Virginia Tech Football: Takeaways From J.C. Price Ahead of Virginia

Virginia Tech Connor Blumrick
Virginia Tech ran quarterback Connor Blumrick often in the 38-26 loss to Miami. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

In Saturday’s 38-26 loss to Miami in Hard Rock Stadium, Virginia Tech ran the ball 43 times on 71 offensive plays (60.5%).

Thirty of those 43 rushes (69.7%) came from the Hokies’ two quarterbacks, Braxton Burmeister and Connor Blumrick. Burmeister started the game and played most of the first half, with Blumrick subbing in on occasion. After Burmeister was sacked and fumbled early in the third quarter, however, Blumrick played the rest of the game.

Afterwards, interim head coach J.C. Price said the Hokies just went with the hot hand, which was Blumrick. 

How will Virginia Tech’s quarterback situation shape up this week against Virginia? We’ll discuss that, plus how Miami exposed the Hokies’ defense on big plays and how Brennan Armstrong and his receivers make UVa’s offense so dynamic.

The Virginia Tech Quarterback Situation

Everything ran through Virginia Tech’s quarterbacks at Miami.

Blumrick and Burmeister were first and second on the team in all-purpose yards with 132 and 52, respectively. Burmeister completed 14 of his 17 passes for 109 yards and a score, too, while Blumrick – who had thrown the ball just four times entering Saturday – was five-for-11 for 39 yards and two touchdowns.

Braxton Burmeister shared reps with Connor Blumrick in Saturday’s game at Miami. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

In the run game, the Hokies barely used anyone outside of their quarterbacks. Malachi Thomas (7 rushes, 39 yards), Tayvion Robinson (2 rushes, 4 yards), Raheem Blackshear (2 rushes, 3 yards) and Keshawn King (2 rushes, -3 yards) were rarely used.

With the importance of Tech’s QBs established, how will the team handle its QB situation in its final regular season game at Virginia?

“We are going to decide whether it gives us the best chance to win, like we did last week,” Price said in his press conference on Monday. “Both Braxton and Connor did a lot of good things in the game. [Offensive coordinator Brad] Cornelsen and the offensive guys will determine that later in the week.”

Here are the stats for the two QBs from the Miami game:

The numbers are fairly balanced. Burmeister threw better, while Blumrick ran better.

It’s especially impressive for Blumrick after he suffered an injury back in early October against Notre Dame. He sat out a month and rehabbed, and he played a big role in the Hokies’ plan of attack against Miami.

“I think what it did for us is Connor gave us a shot of energy,” Price said. “Here’s a guy that probably could have rode it out and not played the rest of the year, but instead he goes out and attacks the rehab, gets his body right, gets him back to where he can perform and our kids saw that. Our kids saw him go out, and every run he was trying to finish.

“They [Blumrick and Burmeister] both bring different things to the table and our offense seemed to be clicking with Connor and we just rode the hot hand.”

We’ll see how Tech uses its quarterbacks against UVa on Saturday. Just like Miami, it could be a case of riding the hot hand.

Defensive Struggles

The Miami game was a mixed bag for Virginia Tech.

On offense, the Hokies played well enough to win until they punted on all three fourth quarter possessions. Defensively, they started off terribly, allowing ‘Canes touchdowns on the first four possessions, but forced four punts and allowed just ten points after that.

Though Tech didn’t let Miami run the ball, the ‘Canes threw it all over the Hokies. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

J.C. Price hit the nail on the head after the game on Saturday:

“We thought that their offense was built around big plays, and if they didn’t get a big play, they’d have trouble scoring. If they had big plays, they scored. If they had to drive it, we had a chance to get off the field. That’s kind of a nutshell on defense.”

Tyler Van Dyke (19-33, 357 yards, 3 TDs) became the first opposing quarterback to put up over 300 yards passing on Tech this season, and he had two long scores that helped him reach that mark. He hit Brashard Smith for 75 yards in the second quarter and had a 55-yarder to Mike Harley in the fourth that sealed the game.

On Monday, Price said the defensive lapses came from breakdowns at every position, not just in the secondary.

“You need all 11 people out there doing their job to be successful on defense,” Price said. It’s not just on the secondary, it’s on the d-line. We didn’t rush the passer very well. If there’s a good rush, there’s good coverage. If there’s good coverage, there’s a good rush. Those things go hand in hand.

“I would not sit here and put it on any one portion of the defense. We’ve got to play better on all three levels.”

Tech recorded five tackles for loss against the Hurricanes but did not have a sack. None of the TFLs – Chamarri Conner, Dax Hollifield, Keshon Artis, Jermaine Waller and Nasir Peoples had one each – came from the front four.

The Hokies are going to need to get pressure against UVa this week to slow that offense down.

Virginia’s Potent Attack

In many ways, Brennan Armstrong seems unstoppable. He’s etched his name in UVa’s record books multiple times, and though his game against Pitt on Saturday was his first since his injury, he still threw for 487 yards (36-49, 1 INT) and three touchdowns.

