Virginia Tech lost their third-straight game for the first time under Justin Fuente with a 52-22 loss at Pittsburgh that eliminated the Hokies from ACC Coastal title contention. With that said, here are three of our takeaways from the Hokies’ ugly road loss at Heinz Field.
1. Quincy Patterson’s Role is Ineffective and Unnecessary
Yesterday, Justin Fuente was asked about whether the use of Quincy Patterson takes Ryan Willis out of rhythm and had this to say.
Fuente on subbing in Quincy Patterson: “No, it doesn’t take the starter out of rhythm. That isn’t an issue.” #Hokies
— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) November 12, 2018
While some may disagree as to whether Patterson’s usage has taken Ryan Willis out of rhythm at times, what’s become clear is that the Patterson package has become ineffective and useless as it was with AJ Bush last year and Hendon Hooker earlier this season.
Against North Carolina, Patterson’s package was effective because UNC had no tape on Patterson and didn’t know what to expect, Ryan Willis was struggling and UNC’s defensive coaches likely wondered if the Hokies were considering making a mid-game QB change to Patterson, and UNC is a bad football team.
Since then, the Hokies have used the Patterson package against a pair of quality, normal power 5 power 5 opponents in Boston College and Pittsburgh and unsurprisingly, those two teams have made it ineffective.
Against Pittsburgh, the Patterson package had its worst performance with Willis being put in difficult situations multiple times including a late third and long inside the 10 where the Hokies were unable to get a late touchdown, formally ending any crazy long shot hopes. Before then, Willis and the offense bailed out the Hokies’ struggles with the Patterson package in the redzone.
The biggest issue is the fact that when Patterson, or Hooker or Bush in the past, comes in, every competent defensive coordinator expects a running play. Not once did Hooker or Bush throw the football with that package while Patterson’s only throws have been bubble screens that are basically exterior runs. Because of that, defenses are able to easily adjust and bring all 11 players within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Patterson has a bright future, but the Hokies aren’t ready to give him a more expansive package that would prevent defenses from being able to put all 11 players around the line of scrimmage like they’re defending an option play. Going forward, either the Hokies need to scrap the package and let Willis keep rolling or give Patterson some pass plays that go past the line of scrimmage, but after the Hokies’ stubbornness in using AJ Bush that way last season, it’s unclear if VT will actually see how ineffective it is against competent defensive coordinators.
2. Tyjuan Garbutt Shows Lots of Promise
Tyjuan Garbutt had some rough moments against Pittsburgh that showed that he has a long way to go in his development from failing to keep contain at times (allowing Kenny Pickett to escape for big gains) to going too far inside, leaving space on the outside for Pitt’s running backs. However, Garbutt also showed against Pittsburgh that he is going to be really good player down the road and that, like many promising young players, is inconsistent at times as he develops.
Against Pitt, Garbutt had 3 tackles for loss including one tackle for loss where Garbutt got there almost before Pickett handed the ball off to one of his prolific running backs. In addition, the fact that Garbutt had 3 total tackles for loss in a single game is something that few true or redshirt freshman will have in a single game this season.
Garbutt arrived at Virginia Tech needing to add size and being seen as someone with a higher ceiling, but more development than some other players. So far, Garbutt has developed at a faster rate than many would have expected and as he has started to get some opportunities, he is making some very good plays.
Now Garbutt did have some bad moments, but most redshirt freshmen will have inconsistent moments. However, Garbutt showed the type of high-end flashes against a veteran Pittsburgh offensive line that show how Garbutt will be a very good defensive end in the not too distant future. Don’t be surprised if Garbutt ends up being the Hokies’ starting DE opposite Houshun Gaines next season with the promise and potential he’s shown over the past couple of weeks.
3. Virginia Tech’s Offensive Line Continues To Be a Disappointment.
Virginia Tech’s offensive line was expected to be one of the strengths of this team and rightfully so with three senior starters (almost half of the seniors on the whole team) to lead the charge. Instead, the unit has struggled and has been a big reason for VT’s offensive struggles.
Last week, the Hokies’ offensive line struggled to create any space against Boston College’s base defense for the Hokies’ running game to attack. This week, Ryan Willis had to escape the pocket plenty of time to limited the success with one of his best runs coming because Willis landed on top of a Pitt defender trying to sack him and was able to get up and keep going.
While some of the struggles this season have been due to poor snapping from Zachariah Hoyt and struggles of the youth on the left side of the offensive line with Christian Darrisaw and top backup Lecitus Smith, the senior Hokies have also been far from perfect.
Some of that has been because of penalties with Kyle Chung being among the players who have had penalty issues at times. In addition, the Hokies’ lack of an interior running game hasn’t been because one side of the offensive line has been getting blown up.
Virginia Tech’s offensive line has been a disappointment this season and a big reason for the Hokies’ offensive struggles especially with the running game.