Virginia Tech has had lots of success during the first two years of the Justin Fuente era yet Georgia Tech has been the one team that has had Fuente's number. With Georgia Tech at 3-4 and the Hokies having a bye week plus a few days to prepare, it seemed like a golden opportunity to get the monkey off the back.
Instead, the Hokies were embarrassed in front of a sold out Lane Stadium.
Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech 49-28, causing the Hokies to fall to 4-3 on the season with a 3-1 ACC record while Georgia Tech improved to 4-4 with a 2-3 ACC record. Despite the loss, the Hokies still remain in a tie for first in the ACC Coastal with Virginia though that could change this weekend.
Virginia Tech's defense was an absolutely disaster missing tackles left and right while getting absolutely dominated in the trenches unlike anything in recent memory. Virginia Tech never seemed to have anything close to answer defensively with Georgia Tech running the ball at will. Overall, the Hokies gave up over 400 rushing yards with Georgia Tech backup QB Tobias Oliver running for well over 200 yards. In addition, this performance was the most rushing yards that a Hokie defense has given up during Bud Foster's tenure.
Offensively, Virginia Tech got off to a strong start with 3 straight touchdown but after that, Virginia Tech's offense had no answer for the relentless Georgia Tech triple-option offense. The Hokies were fairly efficient, but struggled to string together moderate to long gains to gain any offensive momentum. The Hokies did end up with 28 points and over 320 yards of offense, but that wasn't nearly enough against a Georgia Tech offense that absolutely dominated the Hokies' defense.
Ryan Willis had a solid game going 15-22 for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns while running for 22 yards and a touchdown. Damon Hazelton led the Hokies in the air with 6 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown while Tre Turner had 2 catches for 61 yards and Dalton Keene had 3 catches for 27 yards.
After receiving the kickoff to start the game, Virginia Tech had a pair of double-digit runs starting with a 17-yard carry from Steven Peoples on the first offensive play and followed by a Ryan Willis 10-yard scramble on third down. However, the biggest play was yet to come with Tre Turner catching a quick slant, breaking through two defenders, and running away for a 46-yard touchdown to give the Hokies an early 7-0 lead.
However, Georgia Tech responded with a strong opening drive of their own methodically marching down the field with a 15-yard third down scramble from Tobias Oliver being the only third down play on the drive. Jerry Howard capped it off with an 8-yard touchdown where it didn't look like a single Hokie defender touched him to tie the game up at 7.
The Hokies responded with a quick three-play starting with a short reception to Damon Hazelton before Steven Peoples broke out for a 24-yard gain, making a guy miss in the process. After that, Ryan Willis through a perfect pass right to Damon Hazelton who beat his man and caught the 41-yard touchdown pass to give the Hokies a 14-7 lead.
However, Georgia Tech once again responded with another methodical drive that included a fourth down conversion in their own territory. Tobias Oliver capped the drive off with a 2-yard touchdown run to tie the game up at 14 just before the end of the first quarter.
After big plays defined the first two drives, Virginia Tech started their drive with some steady gains including a 13-yard Steven Peoples that saw an additional 15 yards added on due to a hands to the face penalty. After the penalty, the Hokies kept steadily moving down the field with steady gains capped off by a one-yard QB sneak by Ryan Willis to give Virginia Tech a 21-14 lead and the game's fifth straight possession with a touchdown.
Virginia Tech's defense finally got their first stop after a fumbled pitch set up a third and 14 that Georgia Tech couldn't convert, but a muffed punt by Sean Savoy after his first punt was called back due to running into the kicker by Chamarri Conner, setting Georgia Tech up at their own 12. The Yellow Jackets took advantage of the mistake needing only two plays to score thanks to a Jordan Mason 5-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 21.
Following that touchdown, Virginia Tech went 3 and out on their next possession, giving Georgia Tech an opportunity to take the lead for the first time. Once again, a penalty helped launch a Georgia Tech drive with a 15-yard penalty on Bryce Watts eliminating a possible third down stoppage opportunity. From there, Georgia Tech continued to methodically march down the field with Tobias Oliver getting another touchdown to give the Yellow Jackets a 28-21 lead.
