No matter where one turned this week, whether it was discussing the running game or the offensive line or even quarterback Logan Thomas, there was a sense among Virginia Tech’s offense that it remains very much a work in progress.
Trying to pinpoint the exact problems has been difficult, but it wasn’t completely unexpected considering the Hokies are breaking in eight new starters on offense. But heading into the first road game of the year at Pittsburgh, let’s take a look at the three areas of concern for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies have struggled to get out of the blocks through two games, with just one touchdown before the fourth quarter in their win over Georgia Tech and three unsuccessful drives to start last week’s victory against Austin Peay.
Play-caller Mike O’Cain said this week he’s not overly concerned about it, but offensive line coach Curt Newsome indicated he think it’s a matter of consistency. Essentially the Hokies need more of it, especially when it comes to individual matchups that often dictate the success of any given play.
“We just need to be a little more urgent about what we do,” wide receiver Marcus Davis said. “We don’t always agree with all the play calls, but at the same time we’ve got to go out and execute everything. It’s a lot of times where a guy maybe takes a play off or doesn’t complete what he needs to do and it breaks down the whole entire play.
“I’m not saying everybody’s gonna have a perfect game, but at the same time we’ve got to eliminate those little things that’s stopping us from being an explosive offense.”
The run game
As expected, Virginia Tech has used a by-committee approach with its run game, although it appears redshirt freshman Michael Holmes and freshman J.C. Coleman will be the primary options. Neither has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in a game yet, and Davis actually led the team in rushing yards against Austin Peay — the first time a wide receiver has led Virginia Tech in rushing under Coach Frank Beamer
The offensive line, which is breaking in four new starters, has been part of the issue. They’ve had their moments, offensive line coach Curt Newsome said, but “there’s been spots where we haven’t moved the ball and moving the football is a reflection on us.”
Running backs coach Shane Beamer said he isn’t worried yet, because either Holmes or Coleman could have gone for more than 100 yards last week if he kept them in the game during the second half. But Beamer admits, he wants to see one of this tailbacks emerge as a go-to option.
“You’d like to have a game where a guy busts out and takes over and shows you I can be that guy you can count on for that yardage when it needs to happen,” he said. “Hopefully that’s coming.”
The pass game
Quarterback Logan Thomas hasn’t been sharp at times this year, but he has delivered when it has counted most through two games. He’s been particularly good in the two-minute offense when he has a set menu of five or six plays to choose from. He led the Hokies on a game-tying field goal drive at the end of regulation against Georgia Tech, and then scored a touchdown running the no-huddle offense at the end of the first half in the win over Austin Peay.
“I think that’s what he’s comfortable with, being able to give us the signal and we know what we’re doing and he kind of already sees what he sees with the coverage and knows where he going with the ball and being able to not second-guess himself,” wide receiver Dyrell Roberts said of Thomas.
O’Cain said he’s hopeful Virginia Tech can use “some more up pace” starting Saturday, so don’t be surprised if Thomas goes to the no huddle offense more often.
But for all the reasons listed above, I expect Saturday’s matchup with 0-2 Pittsburgh to be closer than expected – even though the Panthers are allowing more than 422 yards per game through two losses this year. That doesn’t mean Pittsburgh will win, though.
My prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Pittsburgh 13.
What do you think? Will Virginia Tech snap a three-game losing streak to Pittsburgh that dates to 2001 and extend its ACC-record 13-game winning streak in true road games? Or will Pittsburgh Coach Paul Chryst earn his first career victory? Vote in our poll, and let me know how you think this game plays out in the comments section.