The West Virginia Mountaineers took down the No. 15 Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday in Morgantown. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 14-0 lead early, and it appeared we were well on the way to seeing a blowout, but slowly, Virginia Tech fought back.
Every time it seemed as if the Hokies were closing in, mistakes would haunt them. Down 24-7 at halftime, Virginia Tech’s defense tightened up after halftime and allowed just three points after the break.
Now, about those mistakes. Yes, some of those mistakes were on the players, but this entire Virginia Tech team was let down by head coach Justin Fuente and the offensive coaching staff on Saturday.
Now, here are five takeaways from Virginia Tech’s disappointing loss to West Virginia.
Hokies weren’t ready
Virginia Tech went on the road for thhe first time in 2021 on Saturday. And, it wasn’t a typical road trip. Going to Morgantown to face an old rival, you knew the crowd would be fired up. They were. And so were the Mountaineers.
After the Hokies went three-and-out on their first possession, West Virginia running back Leddie White took the ball 80 yards for a touchdown on WVU’s second play from scrimmage.
After another bad offensive series, WVU got the ball back and scored again.
It looked like the Hokies were going to get blown out by their rivals. However, the grit (see what I did there) of these players slowly brought them back.
This looked like the typical stinker from a Justin Fuente-coached team we see at least once per year. But these kids rallied. When this continues to happen, it’s on the head coach.
Brad Cornelsen is the worst coordinator in America
Let’s not sugarcoat this. He is bad. And Fuente’s blind loyalty for a coach who could bring him down is puzzling. Coaching is a cutthroat business. Sometimes, you have to make tough decisions. Fuente needed to make this one years ago.
This isn’t your typical “he should fire the OC” rant. We’ve already done that one before, as has every other site who covers Virginia Tech. Check out this stat from the great David Teel, of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“Tech (2-1) snapped the ball 12 times at the Mountaineers’ 10-yard line, or closer. Those plays produced no points,” Teel wrote.
“But no points, 6 net yards and 0-for-5 passing on three possessions at the 10 or closer? That speaks to preparation, execution and play-calling.”
College football analyst and former Atlanta Falcons star Roddy White chimed in.
That was the worst play calling on 1st and goal from the seven I have seen Vtech OC give the damn kids a chance.— Roddy White (@roddywhiteTV) September 18, 2021
Fuente’s response to the red-zone failures:
“We were pretty shoddy,” Fuente said. “Inconsistent to say the least.”
Cornelsen apparently only has about 12 plays on his “play sheet.” Perhaps they came from Madden 95. Because when he sees an “exotic” defensive look, as center Brock Hoffman stated WVU gave the Hokies on Saturday, he folds up and calls wide-receiver screens, jet-sweeps or inside dives.
Something must change. These kids deserve better. Cornelsen single-handedly cost Virginia Tech a winnable game on Saturday. And you don’t think the players know who is to blame?
This deserves its own mention. On one of the series inside the 10-yard line, Cornelsen used wide receiver Tre Turner on a Jet Sweep. You don’t think West Virginia had that scouted? People at home from their couches who have never spent one day as a coach saw that coming.
The Jet Sweep is a nice play. It just should not be a staple in your offense. The best thing about the Jet Sweep is the motion. Some of the top offensive minds in the NFL use Jet-Sweep motion to force the defense to flow hard toward the receiver in motion. That’s why you see so many teams just sending the WR in motion. He doesn’t need to get the football every time. Give the ball to a WR once per game, but continue to use the motion.
Nope, not Cornelsen.
Instead of using stud tight end James Mitchell more in the passing game, Cornelsen loved using Mitchell with the Jet Sweep. A tight end like Mitchell should be eating up targets because he’s a mismatch. Not here.
And the use of Turner is maddeningly frustrating. In Turner’s freshman season, we all saw a star. That player is still there. He’s had to deal with quarterback after quarterback, and an offensive coordinator who doesn’t know how to use wide receivers outside the numbers.
Turner is a loyal kid who is all Hokie. He deserves better. I think years from now we will all look back and think “what-if” in regards to Mitchell and Turner.
Braxton Burmeister played his best game
I was proud of Braxton Burmeister on Saturday. He was under pressure the entire game. He was sacked six times. And, the aforementioned play-calling put him in a bad position all game.
Burmeister completed 19 of 31 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He should have had three touchdowns. Tayvion Robinson caught the ball in the end zone but the officials ruled it incomplete. The officials should have ruled it a touchdown, then reviewed it. Hokies were screwed there.
The two did hook up for another score. Robinson is a fantastic player.
Burmeister took a lot of hits on Saturday. He kept getting back up. Teammates respect him for that. The pass protection is usually much better, but got worse once Silas Dzansi went down with an injury. WVU repeatedly attacked the right side once Dzansi was gone.
Vance Vice does a great job with the offensive line, so I believe things will get better there.
Back to Burmeister, he was looking downfield more in this game. That’s progress. There was one play where Virginia Tech was in a 3rd-and-24 and Burmeister dodged defenders for a 25-yard gain. It was impressive.
Kudos to Justin Hamilton and the defense
Things could not have gone any worse for defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton and his defense in the first half on Saturday. The Hokies looked terrible on defense. They had given up tons of yardage and 24 points in the first half alone.
However, in the second half, things began to slowly turn. The Hokies were getting off the field, forced two turnovers and allowed just three points in the final 30 minutes. That’s good coaching.
When the legendary Bud Foster was defensive coordinator and he would have a bad half, you almost always had confidence he’d figure things out as the game progressed. It’s one of the reasons why he was so great.
Look, I am not comparing Hamilton to Foster, but it’s clear Hamilton is a sharp dude. More than once since taking over as coordinator, he has made in-game adjustments and turned things around, giving the offense a chance to win the game. He did again on Saturday.
Kudos to Coach Hamilton and his staff.