Fauber: Some things never change for Virginia Tech
By Brad Fauber
Hey Hokie football fans, some things just never seem to change, do they?
Sure, head coach Frank Beamer finally made some long overdue adjustments to his offensive coaching staff before the start of the season. But did things really change?
The Hokies are now five games into the season, and the fact that I’m still pondering that very question bothers me a little bit. I’m not sure exactly what I expected from Virginia Tech’s offense under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, but I can say that I had hoped for something a little bit better than what the Hokies have shown so far.
I know the Hokies’ offensive struggles aren’t all on Loeffler — the wide receivers can’t catch, the running game has been up and down, quarterback Logan Thomas is still struggling with his accuracy and the Hokies lack playmakers at key positions. I understand it’s going to take a while for the Loeffler’s changes to take full effect, but it’s hard to find much to like about the Hokies’ offense at the moment.
Virginia Tech is averaging 23.2 points per game this year, although they are averaging just 17.8 points per game against FBS competition if you take out the 45-3 win over Western Carolina. The Hokies are also averaging less than 330 total yards per game. Those aren’t exactly encouraging numbers.
Thursday night’s 17-10 win over Georgia Tech practically summed up what Hokie football has been about for the last 10 years or so — rely heavily on the defense to make plays, let the offense do just enough to get a lead and then turn to defensive coordinator Bud Foster to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard in the second half.
As usual, Virginia Tech’s defense jump-started the entire team by forcing a fumble on the Yellow Jackets’ first possession that gave the Hokies great field position for their opening drive. The offense delivered with a touchdown two plays later.
On the Hokies’ third drive of the game, Thomas led a 91-yard drive down the field that ended with another touchdown and gave Virginia Tech a 14-0 lead. After that, the Hokies just gave the keys to Foster and rode the defense the rest of the way.
There simply is no killer instinct on that team, which is something that Hokie teams have seemed to lack for quite a while.
When Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson made the very, very questionable decision to go for it on fourth down on the Yellow Jackets’ own 33-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech’s defense answered the bell and gave the Hokies a chance to put the game out of reach.
Virginia Tech moved the ball inside the Georgia Tech 20 on the next play, but then, in typical Hokie fashion, ran the ball three straight times with Thomas and settled for a 25-yard field goal attempt — which was missed.
The entire offensive game plan seemed bizarre to me from the start, as Loeffler seemed intent on leaning on the pass while showing little interest in trying to establish a run game. It worked pretty well for the Hokies in the first half, but the philosophy seemed to go against everything that Tech fans have been told about Loeffler’s determination to get the Hokies back to the hard-nosed, physical style that had previously defined “Hokie football.”
Virginia Tech ran nearly every play out of the shotgun formation on Thursday, and running backs Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus combined for just eight carries. Thomas, who ran 23 times against Marshall last Saturday, carried the ball 16 times against Georgia Tech, a questionable strategy given the fact that Thomas was playing with a strained abdomen.
The Hokies appear to still be searching for an identity on offense, and hopefully they find it sooner rather than later as they head deeper into ACC play. Until Loeffler and his offensive unit can get into a rhythm, Virginia Tech will be forced to rely on its defense to win football games. What else is new?
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD