Virginia Tech’s showdown vs. Clemson on Saturday night didn’t go as the Hokies had planned. The Hokies coughed it up three times, resulting in 14 Clemson points and a 31-17 defeat at home. There are a couple notes I’d like to get to, outside of what I wrote in my game recap.
Hokies lose the turnover margin
Virginia Tech’s three turnovers might not have been the only reason the Hokies lost on Saturday night, but it’s the main reason. The Hokies came into the game having turned it over just twice, and were plus-5 in the turnover margin for the year.
Virginia Tech wide receiver Cam Phillips noted after the game that Tech simply cannot afford to turn the ball over as much as they did vs. Clemson.
“We harp on ball security, and I think that’s what gave us a chance in so many games, holding onto the ball and not giving a team any extra opportunities,” Phillips said. “We did some things, like not looking the ball in, not squeezing tight enough and a good team like that is going to capitalize on it.”
Quarterback Josh Jackson was responsible for two of those turnovers. Jackson threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, one of which was a dropped pass by Henri Murphy. That drop landed right in the hands of Clemson’s Dorian O’Daniel. He returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
“Frustrated,” Jackson said of the team’s mood after the game. “Obviously, everyone wanted to win that game, and we didn’t play well enough to. Yeah, frustrated.”
Fuente explains decision to try fake field goal
Many Virginia Tech fans were displeased with the decision to call a fake field goal on fourth and 12 at the end of the third quarter. The Hokies were down 24-3, and didn’t have a great decision in front of them — kick the field goal and cut the lead to 18, or try to convert fourth and long against a tough Clemson defense.
After the game, Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente noted that the sequence before that situation — a fumble early in the quarter, a Clemson touchdown and a failed fourth down conversion for the Hokies — forced him to get a little more aggressive.
“Well, there’s a lot of things I kick myself about in every game, but we get a stop and we fumble when we’ve got great field position, we fumble on the second play… the crowd is into it, just a really tough pill to swallow there,” Fuente said. “It kind of forced our hand a little bit to start going for it. I didn’t feel like just trying to kick long field goals was going to help us win the game, to be honest with you.
“On the fake field goal, I felt better about faking it on fourth and 10 than I did going for it,” Fuente said. “That was probably a press move by myself, but that’s how I felt. If it had been fourth and a little bit shorter, we probably just would have left the offense on the field and gone for it.”
The fake field goal obviously didn’t work. Oscar Bradburn, the holder, completed a shovel pass to Dalton Keene for just a 1-yard gain.
Foster dealing with injuries in secondary
Virginia Tech’s secondary suffered another injury on Saturday night. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster noted after the game that Brandon Facyson sprained his ankle at one point during the game, but did not say how bad of an issue it will be moving forward.
The injury forced Virginia Tech to get creative in the defensive backfield. Free safety Terrell Edmunds played both rover and cornerback at times, while Mook Reynolds was forced to play some of his time at free safety. Deon Newsome saw playing time at Reynolds’ nickelback position.
“We’ll take a look at it,” Foster said. “We want to make sure we get our best people on the field, and for us to have success we’re going to get our best 11 on the field. With (backup free safety Divine) Deablo being out, that was a big blow because I thought he was really coming along and had some tremendous abilities. Then tonight, Facyson sprained his ankle and then Adonis (Alexander) starts cramping, then next thing you know we’re scrambling a little bit.”
Virginia Tech cannot afford more injuries in the secondary. Divine Deablo is out for the season with a left foot fracture, and rover Devon Hunter returned on Saturday after dealing with an undisclosed injury against Old Dominion. Virginia Tech is thin at cornerback as well, with redshirt-freshman Tyree Rodgers and freshman Bryce Watts close to being called upon.