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Virginia Tech football: 5 takeaways from Hokies’ 28-7 loss to Pitt

We have six games remaining in the 2021 season.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies fell to 3-3 on the season after a 28-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday at Lane Stadium. It was one of the ugliest performances in recent Virginia Tech history — and believe me, there have been a few.

Saturday’s loss was demoralizing on multiple levels. You knew last week this was going to get ugly. So, when Virginia Tech’s defense kept the team in it, you felt a little bit of hope until the offense hit the field, and all that hope was sucked away.

The Hokies fall to 1-1 in ACC play after the loss.

Now, here are our five takeaways from another depressing day in Blacksburg:

The offensive game plan was..........

I don’t know know what the offensive game plan was for the Hokies on Saturday. The defense set the tone early, forcing a three and out on Pitt’s first possession. So, after an ugly punt, Tech gets the ball in good field position. What do they do with it?

Three incomplete passes. Pitt gets the ball back and scores. So, how do Brad Cornelsen and the Hokies respond? Quite well, at least initially. On the fourth play of the drive, quarterback Braxton Burmeister found freshman Da’Wain Lofton for 29 yards across the middle of the field. Three plays later, facing a fourth and 1, Burmeister goes for the quarterback sneak, and the Hokies do not make it.

This is just a sample of Tech’s day offensively. All year, the Hokies have not thrown the ball downfield. So, in the game against Pitt, Burmeister attacks down the field all game — with little success. Look, I love the aggressive nature of attacking a defense down the field, but you don’t throw deep balls just to say, “we threw deep balls.”

Where was this strategy in earlier weeks? And of all days for Cornelsen to want to throw down the field, he does it on a windy in Blacksburg. Just confusing overall. I understand the Hokies couldn’t run the ball, but they didn’t know that going in. Cornelsen thought he was outsmarting everyone with all of the deep balls.

I loved the pass to Lofton. One, it was good to see the talented young man on the field finally. He is a player unless this staff is around long enough to ruin him. Secondly, I loved in-breaking routes. You have a quarterback who is not really a deep-ball guy, so why not use more in-breaking routes? The Hokies could’ve had a ton of success in the middle of the field but instead opted for high-percentage throws outside the numbers.

Ugly day for Burmeister

First off, hats off to Braxton Burmeister for suiting up and playing almost the entire game on Saturday. He competed. Regardless of the number of hits he took, Burmeister got up and kept competing.

However, Burmeister completed 11 of 32 passes for 134 yards with one touchdown and one interception. First of all, in defense of Burmeister, there were a ton of drops on Saturday. Sure-handed guys like Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson, Nick Gallo and Kaleb Smith all dropped passes. Burmeister made some good throws on the day, but he didn’t always receive much help from his coaches or teammates.

As for his performance, I don’t blame Burmeister for most of his struggles on the field. I blame the coaching staff. It’s not Burmeister’s fault that Virginia Tech is where it is pertaining to the quarterbacks on the roster. The coaching staff has failed to develop one quarterback successfully throughout six years, watching multiple kids leave on bad terms. This coaching staff turned on every quarterback who played, and Burmeister was the one left standing. Trust me, if this staff could throw him under the bus, too, it would.

Burmeister is a “see-it, throw-it” quarterback, meaning he doesn’t throw receivers open. It’s who he is. He’s had some success, but he’s limited. I feel bad for him and every player on Virginia Tech’s offense. They all deserve better.

ACC refs are garbage

First of all, I want to preface this by saying the officials DID NOT cost Virginia Tech this game. However, their ineptitude is frustratingly apparent. We’ve grumbled about ACC officiating for years. All of Hokie Nation has, as well as other ACC schools.

On Saturday, there were three plays in particular, two of which were passes to Turner, that were blatant pass interference. Right in front of the officials. Keep in mind; the game was still within reach here. The officials didn’t call it either time, despite Turner being mugged.

Meanwhile, Pitt did receive a pass interference call in its benefit that was far less egregious.

How do the officials re-pay the Hokies? By calling at least three PIs when the game was essentially over.

Apparently, bad officiating was all-around college football on Saturday.

The defensive line was outstanding

When you look at only the stats, you never learn the entire story of a football game. Virginia Tech’s defense finished the game with one sack and did not force a turnover. Don’t blame the front four. The Hokies were in Kenny Pickett’s face for much of the day, forcing him to scramble or get rid of the ball much quicker than he would have liked.

Pickett was efficient, passing for 203 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t the 400-yard performance many expected. The Hokies competed, and the front four did their job. As a whole, the entire defense played well enough to win the game. Were they perfect? No, but it was a solid effort, considering they received next to no support from the offense.

I really like what Justin Hamilton and his guys are building on defense. Considering this is his second season as the coordinator, he’s doing a terrific job. Yes, there are areas to clean up, but overall, this is a solid group.

When does this end?

There is no way this regime lasts into 2022, right?

How many more days like Saturday do Virginia Tech fans and supporters have to endure? You know entering the week whether or not the team has a chance to win. You have zero confidence this offense can move the ball consistently against anyone. That will not change under Justin Fuente and Cornelsen.

We’ve written this repeatedly, as have many of the other sites that cover Virginia Tech football, but a change must happen. No, I do not expect it until after the season, but apathy is the worst thing for Virginia Tech.

This is fan apathy.

It’s going to get worse this season. On Saturday, many Virginia Tech supporters were talking about skipping next week’s home game against Syracuse. Don’t do that. Show up and support the players on the field, who are giving it their all. After next week’s game, the Hokies only have one more home game this season. I never thought I’d say this, but that is probably a good thing.

Six more games, and we’ll see.