Photo Credit: ACC Media
Virginia Tech had one of their weaker offensive performances of the 2020 season headlined by a fourth quarter collapse on Miami's way to a 25-24 comeback victory over the Hokies. With that said, here are our offensive takeaways from the Hokies' loss to Miami.
Brad Cornelsen's Playcalling Proves Costly
It's 3rd and 6, early fourth quarter, at the edge of field goal range with Hendon Hooker throwing the ball well as usual. Throwing the football would seem to make absolute sense given the down, distance, situation, who the QB is, etc.
Additionally, Tech had just gone through a similar scenario last week with a fourth quarter 3rd and 7 where they ran it up the middle with Hooker, were unsurprisingly short, and then missed a long field goal on their way to a 3-point loss.
So what does Brad Cornelsen call this time? A Hendon Hooker run to the left side that gets stuffed and leads to Tech punting, Hokies get no points on a drive that reached Miami territory, and the Hurricanes go on to win the game by 1 point.
There's the old saying of 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.' Even if Justin Fuente's idea was to go for it on fourth down, the failure there (and bizarre idea to be that conservative in the first place) was a deja vu where the Hokies got fooled twice with the blame going right to the feet of Cornelsen and Fuente.
In the end, that moment proved to be "fool me once, shame on Liberty, fool me twice, shame on Brad Cornelsen."
That playcall rightfully stands out but it wasn't a random blemish but part of an overall decision to go very conservative once the Hokies got an 11-point lead. The Hokies took their foot off the gas against a top 10 team with a Heisman sleeper contender at QB on a day where their defense had played well but in a season where their defense had lots of struggles and had only held one team under 20 points all season.
Cornelsen committed the cardinal playcalling sin of taking your foot off the gas way too early and because of it, the Hokies were thrown out of gear and couldn't fix it enough to avoid rolling back down the hill to defeat.
Has Cornelsen improved as a playcaller over the past few years? I would say he has but there are plenty of times where either the playcalling has continued to hinder the offense or the offensive success has been in spite of the playcalling.
At this level, that causes you to be 4-4 instead of 6-2 with back-to-back home wins over ranked teams.
Christian Darrisaw Continues to Impress
On a day where right tackle Luke Tenuta struggled against talented Miami DE and former 5* recruit Jaelen Phillips, star left tackle Christian Darrisaw showed why he's a clear first round prospect and at worst, the #2 offensive tackle prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft after Oregon's Penei Sewell.
Darrisaw faced a tougher matchup against Quincy Roche who chose Miami over the Hokies this offseason after transferring from Temple following an impressive 2019 season where he earned AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Roche has also been considered a likely first round prospect and entered this game with 10 tackles for loss. He left it only adding one more to his tally as Darrisaw got the best of him for most of this game.
Darrisaw became the second freshman to start at left tackle for the Hokies after Jonathan McLaughlin did it just a few years earlier and while McLaughlin showed some growth, he peaked after a couple seasons. Darrisaw hasn't followed that path, but has rather continued to grow and develop into a dominant left tackle who absolutely should receive All-American consideration.
The Maryland native has developed into one of the best run blockers in America while proving to be a solid pass blocker though like most of Tech's offensive line, that part of his game isn't as strong as his run blocking. However, Darrisaw is the complete package as a whole and Roche became the latest talented pass rusher to struggle when matched up with Darrisaw.
With that said, Christian Darrisaw clearly only has a few games left in a Hokie uniform before he almost certainly leaves to go be a first round pick so enjoy the best offensive lineman in Blacksburg since at least Duane Brown in the meantime.
Jalen Holston's Improvement
During the first few years of his Virginia Tech career, Jalen Holston had proven to be a good person in the locker room but wasn't living up to the on-field hype as a power running back that was lacking explosiveness.
Against Miami, Holston showed some much-needed growth in terms of his explosiveness that should excite fans about his potential in 2021. Holston may have had only 4 carries but on those 4 runs, he showed some much-needed explosiveness on his way to racking up 36 yards and 2 touchdowns (one of which was a 1-yard TD).
Now Holston isn't as good as Khalil Herbert and a healthy Herbert will receive a lot more carries than he did Saturday, but Holston is showing the type of growth that is encouraging in the long term. Holston's growth also allows the Hokies to use Raheem Blackshear more in the offensive weapon, scat back who makes plays in space type role that maximizes his skillset rather than try to fit him in as a traditional between-the-tackles running back that doesn't fit him.
Khalil Herbert will almost certainly be NFL-bound after this season knowing that he has boosted his draft stock this season and benefits from a fairly low wear-and-tear that will only depreciate his draft stock if he were to play another season. The good news for the Hokies is that Jalen Holston appears to be turning the corner and developing into the bellcow back that those inside the program have been publicly saying and believing he can be.