Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 18, 2012

Hokies seek answers after blowout loss at Pittsburgh

BLUEFIELD — Frank Beamer and his coaching staff at Virginia Tech are still looking for answers.

The Hokies are out of the Top 25 for the first time in 29 polls this week after a blowout loss at Pittsburgh, and areas of concern seem to be piling up faster than the coaches are finding solutions.

Offensive efficiency. Running game. Pass rush. Defensive communication.

“I think you got to keep working and play more consistent in what you do,” Beamer said. “Look at what you’re capable of doing and then do it in a consistent fashion and that’s what we’re trying to do now.”

The Hokies (2-1) are at home against senior-laden Bowling Green (1-2) of the Mid-American Conference on Saturday. Beamer won’t have to remind his team that the Eagles are on scholarship, too.

Whether Virginia Tech took winless Pittsburgh lightly, the Panthers dominated the Hokies from the outset last weekend, bolting to a 21-0 lead and carving up the defense for 537 yards.

The Panthers won 35-17, ending Virginia Tech’s 13-game winning streak in true road games.

“We just can’t underestimate anyone,” safety Kyshoen Jarrett said. “Even with what their record says, this is college football. ... Everybody is going to give you their best. We’ve just got to play with a lot more passion out there and, like I said, communicate better and I feel we’ll be just fine.”

The Hokies and Beamer say many of the mistakes are easily fixable. One missed block here or blown assignment there, Beamer said, allows a play defended right to suddenly break for a big gainer. Likewise, on offense, the Hokies have had numerous plays that came up inches shy of turning into a long gain.

Without those, teams are loading the box and stifling the Hokies’ running game. They managed just 59 yards on 26 tires against the Panthers, barely averaging more than 2 yards per carry.

“Obviously the running game opens up the pass game,” quarterback Logan Thomas said, noting that the inefficiency of the running game has made defense-freezers like play-action passes harder to pull off.

“It does make our job a little tougher when they’re not even paying attention to play fakes to the running back,” he said. “”In the run game, it’s just a couple of small things that are keeping us away from having big plays. Watching the Pittsburgh film, we’d have a chip block or just a couple inches away, just getting by one person and having a ... 20 yard gain. It’s just a couple small things we have to fix.”

Thomas figured to be a larger factor in the running game, but the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder has gained just 54 yards on 29 carries. He also has come up short on several fourth-and-1 dives. The Hokies have converted just 1 of 6 fourth-down attempts, and even little Austin Peay stymied Virginia Tech two weeks ago.

“I haven’t been looking to run as much,” Thomas said. “I want to stay in the pocket and be able to throw the ball down the field. I think that’s where we’re most dangerous. For one, I haven’t been looking to run. Then when we do have an option run, they’re not really giving me a chance to run the ball.”

On defense, where the loss of Kyle Fuller, who calls signals in the secondary, hurt the team’s communication and caused the coaches to shuffle players around, tackle Derrick Hopkins still made the repairs needed sound simple enoughorsports.

“You’ve got to just play harder, really. We’ve got to play more like Hokies,” he said.

And there’s nothing like a few days to recover from an unexpected beatdown to inspire.

“We’re energized,” Hopkins said. “We’re ready to play next week and kind of prove ourselves. We know how we can play. And we didn’t show that this last week, so we can show what kind of team we are.”


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