(Jonathan Ernst/GETTY IMAGES)

In his postgame news conference after Saturday’s loss to Cincinnati, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer glossed over his team’s penchant for slow starts. He stressed the positives on offense, such as the second-half emergence of running back Michael Holmes, rather than emphasizing that the Hokies failed to pick up a first down until 5:17 remained in the second quarter.

But with Virginia Tech trying to rebound from a second nonconference loss, Beamer acknowledged beginning sluggishly has become a point of concern. He told reporters unprompted during his weekly Monday teleconference that “we talked in great detail as an offensive staff about starting slow and why and so forth.”

“We’re gonna keep it within our staff and try to do better this week,” he added when pressed for those details.

The Hokies have mustered just 14 points in the first quarter this year, and they’ve been particularly poor on offense to start the past three games. In a loss to Pittsburgh back on Sep. 15, Virginia Tech’s first four drives resulted in three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and one punt. The next week against Bowling Green, it took the Hokies four drives to get on the scoreboard.

On Saturday, though, Virginia Tech hit new lows when the first six drives of the game resulted in five punts and a fumble, including four three-and-outs.

Part of the problem has been quarterback Logan Thomas’s erratic play. He’s now completing just 52.7 percent of his passes and has six interceptions through five games. Beamer was quick to point out that a fourth-quarter surge by Thomas and the offense allowed Virginia Tech to take the lead twice on Cincinnati, including with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, but he also conceded the offense has yet to fully click this year.

“You’ve got to trust the people around you and all that hasn’t settled out as well as we’d like,” Beamer said.

Even with the disappointing loss – the second time in three years Virginia Tech has been defeated twice in nonconference play – Beamer was hopeful a return to ACC play would help right the ship. Despite the Hokies struggles this year, they still control their own destiny in regards to winning the Coastal division for a third straight season.

But Virginia Tech starts that journey in full as the 3.5-point underdog when it travels to North Carolina Saturday.

“I said to start the year I thought we could be a good football team. We weren’t that right then and I still feel the same way right now,” Beamer said. “I do think we can be a good football team. I think the kids really care. They’re extremely hurt, disappointed after the game. But we did some things better in this game, so the message is keep working and we’ve got some critical ACC games coming up.”

Quick Hitters

— Beamer wasn’t down on the secondary after Cincinnati threw for 392 yards Saturday, although he noted the Hokies can’t suffer any injuries back there given the depth concerns they have.

“They were out there on an island quite a bit,” he said. “When Kyle [Fuller] went out, they picked on [freshman Donaldven] Manning a little bit. Overall, I think they did okay. The last play of the game was a misplayed ball, but for the most part I think they did okay.”

— Left guard David Wang (ankle) did not play Saturday despite being listed as probable on the team’s injury report, but Beamer was optimistic that he’d be able to return this weekend. Linebacker Tariq Edwards could also be “closer to 100 percent” after another week of practice, Beamer added. Edwards made his season debut against Bowling Green after two offseason surgeries related to a stress fracture in his shin, but did not play in the Cincinnati loss.

— The ACC announced Monday that Virginia Tech’s home game against Duke on Oct. 13 will be a 12:30 kickoff on the ACC Network.


John Feinstein: For area teams, it was a very long weekend