Quarterback Michael Brewer could hardly have made a bigger splash at Virginia Tech.
The transfer from Texas Tech won the Hokies’ quarterback job last fall, then opened the season by leading the Hokies to a victory against William & Mary and then a 35-21 stunner at Ohio State, the eventual national champion.
But a loss to East Carolina followed, as did much inconsistency.
The redshirt senior promises to be better this season, and will have to be.
For the second time in three seasons, the Hokies open the season against the defending national champions, and in a game assistant coach Shane Beamer has called the biggest in Lane Stadium history. The talented Buckeyes figure to be angry.
Ohio State’s loss last season while ranked No. 8 was its first at home in 65 non-conference games, dating to 1982, and deprived them of an unbeaten season. It also was the highest-ranked foe Virginia Tech has beaten on the road.
Brewer earned the respect of his teammates in the game against the Buckeyes, running for hard first-down yards when necessary, but paid a price physically, earning nicks and bruises that piled up for the rest of the season.
“I have to stay healthy after this game, unlike last game,” he said Monday. “Gotta stay upright.”
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, working with a quarterback in consecutive seasons for his first time in three years with the Hokies, has been effusive in his praise for Brewer. The coach says they are finally on the same mental wavelength, and Brewer agrees. Brewer said he often knows the play call coming before it is completely sent it.
Coach Frank Beamer, entering his 29th season in Blacksburg, Virginia, sees reasons to be optimistic, even heading into an opener against a team that received all 61 votes in the preseason Top 25 poll.
Beamer said the upset Brewer was able to engineer was remarkable because the Hokies were short on experience at wide receiver and tight end, and were already missing players counted on to carry the football.
“You think about what he had going into that ballgame, and for us to come out ahead,” Beamer said. “Of course they had a young guys too, but we had a lot of young guys. And two receivers that just barely had been on campus for preseason practice and it’s just a lot of new people on the field. We got some big plays, some big breaks.
“And that was kind of the difference in the game.”
Virginia Tech intercepted T.J. Barrett three times, including one that Donovan Riley returned 63 yards for a touchdown with 46 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.
The Hokies also won despite having an inexperienced offensive line, and for the first time in several seasons, enter this year less worried about depth on the line with as many as eight players they’ll feel comfortable shuttling in.
The onus next Monday night is not on Brewer to beat the Buckeyes by himself, Beamer said. The coach said the Hokies need solid play from those around him to allow him the time to make good decisions and move the ball.
“I said this a million times: I don’t worry about Michael. I worry about the people around Michael,” Beamer said. “And if those people uphold their end of the deal, Michael will be just fine. He knows what he’s doing. He’s smart. Is going to get you in the right play, get you out of a bad play. Get the ball to the right guy, quickly.
“We’ve just got to be able to get our running backs going, keep it unpredictable. The wide receivers, make some plays when you’ve got a chance and I think if we’re OK around Michael, Michael will be fine.”
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