Virginia Tech Needs Big Offensive Game Against West Virginia

Grant Wells leads the Virginia Tech offense against West Virginia on Thursday night. (Ivan Morozov)

Grant Wells grew up in Charleston, W. Va. and attended George Washington High School. A West Virginia football fan by nature, as expected in that state, he started cheering on the Mountaineers at a young age despite his father’s Virginia Tech roots.

On Thursday night when the Mountaineers venture to Blacksburg, he’ll be in the center of a historic rivalry as the quarterback for the Hokies.

“It means a lot,” Wells told the media on Tuesday. “This is a game I’ve watched forever, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

A three-star prospect in the class of 2019, he was not recruited by the Mountaineers out of high school. That severed his ties to the program. However, Wells still took an in-state route and landed at Marshall.

After two seasons in Huntington, he found his way to Blacksburg. Wells won the starting quarterback job back in August and has led the Tech offense since, totaling 651 yards yards and four touchdowns through three games.

The season-opener at Old Dominion was ugly all around – Wells threw four interceptions – but the last two weeks have showed more of the player he is. He spread the ball around to 11 different receivers against Wofford and finished with 26 completions on 35 attempts (74.3%) for 314 yards and two scores. That came after posting 140 yards and managing the game against Boston College.

“When you look at the entire season, there’s been a couple moments that I think everybody would like to have back, but I think Grant’s a very confident guy,” Tech offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen said. “I think what you’ve seen the last couple of weeks, him protecting the football, also what we were able to do with getting the passing game going last week, that’s who he can be and that’s who he is.”

The Hokies need Wells to continue to be steady as the schedule gets more difficult. A trip to Chapel Hill is on the docket after Thursday, followed by Pitt and Miami. In the first big test of the year, how’s the offense going to look?

Kaleb Smith is the No. 1 target for Grant Wells. The Hokies need him to stay healthy. (Jon Fleming)

As seen so far this season, that depends on the health of running back Keshawn King and wide receiver Kaleb Smith. Brent Pry said King’s gotten better in practice this week, while Smith “looks as good as he’s looked in a while.” What’s more, offensive tackle Silas Dzansi is “great,” according to Pry.

With everyone available, what’s the ceiling of this offense? Bowen feels like the group is still evolving.

“I think we’re a work in progress,” Bowen said. “I wouldn’t give it a letter grade right now, but we’re not where we need to be and we’re not where we’re going to be.”

Malachi Thomas is still sidelined with an injury – Pry said he clocked some good times on the GPS on Tuesday – meaning King is the featured back. So far, he’s posted great numbers to back up that claim: 23 carries, 175 yards (7.6 avg.), 1 TD. Having him and Smith at 100% ahead of West Virginia is promising. Bowen said it changes who Tech can be schematically.

Through the first three weeks, the Hokies are No. 41 in the country in net available yards percentage (NAY). Offensively, they’re No. 112. Meanwhile, the defense is fourth in the nation.

The only other program in the top 10 defensively and outside the top 20 in NAY is Iowa (defense is No. 7, offense is No. 106).

Against a West Virginia offense that can sling it, it’s crucial that Virginia Tech makes progress when it has the ball. It’s also not like the Mountaineers’ defense, which is No. 94 in available yards percentage, is impossible to carve up. But they’ve got a good defensive line that will make life difficult.

“They’re a fast defense,” Pry said. “They’ve got good team speed. They run to the ball. That’s a sign of a good defense to me.”

“I don’t think anybody has any doubts about our offense inside this building,” Wells said. “So if we do what we’re capable of and what we’ve done this week, we’ll be just fine.”

Virginia Tech is pretty good on Thursday nights. The 2016 game vs. Miami is a good example. (Ivan Morozov)

Once again, the Hokies find themselves on the Thursday night stage on ESPN. 33 times they’ve played in that prime time slot, 18 times in Lane Stadium. Their records (23-10, 13-5 at home) speak for themselves.

Though it’s the first for Pry as the head coach of Virginia Tech, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of a showcase moment. To do that, they’ll need Wells and the offense to come alive.

“There’s some icing on the cake with this one with a national TV audience,” Pry said. “I always looked forward to watching Virginia Tech on Thursday night. My dad and my brothers and I would be in a group chat, calling each other. It was always awesome, and now, here we are: we’re in a Thursday night game. So let’s go.”

8 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Ouch on the offensive rating of 112 out of 131 teams- truly pathetic given the level of competition so far. The good guys are going to have to really step it up on the offensive side of the ball to have any chance of winning tomorrow night. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  2. 112th out of 131 teams on offense after playing ODU, Wofford, and a terrible BC team is horrendous. Bowen wouldn’t give a letter grade because it’s an F! Be better boys, starting tomorrow night.

  3. Agree 100% that we need a big offensive game. I’ll be pleased as ouch if it happens. I’m doubtful. I hope they prove me wrong. Go Hokies.

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