Three Offensive Takeaways From Virginia Tech's 45-10 Loss to Duke

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomas1996 | Sep 29, 2019
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

Virginia Tech suffered an embarrassing 45-10 loss to Duke that has left Justin Fuente on potentially the hottest seat in America while raising playcalling and starting QB questions. Here's 3 of our offensive takeaways from the Hokies' nightmare performance.

1. Hendon Hooker Should Start Against Miami

Ryan Willis' disappointing season found a new low as he went 7-18 for 112 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. While those stats are bad on their own, add in the fact that 72 of Willis' 112 yards came on his lone touchdown pass that was an underthrown pass to a wide open Damon Hazelton.

Additionally, Willis' inaccuracy was once again a major problems with multiple overthrows along with a couple underthrows and very few accurate throws. From what I can remember, there was only one incompletion down the field that wasn't either a poor decision or because of inaccuracy.

Willis has regressed from all accounts as he has been ineffective throwing the football down the field while making poor decisions on RPO. His weekly performances have also gone in the wrong direction just this season with this being his worst game of the season by far against a Duke defense known for having concerns with their pass defense.

Now Hendon Hooker wasn't spectacular in the limited reps he received, but the Hokies' offense at least seemed to have some life with his running ability while his limited passing wasn't that bad.

More than anything, it's clear that the Hokies' offense is extremely limited with a regressed Willis to a short passing attack that allows teams to load the box more often than not and play press coverage. That also makes it much more challenging to stretch the field with the running game given the lack of space to start on the edge with Duke using a bear-like defense to shut down much of VT's screen, jet sweep, interior running, underneath passing offense.

At this point, what does Virginia Tech have to lose going with a more athletic Hendon Hooker who shows a lot more offensive potential than Ryan Willis and a floor that really isn't different.

2. More Playcalling Issues

Once again, playcalling was a major problem. From running plays that Duke expected to failing to adjust in contrast to Duke, the Hokies' offensive playcalling was its biggest failure to date lacking any sort of originality and leading to another offensive disaster.

First, Virginia Tech's playcalling proved to be very predictable from the get go with the Duke defense being more than ready. After having success with jet sweeps and underneath passing routes, Virginia Tech emphasized that despite the fact that Duke even ran a bear-like defensive formation made for loading up the edges and tight coverage on the underneath routes.

Second, Virginia Tech once again tried to establish an interior rushing game with a struggling offensive line that was facing a Duke defensive line with lots of experience and talent. The mismatch was already pretty clear and the playcalling was a lot of the same that hasn't worked for the Hokies against less talented defensive lines, and unsurprisingly didn't work.

Third, while Virginia Tech did try to stretch the field at times later on, the Hokies seemed to go back to the things that Duke was prepared for way too often. The lack of adjustments from what Virginia Tech has done or lack of sticking with some things that showed promise once again caused problems.

Fourth, when you're down by 3 scores and get a defensive stop to start the second half, running interior run plays that weren't working and an underneath passing play that Duke was prepared for doesn't cut it. The playcalling showed a lack of urgency about being down by 3 scores against a Duke team that still had most of the momentum. Combine that with a crowd that was looking for some reason for hope and that hurt any possibility of trying to rally fans and keep the intensity high.

Virginia Tech's playcalling has consistently been an issue and despite adding Jerry Kill at the bye, this week's playcalling seemed to be the worst to date this season. At some point, something significant needs to change and very soon whether that's by Brad Cornelsen or a change of the playcaller if Cornelsen doesn't do something significant.

3. Deshawn McClease Proves to be a Tough Runner

Deshawn McClease may be one of the smallest running backs in Power 5 football yet Virginia Tech has largely used McClease up the middle even when he's built more as a speed/scat back.

Though McClease hasn't been used in the best way, the redshirt junior tailback has been a more than willing interior runner even if he hasn't been the most successful. Against Duke, McClease had his fair share of short gains but he also was able to make some big plays after getting he bulk of the carries including a 45-yard carry on his way to having 17 carries for 102 yards.

Now Keshawn King has shown the most talent at the running back spot so his lack of his carries was disappointing even with his youth, but McClease was given the chance to find a reminder and was able to do that. The fact that the Hokies chose to go with him rather than what has felt like a random RB rotation is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of philosophy.

Even if McClease isn't the best runner, he has proven to be a tough running back that is more than willing to do whatever the coaches ask of him. While McClease seems likely to see his role shrink as the season goes along and King gains more experience, expect the tough McClease to continue to be the willing interior runner for the Hokies even if he isn't necessarily built to be an effective power back.