Brennan Armstrong is one of the top QBs in the country, and he makes UVa difficult to stop. (Virginia Sports)

He’s the only player in the ACC that has thrown for over 4,000 yards this season, and he’s averaging 404.4 yards per game. Armstrong has the third-most touchdowns (30) in the league, too, behind Kenny Pickett’s 36 and 31 from Sam Hartman and Devin Leary.

“The quickness of his release, the decision-making [stands out],” Price said. “He’s a dual threat guy, he can run. I know everybody knows he’s been banged up here the last few weeks, but he’s 6-2, 215-220. He’s a big, strong guy that you think he’s not going to be as agile as he is. He makes guys miss for being as big as he is and he can lower his shoulder if he chooses to and finish.

“They do a good job of spreading the field and he’s been in that system, he’s got confidence, he’s got confidence in his receivers and he’s hard to get to and he has a really quick release.”

Armstrong’s receivers are talented, too. Three of them – Dontayvion Wicks, Jelani Woods (tight end) and Billy Kemp – have six or more touchdown catches this year. That list doesn’t even include Keytaon Thompson, their second-leading receiver with 899 yards this season.

Here’s a breakdown of their receivers so far this season, sorted by number of catches:

Kemp is the shortest of the group at 5-9, but the rest of the five are tall – Wicks (6-1), Henry (6-3), Thompson (6-4) and Woods (6-7).

“Length, length and more length,” Price said of Virginia’s receiving corps. “They’re all big, tall, long guys.

“He [Armstrong] has confidence in them, he’ll come out of his read and throw that thing back across the field and throw it up to those guys who are not only good athletes, they can run, but it’s just, the first thing that hits you on the screen when you watch their tape is just the length of those guys.”

The Virginia Tech secondary, which allowed its most passing yards of the season at Miami, is in for its toughest test of the year in Charlottesville.

24 Responses You are logged in as Test

    1. And the idiots in Gboro ignored the video evidence on replay. SEC fans complain about their officials, but they should see ours. I could name about 3 refs that should be fired for incompetence or poor vision, and Hokies caught one in Miami.

      Go Hokies!!

  1. First time in 20 years I’ve said this, but UVA is about to whip our ass on Saturday night. Just ready for this football season to end.

    1. Pressure is all on UVA. We don’t have a head coach, and that’ll be our line if we lose. If we win, UVA will never live this down.

  2. Mark it down: we will NEVER be a good football team offensively while running nearly all the plays with the QB. NEVER. Coaching staff: find a way to get the RBs into the game. Running, short passes, whatever. You’re gonna get our QBs hurt. If you don’t have the personnel to run the danged ball, get some bodies who can back there.

    Vent over.

  3. After 6 years of team building, the pinnacle of our QB talent is a transferred QB that is not a good passer, another transferred QB that can’t even pass and a one trick-pony OC. In the Miami game, thirty of the team’s 43 rushes came from the two QBs, what happened to the RBs but then again, a one-trick pony OC… On the defensive side, there were some good plays occasionally but the talent is just not there. Go Hokies beat Wahoos (with our heavy hearts, we cheer for you).

  4. I already have begun my 3 hour stomach ache and the game hasn’t even started. The Hoos will roll unless we utilize our running backs, mix in some play action and quick hitters to keep UVA honest (I don’t think Corn knows how to do this) and attack on Defense with stunts, blitzes and gang tackling snot bubbles. The defense needs to play angry across the board. Let’s Go!!!

    1. We have to keep their offense off the field which starts with running the ball. 2nd we have to shut down the big plays. 3rd we have to get tough, bend but not break, and make UVA go for FG’s rather that PAT’s.

      Their defense does not tackle well but the only way to exploit that is the running game.

  5. Bottom line for us is we have few impact players on defense. No sacks last game, lb’s out of position and lack speed, safeties got dominated all game and thus the reason they scored so much. Bottom line we need a lot of talent upgrades

  6. There is zero pressure coming from the down four. Without that, VT’s secondary has no chance against that UVA QB. The DT’s aren’t winning one on one battles. Kind of disappointed in the guy who came from Clemson. Thought he might be a bigger physical presence.

    1. Because he is superhuman and we have no chance… he has a receiver like Billy Kemp who is listed at 5’9” which makes me seven feet tall…seriously we need to put together the most blitz packages we have had all season…and have a record number of hits and sacks..even if we give up some big plays…with pressure, Armstrong becomes human again…remember last year when he was throwing errant balls all over Lane and they scored a whopping 15 points?

  7. Running the ball on their defense which is a sieve should be the game plan to limit Armstrong’s possessions.
    We need to run for 250+ and it’s not unlikely.

  8. Bud Foster, in his prime, would eat Armstrong for a snack. Pressure, pressure, and more pressure. What do we have to lose but another game? Maybe pressure is the answer.

  9. Yes it’s dangerous, but maybe it’s time to Dial about little bit of pressure and see what happens. Rushing three or four did nothing to help the secondary against the U. In the second half when we did start sending a few players on blitzes we did get better results. No coach at all but why not go ahead and go after the quarterback and see what happens. He’ll kill us if we give him three for five seconds to throw.

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