The grand event in a weekend filled with multiple Virginia Tech victories, Brent Pry’s first Spring Game in Blacksburg was a success.
The football program’s alumni returned in numbers, the weather was impeccable and the Maroon team beat the White team 26-10 in Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The event followed Tech baseball’s series win over No. 2 Miami and the No. 2 softball team’s walk-off against Virginia right across the street.
Though it was a one-sided affair, headlined by the Maroon squad scoring 19 unanswered in the first half, it concluded a thrilling weekend.
“Fanbase did an unbelievable job coming out today,” Pry said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “The whole weekend has been great. A lot of excitement and support for Virginia Tech football with everything going on in softball and baseball, a really good vibe in Blacksburg today.”
In his debut in front of Virginia Tech fans, quarterback Grant Wells showed off. The Marshall transfer hit Kaleb Smith for touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the first quarter for scores of 47 yards and 51 yards, respectively. Though his accuracy tapered off after the first 12 minutes, he looked the better of the top two QBs.
Wells finished 11-for-21 with 178 yards after starting 8-for-13. But he gave a glimpse of his deep ball that has been mentioned throughout the spring, hitting Smith in stride with two dimes.
“I thought Grant played awfully well today,” Pry said. “Did some good things. … Grant obviously threw some good balls and had a good first half out there.”
Both touchdown passes came at the expense of cornerback Brion Murray, who got beat deep. Quarterback Jason Brown said Smith is much faster than he anticipated, and it showed on that play.
Grant Wells drops this pass in perfectly to Kaleb Smith for the TOUCHDOWN pic.twitter.com/NcnXcXag8e
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) April 16, 2022
Though he’s been overlooked by many throughout his career, Smith showed some of his ability on Saturday. The veteran in the wide receiver room, he’s taken up a leadership role in the past few months. Outside of Temple transfer Jadan Blue, there’s some unproven depth behind him. The Hokies are going to really rely on him in 2022.
“He’s done a nice job, he’s one of those guys that was in the conversation for most improved,” Pry said of Smith. “Each and every outing, he did something in every practice. He’s a big guy with a big catch radius. He’s consistently one of our top guys on our GPS speed barometer. … He had a really good spring for us.”
Brown quarterbacked the white team, and it wasn’t the best showing for that unit. He finished 6-of-14 for 37 yards and got sacked three times. The offensive line struggled, which limited his impact, but Brown accepted ownership of his mistakes.
“That can throw off the rhythm and what not, but I still have to make the throw at the end of the day,” Brown said. “I’m not going to put too much flame on them because at the end of the day, I get the ball, I drop and I’ve got to make a play with the football.”
Back on April 6, Pry and quarterbacks coach Brad Glenn mentioned the competition at that spot had become a two-man duel between Wells and Brown. They also said, in agreement with offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen, that if the Hokies have a starting quarterback, the staff will announce it.
After the Spring Game, Pry isn’t ready to name one yet; he sees the battle playing out into fall camp. But he, Wells and Brown are all in agreement that Virginia Tech has two capable quarterbacks for 2022, which is a plus. That especially comes in handy in a situation like what Brown faced last year at South Carolina.
“You’re probably going to need both of us at some point in the year,” Brown said. “You look at my situation last year at South Carolina, I was the third team quarterback. Luke [Doty] got hurt with a foot injury, went out for the rest of the season. Our GA, Zeb [Noland], came in, played and he ended up getting hurt.
“We’re just going to push each other each day, that way when the opportunity comes, both of us are ready.”
On the other side of the ball, both defensive lines had their way with the offensive fronts for much of the contest. The two units combined for six sacks and 11 tackles for loss, and TyJuan Garbutt and Wilfried Pene each had two TFLs for the Maroon team. Norell Pollard got in the backfield a few times for the White team and sacked Wells once. It could’ve been twice, but Pry didn’t blow his whistle after Pollard got to Wells at the same time he threw his first touchdown pass.
“I thought they put decent pressure on the quarterback,” Pry said of the defensive line. “We were very limited in what we did. It’s a little more challenging on offensive lines when you split those guys up and the communication is so critical and they aren’t lined up next to their guys. It’s more challenging for that group.
“Generally, the defensive line has a little bit of an advantage, I thought they chased those quarterbacks around pretty good, flushed the pocket quite a few times.”
Outside of the two scores Wells threw in the first half, it was a very defensive contest when the starters were in. The two teams only combined for 156 total rush yards, the majority of which came from quarterbacks. 13 punts were involved, and there were 11 three-and-outs on 21 total possessions.
The backup quarterbacks provided some late-game scoring. Devin Farrell, an early enrollee this spring, sprinted in for a touchdown from six yards out for team Maroon in the third quarter. And in the final minute of the game, walk-on Ben Locklear hit walk-on Conner Dusenbury in the corner of the end zone for the White team’s only touchdown.
It was a good way for Virginia Tech to close out spring practice. However, Pry knows there is still much work to do over the next few months before the fall ramps up.
“Honestly, there were some good things out there today,” Pry said, “but I feel like we’ve just got so much to do in a ton of areas to be where we need to be. And I don’t want to go out there and just be solid. And just put a decent team out there. I mean, we want to go out there and compete to win each and every game.
“Right now, we’ve just got a lot of areas that we first have to identify, and then we’ve got to figure out where we can improve in these areas. So that’s not just for the individual players. That’s what we’re doing schematically, that’s what we’re doing culturally, that’s what we’re doing as a program.”
Virginia Tech 2022 Spring Game Statistics
Virginia Tech 2022 Spring Football Awards
At halftime of Saturday’s game, Virginia Tech announced its spring football awards. Here’s the complete list:
Strength and Conditioning: Brion Murray and Matt Johnson
Most Improved: Nick Gallo and Josh Fuga
MVPs (Offensive, Defensive): Da’Wain Lofton and Chamarri Conner
Special Teams MVPs: Keli Lawson and Jalen Stroman
Leadership: Dax Hollifield
Ultimate Teammate: Connor Blumrick