Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 9, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 36 of 55 OCT. 9, 2021 37 GAME PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH tackles for loss. That's a tough proposi- tion for a Notre Dame offensive line that has struggled as much as it has. In the first year since Virginia Tech assistant coach Justin Hamilton's promotion to defensive coordinator, the Hokies tied for No. 15 in the country last season in tackles for loss (76.0). Garbutt attributed Virginia Tech's te- nacity to total team chemistry. "I like the way how we've all come together," Garbutt said. "As older guys, we've been bringing a lot of the younger guys along. That's why a lot of the younger guys can go out there and make plays. "We trust them as much as I'm sure the coaches trust us. We try to always preach, 'There's no drop-off.' We're expecting them to go out there and make as many plays as they can." Many of those plays have been made on what the Hokies — and many other teams across the country — call the "money down" — third down. Virginia Tech boasts the nation's No. 15 third-down defense. Opponents are only converting 28.9 percent of the time. A stout secondary is just as important in that statistic as a formidable defensive line, and the Hokies surely have some dis- rupters back there. Junior defensive back Jermaine Waller has three interceptions. Junior defensive back Chamarri Conner had the game-sealing interception of Sam Howell in the North Carolina upset, and even Hollifield has an interception. "First and second down, that's one thing," Hollifield said. "But really getting off the field, giving our offense good field position [is important]. We don't want to be out there. We want our offense to be out there as much as we can." So far, that hasn't been a good thing for Virginia Tech this season. But Burmeister doesn't believe that will remain the case. "We're a lot closer than people think," Burmeister said. ✦ Three Things To Know About Virginia Tech 1. Defense Doing The Heavy Lifting Virginia Tech can thank its defense for all three of its wins. The Hokies put the clamps on North Caro- lina's explosive passing attack in their opener, allowing just 6.3 yards per pass attempt in a 17-10 win. They disposed of Conference USA opponent Middle Tennessee 35-14 Sept. 11, and then held Football Championship Series foe Richmond to 4.0 yards per play in a 21-10 win Sept. 25. In two of its three victories, though, Virginia Tech's offense has failed to surpass 320 yards and 5.1 yards per play. Scoring just three touchdowns and averaging just 3.95 yards per non-sack rush against an FCS team is worrisome. The offense averaged just 4.6 yards per play in a 27-21 loss to West Virginia Sept. 18. But so far, the offensive problems haven't sent the season sideways. Virginia Tech ranks 20th na- tionally in sacks per game (3.25). It has allowed just four big plays of at least 30 yards through four games. Opponents are converting 28.9 percent of their third downs, tied for 15th nationally. The Hok- ies are allowing 5.09 yards per play, which ranks a more pedestrian 57th nationally. UNC's offense averaged 5.6 yards per play despite scoring just 10 points. 2. Plentiful Playmakers On Offense Virginia Tech's bumpy offensive start doesn't match its skill position talent. The Hokies have a pair of three-year starters at receiver in junior Tré Turner and sophomore Tayvion Robinson. Both cracked the starting lineup as freshmen and have more than 1,100 career yards. Turner leads the team in catches (16) and yards (250). He has 110 career receptions and a 17.0 yards-per-catch average. Robinson was last year's leading receiver, with 38 catches for 592 yards. He has also served as the punt returner the last three seasons and had a 60-yard return touchdown versus Richmond. Senior running back Raheem Blackshear hasn't found much space to run this year and is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry since transferring from Rut- gers prior to last season. But he's still a dangerous open-field runner who also has 108 career catches for 1,086 yards (10.1 yards per reception) in addi- tion to a 78-yard kick return this year. 3. Home-Field Disadvantage Since 2018, the list of teams to walk into Blacks- burg and beat Virginia Tech on its vaunted home field is lengthy. All told, seven Lane Stadium visitors have left with a win in that span. And not all have been ranked teams. The Hokies lost to Miami and Boston College at home in 2018, neither of whom finished with a win- ning ACC record. In 2019, a 5-7 Duke team plagued by offensive woes came to town and won 45-10. More relevant to this game, Virginia Tech has hosted four top-10 teams in the last three years and is 1-3 against them. Two were blowouts, in- cluding a 45-23 Notre Dame victory in 2018. The lone win was the defeat of No. 10 North Carolina to open this season. The Tar Heels, though, are 2-2 and now unranked. All of this isn't to say Lane Stadium at night with "Enter Sandman" blaring is an overrated atmo- sphere. It is not, though, enough to mask all the reasons why Virginia Tech has been a middling team that's 22-19 since the start of 2018, is capable of losing to opponents below its level and not good enough to punch above its standing with much frequency. No home-field scene can do that. — Patrick Engel Junior wide receiver Tré Turner leads Virginia Tech in catches (16) and receiving yards (250) this season. For his career, he's averaging 17 yards per reception. PHOTO COURTESY VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS "It's a crazy world out there. Just turn the TV on and watch a college football game. There is no telling what you're going to see." HOKIES HEAD COACH JUSTIN FUENTE

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct 9, 2021