Takeaways from Tech-BC tilt, as Hokies head to bye week at 5-1

2017 Virginia Tech Ticket Information
Coastal Division mini plan (3 ACC home games)

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech didn’t play its best Saturday night on the outskirts of Boston, but the Hokies flew home with yet another coveted victory, moving to 5-1 overall, 1-1 in the ACC at the halfway point of the season.

The Hokies committed too many penalties and gave up too many sacks, but their young quarterback and young receivers made plays, and Tech’s defense proved quite stingy, giving up just a field goal and a late touchdown. Led by Joey Slye’s three field goals, Tech continued its stellar play on special teams.

The off week comes at a perfect time for Tech, which moved to 15th in The Associated Press poll. Talented receiver Cam Phillips left the BC game with a foot sprain, and both C.J. Carroll and Steven Peoples didn’t make the trip because of injuries. So a week off to get healthy and fine tune some things for the stretch run ranks as just what Tech needs.

Here are the takeaways from the Hokies’ 23-10 win in Chestnut Hill:

Young receivers hold up well – Phillips’ and Carroll’s injuries certainly forced the Hokies’ young receivers to grow up quickly. For the most part, the group performed admirably.

Sean Savoy certainly is making a name for himself as a freshman, as, despite dropping a pass early in the game, he hauled in nine passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. Consider this: Antonio Freeman, André Davis, Eddie Royal, Jarrett Boykin, Bucky Hodges and Isaiah Ford did not catch that many passes in a game as a freshman, nor rack up that many yards. Savoy continues to establish himself as a top-shelf receiver.

The other receivers also impressed. Eric Kumah went into the game with four catches on the season, and he caught four for 53 yards against the Eagles. Three of his catches were of the third-down variety, giving the Hokies a first down on a drive that led to Travon McMillian’s touchdown run.

Henri Murphy caught three passes, and Dalton Keene, a tight end, caught a career-high four. The entire group gained experience, while also more importantly, made plays.

“That’s why we work those guys [in practice],” Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “Obviously, we’d like to have Cam out there, and C.J. has been so steady for us, but that’s part of the deal. That’s why we rep all the guys that we do, to try and prepare them for that opportunity.”

Slye bounces back – Slye connected on three short field goals, broke Tech’s career scoring mark and looked like a man relieved afterward. He admitted that he had struggled this season, having made just 8 of 14 entering the game. Three of his missed field goals came from inside of 40 yards in the Hokies’ first four games.

But now he owns the career field goals record and the career scoring mark, so hopefully Saturday’s game and achieving those records relieve some of the pressure that he might have been putting on himself.

“It is just kind of nice to get away from talking about it pretty much,” Slye said.

Jackson still learning – BC sacked Tech quarterback Josh Jackson five times Saturday night – the most sacks allowed by the Hokies this season. At first glance, one might surmise that the Hokies’ offensive line struggled, and for sure, BC’s defensive ends, particularly Harold Landry, gave the Hokies some issues.

But after the game, Fuente put some of the onus on Jackson, calling the sacks a “shared responsibility.”

“I thought we held the ball just a little too long,” Fuente said. “I told Josh a couple of times over there just to throw that thing away and let’s go play the next play. That’s just part of his maturation process.”

Of course, Phillips’ injury didn’t help matters. Tech’s game plan each week features a heavy dose of the senior, and Jackson relies on Phillips as an on-field security blanket. He didn’t show quite the same trust in his young receivers that he understandably shows in Phillips.

Jackson played so well the first four games that many people forgot about his freshman status. And he hasn’t played poorly the past two games by any means – he threw for 322 yards, with a touchdown and just one interception against BC. But there is certainly room for growth, and fortunately for Tech, the growing process Saturday didn’t lead to a loss.

T-Mac with a solid game – One might have wondered how Travon McMillian would respond after a fumble against Clemson led to him staying on the sidelines. Tech’s staff showed confidence in him, and he delivered, carrying the ball 17 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. His carries and yards represented a season high, and only one of his carries resulted in lost yardage.

Overall, the Hokies were mediocre in the running game, rushing for just 109 yards against a defense that allowed 259 yards rushing per game coming into the game. But McMillian showed speed and power, and hopefully Saturday’s performance is a sign of things to come.

Defense tough again on young QB – Tech’s defense played simply outstanding until about with six minutes left when BC drove the field in just three plays and scored a touchdown. The Hokies didn’t record a sack or force a turnover, but outside of one drive, BC never really got anything going. The most impressive stat of the game – BC went just 1 of 14 on third down against the Hokies.

As it did against ODU freshman signal caller Steven Williams, Tech made the going tough for BC quarterback Anthony Brown, who completed just 13 of 30 for less than 200 yards. Brown possesses a lot of potential, but he – and the Eagles’ offense – suffered through a learning experience against the Hokies’ veteran defense.

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