It’s been awhile since Virginia Tech’s offense has pushed around an opponent.
Tech receiver Damon Hazelton changed that on Saturday when he shoved multiple Rhode Island defenders out of his way as he ran running down along the Hokies’ sideline for a 37-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Fans went wild ti finally get a glimpse of an offense they expected to see at the start of the season.
With Hendon Hooker under center once again, Tech moved the ball down the field at Lane Stadium with ease all day in a 34-17 win over the Rams.
While the victory doesn’t count towards its bowl eligibility — FBS programs are allowed to count only one win over an FCS opponent and the Hokies beat Furman earlier this season — it did build on the momentum Virginia Tech they established a week earlier down in Miami.
Virginia Tech The Hokies wasn’t weren't as shy about throwing the ball as they were last week against the Hurricanes and Hooker seized the opportunity repaid the favor.
He displayed nice touch throughout the game, completing five passes for more than 25-yards (they Virginia Tech had four completions of 25-plus yards combined their in its previous two games) while orchestrating three scoring drives of 80 yards or longer and two others that went for 75 yards or more.
The Hokies had a season-high 480 yards of total offense. The previous high was 442 against Boston College in the season opener.
Hooker was 16 of 26 for a career-high 261 yards with three touchdowns. He also didn’t turn ball over for a second-straight game.
“The biggest thing is that he’s taking care of the football in both starts and done a great job with that,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said. “There’s some passes today I know he wishes he could have back. There’s some guys around him that could’ve made plays or a few more plays that would’ve helped everybody fell he played even better.”
Hazleton was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Dalton Keene had another big game with four catches for 53 yards with a score.
Deshawn McClease led Virginia Tech on the ground with his first 100-yard game since last year’s Military Bowl. McClease had 12 carries for 124 yards with a touchdown.
“I feel like this is a team effort, and us just moving forward and getting accustomed to being in game-like situations and just gelling together,” Hooker said of the team’s offensive success.
However, things weren’t so rosy for Virginia Tech’s defense.
Rhode Island went with a pass heavy attack as expected — it came into the game averaging more than 40 pass attempts a game — and the Hokies had the same problems they had last week when Miami quarterback N’Kosi Perry shredded the secondary in the second half.
The Rams cut Tech’s lead to 17-14 with a quick eight-play, 75-yard drive right out of halftime. Quarterback Vito Priore hit Ahmere Dorsey at the pylon for a 9-yard touchdown.
Priore was on target early, completing 11 of his first 15 pass attempts for 136 yards including a 51-yarder to Isaiah Coulter to open the second quarter. He finished the game 26 of 47 for 286 yards.
“We kind of just switched our coverages,” Virginia Tech linebacker Rayshard Ashby said. “They kind of manipulated us a little with the coverage we were running at first, with what we had seen on film. And we kind of switched our coverage and kind of just zoned off a little bit..We just came out and stopped it as soon as they caught it. Just don’t let them get the yards after the catch.”
The Rams had to settle for field goals both times it crossed midfield before halftime. C.J. Carrick hit field goals from 41- and 36-yards to make it 17-6 going into the break. He added a 42-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter.