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Transfers Shine as Virginia Tech Beats Old Dominion 36-17

Jaylin Lane 1 VT ODU 2023 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

There was plenty of buzz about Virginia Tech's offseason transfer additions on both sides of the ball upgrading areas that desperately needed upgrades like wide receiver and defensive end along with adding more talent to places like cornerback and running back. Tonight gave us a first test to see if these transfers could step up and help Tech make some big improvements this season.

So far, that's proven to be the case after those transfers helped lead the Hokies to their highest scoring game of the Brent Pry era and a comfortable victory.

Virginia Tech beat Old Dominion 36-17 scoring 30+ points for the first time in the Brent Pry era. Tech will next face Purdue at noon on ESPN2 with the Boilermakers coming off a home loss to Fresno State in their season opener.

Tech's offense got off to a slow start with a pair of poor possessions to start the game including one with a failure to convert a fourth down. However, Tech hit their offensive stride after that with 4 touchdowns on their next 5 drives all of which were drives of 55-70 yards.

The transfers played a big role in that led by wide receivers Ali Jennings and Jaylin Lane.

Facing his former team, Jennings showed why he was one of the best wide receivers in the transfer portal making some great catches and nice plays in space after the catch on his way to having a team high 5 catches for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Jaylin Lane also showed tons of big play ability proving to be a matchup nightmare for the ODU defense with 4 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown plus 2 punt returns for 20 yards.

Da'Quan Felton and Bhayshul Tuten also had quality debuts as Felton had a nice 34-yard reception while Tuten made the best of what was a lot of rough looks on the ground with 55 yards on 19 carries plus a 5-yard reception.

Grant Wells was inconsistent but okay overall going 17-29 for 251 yards with 3 touchdowns in what was probably one of his better statistical games for the Hokies. Wells made some really nice throws in this game, but there is definitely some inconsistency with his accuracy that needs to be improved on. He did seem to do a much better job though of working through his reads even if the accuracy wasn't always there.

While the passing attack was solid, the rushing attack was poor as the Hokies averaged a measly 2.5 yards per carry against a not-so-great ODU defense. Tech has a clear offensive line issue and Tyler Bowen deserves credit for trying to get more "faux runs" via checkdowns to running backs in the flats and some WR screen plays that basically served as more effective runs in a way. Unfortunately for the Hokies, this may be what the Hokies have to lean on a lot to create some sort of running game.

Tech's defense had a sloppy opening game to say the least having a solid first quarter before struggling to find consistency with their run defense after.

ODU had 225 rushing yards excluding the 24-yard bad snap safety loss that is included in the official stats for the game. That equates to over 5.5 yards per carry for an ODU team that lost its QB, RB and best offensive tackle to the transfer portal this offseason. Tech's read option defense was one of the biggest issue as they were over aggressive on the running back with Grant Wilson taking consistent advantage. Combine that with his scrambling and Wilson finished the night with 81 rushing yards even with Tech's five sacks.

The rush defense as a whole was a mess with the teeth of it lacking. Defensive communication also felt like an issue for the Hokies along with run fits not being set up well on a consistent basis. That's an area where the Hokies have to find improvement and a lead voice at linebacker to help with that. Tech doesn't seem to have a true mike linebacker currently missing what Dax Hollifield brought as a true mike and a strong run defender even if guys like Jaden Keller and Alan Tisdale do bring more athleticism.

Tech's pass defense was strong with Wilson being held to only 94 passing yards on 13-25 passing. Tech also had 5 sacks and forced 3 turnovers in this game, both of which were areas of emphasis for improvement this offseason after those were weaknesses of last year's Tech defense.

The two defensive transfers shined tonight with Antwaun Powell-Ryland having a team-high 6 tackles including 2 sacks plus 1 forced fumble (that ODU recovered). Meanwhile, Derrick Canteen forced a fumble of his own on a nice play that was recovered by Nasir Peoples with the Georgia Southern transfer adding a tackle as well.

Nasir Peoples had a solid night with 5 tackles plus a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and pass breakup. Keli Lawson was solid at the will linebacker with 4 tackles including a tackle for loss plus 2 QB hurries while Jaden Keller had his moments with 4 tackles including 1 for loss. Keysahwn Burgos also added 3 tackles including a sack with Josh Fuga having 4 tackles plus a fumble recovery.

Week 1 usually produces plenty of sloppy play that can prove not to be reflective of what a team actually is. The sloppiness was clear for the Hokies with some expected issues with the offensive line (albeit worse than expected tonight) and some surprising issues with the run defense. There were also some pleasant surprises as the Hokies' passing attack helped drive Tech's offense often tonight even with the inconsistency of Grant Wells.

There's no doubt that the Hokies have a lot to work on ahead of next week's noon matchup with a Purdue team eager to bounce back from a season-opening loss to Fresno State. While some of these issues may not have a good fix like the offensive line, there are a lot of things that Tech can and must clean up if they want to get back to at least .500 and a bowl game in 2023 after a 3-8 season in 2022.

Getting a season-opening win tonight is at least a positive start and a step forward from last year's stunning loss in Norfolk.


Gerald R Grubbs

Running into the teeth of 8 men within 3 yds of the LOS IS NOT AN OL ISSUE. Its a play design / selection issue. And Tech did it multiple times with predictable results. NO OL could succeed at that. Tech needs to allow the QB to audible at the LOS when the play call doesn't fit the defense. ODU spread the field to open running lanes. And it worked. Why can't VT do some of the same?

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