Virginia Tech’s football season was a game shorter than expected — two if you came into the year thinking the team was going to bowl it — but 11 games provides more than enough sample size to assess performance.
The Hokies finished 3-8, well south of their preseason Vegas over-under for wins (6.5). Brent Pry was the first to admit his debut at the front wasn’t good enough. As a review, let’s share some superlatives.
BEST PRIZE: 23-22 via Liberty (Nov. 19)
Boy, did the hokies need this? Tech came on on a seven-game losing streak — the longest since the 1950s — and stiffened as a 10-point underdog, beating an eight-win state opponent on the road. Jalen Holston ran for a career-high 99 yards and three touchdowns in his college football swan song.
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With Seniors’ Day subsequently canceled (Tech’s soccer players, scheduled to be celebrated before the UVa game, will now be honored before next Sunday’s men’s basketball game against UNC), that result gave at least a positive reminder to the veterans.
WORST LOSS: 20-17 at the Old Dominion (September 2nd)
Unfortunately for Tech, there are many contenders for that “honor” — NC State was brutal, as was Georgia Tech — but the Norfolk season opener set an ominous tone for the heartbreak that followed.
Installed as a 6-point favorite, the Hokies led 17-10 into the fourth quarter but didn’t score another goal as offensive troubles emerged that would haunt them throughout the year. Tech was penalized 15 times for 106 yards – a miserable start for the new regime.
And it wasn’t like ODU continued to surprise after that night. The Monarchs advanced 3-8 to the season finale in South Alabama on Saturday.
OFFENSIVE MVP: Caleb Smith
The fifth-year senior receiver was a legitimate big-play threat for a team that had none else. Smith averaged 18.2 yards on his 37 catches, highlighted by an 85-yard touchdown grab against NC State.
Tech’s offense had myriad problems; Smith wasn’t one of them.
DEFENSIVE MVP: Dax Hollifield
Only two players (defensive backs Chamarri Conner and Armani Chatman) played more defensive snaps than Hollifield, who led Tech in tackles (82) and second in passes defended (six).
Pro Football Focus also awarded the redshirt senior linebacker the team’s top marks for run defense and pass rushing. Perhaps most importantly, Hollifield was one of several veterans who maintained a professional demeanor through all the battles.
BEGINNERS OF THE YEAR: Mansur Delane
Had he played more than seven games, Delane would likely have been the defensive POY as well. As it was, the true freshman cornerback made his mark all through high school, competing with a confidence and technique that belied his age.
Delane led the Hokies with six passes defended and took the team lead with two forced fumbles. He is a building block.
WEIRDEST MOMENT: Tech Assistant Coaches get stuck in the elevator at halftime at ODU.
Perhaps that was a sign that there would be a lack of “Oops” this season.
BEST GAME: Keli Lawson’s Pick-Six (Nov. 5)
Lane Stadium erupted as the freshman linebacker made the kind of disruptive play that has long been Tech’s trademark. Lawson jumped to slam a Georgia Tech pass in the air, caught it himself and ran it into the end zone with a convoy of teammates alongside him.
WORST GAME: Field Goal Disaster (September 2nd)
This cut deep. A poor snap on a 38-yard attempt not only denied the Hokies three points, but ODU ran down the ball, scooped it and scored a touchdown the other way. That turned a 7-3 tech lead into a 10-7 deficit and epitomized the special teams troubles the Hokies had in 2022.
BEST DECISION: Cancel UVa game.
This obviously wasn’t done by the Hokies alone, as the Cavaliers and ACC worked together after the tragic Charlottesville shooting that killed UVa football players Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry.
Still, Tech had its priorities in the right place from the start. The Hokies were empathetic and helpful, which means exponentially more than any game.