December 15, 2017

Virginia Tech Football: Hokies stifled by Panthers

The Virginia Tech Hokies recent history against the Pittsburgh Panthers hasn’t been good. Entering Saturday they had dropped five of their last six games against Pitt despite entering five of those contests as the higher-ranked team. However, Saturday’s 17-13 loss brought the Curse of Pitt to a new low as the Hokies were thoroughly dominated by the Panthers defense.

The Tech offense finished with exactly 100 total yards of offense and just nine yards rushing. The previous low in total yards for the Hokies since 2000 was 139 yards against Miami in 2006, a game they somehow won 17-10. The nine rushing yards are tied with Louisiana Monroe for the fifth-least amount of rushing yards by an FBS school this season. They’re the least put up by a Power 5 school this season. [Read more…]

Virginia Tech – Pittsburgh Preview: History discouraging for Hokies

Usually the Virginia Tech Hokies wait until after their game against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers to begin a long streak of misfortunes, poor play and upset losses. However, this season they’ve gotten a head start, losing to a much weaker East Carolina for the second season in a row behind a sloppy defense before losing All-American cornerback Kendall Fuller for the season to a torn meniscus. Compared to that the horrors that will be unleashed by the Curse of Pitt might not seem as bad.

Rest assured that the Curse of Pitt is real and it is spectacular. The Hokies played their final season in the Big East in 2003, when they went from preseason No. 9, to 8-5. The next season in the ACC they began their vaunted 10-win season streak. That streak came to an end in 2012, when, you guessed it, the Panthers moved to the ACC and back onto the Hokies yearly schedule. They haven’t recovered yet.

The Hokies were a combined 33-6 entering their last six games against the Panthers, but from that point on they went a combined 16-25 including the game against Pittsburgh and bowl games.

And the actual games themselves haven’t gone that well either. Overall the Hokies are just 8-6 against the Panthers, despite Pitt not being one of the better teams in football. In fact, the Panthers were only ranked once in the 14 meetings between the two teams, at No. 25, where they of course beat the No. 5 Hokies in 2003. Tech has entered the contest ranked 10 of those times, yet is only 5-5 in those meetings. So yes, you better respect the Curse of Pitt.

Not that the Hokies are really entering this week’s game on a high note. After back-to-back thrashings of Furman and Purdue they ran into a real opponent in East Carolina. A clever wrinkle from Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill using a running quarterback and a missing Kendall Fuller led to the Hokies’ supposedly vaunted defense to be run off the field.

Not that Bud Foster’s unit has been that good this year. They were projected in the preseason by S&P+ to be the No. 2 defense in the nation, but so far have checked in at No. 60. Their big four defensive line of Ken Ekanem, Luther Maddy, Corey Marshall and Dadi Nicolas have combined for one sack. While little depth across the field has forced the few stars they have to work overtime to keep things running and making every little injury devastating.

There is some good news on that front though as middle linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka is expected to return Saturday. Even better news considering fill-in starter Sean Huelskamp was ejected from the game against the Pirates for a ridiculous targeting penalty and is subsequently suspended from the first half of the game against the Panthers.

However, the Hokies still need that unit to play up to its expectations if they want to see any success this season.

Offensively the Hokies saw a vintage Logan Thomas performance from 2014 preseason ACC Player of the Year vote receiver quarterback Brenden Motley who accounted for 85 percent of their total yards and scoring two touchdowns. The Tech offense continues to be the better unit to the surprise of everyone, checking in at No. 39 by S&P+. Perhaps its their ability to take care of the ball, as Brewer and Motley have combined for only two interceptions so far.

The Panthers will present a tough test, similar to the Pirates, as they’re the No. 50 team in the advanced F/+ Combined Rankings. That’s not to say that the Panthers are doing all that well either. They’re 2-1 on the season, with the two wins coming against two FCS opponents and then dropping a close game to Iowa. And like the Hokies they’ve been banged up. Losing all world running back James Conner to a season ending knee injury in the first week of the season.

But they do still have a major weapon in wide receiver Tyler Boyd, one of the best in the nation. He’ll severely test the new Fuller-less secondary that struggled mightily against East Carolina’s wideouts. The question is whether the Panthers can get the ball to him as they move forward with new starting quarterback Nathan Peterman. With a full week without Fuller the Hokies will need to identify a better scheme to shutdown Boyd than they did for East Carolina, otherwise it won’t matter what Motley can do.

And always beware the Curse of Pitt.

Virginia Tech – East Carolina Preview

The East Carolina Pirates are one of the better non-Power Five schools to never make a top bowl game. There’s still a significant talent gap, but the Pirates’ 5-11 record against Power Five opponents the past five seasons shows a school that can surprise a team when given the chance. The Virginia Tech Hokies, however, are all too familiar with the talents of the Pirates, having lost to them 28-21 last season.

The Pirates biggest challange is their Air Raid offense, designed to keep opposing defenses under a constant barrage of quick, hard to defend pass plays. Last season star quarterback Shane Carden and top receivers Cam Worthy and Justin Hardy beat the Hokies’ vaunted secondary time and again in one-on-one to amass a 21 point lead in just 12 minutes. [Read more…]

Virginia Tech: Hokies dominate for second straight week

The Virginia Tech Hokies had over 450 total yards on offense (471) and over 40 points (51) for the second week in a row, this time against Power Five foe the Purdue Boilermakers. It was the first time the Hokies had back-to-back games with over 40 points since their streak of four from Oct. 2 to Oct. 23, 2010 and the first time they’ve scored at least 50 points against a Power Five opponent since beating Wake Forest 52-10 during that streak.

It was vintage Beamerball for the Hokies as they got contributions from all over the field with a defensive touchdown, a special teams touchdown, two running touchdowns and a pair of passing touchdowns. Fill-in starting quarterback Brenden Motley looked in control all game, finishing 15/24 for 220 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and one fumble. Meanwhile the Tech defense held Purdue to just 265 total yards and 9 first downs, nabbing two interceptions and forcing a fumble.

The Hokies jumped out to a hot start, forcing Purdue to go three-and-out on their first drive, before driving 49 yards and settling for a Joey Slye 35 yard field goal. On the Boilermakers next drive preseason All-American Kendall Fuller got to quarterback Austin Appleby on a third down blitz and stripped him forcing a fumble which safety Chuck Clark scooped up and returned 20 yards to put Tech up 10-0.

The Boilermakers struck right back though, stringing together their best offensive drive of the game, going 74 yards on nine plays to make it 10-7 Tech. After a pair of punts the Hokies had a long drive of their own, driving 88 yards to Purdue’s 2 yard line. But then a missed protection left Motley’s blindside uncovered and a sack fumble was returned to put the Boilermakers ahead 14-10.

Bucky Hodges’ first touchdown of the season put the Hokies back on top. A Purdue field goal and a Motley touchdown run would close out the scoring for an exciting first half with Tech on top 24-17.

But as they showed against Furman last week, the Hokies proved to be a second half team, scoring 17 points in the third quarter and 20 unanswered points in the second half to bury the Boilermakers. The second half started similarly to that game as well, with a big run, as Der’Woun Green returned the kickoff 82 yards. Tech settled for a field goal in what might’ve been a bigger story had they not followed that up with two more touchdowns.

The first came on an 8 play, 42 yard drive that culminated in a J.C. Coleman one yard touchdown run. The second brought up memories of Virginia Tech teams past as Tremaine Edmunds broke through the Boilermakers punt protection to get a hand on the ball and spring Anthony Shegog for a 15 yard touchdown. The Hokies had already had a couple close calls earlier in the game.

After a Purdue four and out Joey Slye tacked on three more points on a 46-yard field goal to put the game on ice. For the second week in a row the Hokies were able to get valuable playing time for their backups for most of the fourth quarter. A Markell Jones 60 yard touchdown run with seven minutes left forced the starting offense back on the field where they drained five minutes from the clock before Hodges’ second touchdown grab of the game to close it out.

Freshman Adonis Alexander took over full-time for Desmond Frye at safety and grabbed his second interception in as many games. Walk-on sophomore and new starting middle linebacker Sean Heulskamp also nabbed an interception late in the game to cap off a good effort in his first career start.

Tech finished the game with 11 penalties for 87 yards, something that would’ve been more noteworthy if the offense hadn’t taken over.

Virginia Tech Football: Hokies rebound and dominate Paladins

The last time the Virginia Tech Hokies played a game against an FCS opponent on short rest after a dispiriting loss to a top five team, they were stunned by James Madison in 2010. That coupled with starting quarterback Michael Brewer’s broken collarbone meant that Hokie fans could be excused for being a bit worried headed in that they were being set up for a letdown.

However, new starting quarterback Brenden Motley and the Hokies’ vaunted defense put those fears to rest, thoroughly dominating the overmatched Furman Paladins 42-3. A week after being run over by the Ohio State offensive hyrdra, the Hokies defense looked much more like themselves. They held the Paladins to just 254 total yards while snagging two interceptions, returning one for the first touchdown of the game.

The real questions for the Hokies were on offense though and despite a slow start, the Hokies showed that they can still be effective with Brewer on the sideline, finishing with 578 total yards. It was the first time the Hokies amassed over 550 yards on offense since Oct. 10, 2010 against Wake Forest where they had 605. It was the ninth most total yards of offense the Hokies have had under head coach Frank Beamer.

After only getting one first down on their first three drives, Motley was able to settle down and find dynamic tight end Bucky Hodges for a 46 yard completion to spring the Hokies first offensive touchdown on a Motley scramble five plays later. The half would end with the Hokies up 14-0.

Travon McMillan kicked off the second half with a 63-yard run that set the tone for the rest of the game as Tech ran away from the Paladins, scoring 21 points in the third quarter. Motley hooked up with top wideout Isaiah Ford for 1-yard and 32-yard touchdowns to bookend the quarter. Between those Trey Edmunds punched in the Hokies fourth touchdown of the day on a one-yard run.

Up a comfortable 35-3 entering the fourth quarter the Hokies used that time to get extended looks at backup quarterbacks Dwayne Lawson, who scored the first touchdown of his career on a 4-yard run, and Chris Durkin along with some other reserves.

Motley finished his first career start with 16 completions in 24 attempts for 233 yards and two touchdowns in the air and 38 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Most importantly was how comfortable Motley looked in the pocket and making reads in the passing game, something he that was evident against Ohio State. With Brewer set to miss at least three more games his growth as a starter will continue to be the top storyline for the Hokies.

On the injury front the Hokies didn’t get through the game completely unscathed. Starting middle linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka exited the game early in the third quarter with a left knee injury and did not return. On the offensive Hodges tried to play through a bruised right quad before succumbing to the injury in the third quarter.

The Paladins’ only points of the game came on a 49 yard field goal in the third quarter.

Hokies kicker Joey Slye continued his perfect kickoff streak, with all six of his kickoffs going for touchbacks, making him 10/10 on the season.

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