Three mistakes were the difference between a win and a loss, between Michael Brewer's best game and a performance that has some fans wanting to see the Virginia Tech quarterback benched. That’s the way Frank Beamer sees it anyway.
After the Hokies fell to Georgia Tech last week on a last-second field goal that followed Brewer’s third interception of the day, Beamer gave lip service to the notion that there was real competition at quarterback, but mostly he had his starter’s back despite two bad losses in a row.
“Brewer played a great football game, probably his best football game since he’s been here,” Beamer said. “But three mistakes hurt deeply.”
It seems strange that just two weeks earlier, Brewer was being hailed a hero for leading Virginia Tech into Columbus, Ohio and knocking off a top-10 Ohio State team in what was billed as a signature victory for the Hokies. Since then, the Texas Tech transfer has tossed five interceptions and Virginia Tech is 0-2.
Beamer isn’t simply sugarcoating a dreadful performance against Georgia Tech. Brewer really may have played his best game. He completed 72 percent of his throws and helped the Hokies to 424 yards of offense, and it was easy enough to envision a script in which Virginia Tech won this game without much stress.
But there were those three bad decisions, and those are hard to overlook because the ugly mistakes are an increasingly concerning aspect of Brewer’s game.
Through four weeks, no Power 5 quarterback in the nation has thrown more interceptions than Brewer (8). Only two have thrown seven, and both are true freshmen. Of Brewer’s eight turnovers, six have given the opposition the ball in Virginia Tech territory, and while Brewer’s offensive line hasn’t made his job particularly easy at times, none of the three picks against Georgia Tech -- which translated into 17 points for the Yellow Jackets -- came on plays when Brewer faced a blitz.
“It’s something I’ve got to get better at,” Brewer said after the game. “You take those three throws away, and we had a good football game. But the thing is I made those three throws, and it cost us the football game. But it’s over with, and you’ve got to move forward.”
The Hokies almost certainly will be moving forward with Brewer at quarterback, but if the results are to be different something has to change, and it's more than just three bad decisions by the quarterback.
In the past two games, only two Power 5 quarterbacks have attempted more passes than Brewer (95). For a player who just arrived in Blacksburg three months ago, he's being asked to do an awful lot.
Among ACC teams, only Florida State and Wake Forest have had more non-QB runs stopped for a loss than the Hokies (27.6 percent).
Only Tennessee’s quarterbacks have attempted more passes under pressure this season than Brewer, who is 12-of-28 with three interceptions on such plays.
Against Georgia Tech, Brewer was without two of his favorite targets -- tight end Ryan Malleck, who had 10 catches on 13 targets in the first three games of the year, and wideout Josh Stanford. As a result, 24 of Brewer’s 39 passes (62 percent) targeted freshmen.
In other words, Brewer has made some mistakes, but he hasn’t had much help either. And more than any change at quarterback, it’s the supporting cast that needs to make some adjustments if the Hokies are going to climb back into the thick of the ACC Coastal race.
“As you look at the video, there are so many times we could have won the game [against Georgia Tech], but the bottom line is that we didn’t,” Beamer said.
That’s been a common theme around Virginia Tech for the past three seasons. The Hokies are just 14-13 against FBS teams since the start of 2012, and seven of those losses came by a touchdown or less. Brewer played his part in the past two, but there are plenty of other questions Virginia Tech has to answer, too.