Hokies start 2-0 for fourth time in last five seasons
9/12/2021 6:32:00 PM
1. Tech’s ground game excelled. The Hokies accounted for 224 rushing yards Saturday and quite a few players stepped up to make it happen, with four players owning more than 30 rushing yards each. Redshirt junior Raheem Blackshear led the running back room with a team-high 53 rushing yards and two touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, while redshirt junior Jalen Holston had a 29-yard scamper for a touchdown to get him to 31 total rushing yards. The quarterback room did its fair share, too, with California native Braxton Burmeister having 52 rushing yards and Texas native Connor Blumrick owning 38 rushing yards and a touchdown. The group had its moments of explosive plays, including a 33-yarder by Blumrick, Holston’s aforementioned scamper and a Burmeister 18-yard run. The 224 rushing yards versus the Blue Raiders was nearly 100 more yards than Tech’s last contest (127, UNC).
2. Backup quarterback play was strong. Burmeister midway through the first quarter did a half slide/dive right in front of a Middle Tennessee defender and was hit in the head/neck area on the play. With Burmeister walking off the field gingerly, redshirt freshman Knox Kadum stepped in and did a fine job by continuing the drive and getting the Hokies close to the goal line before Burmeister came back in and threw a pretty fade to receiver Tayvion Robinson for the touchdown. Kadum, who played in one game last season (Clemson, Dec. 5), would end up going 3 for 4 for 17 yards in the air. The other backup quarterback who got some time Saturday was Blumrick, who typically comes in for running situations – a la wildcat-type plays. The Texas A&M transfer would run it three times and end up with 38 yards on the ground. He almost had two touchdowns, with getting tackled at the one-yard line on the longest run so far of his Tech career (33 yards). His first one to pay dirt was a two-yard QB power play out of shotgun while faking the jet sweep to Robinson.
3. Cornerback Jermaine Waller is playing at an elite level. After battling through injuries last season and not seeing the field as much as he would’ve liked, Waller sure has made his presence felt this year, with already owning two interceptions and 12 tackles (7 solo). The Washington, D.C. native got a pick last week against then-No. 10 North Carolina and one Saturday, making him the first Hokie to get an interception in consecutive games since safety Divine Deablo (Clemson, Virginia; 2019).
4. Special teams are coming along. Head coach Justin Fuente mentioned in his weekly press conference last Monday leading up to MTSU that he wasn’t very happy with how little special teams made momentum-changing plays a season ago, as well as versus the Tar Heels. So, he anticipated that would change starting versus the Blue Raiders and his assessment was correct. The biggest of the special teams moments came in the second quarter, when Robinson caught a punt return at Tech’s own six-yard line and took it 59 yards before getting tackled. Ironically enough, the Hokies only had a total of 66 punt returns yards last season (11 games). Then Keshawn King also had a long return, with this one being a kickoff return, but it got called back due to holding. So, with Robinson and King showing flashes of what’s to come in the return game, it should bode well for the future in that realm.
5. Defense not allowing big plays. Typically when upsets happen versus ranked foes there are some defining plays from the underdog that are the haymakers to knock down Goliath. But on Saturday, the Blue Raiders failed to have any chunk plays as the Hokies kept everything in front of them, with the longest play of the day for MTSU being no more than 27 yards. Against the Tar Heels, Tech surrendered only one play over 30 yards, a 37-yard pass from preseason ACC Player of the Year Sam Howell. So through two games under defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton in 2021, the Hokies have not let the big plays haunt them.
STATS WITH SALAS
The More the Merrier
The 67 players that took the field against Middle Tennessee ties for the second most in the Fuente-era with the East Carolina game in 2017. Seventy players saw action against William & Mary in 2018.
So far in 2021, the Hokies have committed just five penalties. This is the fewest penalties to start the season since 2016.
2016: 12-128 yds
2017: 7-44 yds
2018: 7-75 yds
2019: 10-85 yds
2020: 8-60 yds
2021: 5-55 yds
— to hokiesports.com