BLACKSBURG – Hendon Hooker threw a touchdown pass, D.J. Reid scored on a touchdown run and Brandon Facyson recorded an interception to headline the action at Virginia Tech’s annual Spring Game played Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
The offense faced the defense and outscored the defense 20-18. The offense received points for touchdowns, field goals and extra points, while the defense received points for turnovers (7), three-and-outs (3) and a stop (1). Individual statistics were not kept.
The game marked the conclusion of spring practice.
“I think we put good work in throughout the entire spring,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said. “Thinking back and reflecting on our 15 practices, I am really proud of the way our guys continued to battle through the dog days of practicing. We didn’t really have a huge drop off with either one of those practices.
“As far as today, it was about what we expected. I know you guys and gals know that we were down quite a few guys. I think there were about 20 guys that weren’t out there, which leads to it being a little bit abbreviated, as you can understand. We are still trying to figure out where guys fit in.”
Hooker, a freshman from Greensboro, North Carolina who enrolled in January for the spring semester, unofficially completed 10 of 11 for 113 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He completed all eight of his pass attempts in the first half, including five on a drive that led to the offense’s lone first-half touchdown. He ended that drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dalton Keene, another freshman who enrolled in January for the spring semester.
Hooker also guided the offense on its only other scoring drive in the first half. Three completions got the offense to the 41, setting up Joey Slye’s 58-yard attempt right before halftime. Slye nailed it with room to spare as time expired - one of two field goals (he hit a 49-yarder early in the game) for Slye on the day.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” Hooker said. “I felt like the whole quarterback room really prepared me, so shout out to those guys. They were really assisting me and pushing me to be the best I can be.”
“Hendon has done a good job,” Fuente said. “When you talk to him, I think he will say that he has a long way to go continuing to learn what to do and handling situations.”
Reid scored on a 1-yard run in the second half. Terius Wheatley, yet another freshman who enrolled in January for the spring semester, led the Hokies with 32 yards rushing, though most of that came against second- and third-team defenders.
Here are some other notes from the Spring Game:
• No one expected Fuente to name a starting quarterback following the game – and he didn’t. But he said he liked what he saw from Josh Jackson, A.J. Bush and Hooker this spring, and he liked what he saw from the trio in Tech’s Spring Game. Unofficially, Bush completed 4 of 6 for 70 yards, while Jackson completed 4 of 8 for 67 yards.
“I have been pleased with all of our guys in terms of picking up what we are trying to do,” Fuente said. “That hasn’t been a huge issue for any of them. Continuing to have us be more consistent is the key.”
• Hooker’s lone mistake came in the second half. He faked a throw to his left and then turned to his right, expecting Phillip Patterson to be running a slant. Patterson faked the slant and ran the out pattern, but Hooker already had thrown the ball, and Facyson picked it off. Afterward, Fuente confirmed that Patterson ran the right route.
“I knew it was a red flag [a mistake], but the guys on the sideline were on my side and giving me great support,” Hooker said.
• Caleb Farley may have been the best player on the field Saturday. Farley, who, like Hooker, Keene and Wheatley, enrolled in January, and he spent part of spring practice at cornerback and part of it at receiver.
In the Spring Game, he played at receiver. He made a nice 15-yard reception over Facyson, ran 16 yards on a reverse, and hauled in a 36-yard reception that set up Reid’s touchdown.
Fuente did not commit to playing Farley at receiver this fall, saying he wanted to discuss the situation with Farley next week during post-spring evaluations.
“I think I know how that is all going to work out, but Caleb and I haven’t talked about any of that,” Fuente said. “We will do our player evaluations as our staff, and we will figure out what we are going to do with him moving forward. I will say that he has been fantastic in terms of his willingness to learn and try new things.”
“I was doing cartwheels and somersaults on the inside when he came on our side of the ball,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said, smiling. “I was watching him grow and develop. I’m sure the offensive guys are doing the same thing right now. He’s just a young guy who has a lot of abilities, a tremendous skill set, and loves the game of football. Whichever side of the ball he plays on, he’s going to compete and work to be the best.”
Facyson’s interception marked redemption of sorts after officials called him for pass interference on three occasions. Foster and Facyson stayed away from criticizing the officials – it was a spring game, after all.
“It was good, it was nice,” Facyson said of the interception. “We have had a little competition between the corners all spring. It’s been a healthy competition. We have all been working hard and taking care of our bodies and competing every single day, all of us.”
The game didn’t mar what Foster termed as a great spring for Facyson.
“He’s had a great spring, and I’m expecting a great summer,” Foster said. “He’s going to be one of our leaders. He kept playing one play at a time, and that’s all you can ask.”
• Twenty players missed Tech’s Spring Game with injuries, including several prominent names – defensive ends Vinny Mihota and Trevon Hill, receivers C.J. Carroll, Eric Kumah and Henri Murphy, cornerback Greg Stroman, and nickel defensive back Mook Reynolds. All of those guys should return once August practices resume, but their absences made for ragged practice periods at times and even some uneven flow during the spring game.
That said, those injuries also offered Fuente and his staff the opportunity to work a lot of backups and/or younger players who might be able to give the Hokies some much-needed depth this fall.
“Would I prefer to have everyone out there? Sure,” Fuente said. “That’s not the situation, so we deal with the situation we have. We get to work with the guys that we have out there because you never know what is going to happen. We give the exact same amount of reps to our two’s that we give to our one’s for a reason.
“I’m happy that they [the injured players] are all going to be back and ready to go in the summer. We still have good work [in the spring]. We still got better with some of those guys [projected backups]. Now, maybe they will have some confidence to go out and compete for a starting job.”
• At halftime of the Spring Game, the Virginia Tech football program, led by Fuente, presented a check in the amount of $11,921 to Brian Gawne, who represented the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that provides housing for military or veterans’ families while their loved one/ones receive medical treatment.
Former head coach Frank Beamer started the initiative – one in which the football program auctions off the helmets and jerseys from the Military Appreciation Game each fall and donates the proceeds to military charities. The proceeds this year came from the online auction held shortly after the Hokies’ win over Boston College last fall. That game that served as the 2016 Military Appreciation Game.