Things looked hopeful at halftime for Virginia Tech, but quickly spiraled in favor of Ohio State as they ran away with the 42-24 victory. Here are the five big takeaways from the Hokies' opening loss:
Winning the first half: This game looked like it was going to be over before it really began as Ohio State jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Buckeyes scored on their first two possessions and took the ball down to Virginia Tech's 26 before the defense finally got their first stop. Ohio State missed the field goal and the Hokies quickly turned the tables.
The previously anemic offense finally found its legs as Virginia Tech went 101 yards in two drives for 10 points. A muffed punt by Ezekial Elliott late in the first half led to another touchdown for the Hokies who found themselves up 17-14 at the end of the half.
The Hokies' first-half lead felt inexplicable given how the game had started and suddenly it looked like another upset was possible.
Down goes Brewer: Everything changed early in the third quarter when Ohio State's Adolphus Washington planted Brewer with a vicious shot into the ground leaving the Hokies' quarterback in obvious pain. It would later be revealed that Brewer had suffered a broken collar bone.
Without their starter, the limited success the offense had enjoyed evaporated allowing Ohio State to take back control. The question that will keep Virginia Tech fans up at night is what could have happened had Brewer not gotten injured?
Brewer took a lot of criticism at the end of last season for his inconsistent play, but he looked much improved in the limited sample we saw in this game. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the country behind a still shaky offensive line.
Brenden Motley played admirably in relief, but Brewer made it clear in the first half that this is still his team.
One step forward, one step back on offense: After a dreadful year last season, the offense showed signs of life in the first half when offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler finally decided to open up his bag of tricks.
Let's face it, the Hokies may have talent at the skill positions, but this offense is not good enough to beat teams if they know what's coming. Even if you know Alabama is going to run up the middle, you can't stop it. If thedefense know what's coming from the Hokies, it's tough to move the ball.
After getting shutdown on two conservative offensive drives, the Hokies' play calling suddenly became varied and unpredictable. Motley actually saw his first action in this game before Brewer was injured as he was inserted as a change-of-pace option for the offense. The varied play calling left the Buckeye defense off balanced allowing Brewer to eventually strike with a pass to fullback Sam Rogers on a wheel route for the 51-yard touchdown.
The offense instantly became more limited when Brewer went down as Motley does not pose nearly the passing threat and Virginia Tech became much more one-dimensional and predictable again. With Brewer, Virginia Tech managed 233 yards and 17 points. Without him, the Hokies had only 92 yards, and one garbage-time touchdown.
Quarterback carousel: One of the national story lines for this game was who would start for Ohio State at quarterback. Most believed it would be J.T. Barrett, but instead it was Cardale Jones who led the Buckeyes for much of the game. In fact, Barrett did not get onto the field until late in the game for mop-up duty when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Part of me wonders if this has to do with the opponent not just because Virginia Tech was the only defense that seemed to rattle Barrett last season, but because of Jones' size.
The Hokies got plenty of pressure on the Buckeyes' quarterback, but rather than crushing the 6-2, 225-pound Barret, they instead had to find a way to bring down the 6-5, 250-pound Jones. There were many instances in which defenders simply bounced off of Jones as he rumbled his way around the field.
It would not be a stretch to believe Urban Meyer was trying to protect Barrett in his first game back after suffering a broken ankle last season. Don't be surprised if you see Barrett get a lot more playing time as the season progresses.
Also, let's not forget about Braxton Miller, the former quarterback turned H-back. The position switch certainly seems to have been a good one as in his first game Miller managed 140 total yards and two touchdowns. He also showed off a ridiculous spin move that looked straight out of a video game.
As good as advertised? The strength of this Virginia Tech team, as it has been for years, was thought to be its defense. Ohio State managed a whopping 572 yards and 42 points against Bud Foster's group.
To be fair, the defense threw in the towel late in the game and the Buckeyes wracked up some yards in garbage time, but Ohio State clearly got the better of Foster a year removed from when Foster's defense embarrassed them in the Horseshoe.
The biggest issues were in the secondary. Kendall Fuller, one of the best cornerbacks in the country, was blown out of the water by a subtle juke from Michael Thomas that left him wide-open in the end zone four the fourth-quarter touchdown. The series before that, Fuller was flagged for pass interference when he was against beat and simply threw his arms up and ran into the receiver without turning his head around to look for the ball.
Nickle cornerback Greg Stroman was also victimized early and often by Jones. The Buckeyes clearly thought they had a favorable matchup and went after Stroman seemingly every time he was left one-on-one with a receiver.
The secondary is something the defense will have to improve on over the season, especially as it looks like Brewer's injury will force the Hokies to lean on their defense yet again.
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