Virginia Tech came up short on Saturday night, falling 28-10 to Miami
. The Hurricanes proved to be an underrated team while the Hokies did not have their best game, especially on offense. With that said, here are our takeaways from the Hokies' loss to Miami.
1. Virginia Tech's Offensive Line is not good.
Virginia Tech had the "toughness and enthusiasm" along the offensive line that they were looking for, but one thing that Justin Fuente didn't mention, execution. When you look at the tape, it would have been a lie for Fuente to say that the Hokies' execution was even average along the offensive line.
Virginia Tech's offensive line struggled outside of Wyatt Teller, who had a big game that received some recognition from Pro Football Focus.
Parker Osterloh and Kyle Chung both struggled with Miami's athletic pass rushers while Eric Gallo had a bad night. Braxton Pfaff was solid, but he made some mistakes that prevented Chung from blocking the right guy and led to losses.
The loss of Yosuah Nijman showed Saturday night and going forward, you can expect that teams will use this tape and look to isolate Parker Osterloh. It will be interesting to see if we see Tyrell Smith or TJ Jackson gain some reps at left tackle if Nijman continues to miss games. Personally, I think it would be wrong for the Hokies not to give Smith or Jackson time if Osterloh continues to struggle as he did against Miami.
Chung was the better of the two offensive tackles, but still had a disappointing night especially early in the game. Gallo's struggles up the middle were surprising, and could be a concern for the Hokies going forward. Pfaff made a couple mental errors of double-teaming a guy when there wasn't enough cover on his side, but the redshirt junior guard was one of the brighter spots on this offensive line.
Virginia Tech's offensive line is the biggest weakness on this team, and one that they'll have to improve before next season.
2. VT's Defense was good outside of missed tackles.
That statement may sound like an oxymoron, but the Hokies' defense was solid outside of a few missed tackles. Take away some of those missed tackles and you're probably talking about a game that goes right down to the end even if the offense would have continued to struggle.
The defense had a strong performance with three interceptions and two forced fumbles (neither of which were recovered by VT but still are great to see). The secondary kept the opposing offense under a 50% completion rate for the fourth-straight game, an impressive stat that should not be lost on anyone.
Outside of his 64-yard touchdown run, Travis Homer was held to 31 yards on 13 carries which is an average of under 2.5 yards per carry. While you can't afford to give up a big run like that one, VT did well at containing Homer outside of that.
One thing that VT defense did struggle with was containing Malik Rosier as he ran for 84 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Bud Foster's defenses have had issues with mobile quarterbacks in recent years and while adding a QB spy seems like a worthwhile move, you would think that Foster would have tried doing thing by now.
When watching the tape, you can even see the backup defensive line starting to make some strides. While they still are a weakness on this team, their development is definitely heading in the right direction and should help the Hokies in their final three games.
Virginia Tech still has one of the best defenses in the nation and though they didn't have a great night, they were better than you probably thought they were.
3. Cam Phillips is still really good.
Even though Virginia Tech's offense had far from its best night, Cam Phillips was still impressive. Phillips looked 100% healthy and it showed on his way to one of the best games of his season.
Cam Phillips had 7 catches for 101 receiving yards including an impressive reception before the end of the first half where he reached over the defender, and snagged it away before turning up the field and getting out-of-bounds after gaining a few more yards. Phillips is technically sound and it showed as he's able to consistently get separation on short routes and make a cornerback freeze for a second too long.
The senior receiver looked like the playmaker who was among the nation's best in every major receiving stat early in the season, and is getting back to the form that has made him the ACC's best receiver. A healthy Cam Phillips is a dangerous Cam Phillips and Saturday night showed that he is definitely at 100% and ready for the final three games.
While teams will try to double-team Phillips, he's shown that when he's healthy, he can make double-teams look bad and find ways to still make a big impact on the game. Josh Jackson may not have a lot of help around, but he does have the ACC's best receiver ready to help him out regularly throughout the rest of the season.
Extra Point: Don't Hit the Panic Button
Yes, Virginia Tech was eliminated from ACC title contention Saturday night and yes, the Hokies showed that they aren't a top 10 team. When you lose to a team that's better than anybody thought, it shows that you aren't as good as you thought, but you're better than you want to think you are in your frustration.
Virginia Tech is still one of the top 15 to 20 teams in all of college football. The Hokies have a defense that is among the best (but didn't get a lot of help from their offense Saturday night), and a special teams unit that may now be among the nation's best after Joey Slye made a 50-yard field goal that was definitely going in from the moment he kicked it.
The offense does have some issues from a below-average offensive line to a lack of weapons for Josh Jackson outside of Cam Phillips, Sean Savoy, and Eric Kumah to an extent. Virginia Tech has also not had the best play-calling at times including a few poor play designs where the running back starts seven or eight yards away from the line of scrimmage (yes, this can give the tailback more momentum but it also gives the defense more time to break through and close up holes, which isn't good when your offensive line is below-average).
However, Virginia Tech is still a good football team that is definitely worthy of being ranked 17th in the country. The Hokies have a chance to make a strong statement about their character over the final three games of the season along with the chance to cement themselves as the ACC's third best team, and position themselves for a bigger bowl game.
Perspective is also critical for Hokie fans. Here's a great stat from Twitter that describes how dramatic the change has been in only two years under Justin Fuente.
Remember when we wondered if this would be the year where the VT bowl streak ends. Yeah, those were rough times. In two years, Justin Fuente has taken a team that was struggling to get to a bowl game out of the ACC Coastal to being a top 20 team with 7-2 starts back-to-back years. That's major progress and a program headed in the right direction.
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