Virginia Tech’s offense found its rhythm just in time.
After sputtering vs. Duke and Georgia Tech, and after getting off to a slow start vs. Notre Dame, the Hokies fired on all cylinders against their in-state rivals.
Virginia Tech compiled a whopping 579 total yards vs. Virginia. The Hokies moved the ball at will and finished the game with the reserves in, allowing the starters to take a rest after a long and grueling season.
It was Tech’s biggest offensive output of the season, and they’ll need a similar performance on Saturday vs. Clemson. The Tigers are one of the highest scoring teams in the country and sport one of the stingiest defenses too. Clemson ranks 8th in total defense and scoring defense, allowing just 17 points per game.
“They’re talented, all over the place,” said Sam Rogers. “Their defensive line is really good, really talented, big, fast. They were in the national championship last year for a reason.”
Running the ball efficiently will help. Virginia Tech hasn’t been the best team on the ground all season, but the Hokies found some success vs. Virginia, rushing for 289 yards on 51 carries. If you’re looking for a reason why the rushing attack got going, look no further than the big boys up front.
“It starts up front,” Rogers said. “The offensive line was getting a lot of movement. When you don’t get touched for the first four or five yards, your offensive line is doing something right, giving you opportunities to get to the second level.”
Head Coach Justin Fuente partly agreed, but saw another reason for Virginia Tech’s rushing success.
“Well, I think it was two things. One, in looking at the film, and Coach Mendenhall may disagree with me, but I felt like they were very concerned about our guys on the outside, which gave us some opportunities to run the ball. When I say our guys on the outside, I mean Bucky and Isaiah and Cam, and they really wanted to keep the ball in front of them, and gave us some better numbers to run the football, and then I’d also say the line of scrimmage moved. I mean, even when the numbers weren’t great, we were still moving the line of scrimmage and able to fall forward for four or five yards when maybe it wasn’t the perfect look.”
Clemson might be less concerned with Virginia Tech’s offensive weapons on the outside, just because of their talent in the secondary. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley leads the Clemson defensive backs with six tackles for loss and nine pass deflections this season. He also has six career interceptions.
“They’re pretty athletic, especially on the backend,” said Isaiah Ford. “They’re long, Tankersley, number 25, he’s pretty good. The other corner is good too.”
Ford has plenty to deal with this week. As he prepares for Clemson, Ford is also trying to secure enough tickets for his family and friends who plan on making the trip to Orlando. Ford is from Jacksonville, FL and hasn’t played this close to his hometown in his Virginia Tech career.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Ford said. “All my friends and family, everyone wants tickets. I’m in a hassle right now, trying to ask as many of my teammates and the coaches as I can, trying to get as many tickets as possible. Just trying to make sure everyone can come to the game and get to watch.”
Jerod Evans also has had external factors to deal with. Evans was left off of the All-ACC teams this week and failed to get an Honorable Mention either. Evans has thrown for 3,039 yards, 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions this season, all while completing 63.8 percent of his passes. Evans has also run for 713 yards and eight touchdowns.
Evans was noticeably frustrated about his snub on Tuesday, but is taking the high road.
“All that matters is that I have the coaches behind me and players behind me,” Evans said. “Players had a couple of choice words, but as long as they’re behind me, the fans behind me and my coaches, that’s all I can ask for.”
Evans echoed the sentiments of his teammates when asked about Clemson’s defense — they’re talented.
“They got a lot of studs man,” Evans said. “Just like the big-time schools, you can’t ask for more. They got players all over the board and that’s what makes them great, because they do have talent where they can play man-to-man and trust their cornerbacks, and they have a great front seven.”
Even though it’s a bad matchup for Virginia Tech on paper, Evans says he’s confident heading into the primetime matchup on Saturday night.
“I don’t think no team is invincible,” Evans said. “That’s just my look on everything. Every man bleeds… it’s just a mindset that you have. I don’t feel like nobody is invincible to losing.”