Hokies Struggle, Continue 4-Game Skid
Justin Fuente and his banged-up Hokies hosted their bitter rival Miami on Saturday and were looking for answers. Coming off an embarrassing showing in Pittsburg and in the midst of a 3-game skid, Virginia Tech was desperately trying to find their footing and to try and become bowl eligible. This game carried a lot of weight in the Hokie community and Fuente had a lot of eyes on him this week coming off of a heading scratching performance last week. To add even more pressure to the game, both of Tech and Miami needed the win to try and gain bowl eligibility. With that being said, the game had major importance for two “big name” programs trying to salvage their disappointing seasons. With all of this on the line, here’s what stood out from the Hokies’ performance:
Offensive Sparks but No Fires
Tech showed some signs of urgency early on with a five play, 76-yard drive to open the game on offense Willis and the offense looked sharp. Although they showed signs of life as a unit, they stalled out almost immediately. The Hokies next 3 drives went punt, fumble, and then an interception that was returned inside the Virginia Tech 5-yard line. To give credit where credit is due, the offense responded to the interception and the touchdown with a 10 play, 75-yard drive to regain some momentum and the lead before stalling out again, and for the rest of the game. The Hokies couldn’t salvage any more points the rest of the game and looked sloppy. Willis struggled with his accuracy, the O-Line struggled to protect him, and the running back couldn’t get out of the backfield. It was a sad and sloppy performance for all but two drives of the game.
Believe it or Not, the Defense Showed Improvement
Don’t look at the box score without watching the game. This young and beat-up defense allowed some big plays and 38 points to a lackluster Miami offense, but let’s look at the bigger picture. They forced 7 punts on the Hurricanes (including four 3-and-outs), allowed only 3 plays of 20+ yards, and had zero help from the offense. Take away the 3-yard touchdown drive off the Willis interception and the punt return for the touchdown and the defense only allowed 24 points. While 24 points isn’t great, it’s not horrible considering have no momentum throughout the game and was definitely a step in the right direction. With that being said, our youth especially our front seven, showed some signs of maturing and some hope for the future.
Outplayed and Outcoached
We got beat in all three phases of the game, plain and simple. We couldn’t move the ball and turned it over and on defense we couldn’t make a play to change the momentum and spark our offense. In addition, we missed a very makeable field goal, and allowed a dagger of a punt return for a touchdown. Some of it was execution, some of it was discipline, but at the end of the day we didn’t make plays and they did. Plain and simple.
To pile onto pour execution, Mark Richt simply outcoached Fuente. Simply put: he puts his players in positions to succeed. N’Kosi Perry isn’t a great quarterback, their running backs aren’t crazy athletic or strong, and the Miami O-Line has its weak spots. However, they scored 38 points, didn’t turn the ball over, and controlled the pace of the game. Richt played to his players strengths and let them make easy reads so they could succeed (and their defense doesn’t need help; that’s where all their talent is).
To be fair, we don’t have an overwhelming strength on our team and especially not a consistent one, but some things need to change. Screens and runs up the gut make it tough to succeed. Let Willis throw the ball, let Peoples bounce outside, and don’t leave our DB’s on islands. With all of our youth and injuries, Fuente, Foster and Cornelsen need to play to their players’ strengths. There are a lot of things that need to happen on this team, but at the end of the day, the players need to be in positions to succeed and to do so, they have to be put in the right place to do so.