Virginia Tech still had just over 1:30 left in the first half but was unable to get anything going with Georgia Tech taking a 28-21 lead into halftime. In addition, the Yellow Jackets received the ball to start the second half after winning the coin toss and deferring.
Penalties were a big problem for Virginia Tech in the first half with the Hokies having multiple personal foul penalties in addition to a 5-yard running into the kicker that eventually opened the door for a muffed punt by Sean Savoy. Meanwhile, the Hokies' defense had a nightmare of a half getting only one defensive stop that was in part due to a fumbled pitch that set up a third and 14. In addition, the Hokies didn't have a single tackle for loss in the first half with Khalil Ladler leading the Hokies with 9 tackles in the first 30 minutes.
If there was one positive, it was Virginia Tech's offense with Ryan Willis going 9-12 for 139 yards and 2 TDs along with running for 23 yards and a touchdown. In addition, Steven Peoples had 48 yards on 5 carries while Damon Hazelton had 3 catches for 51 yards and a TD, and Dalton Keene had 3 catches for 27 yards.
Georgia Tech started the second half continuing to methodically move the ball, but a chop block set up a 3rd and 14 where Tobias Oliver came up just short. However, Khalil Ladler had a targeting on a play that was somewhat bad luck, giving the Yellow Jackets 15 and a first, and ejecting Ladler from the rest of the game and the first half against Boston College. From there, Georgia Tech had three-straight double-digit gains capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by Tobias Oliver to give the Yellow Jackets a 35-21 lead.
Virginia Tech's offense didn't have a response as the Hokies went 3 and out with Georgia Tech continuing to gain more momentum. After the stop, Georgia Tech continued to go right after a Virginia Tech defense that couldn't tackle or stop anything all night with Jordan Mason capping off a long drive with a 14-yard touchdown run to give the Yellow Jackets a 42-21 lead.
Virginia Tech then found some offensive momentum, but an offensive pass interference and false start on back-to-back first downs stalled out the Hokies once again. The Hokies did finally get a defensive stop, but with less than 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, it was way too little too late defensively.
Virginia Tech went for it on fourth down on their next possession after what would have normally been a 3 and out and was unable to convert, giving Georgia Tech the ball inside the VT 30. Georgia Tech took advantage with a short drive capped off by a one-yard touchdown run from Jordan Mason to give Georgia Tech a 49-21 lead.
The Hokies were able to show some life offensively at the end with a solid drive capped off by a rushing touchdown from Jalen Holston. However, it was far too late as Georgia Tech ran out the clock for a 49-28 victory.
With the loss, Justin Fuente is now 0-3 against Georgia Tech and 0-4 against triple-option teams as a head coach with Memphis losing to Navy in 2015. While there have been plenty of other reasons within all those games, the one constant in those four losses has been the man in charge with Fuente's struggles against option teams becoming more glaring every year. Looking ahead to the future, Fuente and the Hokies' coaching staff will have to evaluate their approach to preparing for triple-option teams after another bad loss.
Overall though, the Hokies' maddening inconsistency continued to show. Virginia Tech's defense may be young but there are some serious tackling issues that need to be fixed before possibly facing AJ Dillon next week. In addition, the Hokies will have to do better in the trenches after the defensive line seemed to gain almost no momentum all night. Combine that with even more injuries on the defense of unknown severity to Dylan Rivers, Rayshard Ashby, Jarrod Hewitt, and Robert Porcher IV and the state of the defense is not good going into the closing stretch.
In addition, the Hokies seemed to lose all momentum after the muffed punt from Sean Savoy in the first half with VT no scoring a touchdown till late in the fourth quarter after that moment. Once again, the Hokies failed to respond after a major miscue with the Hokies' defense continuing to provide no challenge and the offense not scoring another touchdown till late in the fourth quarter.
Virginia Tech still is in control of their own destiny in the ACC Coastal and will benefit from not having to play an option team the rest of the way. However, the Hokies' defense continues to be a mess with youth, poor tackling, and struggles in the trenches being a massive issue. While the Hokies' offense has still been solid with Ryan Willis, the defensive issues, mental mistakes with penalties, and muffed punts have you wondering if this team can put up a quality fight in pursuit of a Coastal title.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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