The Virginia Tech Hokies lost their season opener to the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday night 42-24 coming up well short of their quest for back-to-back wins against the reigning national champions. More importantly, however, VT also lost their starting quarterback Michael Brewer to a broken collarbone which will sideline him from four to eight weeks. Without Brewer available to lead the offense, the Hokies’ chances of contending for the ACC Coastal Division title this season may have been dealt a fatal blow.
Brewer retained the starting job for Virginia Tech this season after starting every game in 2014 following his transfer as a graduate student from the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He had some very strong stretches during his first season in Blacksburg and ultimately recorded 2,692 yards passing and 18 touchdowns with 15 interceptions and a 59.4 completion percentage during his junior season that included orchestrating the win over Ohio State in Columbus. In his second season under offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, it was expected that he would take the next step and have an even better senior season leading the Hokies into the thick of the Coastal Division race this season.
Up until his injury in the third quarter, Brewer was off to a pretty solid start. Brewer had completed 11-of-16 passes up to that point for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a second-quarter TD pass to Ryan Malleck with 15 seconds to play before the break to give Virginia Tech a 17-14 lead. But trailing 21-17 in the third quarter on a drive into Ohio State territory, Brewer took a massive shot from Adolphus Washington as he tried to complete a pass and stayed down on the turf in obvious pain. He came off the field and immediately into the locker room to get evaluated where they confirmed that the collarbone had been broken. Virginia Tech had struggled to protect Brewer all night long as he had been knocked down six times, hurried six times, and sacked twice before getting forced out of the game.
In his place, the Hokies turned to backup quarterback Brenden Motley, whose limitations as a passer were evident immediately. The junior came into the game with only three career pass attempts to his credit (and one lone completion) and a reputation as a better runner than passer. He struggled to maintain any offensive momentum for the Hokies, putting the VT offense into a stall that lasted until the game was well in hand for the Buckeyes. He finished the night 4-of-9 for 36 yards with a late touchdown and an interception. Motley couldn’t even use his athleticism to keep the Tech offense moving, rushing seven times for just 17 yards.
In just over a quarter of work, it’s clear that the Virginia Tech offense was designed to go through Michael Brewer this year and not Motley. His skill set as a passer lent itself to what Loeffler was trying to do in 2015 and was a major cornerstone of the offensive philosophy this fall. As talented an athlete as Brenden Motley is, he lacks the skill set to step into Brewer’s shoes and pick up the slack in his absence. If Brewer misses the full eight weeks projected for his recovery, that would sideline him for the team’s first five ACC contests, including important matchups with division foes like the Miami Hurricanes and Duke Blue Devils, and put him back into the mix in time to take on the No. 16 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. But by that time, it might be too late for the Hokies to contend in 2015.
In a season opening loss that truly spun out of control for Virginia Tech, they ended up losing much more than just a game. They lost their starting quarterback and possibly their best shot to contend for an ACC Coastal Division crown. Will the Hokies be able to regroup and survive the loss of Michael Brewer until he’s ready to return to the lineup?