I wrote after Virginia Tech’s defeat to Notre Dame that this week was a “now or never” moment for Justin Fuente. He needed to rally his team and help them compete against Pittsburgh in a de-facto Coastal Division title game.
I guess the answer is never.
The Hokies’ 28-7 loss can be described in a number of ways. Disappointing is surely one of them, but the predictability of Saturday’s performance might be the worst of them all. And the most damning.
We knew the Hokies’ offense would struggle. We’ve seen it all season. Once Pittsburgh hit the 21-point threshold, it felt like the rest of the game was a moot point.
Tech only has one conference loss, so they’re by no means eliminated from the Coastal race. But if you watched them against Pittsburgh, you know that this Virginia Tech team needs to worry more about bowl eligibility than winning a divisional title.
The Hokies are a deeply flawed team. For a variety of reasons, the offense cannot score more than 17-24 points on a regular basis. The defense, in turn, must play exemplary football to give Virginia Tech a chance to win. For a good portion of games, Tech’s defense is quite good. But they also tend to fall in big situations, leaving the Hokies holding the bag.
These fatal flaws would be acceptable for a head coach still feeling his way through a program and still dealing with a roster that he didn’t recruit and sign. But in Year 6, these aren’t supposed to be regular issues.
But they are.
Ultimately, Virginia Tech’s issues trace back to Fuente and his coaching staff. Sure, players deserve plenty of blame for the Hokies’ collective struggles. Guys aren’t executing at a high enough clip to win games.
But the men who evaluated them, recruited them and coached them deserve blame as well. chief among them, the head coach. This is Fuente’s program, through and through. At a certain point, taking responsibility for the problems isn’t enough. You’ve got to solve them.
On a beautiful October morning here in Virginia Beach, I can safely say that nothing is getting solved between now and the rest of the season. This is as good of quarterback-play as Tech is going to sport. The running game isn't getting any better. Depth will continue to be an issue all over the roster.
Virginia Tech’s problems are all but guaranteed to keep them from fighting for a Coastal championship. In a year where the ACC is as wide-open as it has ever been, Virginia Tech will not answer the challenge.
That’s a shame, because if it wasn’t going to happen this season, it’s never going to happen.
Not under this coaching regime.