With Clemson winning the National Championship and almost single-handedly garnering the ACC at least some respect in the college football world this year, it’s an excellent time to reflect on one of the most disappointing teams in the conference.
The 2018 Virginia Tech football team was missing one key ingredient that is essential to a successful season, experience. With only six seniors on the team, the lack of leadership showed. The Hokies failed time and time again to come through in big moments, and rookie mistakes were abundant.
This wasn’t always the case, however. In the beginning of the season, this Hokie team came out with something to prove. Led by Trevon Hill and Ricky Walker, the pass rush was exceptional garnering five sacks against Florida State in the 24-7 victory in Tallahassee. With this came forced throws, helping the secondary pick off three Deondre Francois passes. The rest of the season however, Tech would only intercept five more passes. After the dismissal of Hill from the team, the pass rush quickly dropped off.
Virginia Tech was also hampered by injuries, most notably to starting quarterback Josh Jackson who suffered a season ending fractured left fibula against ODU, and incoming JUCO transfer (and expected starter) Jeremy Webb, who suffered a season ending torn achilles tendon in the pre-season. On the positive side, certain injuries allowed freshman to step up and earn key experience. Caleb Farley, coming off a redshirt season after a season ending knee injury in 2017, stepped up into a starting Cornerback position and was able to provide adequate support for the young Tech secondary. An injury to starter Dylan Rivers against Georgia Tech allowed true freshman Dax Hollifield to make key plays throughout the rest of the season. The most positive takeaway of the season may be the emergence of this young talented linebacker.
Ryan Willis stepped into the starting role and performed superbly throughout the season, throwing for 2716 yards, twenty four touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Willis also added 354 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. His performances against UVA and Duke in which he threw three touchdowns each to keep bowl game hopes for Virginia Tech alive were admirable. However, failing to mount a comeback drive against Cincinnati in the Northrop Grumman Military Bowl after throwing an interception on a play directly following a interception that was called back due to penalty has left many Hokie fans looking towards the next QB, Elite 11 alumnus Quincy Patterson. Fuente, as he has in the past couple of years, most likely won’t announce the starter until next summer, and with Quincy Patterson looking towards using his redshirt year this season after only featuring in 3 games to maintain four years of eligibility, Josh Jackson should be expected to return to his spot at the helm of the offense.
Virginia Tech finished the year 6-7, marking the first time in 1992 the team did not have a winning season, breaking their 25 year NCAA leading active streak. They also only went 3-4 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. A stadium so tough to play in it’s been host to four out of the six games in NCAA history where the crowd got so frenzied the shaking of the ground registered as an earthquake. Still, this football team returns almost all their starters and should look to have a good season next year with seven home games and few tough matchups.