Game Notes: Two Injuries, Fourth Down Attempts and Focusing on Miami

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Virginia Tech’s defense led the way in the Hokies’ 24-3 win over Duke on Saturday night. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Before diving into my game notes, be sure to read my game recap from Virginia Tech’s 24-3 victory over Duke in the slop. It wasn’t pretty, but the Hokies got the job done.

Also, the 13th-ranked Hokies were idle in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches’ Poll on Sunday. Miami, who is the Hokies’ next opponent, moved up sixth in the Coaches’ Poll, but dropped to ninth in the AP Top 25. The Hurricanes escaped from Chapel Hill with a win on Saturday, beating North Carolina 24-19 to move to 7-0. The Hokies and Hurricanes will play this coming Saturday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Now, time for more notes and quotes.

Hokies lose Peoples, Nijman to injury

Virginia Tech suffered two noticeable injuries on Saturday night vs. Duke. Running back Steven Peoples left the game early, and left tackle Yosuah Nijman left in the second quarter.

Peoples, a redshirt junior, had missed the Hokies’ three previous games after leaving Tech’s blowout of Old Dominion on Sept. 23. Peoples led Virginia Tech’s 38-0 rout of the Monarchs, scoring three touchdowns. However, he would leave the game later and was unavailable for the team’s next two games. Peoples dressed for the North Carolina game on Oct. 21, but did not play.

The Hokies got Peoples back on Saturday, and put him on the field early. Peoples carried the ball twice for seven yards and made a reception for six yards. However, he would leave the field early in the first half and would not return.

Without Peoples, the Hokies put together a respectable effort in the ground game. Deshawn McClease, who did not play vs. North Carolina, led the way with 15 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Sean Savoy got in on the action as well, taking three jet sweeps for 30 total yards. In all, the Hokies rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per rush.

Nijman, a junior, has been banged up for most of the season. Offensive line coach Vance Vice said earlier in the season that Nijman had been dealing with minor, nagging injuries in the first few games. However, Nijman seemed to have gotten past that. That wasn’t the case, and he left Saturday’s game vs. Duke in the second quarter.

With Nijman on the sideline, redshirt senior Parker Osterloh filled in at left tackle and played relatively well. The 6-foot-8, 325-pound lineman saw his first significant snaps in quite some time, as the veteran has dealt with injury issues for most of his career. Even if Nijman returns this coming Saturday vs. Miami, getting Osterloh significant snaps bodes well for building depth as the season drags on.

Virginia Tech football
Duke’s offense never got going on Saturday night, in part because they had poor starting field position. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Bradburn fights through rain, Hokies opt for few field goal attempts

As good as Oscar Bradburn was on Saturday night, even the freshman Aussie had to make adjustments to deal with the inclement weather.

Bradburn might have been the Hokies’ unofficial MVP on Saturday night, pinning Duke back several times. Bradburn and the Virginia Tech punt team pinned the Blue Devils inside their own 10-yard-line on four separate occasions, forcing Duke to drive the length of the field for points. Sure enough, the Duke offense faltered most of the night, mustering just three points.

“I wasn’t planning on doing so until I bobbled one of the snaps for one of Joey’s kicks,” Bradburn said of his adjustments. “Then it went straight to chest marking and then kicking it. I knew I’d be able to go at a reasonable speed doing that, and it’s probably the safest option. I don’t want it to go through my hands and out the back, because that would be a disaster waiting to happen.”

Those holding issues might have kept the Hokies from kicking field goals on a couple of possessions. On the opening drive for Virginia Tech’s offense, the Hokies attempted to convert a fourth and five from Duke’s 23-yard-line, but failed. The Hokies tried again in the second quarter to convert a fourth and four from Duke’s 35-yard-line, and failed there as well. Right before halftime, Virginia Tech punted from Duke’s 36-yard-line on a fourth and four.

Sure, given Joey Slye’s inconsistency on field goals this season and the driving rain, you can’t count all three of those field goals as sure makes. However, the fact that Slye’s only field goal attempt came from 34 yards out shows that Tech’s confidence in the field goal operation just wasn’t there on Saturday night.

Focusing on Miami

With Duke behind them, Virginia Tech can now focus on the Miami Hurricanes. Miami is 7-0 on the season, and a win over the ‘Canes would put the Hokies in the driver’s seat for another ACC Coastal Division title.

Even with that opportunity looming, Virginia Tech didn’t even talk about Miami last week.

“In all honesty, and y’all probably think this is just coach speak — I haven’t heard one thing about the next opponent, in terms of talk around our locker room or anything,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “We knew that this team we were playing today was going to require our full attention, as every week does.”

Mook Reynolds corroborated Fuente’s assertion.

“We didn’t mention Miami,” Reynolds said. “Duke came up here the past two times, they came up here and beat us. The last time they came up here was one of the worst feelings to lose, especially the way we lost. We definitely weren’t thinking a week ahead.”

Now that Miami is upon them, defensive coordinator Bud Foster is more than willing to address the undefeated Hurricanes. Foster has been at Virginia Tech for 31 years now, and has seen plenty of top-10 battles between the Hokies and ‘Canes.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Foster said. “We’ve got a history with Miami, starting back with the Big East and all that. Had a lot of battles with those guys, and a lot of battles here in the ACC. I know Miami is going to — they’ve got a lot of talent, they’re a talented football team. A couple of those guys were on our staff here before, and I know how they’re going to be, and how the game turned our last year, I know they’re going to be ready to play their best football.”

Virginia Tech football
Terrell Edmunds’ (22) interception of Duke quarterback Daniel Jones in the first quarter was one of two Blue Devil turnovers. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Other notes

Quarterback Josh Jackson passed Virginia Tech legend Michael Vick on Saturday night, setting the record for passing yards by a freshman quarterback. Jackson threw for 200 yards vs. Duke in a rather uneasy performance, but managed the game well and took care of the football.

Virginia Tech has been much better at taking care of the ball this season, and did it once again vs. Duke. Terrell Edmunds picked off Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones, and Trevon Hill recovered a fumble, moving Virginia Tech’s season turnover margin to plus-6. Given how small the Hokies’ margin for error is this season, winning that stat every time out is critical.

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