Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
1999 was along time ago folks. On Friday night, Virginia Tech honored probably the best team in school history, and the current team rewarded them and Hokie fans across the stadium, state and nation with the worst loss at home in 45 years.
Duke came into Lane Stadium and gave the Hokies an ole fashioned butt kicking. Not only was it an embarrassing loss, but it was just proof at how far this version of the Hokies have to go to get back to national prominence. Even College GameDay was taking shots at Virginia Tech, but in the end, they are just as baffled as the fan base.
What is going on? As a life long fan and alumni it is very hard to watch.
The Good: What Good?
Honestly, I thought about just scrapping the good all together. After watching the game, it was hard to see any good with such a performance. However, there was just a little bit of a silver lining. My editor Tim reminded me that even in defeat, there has to be good as he pointed out a couple of things worth mentioning.
Two important Hokies made their returns to the lineup on Friday. Damon Hazelton and TyJuan Garbutt both came back from injuries to contribute in the loss. Having both players back is going to be a major help for a Hokie team trying to figure it all out.
However, both looked not rusty but a not quite up to game speed.
Hazelton only caught one pass, but it was a big one. Ryan Willis found one of his favorite targets from last year for a 72-yard bomb for the Hokies only touchdown. Hazelton is still trying to get back into game shape it would seem, but the deep ball connection was a very promising sign.
TyJuan Garbutt seemed to be in a better position for his comeback. Granted, towards the end of the game, it seemed he was slowing down a bit, but he still finished with 7 tackles and 1.5 of those for loss. Bud Foster and company need Garbutt to get back to his normal disruptive self to help out a defensive line that has struggled mightily this season. Seeing Garbutt, who is a leader on the defense, come back and succeed could be the motivation the defense needs to take that next step in their progression this season.
The Bad: Paging the Virginia Tech Offense; Is Anyone There?
This season, the biggest problems have been turnovers and an inconsistent offense.
Once again, the Hokies were not able to hold on to the ball, and it cost them dearly. The Hokies turned the ball over twice on Friday night to increase their NCAA worst turnover number to 11. For having a coach that preaches valuing the ball, the Hokies have not done a good job of holding on to the football. Games are won and lost based on the turnover battle.
Right now, the Hokies are not winning the turnover battle at all. These turnovers not only stall drives but they put the defense in horrible situations, where there is very little chances of keeping the opposing team from scoring. I believe wholeheartedly this game turned on the Herndon Hooker fumble. After that turnover, the Hokies seemed to never really be in the game ever again.
Another big reason why the Hokies were never in this game was the offensive consistency or the lack there of.
For the majority of the season, Virginia Tech has seemed to be lost on the offensive side of the ball. The fact of the matter is that there is way too much talent on the roster for the Hokies to be struggling this much on offense. Part of the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of the playcallers, but execution also plays a huge part in the offensive shortcomings.
Justin Fuente was hired in part because of his offensive creativity and ability to get the best out of his quarterbacks. However, neither of these traits have been on display this season.
The Hokies have regressed in both aspects as Ryan Willis has struggled to find any type of real success with the offense. He has struggled so much that when asked in the postgame presser what was needed to fix the offense, he said "I don't know".
Also, the playcalling has become very predictable and uninspired. This type of playcalling doesn’t do the offensive unit any favors, as it seems that some times, the defense is in the huddle with the Hokies.
For instance, a jet sweep that was seen for the first time against Furman and went for a touchdown, was swallowed up and thrown for a loss against Duke. Honestly, the playcalling reminds me of the day of Bryan Stinespring and just how vanilla the Hokies' offensive scheme was at times. These days are in the past for a reason.
In an era where offensive firepower is what drives championship teams, the Hokies are in danger of falling way behind the curve.
Is there an easy fix? I’m not sure, maybe a change in offensive coordinator is what the doctor ordered. One thing is for sure, Justin Fuente’s future is going to be directly tied to how well the Hokies can exploit the wealth of talent on the offensive side of the ball.
The Ugly: Fan Is Short For Fanatic and That’s Just What Hokie Nation Is Full Of
You could say the previous section should have been the ugly part of Friday's game. In most cases, you would be correct except for the fact at how the fan base is reacting to not only losing the game, but the Hokies being down early on Friday night.
Never once have I labored under the idea the Hokies were on the same level as Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State, where they were supposed to be in the National Championship every year. Any fan that thinks this is sorely mistaken and borderline unrealistic in their expectations.
That being said, not once have I seen a fan base for the most part give up on a team in such short order. I was severely disappointed to see just how many fans left at halftime or even before.
Lane Stadium used to be a feared place to play because of the fan base. These past home games, the fans have given up trying to make their will be felt. Not only are opposing teams not scared anymore, but they are actually looking forward to coming to Blacksburg.
This can not continue.
I won’t go so far to say the fan base is lost, but it is getting really close to being lost.
A couple national writers have said the fan base is the problem, which isn’t the case at all. As I said before should fans expect a National Championship every year? No, but winning 8-10 games a year, yeah, I think that isn’t too unreasonable.
Friday night and the following day proved just how ugly this season could turn as not only did the fans abandon the team in the stands but actively called for the heads of coaches, players and administrators. This is unacceptable.
Yes, the fan base should be able to voice their opinion but at the same time, they need to support the current team and be with them no matter the outcome of games.
I hope the fans will be more of a force in the upcoming home games and create the terrordome mentality I grew up watching.
This week presents the Hokies with a chance to get their first ACC win against another struggling ACC team in Miami. The Hokies will be on the road and no doubt will be huge underdogs even with the Hurricanes' struggles.
This team needs to figure the offense out and execute in the manner we as fans and sports observers know they can. Justin Fuente and crew need to right the ship and get the program going back up, not only to save the fanbase but possibly to save his job. 15 million dollars is a huge number, but I believe it pales in comparison to the number of potential losses if this type of support and play continues.
I am hopeful even though it doesn’t seem so, and I will always be a Hokie. I’ll leave you as I always do with a loud and proud LETS GO HOKIES!!!!!