Photo Credit: ACC Media
Virginia Tech put up a tremendous fight that helped them hang with #3 Clemson for the first half of this game but in the second half, the Tigers took over as expected with a dominant performance as the Hokies faltered on offense.
The Hokies lost to the Tigers 45-10 to drop to 4-6 on the season including 4-5 in ACC play while Clemson improved to 9-1 including 8-1 in ACC play, locking up their spot opposite Notre Dame in the ACC Championship.
Tech's offense showed promise early, but Tech then mismanaged their QBs in the first half in sticking with Braxton Burmeister even as Hendon Hooker was ready and Burmeister lacked the vertical passing threat. Additionally, turnovers became a problem as the Hokies had 3 in the second half including a Burmeister fumble right after a Divine Deablo INT that became the beginning of the end.
Tech's defense had a solid night overall, but was killed by big plays with multiple touchdowns of 50+ yards allowed on the night. Clemson outgained the Hokies significantly averaging 8.33 yards per play compared to 5.20 for Tech. The numbers aren't great for either side of the ball, but Tech's defense was not too bad especially during the second half but the dam eventually broke for them as the offense crumbled.
Additionally, Tech had a massive end of half debacle as they had 3 timeouts and just under a minute of time on the clock down 7 with Clemson getting the ball to start the second half and tried to run out the clock. A big Khalil Herbert run that went out of bounds led to Tech going for a hail mary that was caught by Raheem Blackshear but was a half yard short in the end, magnifying the terrible clock management and conservative playcalling decision by Justin Fuente.
QBs were under the microscope as Hendon Hooker started with Braxton Burmeister coming in on the second possession. At the time, Tech's plan was just for that possession but after the Hokies got a TD, they stuck with Burmeister but their offense wouldn't score another touchdown after that. While Burmeister had some solid moments, it seemed like Tech could have used Hooker sooner who Fuente said at halftime was available.
However, the QB situation went from first half mismangement to serious medical concern in the 2nd half as Burmeister suffered an injury early on a third down sack that took him out for the rest of the game. After that, Hooker came in for a drive but fumbled a snap that Clemson returned for the touchdown. That would be it for Hooker who was having some sort of medical issue on the sideline as shown by ABC cameras with Tech informing the media that an update would come from Fuente after the game.
That led to Knox Kadum making his Hokie debut after previous third-string QB Quincy Patterson entered the transfer portal this week. Kadum wasn't too bad, but Tech clearly has some major QB concerns now.
Burmeister finished the game with the best numbers as he went 10-12 for 127 yards plus 6 rushing yards while Hooker had a 7-yard completion and 3 carries in limited reps. Kadum went 4-6 for 68 yards in his debut plus 24 yards on 6 carries.
Khalil Herbert was one of the standout players for Tech in this game as he became the first Justin Fuente running back to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a single season with 21 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown plus a 1-yard reception.
Raheem Blackshear led the receiving stats with 4 catches for 68 yards while Tayvion Robinson had 3 catches for 53 yards. Changa Hodge had 2 catches for 14 yards, the first receptions of his Hokie career.
Divine Deablo was Tech's defensive standout with 3 tackles and an interception while Armani Chatman had a pair of tackles and 2 pass breakups. Rayshard Ashby and Alan Tisdale each led Tech with 7 tackles respectively as Ashby also had 2 QB hurries while Tisdale had 0.5 tackles for loss.
The Hokies showed plenty of fight and showed they had the talent to stay with the Hokies in many ways along with having some good approaches though the talent disparity did show as the game went on. However, some mental errors, turnovers, and coaching held Tech back especially on the offensive side where Tech just simply didn't make the adjustments.
Justin Fuente is undoubtedly on the hot seat and while expectations were low against Clemson, he did nothing to help himself get off the hot seat and on a night where it would seem hard to toughen his situation, his first half handling of QBs and bizarre clock management during that half hurt his case. Tech clearly has the talent but while the defense seemed to have some rhythm coming out of the locker room, the Hokies' offense completely crumbled with no second half points and barely any signs of life with turnovers shooting those few opportunities in the foot.
We will have more as this story develops.