On the road in a hostile environment in Morgantown, plays broke down. Virginia Tech’s offensive line struggled, allowing six sacks, which created a frenzy at times. Outside of the final few minutes and the red zone, where the Hokies had a total collapse, Tayvion Robinson and Kaleb Smith were clutch when the offense needed them to be.
Ability To Make Plays
West Virginia pressured the heck out of the Hokies on Saturday. Justin Fuente spoke about it on Monday to the media and at Tech Talk Live. On top of that, the offensive line lost Silas Dzansi with an injury. It made things a little bit more difficult for Braxton Burmeister.
When he was in a pinch, though, like a point guard that needs to find an open man late in the shot clock, he consistently found two players: Smith and Robinson.
Smith, who had just two receptions for 17 yards entering the third game of the season, posted Tech’s best numbers of the day at wideout, finishing with six catches for 58 yards.
Robinson, a Cox High School product from Virginia Beach, had three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. He bossed a Mountaineer defender to catch Burmeister’s 23-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Many of those catches came from broken down plays, however.
Burmeister made a spectacular play on a third-and-five at the end of the first quarter where he rolled right, threw across his body while almost stepping out of bounds (the officials reviewed it and ruled him inbounds) and hit Robinson cutting back across the middle of the field. What could’ve been a punt on fourth down after WVU blitzed five turned into a 25-yard gain.
“It’s good playcalling by Coach Corn, and Braxton’s really good at scrambling,” Robinson said. “We practice a lot with him being that mobile, getting out of the pocket and finding windows to make throws. That’s really what it was. When he gets out of the pocket, we just try to find a window for him to get us the ball.”
Smith seemed like Burmeister’s go-to guy throughout the West Virginia game. Whenever the Hokies needed a chunk play, Smith was there.
He had gains of 11, 10, 5, 11, 8 and 13. Smith had a few plays where he had to make a tough catch to reel the pass in, too, where he laid out for the ball. He said everything he did throughout the offseason prepared him to make those types of plays.
“That’s just all summer long, catching balls off the jugs, getting reps with quarterbacks,” Smith said. “Anywhere the ball comes near me, if I can get two hands on it, or even one hand, I’m catching it.”
Another Big Weekend For Smith
A Bumpass, VA native who grew up a little over an hour away from the Commonwealth’s capital city, Richmond flows through Kaleb Smith’s blood.
His mother, Kimberly, played basketball at the University of Richmond. His father, James, was a safety for the Spiders from 1988-90 and was selected in the 11th round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. And his cousin, Kerry Wynn, who Kaleb grew up with and adored, played football for the Spiders and went on to play for the Giants and Bengals in the NFL.
Saturday’s game means just a little bit more to Smith and his family. He’ll have a large group of people cheering him on in Lane Stadium this weekend.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a game for the Hokies,” Smith said. “I’m trying to get my grandma, aunt, mom, dad and all of them up here, but after the game, maybe we can trash talk a little bit, but going through the game is still the main focus.”
Coming out of high school, Smith, a three-star recruit, originally committed to play for Wake Forest. As a senior at Louisa County High School, though, Smith tore his labrum. After some thinking, he decided to decommit from the Demon Deacons and enroll at Virginia Tech as a walk-on in January of 2018.
He made the Hokies’ roster, was eventually granted a scholarship, and now he’s a starter while on the team’s leadership council. Quite the evolution.
Smith was injured last season, though. He was out for five-and-a-half months after tearing the front part of his labrum. He tore the back as a senior in high school.
He was back on the field in May, however, and had a great offseason. He’s looked sharp through three games so far this season, too.
“It’s great to see Kaleb gets some balls,” head coach Justin Fuente said after the West Virginia game. “For the first two weeks, Kaleb has done a lot of the … dirty work for our football team in terms of being a core special teams guy that’s doing the blocking for the return game. And he’s been blocking and playing really well on the outside. Just hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunities, and he got some opportunities today. It’s good to see him come through and make those plays.”
Smith isn’t just solid at catching passes, though. He’s an extremely talented blocker, too, the kind of “dirty work” Fuente mentioned. He had Tech’s highest run blocking rating (86.3) against North Carolina and had this great block on a Robinson sweep. It’s just another thing he takes pride in.
“That’s just something that relates back to my pride,” Smith said. “I want to be the complete receiver. My high school coaches always say, ‘If you don’t block, you don’t get the rock,’ and that’s something I’ve taken to the next level.”