BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech was understandably optimistic about its offensive potential heading into its second season with senior starting quarterback Michael Brewer.
Brewer worked tirelessly in the preseason to improve on the inconsistencies of his game, at one point joking that he took off only a couple of days in July to go fishing.
Unfortunately, the Hokies had little time to witness their offense at full strength. Brewer broke his left collarbone in the third quarter of Virginia Tech’s 42-24 loss to No. 1 Ohio State on Monday night at Lane Stadium.
Brewer had surgery on his collarbone on Tuesday and is expected to miss four to eight weeks, according to a team spokesman.
With Brewer out, untested junior Brenden Motley will get a chance to fill the starting role. The Hokies will also increase the practice workload of redshirt freshman Chris Durkin and true freshman Dwayne Lawson.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said Durkin and Lawson are second and third on the depth chart, respectively.
“I feel for Michael. You’re talking about a guy who puts so much into it, and I’ve never seen him throw the ball better,” Beamer said after Brewer completed 11 of 16 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a little over two quarters of work against the Buckeyes.
“He puts so much into it, but he’s done that for a while, and I feel for him. But, you have to step up and keep on moving.”
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Brewer led the Hokies back from a two-touchdown deficit in the second quarter, but he left the game early in the third after being leveled by 290-pound defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.
Brewer was taken to the locker room to be examined and returned to the sideline with his left arm in a sling.
With Brewer out, Ohio State scored three consecutive touchdowns to turn a close game — the Buckeyes led, 21-17, when Brewer was injured — into a blowout.
“It would have been nice to see what would have happened with Michael in that second half,” Hokies offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “I thought we had a ridiculous game plan for the second half to take advantage of what they did. We found a way in the second quarter to exploit them. We had some really cool stuff that we couldn’t get into.”
Loeffler appeared close to tears when he addressed the media after the game. Losing Brewer is a big blow.
“I put that kid through hell, and he played his tail off today,” Loeffler said. “And I said this to our team: ‘You can sit, you can feel sorry for yourself, you can do this, but we’re going to rally around Motley.’”
Motley, who had one career completion before Monday, has been used throughout his career as a change-of-pace option in the Hokies’ wildcat package.
He went 4-for-9 for 36 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Buckeyes. The Hokies’ offense, which seemed to find its groove in the second quarter with Brewer leading the way, managed only 77 yards and seven first downs over the final 26 minutes.
Beamer is confident in Motley’s ability to lead the offense. He should be better with first-team reps in practice.
“I’m going to be interested to see how he handles things when it’s him, when it’s his offense, how did we handle things? It’s going to be interesting to watch him,” Beamer said. “I think he’s going to be fine, to be honest with you. What I know about him, I don’t think he’ll flinch. I think he’ll be solid as the day is long and he’ll do a good job, in my opinion.”
Motley, who battled with Brewer for the starting job in training camp last season, is confident he can perform at a high level while Brewer is out.
“It’s a big opportunity for me. I’m really excited about it,” Motley said. “I know my teammates are confident in me and will rally around me. We’re still a great team. It’s sad to see Michael go down, but we’re still a great team.”
Hokies wide receiver Isaiah Ford said it’s important for the rest of the offense to help ease the transition for Motley.
“It was hard [to see Brewer injured]. Everyone loves Michael. Seeing how hard he worked, taking all the criticism he did last year, just taking all of that into account and working hard, we’re praying for him for a speedy recovery,” Ford said.
“But at the same time, we’re all behind [Motley]. We all know we’ve got to elevate our game a little bit more. We’re going to rally behind Motley as well.”