Virginia Tech Gets Final Tune-Up Before West Virginia

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s top two running backs forced zero missed tackles against Wofford. (Ivan Morozov)

It was fairly boring, bland and vanilla, but Virginia Tech beat Wofford 27-7 on Saturday. To be sure, the Hokies lack offensive firepower, especially with Keshawn King out, but the Hokies have played worse games against FCS teams.

Last season, Tech held a slim 14-10 lead against Richmond more than halfway through the third quarter before winning 21-10, and nobody really ever felt comfortable. In 2019, Furman led Tech 14-3 in the third quarter before the Hokies rallied to win 24-17. That one had no business being that close.

The Hokies didn’t exactly blow Wofford’s doors off, but the game was also never in doubt. As I said last week, it didn’t matter whether the Hokies won this one by 30 or 60. This one was about getting better and giving the team a better chance to beat West Virginia on Thursday.

Did the Hokies accomplish that? We won’t know until about 11 p.m. on Thursday night. I think they took a step forward in some ways, but showed some of the same weaknesses that they showed in the first two games. I didn’t expect to have any questions answered this past weekend, but I expect we’ll get some answers on Thursday night.

Todays’ article will focus entirely on the Virginia Tech offense.

The Virginia Tech Running Game

Tech’s run blocking graded out right at average against Wofford. Here are the team’s run blocking grades through the first three games, with the qualifier that the Wofford grades are preliminary at this point…

ODU: 57.3
BC: 35.7 (ouch)
Wofford: 60.3

For the most part, the OL graded out average in run blocking across the boards. The right side of the line seemed to struggle while the left side and Johnny Jordan were average or just above. The tight ends took a step in the right direction, particular Drake De Iuliis (73.5, nice job Drake). All in all, blocking remains a work in progress, and we can only hope that whatever the Hokies worked on against Wofford will pay dividends against West by God Virginia on Thursday.

The primary focus of this running game analysis will be on the running backs. Tech wisely decided to sit Keshawn King, and with Malachi Thomas still out, it was Jalen Holston and Chance Black who carried the load, as they did for most of the BC game. Here are Virginia Tech’s running grades for their three games this year…

ODU: 70.5
BC: 65.1
Wofford: 63.7

As you can see, the performance levels of Virginia Tech ball carriers has dropped as Keshawn King got nicked up and could not play. The primary reason for that is the lack of forced missed tackles by the running backs. We’ve talked about this before, but King has nine forced missed tackles in the running game on 23 carries. That’s a darn good number. Meanwhile, on a combined 31 carries against Wofford, Jalen Holston and Chance Black forced exactly zero missed tackles. You read that right.

For the season, Holston has forced two missed tackles on rushing plays. Black has just one. That’s three total forced missed tackles on a combined 71 carries. Just playing the percentages, the running game is much more likely to be effective with a healthy Keshawn King. The offensive line and the tight ends need to improve, to be sure, but without King (and Thomas), the Hokies lack playmaking ability at tailback.