BLACKSBURG — Five knee-seeking torpedoes kept firing…and firing…and firing. They did not miss their targets.
Georgia Tech gained 7 yards. Then 12. Then 8.
At one point in the third quarter, Virginia Tech defensive end Houshun Gaines picked himself up off the turf, turned around to see the Yellow Jackets in the end zone again, and simply shook his head.
To call this a bad night for Bud Foster doesn’t tell the half of it. Georgia Tech’s 49-28 demolition of the Hokies wasn’t so much about scheme as it was one team manhandling the other at the line of scrimmage. The Yellow Jackets shoved Virginia Tech around, sapping the spirit from the hosts and their sellout crowd.
It was as if the Yellow Jackets were starting every play two yards downfield. The Hokies got none of the penetration necessary to disrupt the operations of the option offense, and the result was one demoralizing drive after another.
The Yellow Jackets scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions. The one time they had to punt, the Hokies muffed it, setting up the shortest field of the night.
At halftime, ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out one of those rare facts that told you all you needed to know about how this game was going.
The service reported that Georgia Tech had 151 rushing yards before contact at that point. Entering the game, the Hokies had allowed just 114 rushing yards before contact the whole season – the lowest total in the ACC.
In other words, Georgia Tech’s skill guys had a lot of room to move.
Halftime adjustments? How about a 75-yard touchdown drive and a 64-yard touchdown drive. That’s how Georgia Tech started the third quarter. After a rare punt, the Yellow Jackets opened the fourth with another touchdown drive.
The Hokies had given up a combined 36 points in their first three ACC games this season. Georgia Tech had amassed more than that before the end of the third quarter.
This was the nightmare scenario for this Virginia Tech defense, which has been sitting on a powder keg all season. We knew nights like this were possible given the youth and inexperience on that side of the ball, but the Hokies had held together admirably in the majority of their encounters this season. Even when they got beat, they looked like they matched up OK physically.
Not in this one. And it didn’t help when Virginia Tech lost starting linebacker Dylan Rivers less than four minutes into the game. Defensive tackle Jarrod Hewitt followed him to the sidelines with an injury late in the first half. And a third defensive starter, Khalil Ladler, was kicked out of the game for targeting in the second quarter.
What was left was a collection of defenders flailing around and dictating nothing.
You had to feel a little bit for Ricky Walker, Virginia Tech’s veteran defensive tackle. Snap after snap, he took the brunt of the punishment along the interior of that line. There’s no quit in Walker – never has been. But his task was Sisyphean on this night, and he had to know it.
Where do the Hokies go from here? The first step will be to scoop up the wounded and try to get healthy in time for next week’s visit from Boston College, another team that knows how to win on this field.
Virginia Tech’s previous two losses this season had some what-ifs to them. What if quarterback Josh Jackson had not gone down with an injury at Old Dominion? What if the Hokies could have punched in a touchdown in three shots from the Notre Dame 1-yard-line?
This game required no such second-guessing. The missiles fired. They landed over and over again. And the Hokies will need a little while to assess all the damage.