lacked the consistency.

King had a slow start but slowly found his rhythm as the game progressed with King firing on all cylinders starting in the second quarter. He was also able to have some of the big plays that you'd hope for with 3 double-digit runs along with a pair of other plays that were just under the double-digit mark at 9 yards.

Tech was able to use King in some versatile ways with the Florida native running for 111 yards on 19 carries plus 3 catches for 18 yards and a touchdown. He also broke lots of tackles throughout the night from nice cuts and moves to some grind out effort moments to keep plays alive.

It's the type of explosiveness and agility that Tech hasn't had much of at the running back spot on a consistent basis since David Wilson outside of Khalil Herbert. King showed us that he does have those type of tools that can make him a big time Power 5 running back and has had many Tech fans believing in his potential for a while.

King is definitely the highest-ceiling RB not named Malachi Thomas for the Hokies and even that could be debated given the speed that King brings to the table. Tonight reminded us what King has the potential to become for the Hokies, the question is can he do so consistently?

That answer will start to come next week against Boston College with the hope that the missing consistency won't elude him again.