No Lunch Pail, no Beamer, no problem: Scouting the undefeated Hokies

Gold and Blue Nation

Virginia Tech’s Raheem Blackshear (5) runs while pursued by North Carolina’s Ja’Qurious Conley (0) and Eugene Asante (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP)

When Virginia Tech last made the trip to Morgantown in 2005, Pat White was just a freshman, George W. Bush was still in his first term and Apple had not yet released a single one of its 29 models for the iPhone.

On Oct. 1 of that year, the Marcus Vick-led Hokies brought the Black Diamond Trophy to the Mountain State, only to take it back home after a comfortable 34-17 victory over the Mountaineers. The trophy has been put on the line just once since that fateful day at Milan Puskar Stadium, and a lot has changed for both programs in those 16 years.

Over are the days of legendary VT head coach Frank Beamer, who retired in 2015, paving the way for current head coach Justin Fuente. The program didn’t skip much of a beat, posting winning records in three of his five full seasons thus far.

This year’s Hokie team is already off to a strong start, logging an upset of No. 10 North Carolina at home to start the season before defeating Middle Tennessee, shooting up to No. 15 in the AP poll this week. That win over the Tar Heels was especially

Virginia Tech’s dynamic backfield is the motor of the offense, both through the air and on the ground. Braxton Burmeister, the team’s quarterback, is currently the leading rusher through two games, while running back Raheem Blackshear tops the team off in receiving yards.

“[Burmeister] is the dual-threat quarterback, he can run the ball and he can pass the ball, and his passing has been really impressive,” said Jermaine Farrell of WFXR in Virginia, who covers the Hokies, on Mountaineer GameDay. “They really didn’t go with the deep ball last week against Middle Tennessee…but look for them to try to stretch the field a little bit.”

The Hokies will be without their biggest star in tight end James Mitchell, who underwent season-ending surgery after spurning the NFL for another season in Blacksburg. His loss will be a big blow to Virginia Tech after slotting in as the third-leading receiver in 2020.

Looking at their scorelines, though, one could make the argument that the Hokie defense has been the driving force in their two wins so far. They haven’t allowed more than two touchdowns in a game yet, which is a major step up after the team’s first year under defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton.

This offseason was the first full one for Hamilton, letting the former Hokie defender himself to get his hands fully on the defense.

“Over the last couple of games, they’re really attacking and getting back to the ball, kind of like the old Lunch Pail defense [of Bud Foster],” Farrell said. “Of course, Justin Hamilton played at Virginia Tech, so he has that experience.”

The WVU offensive line will get a test against the strong Hokie front, which has already racked up nine sacks this season. TyJuan Garbutt is the standard-bearer up front with two thus far.

“They’re really an impressive defense, but obviously, you’re gonna have your hands full, you’re stepping up a little bit against a West Virginia team,” Farrell added. “They’ve had their problems there, but I mean, any time you get that football out there, but the Virginia Tech defense has been lights-out for the most part.”

Catch the full conversation and scouting report with WFXR’s Jermaine Farrell on Saturday’s Mountaineer GameDay, be sure to check your local listings.

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