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Running Game Continues To Be A Concern For The Hokies

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

It’s been over 48 hours since Virginia Tech’s 27-7 win over Wofford, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to organize my thoughts for consumption.

I’m not sure I’m there yet.

For now, I guess my perspective is this — Virginia Tech held serve Saturday, specifically on offense.

In some ways, Saturday was a no-win situation for the Hokies, as my colleague and friend Dave Scarangella noted this weekend. Virginia Tech’s first-team defense was more than up to the challenge — the Hokies contained Wofford to their side of the field until the fourth quarter, when Tech’s starters had already exited the contest.

Defensively, Virginia Tech was stellar. But it was against the Terriers, who are in the middle of a transition akin to Georgia Tech. Wofford has historically been an option offense, but now embraces a spread-style attack similar to the rest of the sport.

So Virginia Tech’s defense did their job. How much praise is that worth? I’m not quite sure.

The same would’ve gone for Tech’s offense had the Hokies scored 30 or 40 points. Instead, Tech scored the same number of points against Wofford that they scored against Boston College.

Sure, it’s worth mentioning that Keshawn King was absent from Saturday’s contest and that Kaleb Smith was again limited in snaps. But for three consecutive weeks, the Hokies’ offense has been plagued by the same issue — an inability to run the football consistently.  

Worse, that issue has a cascading impact on finishing drives in the end zone.

Tech’s rushers averaged just 3.2 yards per rush against Wofford, the exact same clip the Hokies rushed for against Boston College. Against Old Dominion, Tech averaged 3.5 yards per rush.

The Hokies’ struggles on the ground showed up early on Tech’s first possession against the Terriers. Virginia Tech engineered a lengthy drive to Wofford’s 26-yard-line, only to fail to convert a third-and-five and a fourth-and-one, both on the ground.

That turnover-on-downs wasted a 13-play, 55-yard drive. Tech would go on to kick two field goals before finally reaching the endzone on a one-yard rush by Jalen Holston.

Tech’s rushing woes persisted in the second half. The Hokies’ first drive stalled at midfield after two runs accumulated just two yards. Wells’ pass on third-and-eight was broken up, and Tech punted.

On the following possession, Tech earned one first down before an incompletion, a one-yard rush from Holston and another incompletion stopped the drive.

Given the Hokies’ limited depth and productivity at wide receiver and tight end, the hope was that a blend of experience and athleticism at running back would carry the offense. Through three games, that hasn’t been the case.

Virginia Tech had a chance to iron out some of their struggles on offense against Wofford. Instead, the Hokies held serve.

With their final tune-up game behind them, Virginia Tech now hosts that team from Morgantown on Thursday night. For what it’s worth, the Mountaineers allowed a whopping 200 yards on the ground against Kansas a couple weeks ago before beating up on Towson.

The Hokies have officially entered the difficult portion of their schedule. Thursday night’s rivalry game precedes road trips to North Carolina and Pittsburgh. After that, Tech hosts Miami before taking another bus ride to Raleigh to face NC State.

Now is not the time to hold serve. Tech, as a home underdog, must break serve and flex their muscle. West Virginia is an eminently beatable team as they’re 1-2 and allowed 93 points to their two FBS opponents thus far. We’ll learn a lot about Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

Depending on how things go, I might need another 48 hours or more to gather my thoughts.


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Sunday, 29 January 2023

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