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McFarling: For the Hokies, spring has sprung in September
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McFarling: For the Hokies, spring has sprung in September

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Richmond at Virginia Tech

Richmond’s Isaac Brown (left) battles for position with Virginia Tech defensive back Chamarri Conner in the first half Saturday.

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech’s 21-10 victory over Richmond on Saturday looked and felt like a spring game.

Go out there, pitch it around a bit, bring in the backup quarterback on your own 6-yard line just for kicks, thank the fans for comin’ out, talk about the things you need to work on, call it a day.

“First of all,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said to open his postgame news conference, “thanks to everybody that came out to support our kids.”

See?

Uninspired is probably the word for it all. Other than the weather — glorious sunshine, breezy, high-60s — Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium had little sizzle to it.

“Did we win?” Tech receiver Tre Turner asked rhetorically in response to a question about the sputtering offense. “We won.”

That the Hokies did, which does, I suppose, differentiate it from a spring game. But given that the rest was so similar, let’s cover it the same way with a little three up, three down.

Up: Tayvion Robinson

The doubts about Robinson’s ability to return punts are gone. The sophomore receiver struggled fielding several punts last season and has admitted that his confidence waned as the year went on, but the sample size is large enough now to declare he’s over all that.

The play of the game was his 60-yard punt return that broke a 7-7 tie midway through the second quarter.

“Those guys blocked their tails off on that return,” he said. “Just getting that return is kind of letting everybody know that I’m not the same person I was last year. I’ve gotten a lot better.”

Down: Tech’s running game

Once again, anyone looking for the Hokies to manhandle an FCS opponent on the ground went home disappointed. Tech averaged just 3.2 yards per rush and didn’t register a run longer than Jalen Holston’s 16-yarder.

Having starting right tackle Silas Dzansi sidelined with an injury — and the offensive line shuffling that comes with that — didn’t help, but Fuente correctly said that’s no excuse for the lack of a bigger push.

Up: Turner

Saying that somebody was Tech’s best offensive performer on Saturday would be faint praise, but Turner was outstanding. His six catches for 102 yards included his first touchdown grab of the year, where he just got his foot in while leaping at the back of the end zone.

Turner also had a 42-yard grab of at least equal difficulty. He wasn’t the problem here.

Down: The rest of the offense

There’s no sugarcoating it: The Hokies were bad offensively. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister missed a couple of wide-open receivers, and drive after drive stalled for the 29-point favorites.

“Pretty inconsistent to say the least,” Fuente said. “We haven’t been as consistent enough to score as we’re going to need to score as the season goes along.”

Up: Connor Blumrick

The third-string quarterback has a role: bludgeon the opposition at the goal line. And considering Tech’s struggles in the red zone this season, that’s a valuable role.

Listed at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Blumrick came in for one series inside the Richmond 5-yard line and ran the ball three times, picking up a first down and a 1-yard touchdown.

Fuente insists the Texas A&M transfer can throw, too, and could be used in other situations if needed. We haven’t seen it yet. Still, the fearlessness he brings to those short-yardage opportunities is good to see.

Down: Coaching decisions

What was Fuente thinking putting in backup quarterback Knox Kadum into the game with the Hokies backed up at their own 6-yard line and Tech leading only 7-0?

His explanation was that he’d told Kadum and Burmeister on Sunday of last week that Kadum would play at some point in the first half. Sure, OK. But that didn’t seem like the spot for it at all. Too high-leverage.

The result was disastrous: An interception on Kadum’s first passing attempt that set up an easy Richmond touchdown.

There was also the fake punt that went awry — a play that was open but seemed to have a high degree of difficulty. Punter Peter Moore would have had to throw the ball about 15-20 yards to hit his target, which is a big ask for a non-quarterback.

So there you have it: The September spring game is in the books. Here’s guessing Notre Dame’s visit in two weeks has a slightly different feel.

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