BLACKSBURG, Va. – They’re getting too familiar with this scenario the past couple seasons at Virginia Tech. The season crosses the halfway point and Hokies fans begin looking at the rest of the schedule, counting possible wins and guessing whether or not a bowl streak more than two decades strong will survive.
Sadly for the Hokies, now 3-4 and 1-2 in the ACC, there are no sure wins left on the schedule. Sure, Virginia Tech ought to win at Boston College and Virginia, but neither is in the bag. The truth is, the Hokies don’t even know what they have in quarterback Michael Brewer—who is returning from an injury he suffered in the first week of the season.
Brewer returns to the starting lineup this weekend against No. 23 Duke with the Hokies having lost three of their past four games. The only games left in the friendly confines of Lane Stadium are against the Blue Devils and North Carolina, who are both currently 5-1 and 2-0 in the ACC.
The scary fact for Virginia Tech is that the next four games aren’t significantly easier than the previous four. Duke and North Carolina are better teams than the Hokies this season. Boston College has a tough defense and while Georgia Tech is struggling, the games against the Yellow Jackets are almost always close.
So now the Hokies season may rest in the hope that Brewer is the missing piece. He certainly looked good in his limited time this season. The senior from Lake Travis, Texas, completed 11-of-16 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns before going down against Ohio State. In his return to action last week at Miami he came off the bench to complete 3-of -4 passes for 65 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
In a small sample size this year, the Hokie offense moves better with Brewer at quarterback. But last season he was shaky, completing just 59.4 percent of his passes and averaging just 6.1 yards per attempt with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
And if Brewer is going to spark a turnaround for the Virginia Tech offense, he’s going to have to do it against a Duke defense that has been outstanding. The Blue Devils have allowed an average of 9.3 points per game and opponents have thrown for just 131 yards per contest.
Linebacker Dwayne Norman has been a formidable pass rusher while safety Jeremy Cash can cause havoc for offenses in a variety of ways. The Blue Devils love to bring Cash on the rush—he has 11.5 tackles for a loss and seven quarterback hurries—but he’s also strong in coverage, meaning that after standing on the sideline for weeks Brewer is going to have a significant challenge reading the Duke defense.
But Brewer and the Hokies need this game.
Virginia Tech is starving for something it can call a big victory. The Hokies salvaged a bowl game last season with a win at No. 21 Duke, which stopped a three-game losing streak.
Virginia Tech needs to do it again, or the end of an era in Blacksburg may be coming fast.