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Virginia Tech football: Offense a disaster in loss to Miami

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And play-calling was an issue.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Miami
Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the final stats in Virginia Tech’s 28-10 loss to Miami and it’s pretty clear the Hurricanes dominated the Hokies in all phases. Miami finished the game with 429 total yards, although Bud Foster’s defense did force three turnovers. Unfortunately for the Hokies, those turnovers led to many empty trips down the field on offense.

Speaking of the offense, it looked like a unit that was listless and overmatched from the start. Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen did very little to get freshman quarterback Josh Jackson comfortable. Early in the game, the Hokies were too content running the football straight into a pile of defenders. Running the football is not a bad thing, especially when it’s working. Unfortunately, on Saturday, it wasn’t working too often. Tech wasn’t imaginative with the play-calling. Overall, on the day, the Hokies rushed for 102 yards on 43 attempts. To be fair, a good portion of the lost yardage was a result of several sacks Jackson took.

The biggest problem with the play-calling wasn’t the lack of downfield shots, but why not feature Dalton Keene or Chris Cunningham more? This passing offense is Cam Phillips, a little bit of Sean Savoy and little else. It’s up to the coaching staff to scheme more opportunities for other receivers. You can get by with forcing the ball to Phillips 10 times per game when you face teams like East Carolina or North Carolina, but when you face someone like Clemson or Miami, play-calling requires a little more creativity.

Keene and Cunningham can be matchup nightmares for an opposing defense. Cunningham isn’t a typical tight end, with his quickness and shiftiness. Keene is going to be a great player for the Hokies when his career is done. But he can help more right now. For a team lacking options in the passing game, the tight ends can be terrific weapons for a young passer.

This offense features a lot of jet sweeps and play-action off jet sweeps, which are effective, but predictable. Head coach Justin Fuente has spoken all season about the lack of receiver depth and that is an issue. However, Eric Kumah has answered the call recently. Why not use Kumah’s size on some slants or crossing routes?

In all fairness to Cornelsen and Fuente, they understand this group’s limitations. Not only were the Hokies shorthanded on the offensive line Saturday night, this offense—particularly at the skill positions—is still very young. But at some point, you just have to turn them loose. Especially your quarterback. Jackson is going to make mistakes. Let him make them.

The Hokies can ill-afford another ACC loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Coastal Division is out of reach now, but Tech still has a shot at a 10-win season and a solid bowl destination. To get there, the Hokies need more from their offense.