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Saturday’s game did not start well for Virginia Tech, but the Hokies were able to overcome the loss of 23 players and two coaches for the 45-24 opening win over NC State on Saturday.
Prior to the game, 23 players were declared unavailable including starting quarterback Hendon Hooker and starting cornerback Jermaine Waller. In addition. defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton and defensive assistant Tracy Claeys were also out.
The good: Virginia Tech’s rush attack
The Hokies ran the ball for 314 yards making it just the third time Virginia Tech has rushed for more than 300 yards since joining the ACC in 2004. Kansas transfer Khalil Herbert had a dazzling debut with 104 yards and a touchdown in just six carries. He also added another 46 receiving yards on two catches. Rutgers transfer Raheem Blackshear also had eight carries for 28 yards and a touchdown. The quarterbacks played a big role in the ground game as well with Braxton Burmeister and Quincy Patterson combining for 19 carries and 93 yards.
The bad: NC State’s defense
Just one week after allowing 42 points to Wake Forest, the Wolfpack followed that up by allowing the Hokies 495 total yards and 45 points.
Not only was Hooker out, but Burmeister suffered a hand cramp in the first half and Virginia Tech had to turn to its No. 3 quarterback, Patterson. But it didn’t matter. Burmeister completed seven out of 11 passes for 106 yards. Patterson came in and completed four of six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
It didn’t matter if it was on the ground or through the air, it didn’t matter which quarterback was in, the Hokies simply had their way with NC State’s defense all night.
The crazy: Ryan Smith
Long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster retired following the 2019 season meaning Saturday’s game was the first time since 1995 that Foster was not in charge of the defense. Hamilton was Foster’s replacement, but he was unavailable for the game. Claeys would have been the presumptive replacement, but he was unavailable as well. And so, the first defensive coordinator for the Hokies after Foster was the 29-year-old Ryan Smith who is in his first season in Blacksburg.
How did he do?
Virginia Tech’s defense gave up 24 points and 386 yards to the Wolfpack, but 14 of those points came in the second half including a touchdown with 4:03 remaining when the game had already been decided. The Hokies hounded NC State for six sacks and two interceptions and played a good game despite not having its defensive coordinator or its starting cornerback. In fact, if you consider Caleb Farley who opted out prior to the season, Virginia Tech was without both of its top two corners for the opener. That makes the team’s effort under the guidance of Smith supremely impressive.