In Week 7, the Deacs are back on the road and headed to Blacksburg to take on one of their new annual partners, the Virginia Tech Hokies. While this partnership is technically new under the new ACC schedule, the Deacs and Hokies have played a total of 39 times since 1916, no doubt due to the proximity of the two teams—Winston-Salem and Blacksburg are separated by less than 80 miles. Wake has not beaten the Hokies in Virginia since 1983.
- Opponent: Virginia Tech Hokies
- Date: Saturday, October 14th, 2023
- Location: Lane Stadium | Blacksburg, VA
- Vegas Win Total O/U: 5.5
- 2022 Record: 3-8, 1-6 in ACC
- Previous Matchup: Wake 23—VT 16 (2020)
- All time vs Wake Forest: 25-13-1
I think it is safe to say that the Hokies are in the midst of a rebuild. With the exception of the Covid year in 2020, the Hokies had a streak of bowl games that dated back to 1993. In those 27 seasons, Virginia Tech won 10 or more games 14 times and had just 1 losing season (6-7 in 2021). Now, the Hokies are on the verge of having a losing record for the fourth straight year, which has not happened since 1952. After winning just 3 games last season with 1 ACC win against Boston College, second year head coach Brent Pry has his work cut out for him to get the Hokies back to that historical powerhouse level.
The biggest issue for the Hokies last season was the offense. Virginia Tech finished the season 118th in the nation in scoring offense (19.3 points per game) and 120th in total offense (313 yards per game). They had one of the worst rushing attacks in all of college football, averaging just 110 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry. Even against FCS Wofford, the Hokies managed just 133 rushing yards on 41 carries. Those issues could continue into this season, as Keshawn King—the Hokies, rushing leader and only player on the team who averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry last season—transferred to Western Michigan in April.
The passing game wasn’t much better, with Marhsall transfer Grant Wells completing 59% of his passes for 2,171 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. That’s actually not a bad stat line considering the weapons he had at receiver and an offensive line that was one of the worst in the country, allowing 3 sacks per game. The Hokies had just 1 receiver catch more than 30 passes last season—Kaleb Smith, who has since retired. To bolster the receiver position, Tech hit the portal, adding Ali Jennings from Old Dominion (54 rec, 959 yards, 9 TDs), Jaylin Lane from Middle Tennessee (69 rec, 940 yards, 9 TD), and Da’Quan Felton from Norfolk State (39 rec, 573 yards, 7 touchdowns). That should help alleviate some of the issues in the passing game for the Hokies by giving Wells somewhere to actually throw the ball.
As Brent Pry was a defensive coordinator for most of his career before becoming the head coach at Virginia Tech, it should not be surprising that the VT defense was much better than the offense last season. The Hokies gave up 24.7 points and 370 yards per game last season, which, while not spectacular, should be good enough to be competitive in the ACC. It appears to me that the biggest issues for the defense was lack of a pass rush and an inability to force turnovers. The Hokies finished 2022 with just 23 sacks and allowed opposing QBs to complete 59% of their passes for 235 yards per game. From that defense, they are losing LB Dax Hollifield and DL TyJuan Garbutt, who combined for 8.5 of the Hokies’ 23 sacks last season. In the turnover department, VT was 130th out of 131 FBS teams in forcing turnovers, coming away with just 9 takeaways in 11 games, which resulted in one of the worst turnover margins in the nation.
In recent history, Wake has had no issue scoring on most defenses, especially those without a pass rush. The longer Mitch Griffis can sit in the backfield and safely read the defense without any pressure on those slow mesh style plays, the better the Wake Forest offense will be. If the Virginia Tech offensive line cannot get the Hokie ground game more than 3 yards per carry or keep their quarterback safe this season, the Deacs should be able to simply outscore Virginia Tech to come away with a win.